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What’s in your puffy jacket?

The puffy (puffer) winter jacket has become incredibly popular in recent years. Top brands like Patagonia, The North Face and more have created different variations of “puffy” jackets and vests. True to form, this has invited a host of imitators that can be found in your nearest Target or Walmart. 

To help you evaluate the puffy jacket, we’ve outlined the three most important factors to consider when purchasing a puffy jacket this winter. 

Puffy jacket exterior material

When looking at the exterior material you’re primarily concerned with thickness. The denier is the rating for the thickness of the exterior jacket material. Most jackets have a denier rating from 7-15. The higher the rating, the thicker and more durable the material.

Another factor to consider is the water resistance of the exterior fabric. Most puffy jackets will not be fully waterproof, but it’s important to know the exterior fabric won’t absorb light moisture. Synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon are naturally moisture wicking and can perform nicely in light precipitation. 

Puffy jacket insulation material

The insulation material will either be a synthetic or down. Down insulation is pound for pound the best insulation option on the market. Down will be warmer and compress smaller than a synthetic. The biggest drawback of down is cost. Down will be more expensive than synthetic alternatives. Additionally, standard down will not maintain its warmth as well as synthetics in wet conditions. 

You may see a jacket made with hydrophobic down insulation that’s been treated to make the down more water resistant. In these cases, the down feathers have been treated at a molecular level to better wick moisture and maintain their warmth when wet. 

Synthetic insulation is a cheaper alternative to down and is generally made of polyester fiber spun in a way that generates air pockets between the fibers. Synthetic fibers will maintain their warmth better than down when wet and will dry out more quickly. Higher quality synthetic insulation is typically created with finer polyester with more air pockets. You might also see polyester fibers that have been treated to be more water or odor resistant. 

Puffy jacket insulation weight

The weight or thickness of a synthetic insulation is expressed in grams per square meter. If you see a jacket with 200g insulation, that does not mean the total weight of insulation in the jacket weighs 200g. If there was 1 square meter of insulation in the jacket then the total weight of the insulation would be 200g and the total jacket weight would be more. A rule of thumb is jackets with 100-200g insulation are made for winter conditions and jackets with 50-100g jackets are spring or early fall jackets. 

The weight/thickness of down is referred to as ‘fill power.’ A premium down fill is 800-900 rating. If you see a jacket rated in the 500-600 range, it will take more down per weight to achieve the same level of warmth of an higher fill power. In other words, a jacket with a 500-600 down fill jacket will either be heavier or colder than a jacket with an 800-900 fill power down.

Puffy Jacket Pro Tip

Evaluating a jacket based on the materials and product features is a great way to narrow down your jacket options. If you’re set on a down filled jacket for winter, you’re much closer to selecting a jacket that works for you. 

In order to get the “perfect” puffy jacket, you’ll also need to consider style, fit, baffling and insulation distribution of a jacket. The truth is, Fjalraven, Patagonia, Kuhl and The North Face all carry down filled winter jackets. You can’t truly know which one you like until you try them on. If you’re interested in learning more, please stop in at your local outdoor store. 

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