The year is 1936, and an adventurer named Eddie Bauer is fishing in the Olympic Peninsula when he nearly dies of hypothermia. What does he do as soon as he thaws out? He invents the down jacket. True story. Today, down jackets—or puffers, which is probably more politically correct (especially if you’re PETA)—are popular everywhere from the streets of Europe to the summit of Everest. And they’re not only seen on humans. Heck, Prada has a $750 puffer jacket for pups, and Petco has one (for just $15) for felines.
The beauty of puffer jackets, whether they’re filled with real feathers or synthetic down, is that they’re really warm—some are even designed for subzero temperatures—yet extremely lightweight. Puffers also have this really cool feature that makes them perfect for travel: They pack down. In fact, down fill power has more to do with the weight of the down, and how it compresses and lofts back to life, than it does the warmth. REI does a good job explaining it here, but generally speaking, the higher the fill power, the lighter and more packable it is. ultra light down jacket
Of course, the hallmark of a travel-friendly puffer is if it packs down into one of its pockets or if it comes with a stuff sack. When compressed, a jacket big enough to fit a guy who is 6’4 and 250 pounds might take up as much space as a shoe. And the best part? Because it’s full of soft material, it can double as a travel pillow. Even if you already own one of the best travel pillows money can buy, it’s probably still worth investing in a puffer if your winter travel plans involve going somewhere cold. See below for our top picks for men and women. (Sorry, pets, you’re on your own this time.)
Don’t be fooled by the word hoodie. The SuperStrand LT is definitely a jacket. It’s made of durable ripstop nylon, so it will last for years, and it’s wind and water-resistant. The insulation is a trademarked synthetic down that Outdoor Research describes as “light and lofty.” The brand also says that this jacket, when packed down in its left pocket, fits in the palm of your hand. Also available in women’s, it comes in six colors and features a unique quilted pattern.
This jacket is almost worth it for the cool camel logo alone. With more than 1,300 reviews, it’s an Amazon best-seller (in men’s and women’s) and a great pick if you’re on a tighter budget. While it doesn’t have as much fill as the other jackets on this list (reviewers say it’s pretty thin, which is justified by its low price), it does feature real duck down, and the nylon shell is water-repellent. It has two zippered hand pockets, a spacious interior pocket for your phone, and it also has a hem drawcord, so it’s adjustable. If the sun comes out and you get too toasty, simply stuff it in its stuff sack.
Made of recycled and repurposed materials, Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody (also available in women’s) is one of the most sustainable jackets on this list. Patagonia also took great pains in sourcing the feathers—800-fill-power goose—which meets the NSF’s highest standard, “Advanced Global Traceable Down.” This jacket, which comes in six colors, features a cinch-able hood and hem and has a DWR finish, so you stay dry even if it’s drizzling. It doesn’t come with a stuff sack, but it does stuff into its internal chest pocket.
Naturally, it would be remiss not to have an Eddie Bauer jacket on this list. While Eddie Bauer has a few options to choose from, the creme de la creme is their Microtherm 1000 Down Hoodie (also available in women’s). It’s a new style from their First Ascent collection which is designed for those who prefer to be as active as possible. At $400, it’s not cheap, but it does boast 1,000-fill-power premium insulation (responsibly sourced) in a durable ripstop nylon shell made of 100% recycled materials. Thanks to a DWR “super treatment,” this jacket sheds water like it’s nobody’s business. When not in use, it packs down into its pocket.
You don’t have to be on an expedition to appreciate the warmth of this midweight jacket from Fjallraven, a brand that hails from Sweden (where the elements can be harsh af). It features a synthetic down, consisting of recycled polyester, and the shell is made of 100% recycled polyamide. While the hood doesn’t cinch, it does have an elastic binding, so the fit is snug. In the pocket department, it has two zippered hand pockets and a larger zippered inside pocket which the jacket packs down into. Choose from four colors for men and four colors for women.
This next jacket comes from a brand from Norway, where people have a saying that goes something like this: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” The devil is definitely in the details in this synthetic down jacket, also available in women’s, featuring articulated elbows, an asymmetric back cut, a reflective safety logo, and interior and exterior loops for hanging. Weighing just a little more than half a pound, it’s one of the lightest jackets on this list. And when you need to pack it away, simply store it in its interior pocket.
If you’re on a tight budget, or you’re picky about color, you can’t go wrong with this best-seller (it has more than 13,500 reviews) that comes in 26 colors. While it’s not the warmest jacket on this list, it comes in the most sizes, XS-6XL, and it’s machine-washable. The “down” is 100% polyester, and the exterior of the jacket is water-resistant—so unless you’re out in a downpour, you should stay pretty dry. Of course, we also love this jacket because it comes with a little stuff sack. Note: It’s also available in men’s.
While this jacket is technically a parka, it is down (800-fill-power goose nonetheless), and it comes with a stuff sack. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff sack—it has straps so you can carry it like a backpack. Of course, you’re not getting this coat because it turns into a backpack; you’re probably getting it because it’s really warm—it’s the only thigh-length jacket on this list—and it’s waterproof. Not a fan of the faux fur trim on the hood? No problem. It’s removable.
Is it pricey? Yes. Will it make your friends and family jealous? Also yes. While the Canada Goose Abbott Hoody isn’t cheap, it is like the Rolls-Royce of down jackets, and you’ll get some serious style points just by wearing it. You’ll also stay nice and cozy because it’s filled with 750-fill-power duck down (responsibly sourced), and the shell has a DWR finish. This jacket may be perfect for travel because it packs into its own pocket, but the designers also made it for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.
Black Diamond says this jacket, which is also available in men’s, is inspired by “no pack and a pared down rack.” It’s so lightweight, in fact, it only weighs half a pound. And when it’s stuffed into its hand pocket, it’s so small it almost fits in your back pants pocket. It’s made of 800-fill-power goose down (sustainably sourced), and it’s treated with an eco-friendly DWR coating, so you’ll stay dry even during snow flurries. But wait, there’s more! Drawstrings on the hem and the hood ensure it’s never drafty.
If you’re a Lululemon fan, you need to know about this aptly named, and extremely flattering, down jacket that comes with a stuff sack. It’s made of the brand’s trademarked DiamondStretch fabric so it has just the right amount of elasticity, and it’s also windproof and water-resistant. Keeping you warm on the inside is some responsibly sourced down: 700-fill-power goose. The hood is removable, so it’s almost like you’re getting two looks for the price of one, and there’s an “easy-access” exterior pocket boasting a secret sleeve for your phone.
fireproof work jacket If you like a slim fit—and you can afford to invest $400 in a jacket—the Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody (available in men’s, too) is a great option. It’s the least bulky puffer on this list, yet it’s incredibly warm: think 850-fill-power down (responsibly sourced). Thanks to its “storm hood” you can even wear it in a blizzard. It comes in six colors and also features a hem drawcord to keep cold air out. When you’re not wearing it, simply stash it in its stuff sack.