There’s a unique sense of security that comes with having an extremely warm coat. It’s the knowledge that you can step out with nothing but a T-shirt underneath, and your outerwear will keep you sheltered from the cold. Insulated. Untouchable. Simply throw it on, zip it up, and you’re ready to tackle the worst temperatures winter can throw your way.
There are few jackets that can offer this sort of absolute cold-weather defence, but the puffer coat is one of them. Sleeping-bag cosy and deceptively light, this type of outerwear has scaled the world’s tallest peaks, roamed the streets of every major town and city, and graced the shoulders of more than its fair share of hip-hop icons.
Functional and fashionable in equal measures, these insulated outer layers are some of the best options out there when it comes to all-round winter outerwear. If you’re thinking of arming yourself with one there are a few things you should know.
What Is A Puffer Coat?
Loosely speaking, a puffer coat is any piece of outerwear that is filled with insulation and features a stitched-through, ‘baffled’ construction. This insulation can be either synthetic or natural (feathers and down), its loft giving the coat its characteristic puffed-up, duvet-like appearance.
Puffer coats were originally designed for outdoor pursuits, with Eddie Bauer having made the first versions. They became popular with backpackers, climbers and mountaineers due to their high warmth-to-weight ratio and the fact that they can be stuffed down very small for easy transport.
Since its creation, the puffer coat has been adopted by the fashion world and various subcultures. Jackets like The North Face’s Nuptse puffer have become intertwined with hip-hop culture to much the same extent as Adidas Superstars or Timberland’s iconic 6″ boot. Meanwhile, high-fashion brands like Balenciaga, Raf Simons and Off-White have all put their own unique spin on the style.
Puffer Coat Buying Considerations
Puffer coats fall into the category of ‘technical’ garments. That means there are quite a few variables and things to consider when weighing up which one is going to be right for you. Below are some of the key things to look at when shopping for the best puffer coat to suit your needs.
This is a term you see a lot of when shopping for a puffer jacket. It relates exclusively to down insulation and, put simply, denotes the ‘fluffiness’ of the fill. It’s shown as a number, which is the amount of space one ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches. The higher the number, the better the quality of the down. If you’re looking for maximum warmth, you should be looking for a fill-power number of between 650 and 850.
The outer fabric of a puffer jacket will vary a lot depending on style and manufacturer. Highly technical, outdoor-specific jackets tend to favour lightness over durability as these jackets are designed to be layered beneath a hardshell. This means that the face fabric can be quite thin. Conversely, some puffer coats are designed to be worn as outer layers, and this is addressed with the use of heavier, more durable fabrics.
To get an idea of how robust the fabric is , look out for the ‘denier’ rating. This denotes the thickness of the material – higher numbers meaning heavier fabric.
Puffer coat is a broad term, and there are a lot of shapes that fall within it. From retro boxy fits to streamlined athletic cuts, take time to consider the end look you’re trying to achieve with the jacket when shopping for the right one.
Key Puffer Coat Styles
Lightweight Down Jacket
Low-profile, packable and light, this type of puffer coat is designed for active use and most commonly made by outdoor brands. It’s designed for use as part of a layering system with a heavier shell on top but can also be worn as a standalone piece.
For absolute warmth, a down parka is the way to go. This is the biggest, bulkiest and most winterproof of all the puffer coats, featuring a long cut that covers the backside, a hood and a duck- or goose-down filling for insulation.
Classic Puffer Jacket
The classic puffer jacket features large baffles, a boxy cut and stand collar, sometimes with a roll-away hood. It’s a menswear mainstay and a true icon of outerwear design.
Luxe Puffer Jacket
A luxe puffer jacket can come in all sorts of shapes and styles but the defining characteristic is that it’s elevated through the use of premium materials and craftsmanship. Look to the high-fashion brands and upscale Italian menswear designers for this type of high-end puffer jacket.
The Best Puffer Coat Brands
The North Face
Californian outdoor brand The North Face is one of the leading names when it comes to puffer jackets. The label’s Nuptse down jacket is a truly iconic piece of outerwear that has existed outside of trends and fleeting fads for almost three decades. There are also plenty of other styles if the Michelin-man shape and cropped fit of the Nuptse aren’t to your liking, as well as down jackets and more technical, lightweight options too.
French-Italian label Moncler is the undisputed king of luxe puffers – it’s been peddling its trademark brand of shiny, down-filled outerwear for almost 70 years. Born in the Alps, Moncler is no stranger to the cold, which is evident in it’s highly insulated designs. Over the years, the brand has migrated from the slopes to the streets, becoming a common size in the world’s trendiest cities and on the shoulders of some of the music industry’s biggest trendsetters.
Known for its responsible take on outdoor apparel, Patagonia is a brand that puts sustainability, repairability and durability at the fore with all of its products, puffer coats included. Patagonia’s offering ranges from lightweight midlayers like the Nano Puff jacket to retro-inspired, chunky down parkas like the newly released Downdrift jacket.
With more than 70 years out in the cold, the Toronto-born brand knows exactly how to stay warm in style. Its heritage in this sector includes the invention of a down-filling machine, used to efficiently pack its coats, back in the 70s. Today, its extensive collection includes practically every style of puffer you can buy, including some styles made from recycled materials.
As is so often the case with Uniqlo, impressive design and technicality come at an equally impressive price in its down collection. A mix of cropped and longline jacket styles are available, as well as insulated parkas and gilets. Unlike a lot of high-street options, the brand also boasts technical details such as seamless design, ribbed cuffs and water-repellant coatings.
A brand that bills itself as the original outdoor clothing company, it has been producing outerwear for nearly 200 years. Its puffer coat collection includes lightweight and heavyweight down options, in styles as diverse as long, chunky parkas and blazer-style jackets. Construction and detailing is hard to beat across the range.
Another brand born in the wild whose obsessive technicality has impressed city-dwelling fashionistos as well as genuine mountaineers, the Vancouver label was founded in 1989. Its puffer silhouettes are urban and streamlined but what lies beneath is long list of weatherproof specs tested in the mountains, including adjustable hoods, Gore-Tex coatings and more.
Stone Island is probably best known an urban brand beloved of football casuals and other subcultures, but make no mistake: its outdoor credentials are up there with the best and they share the same geeky fascination with technical construction as many of the other brands on this list. You’ll also find more urban and military-inspired designs.
A Scandi outerwear brand known for waterproof coats and minimalist design, Rains puffers come in sleek fits, stripped-back colours and thoughtful designs. Instead of down, they use vegan-friendly Thinsulate Featherless Insulation and each piece is finished with a PU coating that makes the jacket water-resistant and windproof.