Step outside, take a deep breath, and feel the cool fall air burn deep in your tar-covered lungs, people: Fall has fallen, which means it’s [drum roll] puffer jacket season!
Now, if you’re new to the puffer jacket game, we’re jealous, since there’s literally no better feeling than the first time you get to experience being a big blob of shapely poofs as you strut down the street. When you’re sporting your puffer, you’re not only the Gorpy Ruler of the sidewalk, you’re also surrounded by a certain air of mystique, one that says, I know how to dress, and I'm not freezing my ass off. Plus, while you might not think you need a big coat right now, winter approaches, and you’ll be happy you invested in the end-all-be-all of stylish insulation when you’re the only one who’s not shivering during the many, inevitable post-toddy cig break.
So, what should you look for in a puffer jacket? Glad you asked. First, you’re going to want to lock in your preferred level of puffiness: Are you in the market for some serious, chonky floof, or are you planning on layering your puffer under a larger jacket for the winter? Is this an aesthetic purchase you want to ball out on, or do you just need a reliable, warm jacket you can pack up into a trail bag? These are the questions that we think about in bed while we stare at the ceiling, and they’re the ones that will guide you to the best puffer jacket for your personal, down-filled needs.
A puffer jacket isn't just a winter necessity; it's a game-changer—one that doubles as both streetwear and the coziest item in your closet for helping you still get out the door when the temperatures seriously drop. So we've put together this short list of some of our favorite pieces by the most outdoorsy brands in the game.
Crack open a Clif Bar, and let’s get puffin’.
Take two and pass
The North Face is a legacy outdoor brand, and its puffer jackets are rugged enough for mountaineering but cool enough to wear out to the bar after you summit. (What’s the point in hiking if you don’t have victory beers afterwards?) The Hydrenalite Down jacket features side zipper pockets and a daily-wear, city-friendly silhouette—despite boasting 550-fill goose down insulation. That said, no list of puffers would be complete without acknowledging the OG appeal (for both men and women) of the 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket, which sports a funnel neck and an oversized logo on the front and back.
The working man’s puffer
Contrary to popular belief, Carhartt is not only for sk8r dudes to spill Tecate on while asking you if they can have the last cigarette in your pack. The brand only puts out legit, high-quality products, and Carhartt is also notorious for being a family-owned, pro-worker company, so you can feel a little better when you spend your entire paycheck on workwear from the comfort of your office chair. That’s money well spent too; this puffer lands in Carhartt’s “Extreme Warmth” category, which the brand defines as “Engineered For Extreme Warmth in the Coldest Conditions On Earth.” Given how serious Carhartt is about hard-wearing its gear is, that’s saying something. With a DWR (aka: water-resistant) coating and wind-blocking details like elastic storm cuffs, an adjustable hood and sherpa-lined upper body, this jacket is built for whatever winter’s chill might have in store. Don’t sleep on the double snap-button chest pockets either; a dual-entry design on the left chest pocket means extra storage potential without adding more bulk (which, you know, matters when you’re wearing a big puffy jacket).
You like a girthy puff
Who doesn’t? Columbia's Pike Lake Hooded Jacket is made with heat-reflective technology, which combines an interior lining made of a breathable fabric with a metallic dot pattern that helps retain heat and dissipate moisture. If hooded jackets aren’t your thing (maybe you’re someone who likes to wear hoodies and don’t like the tangled, doubled-up head coverings when layering up… or is that just us?), you can always cop the style without as hood as well.
It’s time to take back the brand
You’ve absolutely seen a finance bro (or five) rock a Patagonia vest as they walk from the office to Sweetgreen and back. We’d like the record to reflect that in no way, shape, or form does this mean that Patagonia is only for jabronis. Patagonia is a serious outdoors company, and it slings some very sweet puffers for gorpcore aficionados, leaf peepers and wannabe Vermonters from all cultural walks of life. The bright Downdrift jacket is peak puffer, with two front zipped pockets and a cinched hood. The Nano Puff Jackets, on the other hand, may look sleek and simple—but they also feature two zippered hand warmer pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket doubles as a “stuffsack” with a reinforced carabiner clip-in loop so you can pack it up into a lil’ burrito and hang it off your backpack when camping. Best of all, they can be worn alone or layered under bigger jackets as the weather turns wintry.
You’ll be the Maine character
L.L. Bean is one of those legacy brands that has come full circle from classic to old-school and back to cool—take, for instance, their recent mega-hyped collab with Todd Snyder. The Freeport, Maine-based outdoor gear behemoth doesn’t mess around when it comes to apparel, and the brand’s Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jackets are second to none. They’re made with water-repellent down that stays dry over 10 times longer than the untreated stuff, and feature a Pertex Quantum nylon shell that’s made from 100% recycled fabric.
You want to make sure people see you coming
If there’s one universal truth, it’s that Tommy Hilfiger knows what he’s doing when it comes to streetwear. This Legacy Hooded Puffer Jacket is the warm hug you didn’t get from Daddy as a child, and its rib-knit storm cuffs and fleece-lined stand collar help you trap and insulate that love all winter long.
Go ahead, sound it out
Despite it’s Welsh-looking name, Arc’teryx—the all-business outdoor gear purveyor that's the de facto “tip of the spear” when it comes to our modern-day gorpcore phenomena —is actually Canadian. We love our northern brethren, and we love Arc’teryx’s Atom LT Jackets even more, because a) they weigh next to nothing yet provide exceptional warmth, and b) they’re fit close enough to the body to wear underneath a larger, even puffier jacket. (Could this be Puffception?)
The dark horse
Um, did you not hear? Abercrombie—yes, the brand with the big honkin’ moose (and plenty of controversy back in the mid-2000s)—is certified sick-and-tight again. The brand has revamped its catalog of cozy-sexy attire, and folks, it’s working. Take the puffers, for example. They’re simple yet refined, elegant without being pretentious, and very, very puffy.
Not ~that~ kind of basic
Uniqlo is one of the undisputed champions in creating high-quality basics—and the brand’s puffer jackets are true to form. They’re puffy but not too heavy, available in a slew of different colors, and showcase Uniqlo’s classic, high-quality construction that helped turn it into the hyper-popular retailer that it is today.
“Hardwear” is literally in the name
Mountain Hardwear may seem like peak dadcore, but its rugged name isn’t just for show. Puffers like this help prove the brand’s outdooring bonafides, with a packable design, DWR-coated outer, and 800-fill insulation for serious warmth. Sure, this jacket’s raglan sleeve design should mean you have plenty of room in the upper body for movement (like, say, if you were hiking or rock climbing or… well, just hustling around the city), but its close-to-the-body fit also ensures that it’s great for layering when things go from autumn to winter. Practicality is never not stylish.
This one’s for the lads
An iconic brand at the intersection of garment innovation and everyday gear, Stone Island is definitely not streetwear, but its connection to street-level subculture (especially among European football fans) gives the brand a unique, international appeal. We’ll spare you the history lesson here and cut right to the chase: this Stone Island puffer is an easy way to add some designer-level credibility to your outerwear rotation. In classic Stone Island fashion, this jacket comes in a eye-catching teal colorway, which makes it pop among a sea of black, tan, and navy outerwear.
Puff, puff, pass out and miss your train station.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.