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8 best men’s puffer and down jackets for keeping warm this winter

Tackle the elements head on with a lightweight number that doesn’t compromise on style

Jacob Little
Wednesday 08 September 2021 12:40
<p>Synthetic insulation can be better for the environment, as it is often made from recycled materials</p>

Synthetic insulation can be better for the environment, as it is often made from recycled materials

As cold, stormy weather grips the UK, it seems sensible to consider packing out your outdoor wardrobe with some practical items to keep you toasty during the winter. Puffer jackets are a great option and not only do they keep you warm, they are also experiencing a bit of a renaissance, with many high-profile brands and fashion houses launching retro puffer jackets to the shelves – with the insulation credentials to match.

Puffer jackets are so-called because the stitching makes each section “puff” out, with synthetic insulation providing the warming layer between you and the outside world. The stitching can be altered depending on the fit of the jacket, so diamond or diagonal stitching often lends itself to a tighter, body-hugging style, for instance.

Essentially the differences between puffer jackets and down jackets are few and far between, but puffer jackets do not use down in the conventional sense of the word, as rather being from natural sources, their insulation is synthetic. This can be better for the environment, as it is often made from recycled materials, and there are also advantages to puffer jackets when it comes to washing too. Synthetic materials do not clump together in the same way as down feathers and their “puffiness” is retained more readily when the coat’s dry.

How we tested

As the weather has become colder, this has given us the perfect opportunity to test these jackets in a range of settings, from ice-cold mornings to wet and windy evenings. We tested them as outer jackets and their layering credentials as mid-layers, and also assessed their waterproof abilities by taking them out in the rain. We also evaluated the product quality by testing fastenings, zips and pockets when in real-world use.

Read more:

The best men’s puffer jackets for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Finisterre Nimbus insulated puffer jacket: £165,
  • Best for city life – North Face 1996 retro nuptse down jacket: £270,
  • Best for packing down small – Montane featherlite down jacket: £190,
  • Best affordable puffer jacket – Gandys base camp puffer jacket: £84.99,
  • Best for extreme adventures – Arc’Teryx agrium down hooded jacket: £340,
  • Best mid layer – Patagonia silent down shirt jacket: £192,
  • Best unisex long jacket – Arket long down puffer jacket: £225,
  • Best for post-sport warmth –Nike Jordan essentials puffer jacket: £144.95,

Finisterre nimbus insulated puffer jacket

Best: Overall

  • Insulation: A-form insulation recycled polyester fill
  • Fabric: Polyester ripstop shell
  • Colours: Four
  • Weight: 475g
  • Rating: 9/10

Simply made and fully sustainably sourced, this is a genuine four seasons jacket in a straightforward timeless puffer style that’s unlikely to go out of fashion. Easily layered, the nimbus also comes in a range of attractive colours and is made out of fully recycled materials. One that we keep coming back to time and again, we especially liked its simple design and no-nonsense approach to keeping you warm; if we were being picky we would say we’d have appreciated zips on the slightly shallow pockets, but this was our only criticism. It’s also worth noting that we’ve machine washed ours a couple of times to Finisterre’s specifications, and found it easy to dry and reshape afterwards.

The North Face 1996 retro nuptse down jacket

Best: For city life

  • Insulation: 700 fill goose down
  • Fabric: DWR nylon ripstop
  • Colours: Nine
  • Weight: 720g
  • Rating: 8/10

As the name suggests, the nuptse jacket (named after a mountain in the Himalayas) is one of the original 90s puffer icons, and The North Face has updated it to include more colours and better ripstop fabric, but the same oversized look and technical features. With an ample 700 fill down the jacket will keep you nice and warm around town, although we’d suggest the coat is too bulky for any serious outdoor adventures. Overall we did still find it surprisingly warm, and were especially impressed with its ability to take away the bite of the wind.

Read the full The North Face nuptse down jacket review

Montane featherlite down jacket

Best: For packing down small

  • Insulation: 750 hyper dry duck down
  • Fabric: Pertex Quantum Eco nylon
  • Colours: Six
  • Weight: 405g
  • Rating: 8/10

The one thing we loved about this jacket is it almost feels like it disappears when packed down, which is a big bonus when you’re out and about and limited for space. Its tight, close baffles and stitching pattern lends itself to a tighter, more active fit, so it hugs the body when you’re on the move. We thought this would be a great hiking jacket, and we used it as part of a layering system on a number of walks where thin, lightweight materials made easy to carry around in a backpack just in case.

Gandys base camp puffer jacket

Best: Affordable puffer jacket

  • Insulation: Synthetic polyester padding
  • Fabric: 10 per cent nylon outer
  • Colours: Two
  • Weight: Not available
  • Rating: 7/10

If you’ve already got a premium down jacket, and you’re perhaps looking for a second coat or something a little more affordable, Gandy’s puffer jacket options are well worth a look. We like the new charcoal base camp puffer jacket for its style, shape and fit, but the brand also offers longline jackets or slightly thinner options for easy day-to-day wear. Highly recommended for the budget conscious – we especially like its rugged style and found the deep front pocket especially useful. For the price, we were also impressed by its ability to keep water out, too.

Arc’Teryx agrium down hooded jacket

Best: For extreme adventures

  • Insulation: 850 white goose down
  • Fabric: Bluesign approved 45 per cent recycled polyester
  • Colours: Two
  • Weight: 330g
  • Rating: 9/10

On the other end of the spectrum, this offering from Arc’Teryx is a brand new, light, packable puffer jacket that builds on the brand’s extensive adventure experience and knowledge from their popular cerium down jackets. It’s expensive, but it provides advanced performance, 850 goose down fill that is sustainably sourced, and lightweight performance which works well as a mid or thermal layer. Superb at layering with especially good hem drawcords, we especially liked this coat’s suitability for a vast range of outdoor activities.

Patagonia silent down shirt jacket

Best: Mid layer

  • Insulation: 700 fill duck and goose down
  • Fabric: 70 per cent recycled polyester taffeta shell
  • Colours: Four
  • Weight: 590g
  • Rating: 8/10

As a puffer jacket in its own right, this option is a little different, but we liked its versatility and ability to be supple and flexible as a mid layer. It is windproof and weather resistant, but thin enough to wear underneath thicker clothing. It also has a snap button front and shirt collar styling which adds to its everyday appeal. We especially liked this jacket’s eco credentials, with Patagonia making 68 per cent of its fabrics this season from recyclable materials. Layered above another shirt or a suit, it’s a smarter option and is currently on offer, too.

Arket long down puffer jacket

Best: Unisex long jacket

  • Insulation: 80 per cent duck down, 20 per cent feather
  • Fabric: 100 per cent polyamide
  • Colours: One
  • Weight: N/A
  • Rating: 8/10

This attractive long puffer jacket option reaches just above the knee and provides ample warmth for the colder seasons. It’s made using upcycled down and features a hood as well as a two-way front zip and elasticated cuffs for a snug and water-tight fit. Our favourite bit about this jacket is its ability to withstand the cold of strong winds and keep your whole body warm – the down is also incredibly soft, and although it’s a long coat it stays comfortable even when there are lots of layers underneath.

Nike Jordan essentials puffer jacket

Best: For post-sport warmth

  • Insulation: Synthetic fill
  • Fabric: 100 per cent nylon
  • Colours: Three
  • Weight: N/A
  • Rating: 8/10

Nike offers a good range of puffer jacket options and this is an affordable coat for those winter post sport sessions. Featuring synthetic fill and supplied in three attractive, bright colours, we were impressed with the warmth of the jacket and the inside lining, adding a good deal of comfort. We also really like the insulated hood and storm flap at the top of the zip, which adds a good deal of warmth and protection against the elements. The jacket also struck us as being one of the most durable out there, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for post-sports sessions or slightly more aggressive use.

The verdict: Men’s puffer jackets

Our best in test is the Finisterre nimbus jacket. It’s the jacket we got on best with on a day-to-day basis, and we think it provides ample warmth and flexibility for everyday performance, at a reasonable price too. If you’re looking for something more lightweight and high-performing, you can’t go far wrong with Arc’Teryx, and if you’re after something a little thinner and more supple, we’d highly recommend the Patagonia silent down shirt as an excellent mid layer option.

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