As we enter big-coat season, buying a puffer might be on your to-do list. The puffer’s appeal is its practicality (down-filled insulation, clever pockets, handy zips) and its wear-anywhere style. A good puffer will not only keep you cozy, but will allow a little fashion flex. And though it’s a large coat, it needn’t set you back a month’s rent, either.
To help you make your decision, we asked a group of stylish women, including a stuntwoman, a travel writer, and a model, to recommend their favourite puffy coats. From sporty shapes and funnel necks, to cropped styles that can be thrown over just about any outfit, there’s a puffer to suit everyone.
A note on fillings: Puffers are usually filled with down and feathers. Down, which is warmer, but also more expensive, is often described by its fill power — its ability to trap air and insulation — with most jackets meeting a fill power of 300 to 900 (the higher the ratio of down, the better the insulation). If you want to ensure cruelty-free down, look for a certificate of Responsible Down Standard, an initiative spearheaded by the North Face to ensure sustainable and ethical down. However, lots of brands use synthetic insulation, which can be just as warm as the real deal while being easier to wash, faster to dry, and suitable for people with allergies to down and feathers.
Best overall puffer
Two of our experts were in complete agreement on the same puffer: the Nuptse. “This is the original puffer jacket by the North Face,” says Chloe Pierre. “It’s classic, cool, and chic.” The Nuptse, first launched in 1992, was named after a mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas but designed for winter in New York. Its charm lies in its bulky shape and toasty 700-fill insulation, but it is the cropped version, with its “feminine length and slim fit” that wins Pierre — and ASOS design director Vanessa Spence’s — vote. While Pierre has the black version, Spence singles out the pink, a bright block of colour that is “easy to pair with sweats or denim and stands out from more traditional navy or black puffer.” The Nuptse has undergone a few tweaks since its birth, notably in 1996 and more recently when this cropped version was released (all styles are regularly released, although the 92 and 96 sell out quickly). Spence rates its “super-functional features, being water repellent and warm,” and Pierre flags the North Face’s commitment to ethical down. “I’m an ethical shopper, so this makes a difference to me and justifies the higher price point. It’s an investment item.”
Best (cheaper) puffer jackets
L.A.-based filmmaker and stuntwoman Alice Ford has wardrobes stuffed with expedition kit, but it’s Decathlon’s 365-gram water-repellent hoodie that goes on the majority of her adventures. “It’s great for autumn and spring days with a little nip in the air — around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius) — and if it’s cooler than that, I add a wool base layer or use it as a mid-layer under a bigger down jacket,” she says. She wore it hiking Colorado’s Fourteeners (a group of 58 mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet), and she often wears it when stunt rigging. “It keeps me warm, packs down to really small (via the left-hand pocket), and it also dries quickly.”
When travel journalist Hannah Summers isn’t working in extreme locations, she’s camper-vanning around the UK and battling inclement weather on her daily walks with her Romanian rescue dog Bobbi Jean. “We live in London at the moment — soon to be Hastings — and this coat is great on the last walk of the day, when it’s often cold and I have to stand around on the street or in a park waiting for her,” she says. “We’ve taken Bobbi Jean on lots of camper-van trips and the coat always comes, too.” The jacket, which is available in eight colours and has an impressive 90 percent down, 10 percent feathers mix, is slim enough to fit under Summers’s leather jacket, and she can scrunch it down into the bag attached to the lining. Uniqlo’s Down Recycling Scheme invites you to return any down garments in exchange for a £10 store voucher.
“I love the high collar on this coat by Zara,” says Naomi Ngei, founder of fashion label Lost In W0nder, which champions Black empowerment. Unlike some collars, this one also folds down to create a simple round neck. Ngei likes the “luxury feel with attention to fit and detail, but all while being very affordable.” It’s even more wallet friendly when you consider the insulation mix — 80 percent duck down and 20 percent feather — which Ngei notes for its warmth. The hem and cuff toggles allow you to adjust the fit. As the style Ngei prefers was limited edition, it’s no longer available to shop. Bennetton, however, offers a similar high-neck option — with the same down to feather ratio (80 to 20).
Best plus-size puffer jacket
Inclusive sizing is a necessity for any brand championed by Pierre, founder of wellness platform Thy.Self. For this reason, ASOS is in “receipt of a lot of my money,” she says. Its cappuccino puffer sits in the Design line (sizes 4 to 18) and the Curve line (sizes 16 to 30). “I call this the Big Cappuccino Hug,” says Pierre. “Winter is coming, and all I want to do for the rest of 2020 is be comfortable.” Designed with a fixed hood and deep side pockets, Pierre mostly wears this synthetic jacket with joggers, but she’s also worn it with skinny jeans and over-the-knee boots. The pale shade is “classic, calming, and can be mixed with just about every colour in my wardrobe,” and, helpfully, it’s machine washable.
Best hooded puffer jackets
Ford has worked on Spiderman, Tenet, and Bad Boys and regularly finds herself on sets where temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) — which is when she reaches for her Windstoppper. “I have worn it skiing in France and Colorado and during winter night shoots in Georgia and New York,” she says. Ford often works for 8 to 12 hours straight, and this coat, which is stylish but also practical thanks to its longer length, 700-fill RDS-approved down, and large hood that can fit over a ski helmet, keeps her protected in punishing conditions. “There are loads of pockets, and it has a powder skirt, which stops snow going up inside the coat, and articulated cuffs that allow movement but keep the wind and cold off my wrists — it’s long enough on me that my hands are kept warm even without my gloves on.”
A few years ago, stylist Hannah Beck bought this 80 percent duck down, 20 percent feather Aigle coat to keep her warm on set. “It comes everywhere with me now,” she says. “My work means I often have early starts or find myself coming down a mountain late at night, when the temperature dramatically drops; I could be in a warehouse in London one day and a ski resort in Verbier the next. This coat is lightweight, but it still keeps me really warm, with two outer pockets and a zipped internal pocket to keep pins, clips, double-sided tape, and God knows what else I use when I’m on set.” Beck owns the iridescent blue shade (“There’s no blending in with the crowd in this one”), but we also like their blue Quilted Winter jacket, which is available to shop now.
Best long puffer jacket
Living in a draughty former Victorian school in London, Jordanne Young often ends up wrapping herself in her Arket puffer coat while hosting Zoom calls. As founder of creative studio Enid, which counts Heist, Nudea, and Bleach as its clients, Young is also usually “darting here, there, and everywhere in London for meetings, events, and checking products” and needs an outer layer that meets her requirements for “feeling practical and ready for anything”. Arket’s calf-grazing, 80 percent down, 20 percent feather coat “is super-warm, but I can stuff it in a tote bag when I’m rushing about.” The pockets are deep enough for her phone and hand sanitiser, and “the oaty colour is a warming neutral that I can pair with shades either end of the spectrum depending on my mood that day”.
Best water-repellant puffer jackets
Fully waterproof, made with 600-fill goose down, and machine washable, LuluLemon’s Sleet Street Jacket is a worthwhile investment if you spend a lot of time in gruelling conditions. Tashi Skervin-Clarke, a personal trainer and founder of online fitness programme TSC Method, coaches track sessions in London year-round, often weathering rain, wind, and the occasional snow flurry. “I call this my Arsène Wenger coat,” she says, laughing. “It feels like a hug in a coat. It’s soft, warm, and it doesn’t make me feel restricted.”
When Glaswegian hiker Zahrah Mahmood, known as the Hillwalking Hijabi on Instagram, isn’t striding out across Munros, she’s commuting into the city to work as a chartered accountant. Glasgow’s tough winters demand serious protection, and for that, Mahmood turns to Sweaty Betty. “At the moment, it’s October and the temperature here is zero to 2 degrees Celsius in the evenings,” she says. “The Base Camp Puffer is really warm — it has synthetic insulated padding — and the longline style and double-ended zip allows me flexibility to wear different styles of clothes underneath.” Mahmood was drawn to the coat’s versatility: It looks smart with heels or trainers and comes with a detachable faux-fur trim. [Editor’s note: Sweaty Betty have confirmed that this product is no longer available. We suggest their reversible puffer as a good alternative.]
Zara’s Oversize Down is Simone Powderly’s “do-everything coat.” The polyamide shell fairs well in a downpour, and the deep, zipped pockets are handy for securing her essentials. “I also like the side zips on the hem because they allow me to split the coat, which is really helpful when I’m rushing somewhere and need a longer leg stride to get there!” says Powderly, a model and co-founder of the Teen Experience, which provides personal-development workshops for young women. “It’s not too puffy, so I can wear it with a smart outfit like jeans, a shirt, and heels, but it also works well with joggers, which I often wear.” The outer shell is made from recycled material and the insulation is 60 percent duck down and 40 percent feathers, which are recycled from other products. Although Zara no longer carries this style, it does have another oversize option with a very similar insulation mix (50 percent down and 50 percent feather).
Best stylish puffer jackets
Powderly wants her coat to “feel snug, like I’m still in bed,” and prizes a colour palette of tan, dark orange, and brown. This rusty-hued polyester jacket from Spanish brand Pull & Bear ticks those boxes and features a high funnel neck, which negates the need for a scarf — a big plus for Powderly, because “I’m always losing them on public transport.” It’s warm, too, with Powderly taking it on modelling jobs to wear in between shoots. “I used to take a dressing gown; now I just take this.”
Hannah Beck likes a puffer jacket “that drowns me, that wraps me up like a huge duvet.” This velvet one does just that, thanks to its pillowy nylon velvet outer material and deep collar. “It’s oversized and sporty, yet the fabric makes it feel luxurious, too,” says Beck. This is the jacket Beck reaches for when she has evening plans after a day of styling, because “it’s easy to dress up or down — I wear it on set with jeans and then change into leather trousers and go straight for drinks.” There’s function behind the glamour: The synthetic coat is lined with Sorona Dupont, a polymer fibre that excels at retaining heat. Zara no longer stocks this coat, but we spotted this similar style from Abercrombie & Fitch, also with pillowy velvet finish. It’s available to shop in sizes XXS to XL, in the shades Black and Cream.
While most puffers use chambers, technically called baffles, to keep down and feathers from sinking to the bottom, this silky-looking grey number also utilises large buttons to ensure optimum spread of insulation. “It is a masterpiece of design,” says Naomi Ngei. “Its clever button quilting reminds me of a grand chesterfield sofa that my grandfather owned.” Designed by Stand Studio, a brand headed by Swedish designer Nellie Kamras, Ngei finds the shade a surprisingly versatile colour to match with the rest of her winter wardrobe, usually a mix of sportswear and athleisure. Most importantly, it’s “snug and warm” thanks to the ratio of 90 percent duck down and 10 percent duck feathers. Unfortunately, Stand Studio no longer stock this coat. However, their Padded Puffer is available to shop now, and actually has a higher down ratio (remember: the higher the down ratio, the warmer the coat).
Best puffer jackets for sport
Naomi Ngei alternates her smarter coats with this Nike Sportswear puffer. She likes how the brand combines a mix of “fabric performance innovation with style and function and a variety of fits and sizes to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes.” This coat, which she wears to and from the gym and in the park with her young daughter, ticks off the boxy trend, but it’s also supremely warm — 100 percent down filled — and it can be machine washed. Nike restocks regularly, so keep checking back if your size isn’t available.
When personal trainer Tashi Skervin-Clarke transitions into autumn and early winter training schedules, you’ll mostly find her wearing Under Armour’s shiny white quilted jacket. “It’s lightweight but warm; I wear it on cooler days and also while I warm up during track sessions.” The standout feature of this jacket is Under Armour’s ColdGear material, a light breathable polyester that wicks away moisture and provides exceptional cold protection.
“This coat has the best of both worlds,” says Zahrah Mahmood. “All the technical specifications of an outdoors jacket, but it’s packaged in a short and stylish puffer jacket.” Mahmood recently hiked all 30 Munros in Scotland to celebrate her 30th birthday, and she wore this on many of those hikes. Newcastle-based Berghaus has over 50 years’ experience making outdoor clothing, and this coat has all the bells and whistles you would expect: heat-reflective material, 600-fill RDS-certified duck down, water-repellent fabric, zipped pockets, and a removable hood. “I’ve worn it in snow, rain, and wind,” says Mahmood. “It can take pretty much anything the Scottish weather throws at me.”
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