How to buy a down jacket that really works

You're cold. That doesn't mean you can't be cool 😎

puffer jacket closeup in vivid bright red fabric material with black zip
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It’s that time of year again where you step outside and realize that your trusted sweater and jacket combo isn’t cutting it. And sure, you promised yourself you’d get a real winter coat last year but there are so many options, so many styles, who has the time?

Turns out, I have the time, and I’m going to teach you how to be warm as heck this season.

I’m going to focus on down jackets: their warmth-to-price and warmth-to-weight ratio just can’t be beaten. For the uninitiated, a down jacket is your typical puff coat. They’re unapologetically ugly, they don’t really go with anything, but if you’re cold and absolutely over it, get yourself a nice down jacket and leave that life behind.

What is down — down is the insulation inside the puff coat, and it’s made from the soft, fluffy feathers that keep birds warm. The down in most garments is typically made from goose feathers. The sections you see in down coats that hold the down are called baffles.

What is fill power — fill power is the number you’ll often see in jacket listings and it describes the amount of loft, or fluffiness, of the down used in the garment. More loft means more insulating power. Typically you’ll see fill power numbers anywhere from 500 to 900 where 500 is just standard down and 900 is at the very top in terms of fill power.

What is fill weight — fill weight is just the amount of down in a given garment. Maybe you have your eye on a fancy ultralight 900 fill power jacket, but it might not end up being that warm because, after all, it’s an ultralight jacket that doesn’t contain very much down. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to stave off the coldest, windiest weather in northern latitudes, you need a coat with a hefty fill weight.

Recommendations — if you’re looking for a big puffy coat that you can throw over a t-shirt and be good to go, check out our picks in the Big Warmth section below. These are jackets are big, round, and impervious to chills. If you’re looking for something with a more flattering profile, or something that you could scale a mountain in, check out the Ultralight section. These are technical garments that weigh almost nothing and are quite warm for their weight, but on very cold days you’ll probably need to combine them with a fleece or sweater.

Big Warmth



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