Everyone loves a good puffy. I know I do. They’re certainly the products that I gravitate towards first when I’m in a store, with their baffles begging to be investigated and full of the promise of hoarded heat in the mountains. A warm jacket can make you feel like you’re invincible in the fourth season (you’re not, though; check out BACKPACKER’s winter skills stories to bone up), so here are my five favorite picks for cold-weather comfort.
Eli’s Pick: Mountain Hardwear Phantom Hoody
I can’t tell you how many people I meet who don’t wear their puffy as much as they should for fear of ripping it. Nevermind that patches make you look badass: I don’t have to worry at all about tears when I wear the Phantom. Its 20-denier, diamond ripstop nylon—light but ultrahardy—has survived gnarly bushwhacks, climbs on skin-ripping limestone, and everything else I’ve thrown at it. It’s kept me warm into the high 20s over just a t-shirt (I run warm). Oh, and the Phantom can fit inside a 1-liter Nalgene bottle and is uberwarm for the weight, thanks to 800-fill down. Buy the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Hoody now for $350 in men’s and women’s
Budget Pick: Decathlon Padded Jacket Trek 100
From a pure price perspective, this synthetic puffy is unbeatable. I was skeptical when I took it into Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains on a testing trip a couple years ago, but it performed flawlessly as a layering piece, and when worn alone in temps down to about 30°F. Its face fabric is super soft both inside and out, meaning it feels good on skin and slides over and under other layers easily. And of course, synthetic fill is great for wet climates, where it won’t lose warmth when damp. Sure, the hood is a bit loose and the Trek 100 is bulky, but your wallet will thank you. Buy the Decathlon Padded Jacket Trek 100 now for $45 in men’s and women’s
Warmest: Feathered Friends Helios Hooded Down Jacket
Look at this thing. Just look at it. This is the puffy the Michelin Man would wear if he needed to hole up in a snow cave. The Helios definitely isn’t the lightest or smallest-packing jacket in the world, but I know folks who use it for belaying in single-digit temps while ice climbing in Colorado and as an emergency option wherever their winter adventures take them. Its 8 ounces of down fill weighs almost as much as the entirety of other jackets on this list. Buy the Helios Hooded Down Jacket now for $389 in unisex sizes
Best for Moving Fast: Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody
Not every winter outing is a slow trudge through freezing conditions. I’ve worn the Nano-Air on pretty much every ski tour I’ve done over the past two years, and it never lets me down. Warm enough to layer over a fleece and baselayer for alpine starts in the teens, its synthetic insulation and thin polyester shell also let a ton of heat and sweat out, so I usually keep it on even as the sun rises higher in the sky. It’s also soft enough to sleep in, and stretchy enough for putting on packs, reaching on bootpacks, and whatever else you can dream up. Buy the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody now for $299 in men’s and women’s
Best Weatherproofing: Montbell Ignis Down Parka
I experienced perhaps my purest form of gear jealousy thanks to this jacket. When our former editor in chief wore it during a weeklong glacier ski tour in Banff National Park, he almost never took it off. It was all he needed for cold mornings in the skin track, performed as a perfect heavy midlayer when temps dropped during a storm, and warded off cooktent drips and 60-mph gusts thanks to a windproof and water-resistant shell.
The Ignis contains 1000-fill down, something I thought only existed in legends, so it packs down extremely small (a bit smaller than the Phantom) for the warmth as well. Buy the Montbell Ignis Down Parka now for $399 in men’s and women’s