When Form and Fashion Meet: The Best Puffer Vests of 2023

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Puffer vests provide enough insulation to keep the core of the body warm and are typically made with equal emphasis on fashion and functionality.

A quality puffer vest can be used as everyday wear or for outdoor pursuits. For runners, skiers, climbers, and hikers alike, a puffer vest is a valuable piece of outdoor gear for extra warmth that allows for a full range of motion.

Best puffer vests

Editor’s choice: ORTOVOX Swisswool Piz Grisch Vest

ortovox swisswool piz grisch vest

  • Ideal for skiers and disciplines where weight matters
  • Fully reversible
  • Beacon pocket
  • SWISSWOOL and synthetic fiber insulation
  • Windproof and breathable shell material

The ORTOVOX Swisswool Piz Grisch Vest has been one of my favorite companions on ski tours, especially for the uphill sections. It helps keep my core warm but allows for full freedom of movement with my arms, it’s exceptionally warm and comfortable, and reversible too.

For ski touring, every gram counts, and I love that this vest prioritizes a high warmth-to-weight ratio. The exterior is a breathable, scuff-resistant, and windproof material called Pertex Quantum which is made from recycled polyamide, a type of synthetic fiber. The elastic hem and cuffs trap heat. The insulation is 80% SWISSWOOL, allowing for excellent warmth when wet, and the remaining 20% is synthetic fiber. This is a unique, performance-focused vest that is ideal for ski touring, freeride athletes, alpine climbers, and ski mountaineers.

See ORTOVOX Swisswool Piz Grisch Vest on Ortovox

Best for hiking and camping: Big Agnes Women’s Larkspur Vest

big agnes women's larkspur vest

  • Recycled materials throughout the construction make this vest eco-friendly
  • Two types of synthetic insulation, Pinneco Core and Mantle
  • Five pockets
  • Great for camping, hiking, or other active activities
  • Excellent moisture-wicking and breathability

The Big Agnes Women’s Larkspur Vest is a great all-around vest for camping, hiking, and exploring. Overall I loved how comfortable it is and the fact that it’s quite eco-friendly. While this model is a women’s puffer vest, Big Agnes makes men’s models too.

The vest is made with recycled materials and features a blend of two synthetic insulations, Pinneco Core and Mantle. These give excellent performance when wet or during high-impact activities. There are zip pockets on the outside and two large mesh interior pockets. For even more storage, there’s a chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, so you can pack this vest away in changing weather conditions.

See Big Agnes Women’s Larkspur Vest on Big Agnes

Expedition ready, yet fashion-forward: Buck Mason Coyote Cascade Down Expedition Vest

buck mason coyote cascade down expedition vest

  • Traceable down and a recycled nylon shell make this vest eco-friendly
  • 650-fill power down insulation
  • Water-resistant coating
  • Two chest pockets and two fleece hand warmer pockets

The Buck Mason Coyote Cascade Down Expedition Vest boasts a classic look. Initially, our tester worried that the boxy fit would be drafty in high wind or colder temperatures, but they found themselves comfortable even without all the buttons fastened. The fleece hand warmer pockets kept their hands toasty and the 650 fill power down kept their core at the perfect temperature.

In the rain, water beaded off the water-repellent coating and personal items stayed dry in the chest pocket. Our tester noted that they loved that the down fill is traceable and that Buck Mason used recycled nylon for the construction to limit the environmental impact.

See Buck Mason Coyote Cascade Down Expedition Vest on Buck Mason

Best all-around down vest: Patagonia Down Sweater Vest

patagonia down sweater vest

  • Durable 20D nylon shell and liner fabric
  • 800 fill power goose down insulation that is certified to the Responsible Down Standard
  • Three pockets for storage
  • Folds into its own pockets
  • An incredibly warm and reliable piece of outdoor clothing

We’ve linked the men’s version of the Patagonia down sweater vest here, but they also make puffer vests for women too.

The shell of this down vest is 100% post-consumer recycled ripstop nylon, making it both durable and eco-friendly. The insulation is an 800-fill power goose down, an extremely warm insulation that you’ll find in top-end down jackets or an excellent winter coat. The down also meets the responsible down standard.

There are elastic armholes to seal in warmth and baffles to reduce the down shifting too much. There are two zippered hand pockets on the front and a chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, complete with a carabiner loop for easy storage.

See Patagonia Down Sweater Vest on REI

Best for layering: The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Eco-Insulated Vest

the north face men’s thermoball eco insulated vest

  • Recycled materials throughout the entire build of the jacket make it very eco-friendly
  • Tight quilting keeps insulation in place
  • Great as a layering piece
  • Excellent performance when wet

Whether you’re choosing The North Face Men’s Thermoball Eco Vest as a layering piece or outer layer, you’ll love the lay-flat look, warmth, how the insulation always stays put, and how eco-friendly it is. We named this piece as best for layering because it lays much flatter than many classic puffer vests. One of the other big draws is the 100% post-consumer recycled polyester synthetic insulation, an eco-friendly alternative to down insulation that offers better performance when wet.

This vest also offers great packability, it packs into its chest pocket. The exterior is a recycled nylon shell complete with a DWR finish. Tight quilting keeps the Thermoball insulation in place and prevents bunching, cold spots, or hot spots.

See The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Eco-Insulated Vest on Amazon

See The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Eco-Insulated Vest on REI

See The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Eco-Insulated Vest on North Face

Most durable: Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Vest

arc'teryx atom lt insulated vest

  • Breathable mesh side panels and lining fabric
  • DWR finish and wind resistance
  • 60g CoreLoft polyester insulation
  • 20-denier nylon shell fabric

The Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest departs from the classic puffer vest look with a smooth 20-denier nylon shell fabric that looks more like a down sweater vest or sweater vest hybrid than a classic puffer style. Not everyone loves the puffer style so this Arc’Teryx model offers another option with durability and warmth in mind.

The synthetic insulation is 60g of compact and lightweight CoreLoft polyester insulation, which keeps this vest light and offers performance when wet, so you still have a functional piece of outdoor gear in light rain.

Another feature we love is the super soft lining fabric, a permeair 20 nylon that allows for breathability, so you don’t overheat. There’s also a DWR finish for extra water resistance in bad weather and several wind-resistant features to fight the cold. The mesh side panels offer more breathability than any other vest on our list, so you can take this vest out for any high-impact activity like ski touring, cross-country skiing, or running.

See Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Vest on Arc’teryx

Best for fishing: Carhartt Men’s Gilliam Vest

carhartt men’s gilliam vest

  • Triple-stitched main seams
  • Mock-neck collar
  • Draw-cord adjustable hem
  • Lower pockets with snap closures

Built mainly for outdoor use, the Carhartt Men’s Gilliam Vest is made of nylon with quilted polyester insulation. This puffer vest is great for fishing, it has a water-repellent technology that keeps water away from the body. It also has inner pockets.

See Carhartt Men’s Gilliam Vest on Amazon

See Carhartt Men’s Gilliam Vest on Home Depot

Most bang for your buck: Columbia Men’s Voodoo Falls TurboDown Puffer Vest

columbia men’s voodoo falls turbodown puffer vest

  • Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective material
  • Zippered hand pockets
  • Water-resistant fabric
  • Drawcord adjustable hem

The Columbia Men’s Voodoo Falls TurboDown Vest is designed to retain your body heat while offering an exceptional range of motion for your upper extremities.

A unique feature is the Omni-Tech Reflective lining which traps your body heat. Contributing to its heat retention capability is an adjustable drawcord hem which comes in handy in windy conditions, as well as multiple zippered pockets.

See Columbia Men’s Voodoo Falls TurboDown Puffer Vest on Amazon

See Columbia Men’s Voodoo Falls TurboDown Puffer Vest on Backcountry

See Columbia Men’s Voodoo Falls TurboDown Puffer Vest on Moosejaw

Best for running: Under Armour Men’s Trail Hybrid Zip Jacket

under armour men’s trail hybrid zip jacket

  • Made from 85% nylon and 100% polyester
  • Highly waterproof
  • Fully seamed seals
  • Elastic bound cuffs
  • 700-fill goose down

The Under Armour Men’s Trail Hybrid Zip Jacket uses Storm technology to repel water droplets. This padded vest comes with a hook closure below the neck, which allows the vest to be worn in a cape-like fashion if you need to shed layers but don’t have a pack. The material wicks moisture quickly, reducing any build-up of sweat.

It also incorporates ColdGear Reactor insulation which keeps the body warm but offers a mesh panel for breathability. The 700-fill power is ideal for high-impact activities in cold weather like running or cross-country skiing. In rainy weather, you can pop this vest underneath a rain jacket for a great running ensemble.

Our guide to the best heated jackets features more excellent products for your wardrobe.

See Under Armour Men’s Trail Hybrid Zip Jacket Amazon

Budget buy: Amazon Essentials Men’s Puffer Vest

amazon essentials men’s lightweight water resistant packable puffer vest

  • 100% Nylon material
  • Full zip front
  • Water-resistant
  • Quilted and lightweight

This puffer vest is made from 100% nylon, making it lightweight and comfortable. It features a full-zip front and a stand collar to protect the neck from cold. The sleeve cuffs are elastic, which provides better insulation.

This model is a great budget vest that still offers performance features.

See Amazon Essentials Men’s Puffer Vest on Amazon

Why trust us

Here at ExplorersWeb, we are a team of mountaineers, skiers, explorers, hikers, and mountain athletes who love getting outside.

Who this is for

While this guide is geared toward outdoor folks who climb, ski, hike, and explore, it is for anyone who needs an extra layer of warmth.

How we picked

Selecting the best puffer vests for women and men was a combination of personal testing experience, market research, and customer reviews. Having spent years in the outdoor industry as an athlete, guide, buyer, and rep, you begin to get familiar with the best brands, products, and technology.

How we tested

Our tested puffer vests got put to work in snow, in the forest, and in more casual settings. We had two testers for this guide, to test both the male and female models.

puffer vests

Features to look for in puffer vests

Fashion or performance

Puffer vests are worn casually in almost all weather. However, providing an extra layer of warmth is the primary purpose. Style or fashion is personal preference, but performance should be prioritized.


Insulation is the most important feature to consider. However, there are different types of insulation with varying degrees of warmth. Down is the most common insulation and by far the warmest. This is because the feathers effectively trap heat close to the body. But down retains more moisture when wet, which might become a problem in rainy conditions.

Synthetic insulation is more breathable, which means it won’t retain moisture.


The main function of a puffer vest is to keep you warm in chilly weather. It is best to consider the type of insulation guaranteed to give you the maximum degree of warmth. We have both down vests and synthetic vests in our guide, both have their benefits. Synthetic insulation has better performance when wet but can’t pack as small and can be more expensive. Down is more common, packs small, but loses performance when wet.

Some brands are switching to hybrid models, offering synthetic insulation in places where we tend to sweat like the upper back, cuffs, and neckline, and adding down throughout the rest of the garment.


The shell of a vest which includes its material, coating, and thickness, determines how well it can protect you from water or precipitation. Consider buying puffer vests made of polyester or nylon materials, as they are water-repellent. Also, consider getting synthetic insulation which is more breathable and wicks water faster. Nylon shell fabric is arguably the most popular material, we also recommend looking for a model that includes a DWR coating for additional weather protection.


The weight of a puffer vest should be considered as a much heavier vest might be difficult to pack. Down is the obvious choice as it shrinks down the smallest. Many vests come with a stuff sack to save space in your pack.


Pockets are great for storing essentials or supplies.


This feature is essential to consider, as a stuffy vest will leave you feeling overheated and sweaty. Sweat can quickly become dangerous if not wicked away from your skin if you’re out in the cold. Breathability in a down or synthetic vest is key to maintaining an appropriate body temperature during athletic activities.

puffer vests

Puffer vest FAQ

Q: How do you style a puffer vest?

Styling a puffer vest is a personal choice, my personal favorite is to wear a base layer with a long sleeve layering piece on top, then add my vest. You can use a similar tactic for everyday wear. Additionally, you can ensure the color of your vest pops up in your shoes, or in your accessories, for a cohesive look.

Q: How do you wash a puffer vest?

Different vests will have different care requirements. We recommend following the manufacturer’s care guidelines on the tag that comes with the garment. If you purchase a down vest, you may need to add something like a tennis ball to ensure the down redistributes throughout the vest. If the shell fabric is treated with any type of DWR coating, it may need to be replenished at some point with a product like Nikwax. This kind of care may be especially important for hikers, skiers, and puffer vests being worn as outdoor clothing.

Q: Should a puffer vest be tight or loose?

A puffer vest should fit over any layers that might go underneath and have room for you to move, but it should not be excessively loose. A vest is considered a layering piece and should fit as such.


  1. What Is A DWR And How Does It Work – Trailsense
  2. Down vs. Synthetic Insulation – Switch Back Travel

Tuesday Kirby Kahl

Tuesday Kirby Kahl is a native Texan now residing in Portland, OR. In addition to her work as a writer, she’s a competitive climbing coach for youth and adult athletes. When she’s not working, you’ll find her rock climbing, exploring, skiing, and paddle boarding all over the Cascades. When at home, she’s usually tending to her collection or houseplants or painting with a cup of tea in hand.