How To Choose The Right Puffer Jacket
Puffer jackets have become increasingly popular as a fashion item here in Australia in recent years. There's no surprise why given they're sensational at keeping bodies warm through the winter months and they're also extremely lightweight and very easy to pack, which makes them perfect for travel.
Constructed from goose or duck feathers and down - as well as polyester and recycled synthetic materials - puffer jackets keep their wearer warm by trapping body heat and allowing moisture and sweat to escape easily.
Sizes and styles
Full-length puffer jackets are fantastic for people who want more of their body shielded from the elements - think parents needing to stay warm on the sidelines while watching their kids play sports or taking the dog for their daily walk in the dead of winter.
For those who need more room to move, but who still want to avoid the harsh effects of winter elements while hiking or camping, a waist-length puffer jacket teamed with good thermal layers does the job beautifully.
Puffer vests are popular in urban areas for their versatility when the weather can be variable such as in late autumn and early spring. They’re superb for staying comfortable if socialising outside at twilight or for people who only seem to feel the cold in their upper body region.
Synthetic or feathers and down?
Feather and down puffer jackets are so light you'll hardly know you're wearing them, and they can pack down to a fraction of their full size. However, if you're going somewhere wet as well as cold, synthetic or water-repellent down jackets are the best choice.
As well as providing much-needed insulation, synthetic down-filled jackets dry quicker than feathers and down, so you stay more comfortable against the elements for longer.
Fill weight and fill power
Puffer jackets come with a fill weight and fill power rating. Fill weight is pretty self-explanatory - it indicates the weight of the fill (quantity), while fill power indicates the volume of down within the jacket and its effectiveness at trapping air (quality).
In simple terms, the higher the fill power, the warmer your puffer jacket will be, while the fill weight dictates how heavy the jacket will be. If you need to travel light in colder climates, look for a high power versus fill ratio. You can find the fill power on the manufacturer's care instructions or on the sales tag.
Maintaining your puffer jacket
Taking proper care of your puffer jacket is very important. Regular washing preserves its loft and warmth-to-weight ratio and extends the life of your jacket. While you should always follow the manufacturer's care instructions for your specific brand of garment, here is some general advice on maintenance:
- Always use a down-specific detergent. Doing so will provide the best results for restoring the loft of the jacket. You can use an off-the-supermarket-shelf washing liquid but down-specific detergents go a long way to keeping your puffer jacket in premium condition. Never use fabric softener and never dry clean a puffer jacket.
- A front-loading machine on a gentle cycle is the ideal washing option. The agitator in a top-loader can be too rough on down and is likely to cause clumping. A top-loader that doesn't have an agitator can be used if handwashing isn't an option. Skip the spin-dry/rinse part of the cycle.
- When handwashing your puffer jacket, soak it for around an hour using down-specific detergent. Rinse the jacket by lightly squeezing out the water. Don't wring out the jacket, as this will also likely lead to clumping.
- Tumble dry your jacket on a low heat for approximately an hour or until your gear is dry, unless the care instructions specify otherwise. Down wash balls or clean tennis balls help to puff the jacket up again and reduce the chance of clumping.
- If you don't have a dryer - or if the weather allows - you can let them drip dry over 12 to 48 hours. Lay the jacket flat and shake or 'fluff' the jacket every half an hour or so until it's fully dry to prevent the feathers from clumping.
Final thoughts on puffer jackets
Although they've long been considered an essential clothing item for lovers of the outdoors in winter, the rise of the puffer jacket as everyday leisure wear has led to an explosion in the type of styles and designs that you can choose from. Knowing what to look for when buying a puffer jacket, and then taking good care of that jacket, will ensure your garment serves you well for many years to come.
And, if you're sceptical about the fuss over puffer jackets, just give one a try - you will never turn back!