Down Puffy Jackets

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Visions of the Michelin Man might come to mind. But for untold thousands of winter lovers, horizontally-banded, ultra-insulated puffy down jackets have become the ubiquitous choice for the coldest of days.

I am one of these mini Michelin Men. In my home state of Minnesota, where temps regularly dredge to 20-below, a down-stuffed puffy is often the only viable defense against the cold.

Down Puffy Jackets.jpg

Puffy down jackets by Sierra Designs (left) and Rab

This winter, I’ve been testing two new puffys, including the Flex Jacket from Sierra Designs and the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket. They are puffys of different types, though both equally cozy in the snow.

Made for alpine climbing, winter hiking, and “fast and light” pursuits, the Rab Microlight weighs less than a pound. For stowing in a backpack, it scrunches down and packs into its own chest pocket.

But on your back, with panels of goose down ensconcing the body, you’d never know the Microlight Alpine was made with the minimalist in mind. In my test, paired with just two layers underneath, the Rab jacket was warm to about zero degrees.

RAB Microlight Alpine Jacket.jpg

Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket

The Rab costs $150 to $200 on most retailer web sites. (Its msrp is $215.) It has an insulated hood. There are two hand-warmer side pockets and a single zipped chest pocket. On the harshest days, the close-fitting Rab can be worn underneath a shell jacket for optimal warmth.

My gripes with the Rab jacket (http://us.rab.uk.com) are few. But watch out for its Pertex face fabric. It is not as durable as fabric found on most winter shell jackets. Another point: I often wished for more pockets on the Rab. Internal pockets to store an extra hat and handwear were missed.

A final small annoyance with the Rab. If you wear a wool top or a sweater under this puffy, look out for residual feather “dust.” My wool mid-layer shirt would become coated with fine feathers and down fibers after a couple hours, necessitating the use of a de-linter roller at home to revive the shirt and make it presentable again. This phenomenon was not present with synthetic mid layers.

The second jacket tested this year, Sierra Designs’ Flex Down Jacket, is a different type of puffy beast. It is warmer than the Rab. But it is bulkier and cannot be easily employed as a layer underneath a shell jacket.

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Posted by robin - 02/02/2010 10:40 AM

An alternative jacket I tried this year is from LLBean – 850 Ultralight (weight under 1 lb). Cheaper then these and very warm.

Robin
BackpackBaseCamp Blog

Posted by Thirsty - 02/05/2010 10:51 AM

EMS glacier jacket works well for me, stuffs into it’s inside chest pocket. I even can smush my Patagonia Puff pants in that pocket too, to make a winter outfit for summits or camping with minimal volume. Go warm, go puffy!

Posted by Mitch - 02/06/2010 11:18 AM

This winter I have been using the Marmot Zeus and have absolutely loved it. It is 800 fill so it is not super puffy. This is what really drew me to this piece. It still packs a lot of warmth into it without having a lot of bulk. Another great faeture is how it packs in to its own pocket that makes for a great pillow when car traveling or backpacking.

The only downside would be the lack of a hood, which I really don’t want. I also have had a slight problem with some feathers coming out, but it seems to be easy to pull them back in to the jacket instead of out and losing the fill.

All around I have loved the Marmot Zeus Down Jacket.

Posted by Daniel - 02/16/2010 10:08 PM

I’ve been looking at puffys online and its pretty much impossible to tell any two apart as every description claims every jacket to be both super warm and super light. Thanks for not doing that.

What I’d like to see in any down garment description is the type of fill, the fill weight, maybe loft, maybe overall weight and the fabric. When a jacket is described as 850 fill but there’s no mention of fill weight it’s a virtually meaningless description. I’d like to see the major retailers and companies show a little more respect for their customers in this regard.

Of course, Feathered Friends out of Seattle does it already.

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