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How to Pick a Puffer: A Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Puffer Jacket in 2024

Everything you need to know about buying a puffer jacket for outdoor adventures.


The puffer jacket has become a winter wardrobe staple. There’s nothing quite like zipping yourself up in a fluffy blanket of insulation and wandering around like the Michelin man to stay warm when the temperature plummets. But not all puffer jackets are created equal. There are major differences in performance between “regular” puffer jackets and “adventure” puffer jackets. In this guide, I’ll run you through everything you need to know about puffer jackets — including insulation (down vs synthetic), features, weight, packability, durability, water resistance and more — so you can be prepared for your next cold weather adventure.

The Right Puffer Jacket for Your Adventure 

When you’re looking to get a new puffer jacket, the first question you need to answer is: What am I using it for? That helps you get clear on the level of performance you’ll need from your puffer jacket and narrows down your options right from the outset. So before we dive into the technical features, take a moment to see which ‘category’ of puffer jacket you match with (it could be more than one). As a quick aside, if this is your first time hearing about Bushbuck puffer jackets, you might be surprised to read about some of the features below. We know most puffer jackets aren’t waterproof or durable, but our puffer jackets are engineered for adventure.

The Ultralight Packable Puffer Jacket

You’re a hiker, climber or camper who likes to travel light, but you want a puffer jacket that can keep you warm on the move or on cool evenings at the campsite, hut, or general outdoor gatherings. You’re after a puffer jacket that takes up minimal room in your pack and serves as a basic insulation layer when the temperature drops. Your ideal puffer jacket specs:

  • Ultralight (around 500g)

  • Duck down, synthetic insulation (or a blend)

  • Moderate warmth (around 150g insulation)

  • Ultralight ripstop face fabric

  • Minimal, compact design

  • Water-resistant (DWR treatment)

Best match: Bushbuck Altitude Ultralight Puffer Jacket (coming soon)

The Lightweight Hiking Puffer Jacket

Furnace Cass Valley

You’re a keen hiker or hunter who wants a fully-waterproof, seriously warm puffer jacket for wearing on the trail, around camp, or day-to-day. You’re after more durability, warmth, and features than an ultralight puffer jacket, but you still want a jacket that’s light and compact enough for carrying in your pack. Warmth, weight and water-resistance are more important than durability, but really you’re after a solid all-rounder.

Your ideal puffer jacket specs:

  • Lightweight (less than 1kg)

  • Duck down insulation 

  • Good warmth (around 150g insulation)

  • Lightweight ripstop face fabric

  • Decent durability

  • Extra features: Pit zips, pockets

  • 100% waterproof 

Best match: Bushbuck Furnace Waterproof Puffer Jacket

The Durable Canvas Puffer Jacket 

You’re a farmer, tradie, or adventurer who’s after a heavy-duty puffer jacket that can take plenty of punishment — not like regular puffer jackets that rip easily and leak down insulation. You want a jacket that’s seriously warm for working, exploring or everyday wear in mid-winter conditions and tough enough for wearing in the bush. Throw in some water-resistance and you’re away laughing.  Your ideal puffer jacket specs:

  • Midweight (less than 1.5kg)

  • Highly durable canvas face fabric

  • Duck down insulation 

  • Excellent warmth (around 250g insulation)

  • Water-resistant 

Best match:

The All-Weather Adventure Puffer Jacket

You want the best puffer jacket you can get — ultra-warm, 100% waterproof, and highly durable. You’re not too fussed about fancy features, you just want it to perform like a beast wherever you go, from freezing alpine adventures and miserable mornings on the farm to watching the kids play footie on a chilly Saturday morning. Whether you’re chilling at camp, glassing in the hills, or simply stepping out the door in winter conditions, you want to know you’re going to be warm no matter how cold it is.

Your ideal puffer jacket specs:

  • Mid-Heavyweight (less than 1.5kg)

  • Highly durable face fabric

  • Duck down insulation 

  • Maximum warmth (more than 250g insulation)

  • 100% waterproof

Best match: Bushbuck Igloo Waterproof Canvas Puffer Jacket

How Do Puffer Jackets Work?

Puffer jackets work by creating a barrier that retains body heat and keeps out the cold, similar to the way insulation works in a house. The unique design of puffer jackets is what makes them so effective. The insulation — typically duck down or synthetic fibres — is arranged in individual baffles or compartments to prevent it from bunching up and maximise thermal efficiency. The light fluffy clusters of insulation are particularly effective at trapping warm air. This is also why puffer jackets are “puffy”. The more insulation in the puffer jacket and the “fluffier” it is, the more warm the jacket will be. Learn more: Read our blog post about how down insulation works

What to Look for in a Puffer Jacket

A good-quality puffer jacket can be a significant investment so you want to make sure you get the right one for you. Let’s dive into the key features to consider when choosing your next puffer. 

Puffer Jacket Insulation 

Puffer Jackets Blog

Insulation is the number one consideration when choosing a puffer. When you’re looking at puffer jackets, you’ve probably come across a bunch of different numbers related to the insulation. These can be confusing at first, but they don’t need to be. The main numbers to look for are:

  • Fill Weight: The total weight of the insulation (more weight = warmer)

  • Loft/Fill Power: The “fluffiness” of the insulation (higher = better)

  • Fill ratio: The blend of insulation (down/feather, duck/goose, down/synthetic)

A good-quality puffer jacket designed for the outdoors should have between 500 and 900 fill power. Fill weight can range from around 100 grams to 300g while the fill ratio can vary greatly. Puffer jackets don’t have temperature ratings like sleeping bags, but these numbers can help you get an idea of how warm a jacket will be and conditions it’s suitable for.

Down vs Synthetic Insulation: Which is Best?

Ever since Eddie Bauer invented the puffer jacket in 1936, people have been debating the merits of different types of insulation.  Ethically-sourced duck down and goose down are widely considered to be the best insulation for puffer jackets. But there are many synthetic alternatives that provide excellent insulation. Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of down and synthetic insulation:


Down Insulation

Synthetic Insulation

Warmth-to-Weight Ratio

Superior warmth-to-weight ratio; very lightweight

Good, but generally heavier than down


Highly compressible; packs down very small

Fairly compressible, but not as much as down


Can last a long time with proper care

Generally durable and retains warmth when wet

Drying Time

Takes a long time to dry (note: hydrophobic down is water-resistant and fast-drying)

Dries quickly


Requires special care; cleaning can be tricky

Easier to clean and maintain


Very breathable

Moderate breathability


Typically more expensive

Generally more affordable

Environmental Impact

Can be more environmentally friendly if ethically sourced

Typically less environmentally friendly but improving with recycled options

As mentioned, you can get puffer jackets with a blend of down and synthetic insulation, which can give you solid all-round performance at a more affordable price. At the end of the day, the type of insulation you choose is less important than choosing a puffer jacket that keeps you warm when you’re exposed to cold conditions. At Bushbuck, we mostly use ethical, RDS duck down in our puffer jackets, but we have started introducing some synthetic insulation, such as Sorona®.

What is Ethical (RDS) Duck Down?

RDS (Responsible Down Standard) is a certification that ensures the down used in products comes from ducks that have been treated humanely. This standard prohibits practices such as live-plucking and force-feeding, and requires that the ducks have been well-treated. The RDS also has a traceability system, allowing brands and consumers to track the down from farm to finished product. This certification aims to promote animal welfare and sustainable practices in the down industry. We only use RDS-certified down in our products at Bushbuck.

What is Hydrophobic Down?

Hydrophobic down is a type of down insulation that has been treated with a water-repellent coating to improve its performance in wet conditions. This treatment helps the down retain its loft and insulating properties when exposed to moisture, making it more effective in wet environments compared to regular down. Hydrophobic down is particularly useful for outdoor activities where weather can be unpredictable and keeping warm is essential. 

Are Puffer Jackets Waterproof?

Most puffer jackets are not waterproof. The insulation compartments typically require a lot of stitching, which creates small holes where water can get in. Puffer jackets are also usually made of thin, lightweight fabric that has minimal water resistance. Some puffer jackets are treated with DWR, which makes them water-resistant, but not suitable for wearing in moderate to heavy rain. However… there are some rare exceptions. Bushbuck has developed a technology to create fully-waterproof puffer jackets. Our Furnace and Igloo puffer jackets are considered 100% waterproof, similar to a rain jacket. This is achieved by fusing (not stitching) the down baffles and using a durable, DWR-treated face fabric. So yes, it is possible to get a waterproof puffer jacket. Some other brands also have waterproof puffer jackets, but most seem to be more like insulated rain jackets.

Puffer Jacket Durability

Puffer jackets aren’t known for their toughness. Most are made from a thin, lightweight polyester that’s prone to ripping easily and leaking insulation. Unfortunately, this makes most puffer jackets unsuitable for outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting. If you’re wanting a puffer jacket for your adventures, look for a more durable face fabric. At the very least, go for a ripstop nylon or ripstop polyester material. At Bushbuck, we also have durable canvas puffer jackets, which are plenty tough enough for exploring outdoors or working on the farm or jobsite.  You don’t have to settle for fragile, leaky puffer jackets any longer.

Puffer Jacket Extras

Igloo Hunting


We talked about insulation weight, but the total weight of your puffer jacket is also important to consider. If you’re taking your puffer jacket hiking, you don’t want it to weigh you down too much. But if it’s too light, it may not provide the warmth you need. To give you an idea, Bushbuck puffer jackets range in weight from about 450 grams to 1.3 kilograms. You need to find the right balance of warmth and weight for you.


Puffer jackets are renowned for packability, but the heavier and more durable you go, the more space it will take up in your pack. Again, you need to find the right balance for your needs. Using the puffer jacket guide at the beginning of this article can help with this.

Heat Management 

Some puffer jackets are equipped with extra features, such as armpit zips or dual front zips, which you can utilise to offload heat when you’re on the move. Sometimes it’s too cold to not wear a puffer jacket, but you can quickly work up a sweat if you’re hiking uphill or working hard. Having options to manage heat can be a real bonus.


Having a puffer jacket with a hood can provide additional warmth when the weather’s really cold, especially when you’re mostly sedentary around camp or at the hut. If you’re not a big fan of hoods, consider a puffer jacket with a removable hood. Obviously, a hood will add a small amount of weight and bulk, but the trade off is more than worth it for some people.

Wrapping Up: Brace Yourself for Cold Weather Adventures

You really can’t beat a good puffer jacket when you’re heading outdoors in the middle of winter. Whether it’s deep into the wilderness or simply scurrying about town, the right puffer will keep you warm, dry and protected in the most unforgiving conditions. As you’ve learned, there are major differences between “regular” puffer jackets and those that are made for adventure. It’s up to you to determine what you’re intending to use your puffer jacket for and to choose the best one accordingly. I hope this article has equipped you with the information you need to select the right jacket for your needs.

Check out Bushbuck’s range of puffer jackets

Jonathan Carson

Jonathan Carson is a Content Writer and Copywriter at Bushbuck. He's a wordsmith who handles most of Bushbuck's website, marketing copy and oversees our blog, The Campfire. 

Outside of work, he's big on hiking and dabbles in surfing and bouldering. His favourite wilderness area in New Zealand is Nelson Lakes National Park, particularly the Blue Lake, home to the clearest known freshwater in the world.

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