Puffer vests are the Goldilocks of fall wardrobe must-haves. They’re not too heavy and ideal for layering on top of turtlenecks or under a winter coat. They won't cause you to overheat and instead regulate your body temperature for all kinds of outdoor or indoor activities. Simply put, they’re perfect.
Not every puffer vest on the market is worth your hard-earned income, though. With the help of four fashion experts, all puffer vest fanatics, we shopped for the best of the best puffer coats. Then we narrowed down our list to 10 that we’re confident would be a welcome addition to your wardrobe.
Read on for the best puffer vests of the season.
Patagonia Women’s Down Sweater Vest
When it came to this puffer vest’s design, Patagonia thought of everything. (Like they always do.) It’s light as a feather—or, a few down feathers—yet remarkably warm, especially thanks to plenty of pockets and the drawcord hem that seals in your body heat. Not only does it feature two hand-warming pockets in the front, but you can store your essentials in the interior pockets worry-free too. Now comes the hard part: narrowing down which of the six color options you like best.
Price at time of publish: $229
Fabric: Down-filled with recycled nylon shell | Sizes: XXS - XXL | Number of Pockets: Five
Old Navy Water-Resistant Narrow-Channel Puffer
For a budget-friendly puffer vest, Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez, the founder of Yhorlife. raves about this design from Old Navy. It comes with a barely-there price tag, and its design is impressively lightweight too. “Puffers can be a bit bulky, but I like this more sleek design,” she says. It’s available in regular, tall, and petite sizing, as well as three colorways, including goes-with-everything black.
As for how to style it, Gutierrez recommends pairing it with a button-down shirt. “The billowy-ness of a shirt keeps the puffer relaxed yet refined and doesn’t add unnecessary bulk as a sweater would,” she says.
Price at time of publish: $45
Fabric: 100% polyester lining with 100% nylon shell | Sizes: XS - 4X | Number of Pockets: Two
Canada Goose Cypress Puffer Vest
This Canada Goose design tops travel expert Chantelle Hartman Malarkey’s favorites, thanks to its high-gloss design, last-forever quality, and soft-to-the-touch feel. It’s also at the top of price points, as far as puffer vests go. If you choose to invest in this keeper, know you’ll reach for it, again and again, this year and for many to come. It’ll keep you supremely warm, stylish, and safe when out for sunset walks, thanks to the reflective double-stripe back.
Price at time of publish: $550
Fabric: Down-filled with recycled nylon shell | Sizes: XXS - XXL | Number of Pockets: Two
Athleta Downtown Vest
Add one of these Athleta puffer vests to your wardrobe, and here’s betting you’ll reach for it again and again, especially for walks, coffee dates, and hikes. It’s a go-to for De Anne Combs, co-founder and development director of La Peony. “A lot of cheaper vests tend to only last for one season and a handful of washes,” she says. Not this design: “It’s sustainable, lightweight, and breathable.” This material is both water-repelling and ultra-warm, retaining its loft and shape regardless of how many times you wear it, wash it, and put it through the wringer with questionable weather. It’s also available in some pretty fall hues, like foliage orange and dark sardina blue, as well as black.
Price at time of publish: $179
Fabric: Recycled polyester | Sizes: XXS - 3X | Number of Pockets: Two
Best Retro Style
L.L.Bean Women’s Mountain Classic Puffer Vest
It’s hard to narrow down what we love most about this L.L. Bean puffer vest: its reasonable price point, wind- and rain-resistant design, or ’80s-esque cool color combination. It’s also sold in a wide variety of petite, regular, and plus-size options, so no matter your shape, there’s a fit for you. Good thing, because Old Man Winter is on his way, and you’ll need this lightweight-yet-cozy insulated vest to throw on as a top layer or even under a winter coat.
Price at time of publish: $79
Fabric: 100% polyester | Sizes: XXS - 3X | Number of Pockets: Two
Noisy May Debbi Reversible Puffer Vest
Two looks, one puffer vest. Nab one of these reversible vests, and you can rock the beige side one day and the black the next. If its versatility didn’t make it cool enough, this vest also features a modern cropped length that’s especially easy to layer onto any outfit without overwhelming your frame. The one downside to this design: It’s dry clean only.
Price at time of publish: $69
Fabric: 100% polyester | Sizes: XS - XL | Number of Pockets: Two
Levi’s 361 Belted Puffer Vest
“A vest can be styled casually or dressed up,” says Hartman Malarkey. That’s especially the case with this belted faux leather vest from Levi’s, one of her favorites, which would be a chic-as-can-be addition to any cold-weather outfit. Whether you’re out for a walk with your bestie or shopping in Aspen, layer this vest over a lightweight turtleneck, add a crossbody bag, then decide if you want to look sporty or city. Leggings or jeans? Boots or sneakers? Each would look cool.
Price at time of publish: $120
Fabric: 100% polyurethane | Sizes: XS - XXL | Number of Pockets: Two
The North Face Tamburello 2 Insulated Vest
For a puffer vest with the best warmth-to-weight ratio, nab one of Gutierrez’s picks. “The Tamburello Heatseeker Insulated Vest is my favorite everyday vest because it’s slim and sleek and is able to go from coffee runs to errands and everything in between,” says Gutierrez. With its wind-resistant and water-repellent exterior, you could throw this vest on for nearly any activity at any time of year.
Meeting up with a friend for a walk-slash-catch-up session? Layer this vest over a slim long-sleeve shirt and plain black leggings. “Or, if I want to be more comfortable, then I’d wear it with baggy sweats and a tank top, so the puffer vest looks like the top,” Gutierrez says.
Price at time of publish: $89
Fabric: 100% polyester | Sizes: XS - 3X | Number of Pockets: Two
Best for Travel
Free People Piper Packable Vest
Whether you’re packing for a month-long European vaca or an overnight camping excursion, this Free People vest will become your new favorite travel buddy. “It packs very small, so it’s perfect to travel with,” says Andréa Bernholtz, the founder of Swiminista. It’s ideal for outdoor activities of all kinds, from roasting marshmallows for s’mores or wandering a new city all day, from chilly mornings to sunny afternoons.
“It’s great for layering and keeping your core warm,” says Bernholtz. She pairs it with a long sleeve T-shirt underneath, cargo pants, and a knit hat, but the styling options are nearly limitless. Thanks to its dropped armholes and long waist, it emits a carefree “Oh, this old thing?” vibe.
Price at time of publish: $128
Fabric: 100% nylon | Sizes: XS - XL | Number of Pockets: Two
Eddie Bauer Glacier Peak Seamless Stretch Down Vest
No matter your height, shape, or fit preference, chances are there’s an optimal size of this Eddie Bauer vest for you. It’s available in regular, petite, tall, and plus sizes, from XS to 3X, as well as three goes-with-everything neutral hues. (Rust gets our vote, but the black and beige versions are classics too.) The fact that it includes a hood too? All the better.
Price at time of publish: $199
Fabric: 100% polyester | Sizes: XS - 3X | Number of Pockets: Two
Puffer vests can be seen as a wardrobe essential for most climates through the fall and winter. They are versatile and come in tons of styles and fabrications. For a classic, down-filled option, go with Patagonia Women’s Down Sweater Vest. For a more budget-friendly pick, we like Old Navy Water-Resistant Narrow-Channel Puffer. And there are even items with more details, such as stylish, belted designs (Levi’s 361 Belted Puffer Vest) and hoods (Eddie Bauer Glacier Peak Seamless Stretch Down Vest).
Meet the Expert
- Andréa Bernholtz is the founder of Swiminista.
- Chantelle Hartman Malarkey is a travel and lifestyle expert.
- Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez is the founder of Yhorlife.
- De Anne Combs is the co-founder and development director of La Peony.
What to Look For in Puffer Vests
When shopping for a puffer vest, keep a close eye on what material it’s made out of. If you suffer from allergies, beware of down filler—it may give you the sneezes. In that case, synthetic materials are best and most likely what you’re going to find on the market. Many puffer vests are made from polyester or nylon shells since they’re naturally moisture-wicking and can withstand whatever Mother Nature blows your way, from chilly winds to light drizzle.
Can you ever have too many pockets? (No. We’re going with no.) At minimum, puffy vests should include two comfortable hand-warming pockets. Make sure they’re big enough and at a comfortable height for you to truly want to stick your hands in them—a must as the days get cooler. If the vest includes hidden internal pockets for all of your essentials, then you’ve truly found a winner.
How do you style a puffer vest?
Not only are puffer vests warm and comfortable, but their versatility is unmatched. There’s no limit to how and where you can throw one on, whether with leggings and a thermal for a morning walk, skinny jeans and a turtleneck for a backyard bonfire, or a button-down top for a blazer alternative at work. Play dress-up in your own closet, trying a puffer vest on with sneakers and then boots, as well as hoodies and then sweaters. Chances are you’ll find a few killer combos you’ll wear over and over.
How do you wash a puffer vest?
Before clicking “add to cart” on any puffer vest, take a peek at the care instructions. While many can be machine washed, some require a trip to the dry cleaner. If you are machine washing your vest, follow the care tag carefully. Oftentimes you’ll use a gentle cycle with cold water, adding on an extended rinse cycle to ensure all of the detergent is washed out. Once out of the washer, ring all of the excess water out of the vest before transferring it to the dryer. To dry, use a low heat setting and add a few dryer balls. That’ll ensure your puffer vest stays puffy.
Why Trust Byrdie
Full-time freelance writer Megan McCarty has been writing about the best of the best of fashion and design for over 15 years, and her work can be seen in InStyle, Domino, Architectural Digest, Bustle, and more. Having lived through decades of polar vortexes in Minneapolis, she understands the power of a puffer vest. McCarty also interviewed four fashion experts to get their picks and insights on the best puffer vests on the market.