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The 8 Best Men’s Synthetic Down Jackets for Staying Warm

Best Synthetic Down Jackets 0 Hero

Humans were not gifted with tough, warm exteriors that would allow us to brave icy weather in the same manner as, say, wolves or buffalo. However, we do have another useful trait at our disposal that gives us the ability to make up for our physical downsides: our ingenuity. You see, we’ve figured out how to manufacture apparel that increases our survivability in any weather tenfold, and we’ve made strides in improving that apparel greatly over time.

Once relegated to simple animal furs, the development of outdoor apparel and its subsequent technologies is the physical embodiment of mankind’s cleverness. In fact, nowadays, you can wrap yourself in a coat that was developed, engineered, and crafted in its entirety without repurposing any animal parts — and it can potentially keep you warmer than even the most robust of furs, feathers, or otherwise. This guide is dedicated to the aforementioned apparel. These are the best synthetic down-insulated jackets you can buy.

Best Synthetic Down Jackets

Natural Vs. Synthetic Insulation

For a very long time, goose down was one of the best insulators known to man — and it remains sought-after to this day. However, emerging technologies have helped many synthetic alternatives eclipse the usefulness of genuine goose down, making synthetics often better overall for insulation purposes for a number of reasons. We’ve outlined some of the biggest impact points below.

Sustainability: It should come as no surprise that, for the most part, synthetic downs trend in the direction of sustainability in ways that natural goose down simply cannot. After all, these synthetics do not require the raising of an animal, their slaughter, and the disposal of the waste afterward — meaning they have a pretty significant leg-up regarding their environmental impact. 

Even in the case of sustainably-sourced goose down — which often sees manufacturers acquiring goose down as a byproduct of food farming — synthetics still tend to be better for the planet and, therefore, all the creatures upon it. Yes, synthetics can and often do still have major downsides — many of them are petroleum-based and/or utilize potentially harmful chemicals — but if you look at the overall impact of the remarkably damaging animal farming industry (meaning even goose down harvested as a byproduct of meat production) and the overall lack of regulation therein, it’s difficult to make a strong argument against synthetics as a preferable option, especially when you consider that brands are getting better and better at making them sustainably.

Recyclability: To be fair, there are jackets available now that utilize recycled goose down. With that in mind, we want to point out that we’re not suggesting that natural down isn’t recyclable — just that synthetics are more recyclable. This comes down to one major factor: Synthetic down tends to be a bit physically tougher than relatively delicate goose down. Meaning, it will functionally survive a greater period of time. That means more of it can be harvested and utilized in subsequent jackets produced by manufacturers that utilize recycled materials.

All-Weather Warmth: This might be the strongest argument for synthetic down when it comes to the end-user. You see, goose down loses its ability to keep you warm when it gets wet, as it can no longer create the pockets of air necessary for the process. By contrast, synthetics do not necessarily collapse when wet and will often retain their ability to keep the wearer warm — even in a significant downpour or snowstorm. And that could make all the difference.

Overall Longevity: This ties into a similar idea as the recyclability factor above but it still needs to be noted. Thanks to the fact that newer synthetic down insulations can be made tougher overall (see: the emergence of Graphene and the development of aerogel) and can do their job even when wet, they also have a longer useful life when faced with more extreme conditions — meaning you can depend on the jacket of your choice for a longer period. This also helps cut down on waste, as users will have less reason to replace the jacket over time. When paired with a durable exterior, this makes synthetic down the clear winner in the longevity category. For reference, in ideal circumstances in which the down is preserved and protected from abuse, down can actually last longer than lower-end synthetics. But, as we know (and especially with apparel), that is rarely ever the case.

Bulkiness: Goose down necessitates a certain amount of bulk (or puffiness) in a jacket, as it needs the space to create pockets of air warmed by the wearer’s body. As such, natural down jackets tend to be puffier. However, synthetics have been engineered and refined to the point where some of them can create/retain the same amount of heat as goose down that’s much thicker — sometimes as much as twice or more. That means synthetic down-insulated jackets can be made slimmer overall and they won’t impede your range of motion nearly as much.

Rab Xenon 2.0

  • Not too bulky
  • Durable
  • Doubles as a travel pillow
  • Not really breathable

Best Budget-Friendly Jacket: While you might struggle to find a real down vest at this price point, you can definitely get a synthetic alternative that may even perform and feel better — like the Rab Xenon you see here. While this looks a bit like a windbreaker or just a shell, it actually has a thin layer of 100% post-consumer recycled PrimaLoft Silver insulation that will keep you warm when the mercury drops without being too bulky or weighing you down. That also means it’s remarkably packable and can even collapse into itself — doing double duty as a travel pillow in a pinch. That’s not half bad for something so affordable.

Weight: 13.6oz
Fill Material: 100% post-consumer recycled PrimaLoft Silver
Shell Material: 30D Pertex Quantum ripstop

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket

  • Incredibly lightweight and packable
  • Customizable
  • Warm
  • Style is a bit divisive.

Best Backpacking Jacket: Weighing just 7.6oz in its smallest size, Enlightened Equipment’s ever-popular Torrid Jacket is the perfect choice for those embarking on long treks on a budget. Seemingly translucent, the water-repellant nylon shell is stuffed with CLIMASHIELD APEX insulation — one of the warmest continuous filaments available and is breathable even when it’s damp. Even the hood gets the insulated treatment, as well as a shock cord for adjusting. Other features include the raglan sleeves for extra mobility, elastic wrist closures for windy outings, and zippered hand warmer pockets (also insulated).

Weight: 7.6oz
Shell Material: Nylon

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket 2.0

  • Really stylish
  • Sports a traditional puffer aesthetic and feel
  • Made with recycled materials
  • Not really breathable

Best Everyday Jacket: If ever there were a brand that should come as no surprise on this list, it would be The North Face. Iconic in its appearance, the ThermoBall Eco Jacket is an unmistakable TNF design marked by a gorgeous slim silhouette, a 100% post-consumer recycled polyester construction, excellent packability, and unrivaled performance. Updating its classic silhouette, The North Face even went so far as to offer it in both a classic shiny finish and a more modern matte version. If you’re looking for the industry standard in synthetic down jackets, this is probably your stop.

Weight: 9.52oz
Fill Material: 11g/ft² ThermoBall Eco 100% post-consumer recycled polyester
Shell Material: 100% recycled nylon

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket

patagonia Nano Air Light Hybrid Jacket
  • Very comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Slim profile
  • Lightweight
  • Not very weather resistant

Best Low-Profile Puffer: Another staple outdoor gear brand that’s more than earned its shining reputation, patagonia has not only created a superb synthetic down insulated jacket in their Nano-Air but they’ve also managed to make it look understated for those days you don’t want to wear something so puffy. Yet another example of a jacket that looks more windbreaker than it does a puffer, the Nano-Air is made for outdoor treks that require an outer garment from beginning to end. The stretchy FullRange polyester insulation keeps you warm when needed but also removes excess heat when you really work up a burn.

Weight: 10.5oz
Fill Material: 40g FullRange 100% polyester
Shell Material: 1.6oz 30D 100% recycled polyester

Arc’teryx Atom Insulated Hoody

Arcteryx Atom Hoody
  • Lightweight considering how warm it is
  • Easy to move when wearing
  • Looks great
  • Durable
  • A bit pricey

Best Overall: Of every big-name outdoor apparel brand out there, Arc’teryx might be the absolute best at cultivating handsome minimalism in over-built outerwear — and the brand’s Atom Insulated Hoody is certainly no exception. In fact, the silhouette is so pared-down and slim, you might not even realize this is an insulated jacket at all. But it definitely is, stuffed with 60g Coreloft Compact synthetic fibers that will keep you toasty warm without weighing you down or compromising your ability to move, and they were designed to stay in place over time, thereby extending the useful life of the jacket. Furthermore, the shell boasts weatherproofing and enhanced abrasion resistance. It’s no secret that Arc’teryx knows what they’re doing and this is just another great example of that.

Weight: 13.1oz
Fill Material: 60g Coreloft Compact synthetic fibers
Shell Material: Tyono 20 fabric (94% polyester, 6% elastane), lined with Dope Permeair 20

Helly Hansen Active Puffy Jacket

  • Nice traditional puffer style
  • Very warm
  • Several colorway options
  • Heavy
  • Pricey

Best for Hiking: For those not in the know, Helly Hansen specializes in making outerwear for some of the toughest environments on the planet — like unforgiving Arctic waters. While this puffer jacket isn’t quite up to Perfect Storm-like activity, it’s plenty great for terrestrial adventures in all weather conditions and it has styling based on the brand’s classic and iconic original Puffy Jacket. Combining polyester and recycled polyester insulation, Helly Hansen’s sustainable down jacket is made for some of the most daring treks you could take. And, truly, it looks great in every available colorway.

Weight: 2.54lbs
Fill Material: 60% Polyester, 40% Recycled polyester
Shell Material: 100% Polyester

Fjällräven Nuuk Parka M

  • Incredibly warm
  • Super tough
  • Solid pocket options
  • Stylish
  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Best for Mountaineering: For anyone with a flair for traditional parka styling — complete with a faux fur-lined collar on the hood — the Fjällräven Nuuk is a pretty tough coat to beat. Not only does it boast superb insulation and a durable waterproof and windproof external shell, but this 4-pound coat also has dual breast pockets, dual bellow pockets, and numerous other compartments in which to store all your everyday carry and adventure gear. If you’re looking for the kind of hefty jacket you can wear winter after winter and never get tired of it, this might be your best bet — at least as far as synthetic insulated jackets go.

Weight: 4lbs
Fill Material: 250g Supreme Microloft 100% polyester
Shell Material: 100% polyamide with Hydratic 100% polyurethane membrane

Vollebak Indestructible Puffer

Vollebak Indestructible Puffer
  • Waterproof
  • Puncture-proof
  • Made from recycled water bottles
  • Highest warmth rating on this list
  • Incredibly expensive

Best for the Apocalypse: Built with a Dyneema shell, Vollebak’s Indestructible Puffer is easily the most durable on this list by design, even if it clocks in at around $1,500. Claiming only to yield to bullets and flamethrowers — they’ve even made a video of one of their crew unsuccessfully using a knife on it to illustrate this point — the jacket can survive in -40°F temperatures anywhere on Earth. Made with the strongest material known to man, the coat actually gets stronger as it gets colder. On top of the puncture-proof shell, the insulation inside is made from recycled water bottles, giving it an eco-friendly angle as well. So, yes, it’s expensive. But it is definitely worth it. 

Weight: 4.4lbs
Fill Material: 640g recycled plastic bottles
Shell Material: 100% Dyneema

The Best Winter Hiking Boots

Photo: Xero Alpine

If you want some solid insulation for your feet as well, check out our guide to the best winter hiking boots.