Down has always been the gold standard for winter warmth because of its unparalleled insulation abilities. Down comes from the soft feathers of birds found under their outer feathers. Down is used in jackets are used in much the same way — it fills the inside of quilted or puffer jackets, providing an inner layer that protects against heat loss. However, down isn’t the only option. Synthetic down fills have gotten lighter and warmer, bringing them closer to their natural competition.
Synthetic down jackets have a few benefits. They’re typically cheaper, allowing you to get your winter warmth without having to sell all of your other clothes. Plus, while down is comfortable physically, it might make some people might feel uncomfortable ethically. Down is plucked from birds in a variety of ways, but not always in a cruelty-free manner.
Synthetic fills are not made from animal products, but that doesn’t mean they earn a perfect score on the sustainability front — they’re made using polyester, a petroleum-based product. Fortunately, tons of jackets use recycled polyester and nylon to at least reduce the environmental impact. Jackets on our list from Patagonia, The North Face and Everlane all use recycled polyester for their filling. There are also many different styles available for synthetic down, so you can find a jacket that suits your sense of style.
Whatever reason you’re looking for a synthetic down jacket, we’ve rounded up some of the best options, including from outdoors stalwarts Patagonia and North Face, as well as more fashion-focused brands.
1. Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Hoodie
Patagonia’s puffers are ubiquitous, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re warm, comfortable, available in various colors, and made with sustainability and performance in mind. This jacket is hooded and comes with a DWR finish to keep you dry. The fill is made from 55% recycled polyester, and the outer of the jacket is made from recycled polyester. It’s pricey, but Patagonia is famous for its repair program, so this is a jacket you’ll have for a long time.
2. Alpha Industries ALS/92 Liner
BEST LINER JACKET
The military used liner jackets as a middle layer under a field jacket for insulation, hence the name. Alpha Industries makes a classic take on the style, which is no surprise considering the brand has made clothes for the US military for decades. Alpha also sells the companion field jacket if you want to go full Travis Bickle with your look. The exterior is nylon, and the fill is polyester.
3. Rains Glacial Jacket
BEST FOR WINTER
Rains makes some of the most excellent wet-weather gear that’s stylishly simple. They’re best known for lightweight slickers, but they also make beefier cold-weather jackets, like this insulated parka. It has adjustable cuffs and a drawstring hem for even better insulation in cold weather. And, of course, it’ll keep you dry.
4. Polo Ralph Lauren Liner Jacket
Who else would make the most sophisticated take on a classic liner jacket style other than the king of sophisticated takes on traditional styles, Ralph Lauren? This jacket combines elements from a liner jacket, a bomber jacket and a chore coat. The brand swapped out the cardigan cut of a liner for a ribbed collar around the neck and added patch pockets on the chest, like a chore coat.
5. The North Face ThermoBall Eco Insulated Jacket
Layering is all fun and games until you have to take your layers off and carry them around. The ThermoBall jacket from The North Face makes it easy because it’s a packable jacket that zips into a built-in pouch. The quilted design and funnel neck help keep you warm without weighing you down. The insulation is made with recycled polyester, while the outer fabric is recycled nylon.
6. Everlane The ReNew Quilted Liner Jacket
BEST SHIRT JACKET
Everlane’s liner is more of a shirt jacket; it has a point collar, a button placket and a chest pocket. There are two hand pockets at the hip, too. It has a classic quilted design with a polyester fill. The filling is made from recycled polyester, while the shell of the jacket is cotton. The jacket comes in black, green and blue.
7. REI Co-op Flash Insulated Jacket
Don’t sleep on REI’s in-house line of clothes and gear. This simple jacket is an excellent option for cold-weather hikes and morning commutes alike. It has quilted insulation on the inside and a smooth exterior, making it a great choice for anyone who doesn’t like the padded look of puffers. The exterior and fill of the jacket are made using recycled nylon and recycled polyester, respectively.
8. Amazon Essentials Packable Puffer Jacket
Not looking to spend too much on a jacket? Amazon Essentials has a simple option free of bells and whistles but has everything you need to stay warm. The funnel neck can be zipped all the way up for warmth, and you can pack the jacket into a small pouch. Plus, it comes in just about every color imaginable.
9. Carhartt Duck Arctic Vest
There’s a certain age every man reaches when he feels compelled to purchase a vest. For some (see: finance bros), that age is in your 20s and 30s, and for others, it’s once you become a father. A vest just makes sense; you can keep your arms free while keeping your core warm, or you can layer up with a warmer outer layer when it’s really cold. This gilet has a warm polyester fill (“duck” in the name of this jacket refers to a type of durable cotton canvas, not a type of down filling). This vest comes in black or brown.