Parkas vs. Puffer Jackets: What’s the Difference?
Just like when you’re choosing between a rain jacket and windbreaker, the choice between parka and puffer isn’t always as straightforward as you may think. So we reached out to Dorothy Hopkins, apparel design manager for Columbia Sportswear. We asked her questions about all things parkas and puffers—the differences, the similarities, and why you would choose one over the other. Here were her responses.
What is the difference between a parka and a puffer jacket?
- Longer in length, typically below the waist
- Thicker and sometimes heavier
- Large insulated hood, often lined
with faux fur for extra warmth
- Worn as an outer jacket
- High performance in cold to extremely cold weather
- Available in a wide variety of lengths
- Lightweight and bulk-free
- Versatility of hoods; sometimes hood-free
- Can be worn as a jacket or a midlayer
- High performance in mild, moderate, and cold weather
Now, before we elaborate on these differences in more detail, let’s talk about each jacket individually.
What is a parka?
Is a parka a good jacket for winter?
Are there different types of parkas?
Are parkas waterproof?
What are parkas made of?
What makes a good parka?
What makes parkas so popular?
What are the different types of puffers?
Traditional full-zip puffer jackets are available with or without hoods and can be worn as a warm midlayer between a baselayer and outer waterproof shell. But thanks to the versatility and lightweight aspects of the traditional puffer jackets, many choose to wear them as their main jacket during the spring, fall, and milder winter months. “If additional warmth and protection is called for, an additional outer jacket can always be added,” Hopkins points out.
What are puffer jackets made of?
Are puffer jackets waterproof?
How is a puffer jacket different from a down jacket?
What’s the difference between synthetic vs. natural down?
Synthetic down, on the other hand, refers to man-made down that’s designed to replicate the quality and warmth of real down with materials that can handle getting wet a little better. It’s typically made from polyester fibers that mimic down’s air-trapping abilities to hold in heat. Synthetic down isn’t quite as light or compressible as natural down, but it excels in wet-weather climates, maintaining its fill power when wet. “It actually stays breathable and continues to insulate when soaked, while also drying out more quickly than down,” Hopkins says.
What makes a good puffer jacket?
For super lightweight warmth, Hopkins suggests looking for a natural down-filled puffer jacket, specifically made with RDS-certified down, while people in damper climates may want to opt for a synthetic puffer. Hopkins also points out that the quilting pattern will determine how much “puff” your jacket will have. “Typically, smaller quilted patterns have a lighter more evenly distributed fill and larger quilted baffles will be warmer with more puff.”