10 Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets: 2000 Miles of Warmth

by Nomad | Last Updated:  June 24, 2020
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We covered how to choose the right puffy jacket in this post and we received requests for our list of best and/or popular jackets. Today we delve into the options on popular puffy jackets and where you can spend some money on quality jackets that will last you.

We want to ensure you look at all the options and make sure you find the correct one for your needs as each hike and trip may require some different gearing. Check out our choice for the best puffy jacket here if you are short on time.

Points of Focus in a Puffy Jacket

There are just a few points you should focus on when you are looking for your puffy jacket that should be deal-breakers if not met. If you want to dig in a little more why not check out our post about choosing your puffy jacket. This will help you cut through the crappier gear and instead focus on the best gear available.

Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets

When you want to get warm in the middle of starting camp there is nothing better than having the best puffy jacket in your backpack ready to pull out and get you warm. This is why they are one of the few things you will want to drop serious cash on when or if you get serious in the ultralight backpacking.

MAKE / MODELFILL POWERTOTAL WEIGHTDWROUTER MATERIALPURCHASE
MH Ghost Whisperer8008.8ozYes10DHere
EE Torrid ApexCLIMASHIELD™ APEX8.4ozYes7D, 10D, 20DHere
RAB Xenon XStratus 60g12.7ozYesAtmos ripstopHere
Montbell PLASMA 100010008.4ozYes7DHere
Patagonia Nano Puff60-g
PrimaLoft® Gold
12.8ozYes100% recycled polyesterHere
RAB Proton80011.8ozYesAtmos ripstopHere
Feathered Friends EOS90010.6ozYesPertex® Quantum® brushed nylonHere
Patagonia Micro Puff65-g
PlumaFill
9.3ozYes10DHere
Nunatak PCTAPEX by Climashield12.5ozYes10D, 15DHere
Cerium LT Hoody85010.8 ozYesArato™ 10Here

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Review

The Ghost Whisperer is a very popular puffy jacket in the backpacker and thru-hiker communities due to its excellent heat and in addition due to the amazingly low carry weight. It doesn’t seem as lofty as some other puffy jackets but it’s good for three season backpacking.

This jacket packs down super small and has a quality hood and pockets. The shell is made from a 7 denier fabric which helps provide the jacket some strength but also helps maintain the low weight and the water resistant down makes it a top contender.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Features

  • 100% recycled, ultralight ripstop shell fabric with DWR finish
  • 800-fill RDS®-certified, down insulation
  • Two zippered hand pockets
  • Elastic hood and cuffs
  • Drawcord hem adjustment
  • Highly packable design stuffs into its own pocket with internal carabiner clip loop

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Pros

Incredibly Warm – People report easily going into 4 season weather without feeling the cold

Simple Pack – Packs into its own pocket so it is perfect for hiking

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Cons

Slim Fitting – If you are a bigger guy or girl you may need to size up to ensure proper fit


Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Review

Enlightened Equipment makes great ultralight quilts and a few years ago released their first insulated jacket, The Torrid. It’s the cheapest jacket on the list but you get a lot for your money. If you want a killer jacket and you’re on a budget then the Torrid is a no brainer.

Please note these are custom ordered and as such will have a delay in being shipped if on a short timeline I wouldn’t recommend this choice.

Sizes run about a half size large for layering purposes.

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Features:

  • Climashield APEX insulation performs better than down in wet and humid conditions, dries quickly, packs small, and is easy to clean
  • Raglan style sleeves to increase comfort and range of motion
  • Zippered insulated handwarmer pockets
  • Elastic waist and wrist closures
  • Ultralight nylon fabric has a DWR finish and has been customized for comfort

The smooth ultralight nylon fabric has a durable water repellent finish for better performance in light precipitation. The elastic waistband and cuffs keep warmth in and cold out.

The optional hood adjusts with a shock cord, and a grosgrain zipper garage at the chin increases comfort. Zippered pockets keep the essentials at hand. The Torrid APEX Jacket is slightly over-sized to accommodate layers and has raglan sleeves for a full range of movement.

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Pros

Fabric and Color Choices – Unlike many since these are made to order you can choose the fabrics and colors to fit you

Synthetic Fabric – Deals with water well and doesn’t lose warmth in the rain similar to down and it dries very fast

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Cons

Less Aesthetically Pleasing – Many people miss seeing the baffles and normal look of a puffy jacket

Zipper Questions – A decent amount of people experience issues with their zipper, though this looks to be that it is small to cut weight and needs two hands to operate


RAB Xenon X Review

RAB’s well-established, award-winning Xenon X Jacket now uses the new Gold Active Insulation from PrimaLoft. This insulation offers higher levels of breathability and helps to more effectively eliminate cold spots. This combined with PrimaLoft’s ability to retain warmth even when damp makes the Xenon X an extremely versatile piece, perfect for everything from a windy ridge to cold, wet mountain top.

Please take note that many people have said they run a half size small as they are for a “slim fit” and can make it a little tight in the armpit areas.

RAB Xenon X Features

  • Lightweight insulator for fast-moving mountaineering missions
  • Stratus insulation offers breathable warmth without cold spots
  • Water-resistant ripstop fabric is durable and lightweight
  • Zippered inner pocket doubles as a stuff sack for easier packing
  • Two-way front zipper makes it easy to access your belay device
  • Insulated zipper baffle stops cold winds from creeping in
  • Elastic under-helmet hood provides snug protection for your ears
  • Drawcord hem and elastic cuffs help keep the cold sealed out

With technical features such as an under-helmet hood, elasticated cuffs and a slim fit, the Xenon X Jacket ups it’s game for this winter and will continue to be a classic go-to layer for every adventure!

RAB Xenon X Pros

Extremely Light and Warm – Overall the weight to warmth ratio is very impressive

Internal Pocket – Unlike many with external pocket the internal pocket gives you storage inside near to your body

RAB Xenon X Cons

Sizing Concerns – Many have spoke about fitting being a little off from their expectations, make sure to measure yourself prior to ensure proper fit


Montbell Plasma 1000 Review

This interesting jacket from Montbell is the only jacket on our list which features a fill power of 1000. The Plasma 1000 is the supreme puffy jacket and due to this, it is one of the warmest jackets. It has a hefty price tag, but this ultralight jacket from Japanese manufacturer Montbell is cutting edge. They use a 7d nylon shell material that’s soft to the touch and water repellent. It has a great hood and disappears inside a backpack.

This is made with some of the world’s thinnest nylon, 1000 fill power goose down, and gram shaving construction techniques. This puffy jacket challenges the limited definition of Ultralight. Extremely compact, highly portable, and with more than 40% of the weight from goose down.

Montbell Plasma 1000 Features

  • Sewn through construction
  • Unique quilting pattern to minimize heat loss
  • 2-way Adjustable Hood
  • Draw cords for hem adjustment hidden in pockets
  • Elastic cuffs
  • 2 zippered hand pockets
  • Stuff sack included
Montbell PLASMA 1000 Alpine Down - Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets
Montbell PLASMA 1000 Alpine Down

Montbell Plasma Pros

Ultralightweight – Using 1000 fill down has dropped the overall weight into the near-weightless range of 8oz!

Warmth to 4 Season Levels – Shown to be useful to -12 degrees Celsius this is a very warm jacket

Montbell Plasma Cons

Delicate – Fabric can be easier to tear and doesn’t appear to repel moisture at high levels.

Cost – You pay a good chunk more than many other jackets on this list for the 1000 fill and sub 9oz weight


Patagonia Nano Puff Review

Patagonia jackets are always built with quality in mind and the Nano Puff is no exception as again it has hit a home run on the Nano Puff. This is a jacket which is also built with recycled fabrics to make it as low a footprint as possible.

Please make sure to pay attention to the sizing guide when looking at the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket as the size appears to be more of a “slim fit” or “athletic fit” so you may need to size up for comfort, especially if you plan on layering underneath.

Patagonia Nano Puff Features

  • 100% Recycled Shell Fabric
  • 55% Recycled Insulation
  • Horizontal Quilting Pattern
  • Center-Front Zipper
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets
  • Drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem seals in warmth
  • Wrapped in a windproof and moisture-shedding 100% recycled polyester ripstop shell with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish; bluesign approved

Patagonia Nano Puff Pros

Packs Small – Fitting back into a pocket for quick and simple storage when not planning to wear

Cut Well – The jacket has a good range of motion without it moving and uncovering areas you don’t want out in the cold

Patagonia Nano Puff Cons

Sizing – Many have issues with the sizing limiting layering, please look at the sizing chart prior and measure yourself to know you are purchasing the right size


RAB Proton Review

Designed for technical mountain use, the Rab Proton Jacket is a tough, lightweight and packable down-filled garment with zoned mid stitch-through baffle construction. Featuring a stripped back and uncomplicated design, the jacket warms instantly and has the plenty of durability thanks to the Atmos Lightweight Ripstop nylon outer fabric and lining.

Working in conjunction with Nikwax, Rab have produced a high-quality 800 fill power hydrophobic down which is RDS Certified and gives the Proton Jacket its superior thermal performance. This Rab down jacket also features a good selection of pockets, a peaked hood and a handy stuff sack.

RAB Proton Features

  • Atmos™ lightweight ripstop nylon lining
  • Insulation – 800FP R.D.S. Certified European Goose Down:,130g
  • 2 YKK® concealed zipped hand pockets
  • Atmos™ lightweight ripstop nylon outer fabric
  • Zoned stitch-through construction for mobility
  • Low profile elasticated cuffs
  • Concealed hem drawcord adjusters

RAB Proton Pros

Longer Torso Length – As opposed to some other jackets the RAB Proton has a elongated length

Looks Good – Not just for hiking, this will fit in as a wear to work or other location without looking out of place.

RAB Proton Cons

Armpit Height – Quite a few people said the armpit levels feel too high, but that over the first week or so you will adjust.

Crinkly At First – Jacket is very noisy until broken in, just note it does get better with use.


Feathered Friends EOS Review

Named for the goddess of the dawn they designed the Eos jacket for early morning starts which need that extra layer of no-fuss insulation and warmth. Featuring just the right amount of premium 900+ fill down, this hooded down sweater excels at keeping you warm on its own when conditions call for moving light and fast, or as a layering piece when weather moves in.

Equally at home on the trail or around town, this lightweight and easy to pack jacket will do wonders in your outerwear quiver. This is a very solid, no frills jacket but a good investment which will serve you well for many miles.

Feathered Friends EOS Features

  • Zippered hand warmer pockets
  • Sewn-through construction
  • Fixed low-profile hood
  • Elastic drawcord hem
  • Lycra cuffs and hood
  • Stuff Sack Included
  • Ethically-sourced 900+ fill power goose down
  • Made in Seattle, USA and Vancouver, Canada of imported materials
Feathered Friends EOS - Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets
Feathered Friends EOS

Feathered Friends EOS Pros

Ultralight Weight – The 900 FP down allows for only 3.7oz of insulation to be used to keep you warm even in the coldest temperatures.

Quality Build and Stitching – Each jacket has very high quality with the construction and you won’t find poor stitching or repairs.

Feathered Friends EOS Cons

No Interior Pocket – Many people wish that they had included more than the two hand pockets on the jacket.

Limited Color Choices – With only 4 options many wish they could have a better selection in interior and exterior colors.


Patagonia Micro Puff Review

The newest “puff” from Patagonia is a strong performer for the most popular puffy jacket series. This features an amazing weight ratio to heat/warmth performance versus any of the other puffy jackets listed above.

The Micro Puff has the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any jacket Patagonia makes—down or synthetic. That’s thanks to PlumaFill, which stays warm when wet and maintains its loft after continued soaking and abuse.

Unique construction keeps it in place, so you won’t end up with cold spots.

Patagonia Micro Puff Features

  • Ultralight nylon ripstop Pertex Quantum® shell
  • Innovative quilting construction complements the insulation
  • Two welted, zippered handwarmer pockets and two internal drop-in pockets
  • Revolutionary lightweight PlumaFill insulation replicates the structure of down
  • Elasticized cuffs and hem seal in warmth
Patagonia Micro Puff - Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets
Patagonia Micro Puff

Patagonia Micro Puff Pros

Great for On the Go – While not the warmest jacket by itself it is a perfect pairing with a fleece or wind breaker while traveling.

Good Warmth to Weight – Everyone says that they love this jacket even when out skiing due to the warmth it provides them.

Patagonia Micro Puff Cons

Pockets Location – This has higher set pockets that may be perfect for backpacking and hiking but for normal use these appear to be just to high.


Nunatak PCT Jacket Review

The PCT Jacket differs from a lot of other options on this list as it can be configured with different shell choices, each in a limited number of colors. These are each versions of ultralight fabrics for folks who want the lightest, but realize that abrasion and tear resistance is minimal.

The is the big sibling to the JMT Jacket. With warmer insulation, more features and a roomy fit, the APEX insulated PCT Jacket excels during adverse weather conditions, or in any circumstance where moisture can infiltrate the insulation. Full front zipper and zippered hand warmer pockets sets it apart from the pullover style Skaha Apex.

Nunatak PCT Features

  • Custom Build fit to order
  • Small Seams
Nunatak PCT - Best Thru Hiking Puffy Jackets
Nunatak PCT

Nunatak PCT Pros

Fast to Heat – The instant you put it on you will begin to heat up solidly.

Nunatak PCT Cons

Wait Time – Since there is no “off the shelf” option you will need to order in advance to have on hand


Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Arc’teryx is known for making high-end quality gear and this Cerium Hoody is no exception. It is built with great materials and features a stylish finish. It is no surprise that the Cerium LT Hoody is a popular choice for backpackers. With models for men and women and a nice low overall weight, Arc’teryx has created a really competitive option.

Streamlined, lightweight down hoody filled with 850 white goose down. This back-country specialist hoody is intended as a mid layer or standalone piece in cool, dry conditions.

The Cerium LT Hoody uses strategic placement of synthetic and down insulation, which helps retain warmth when wet, placed along the shoulders, collar, sleeves and underarms – all the areas prone to contact with moisture.

Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Features

  • Down Composite Mapping strategically places synthetic insulation in areas where moisture may buildup and down in areas for maximum warmth
  • Great warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Improved fit with longer body length
  • Two hand pockets with zippers
  • Moisture-resistant outer face fabric
  • Full front zip with chin guard

Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Pros

Good Mobility – Jacket fits well but doesn’t constrict movement allowing you to freely move about without getting cold.

Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Cons

Seam Issues – Some people have said their gear came with seams not sealed down and threads hanging out

Zipper Durability – Appears that the zippers can break after prolonged use


Final thoughts on the Best Puffy Jackets for Thru Hiking

These popular puffy jackets I listed above are my top recommendations for best jackets for ultralight backpacking. There are a lot of amazing jackets on the market.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to research and figure out what makes the most sense in protection and cost for you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any gear I should add or if you see a dead link. Also subscribe to my email list to receive more UL gear reviews and comparison straight to your inbox.

Nice to meet you, my trail name is Nomad the founder of Nomad Hiker and I love being outdoors and exploring nature! I now want to help spread that love through information back out to everyone to help them feel the same excitement with the world that I feel while in the back country. My current goals are to thru hike all the trails in the greater Texas region and to show everyone it is easily achievable at any age!