Why The Puffy?

DECK: Today’s PrimaLoft-filled puffy-style jackets are the ultimate western hunting garment. Here’s why. 

I was on a skinny, granite sheep trail above 12,800 feet the first time I wrapped myself in a puffy jacket. Mother Nature was at her worst, and I was 54 miles into a 100-mile foot race. A buddy I was running with, a former Army Ranger, told me to take his puffy and tie it around my waist because the weather was going to get brutal. I resisted. He insisted. His run was over — his back gave out and he couldn’t go on. I don’t thank God that his back went out — that part sucked — but I am thankful he introduced me to the best jacket option for western hunters. 

There are throngs of outdoor clothing manufacturers that craft well-made puffy’s, but that’s not the emphasis of the article. I want you to know why a good puffy make is a must-have western hunting garment. 

So Light!

Since that trail run in 2015, a puffy has been a staple for me when hunting the backcountry. One of the biggest assets of this style of jacket is its light, collapsible build. Most quality puffy jackets weigh between 12 and 17 ounces, which reduces pack weight, and because these jackets can be wadded up and stuffed anywhere, they take up little room in the pack. When on the body, they feel like a cloud. A well-made puffy isn’t bulky or restrictive, and when you have one on it doesn’t feel like you’re wrapped in bubble wrap. Movement is maximized, and whether you hunt with a vertical bow, crossbow, or rifle, you’ll quickly notice how well a top-tier hood moves with your body.

Be sure the jacket has some type of gusseted or nylon stretch cuffs to prevent the jacket sleeves from riding up the arm. You want a puffy that promises an athletic fit and feel. 

Why The Puffy?
Top-tier puffy jackets compress down to nothing and will fit in almost any backpack pocket or lash to the straps on the pack’s outside.

So Warm!

Most kingpin puffy makers fill these jackets with PrimaLoft insulation; a material that delivers remarkable warmth-to-weight. PrimaLoft, unlike down, is a synthetic insulator made up of polyester microfiber. This means PrimaLoft is not as warm as down, but it is a remarkably light insulator that is water resistant, and when it does get damp, PrimaLoft prevents water absorption and keeps its insulating abilities. PrimaLoft keeps the core warm by trapping heat in tiny pockets of air that form between the small fibers. 

Why The Puffy?
The perfect garment to be worn as a standalone outer layer or as part of a layering system, puffy jackets are the bee’s knees.

When space in the pack is limited on a western backcountry hunt, you want a jacket option that will crumble down to nothing, and once on the body, keeps heat in and moisture out. Plus, I’ve found that a quality puffy, even some of the thinnest PrimaLoft makes out there, are enough to keep the backcountry wanderer plenty warm, even when worn as a solo garment over a single Merino wool base layer well into October. An archery fanatic, I love toting a Merino base layer top, an insulated ¼-zip top, and my puffy jacket into the woods. This system is ultra-light, and I’m able to stay incredibly warm and layer appropriately throughout the day. 

Why The Puffy?
From September through October, the author relies on PrimaLoft insulation’s lightweight, warm, and ultra-dry nature to keep him comfortable.

Dries Quickly!

Puffy jackets filled with PrimaLoft insulation usually have an outer fabric that is treated with some sort of water-repellant. However, multiple times, I’ve got my puffy soaked all the way through. The good news: PrimaLoft dries super quickly. Hang it on a tree limb close, but not too close, to a crackling fire and it will be dry in no time. When I’m pushing hard and sweating a lot but don’t want to give up the comfort or warmth of my puffy, I don’t worry. PrimaLoft-filled puffy jackets dry remarkably fast. All it usually takes is a slight mountain breeze and a good tree limb. 

Reasonably Quiet!

Be careful here. Some puffy makers will cut corners, and I’ve tested a few made with noisy outer fabric. Don’t be afraid to shell out some coin and get into a great puffy that promises stealth. Not all puffy makers talk much about the outer fabric, and I’ve found the best way to know whether that fabric is quiet or not is to run your hand over the garment in the store. If the puffy sounds remind you of the crunching sound you hear when you crumple a paper bag, avoid it. 

Why The Puffy?

More Uses!

When you invest in a top-end puffy jacket, you’re dropping green on something more than just another piece of hunting apparel. I spend a good chunk of August and September in a tent, and the last thing I want taking up space in my pack is a pillow. A good puffy jacket rolls up and works wonderfully. I also have a problem with my legs getting cold during morning glassing sessions. Many times in September when glassing for deer and elk, a Merino base layer with an insulated ¼-zip hoodie is enough to keep my top half warm, but my legs freeze. When this is the case, I pull my puffy from my pack and drape it over my thighs. Problem solved. The puffy also makes a great back pad for an afternoon nap.

Why The Puffy?
When you pack in deep and the pack weight and space are concerns, a puffy makes a great pillow.

Two Go-Tos

As I mentioned, I’ve tested a pile of puffy-style jackets in the backcountry, and I do have a pair of favorites I want to turn you onto. First is Sitka’s Kelvin Aerolite Jacket. Sitka knows their gear is top quality, and you’re going to pay for it ($309), but this jacket is second to none. Extremely versatile, the 16-ounce puffy jacket is filled with Synthetic PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with Cross Core Technology, which gives you all the benefits of down insulation, but still dries quickly and performs when wet. Silica aerogel is a remarkably light material composted with 95 percent air and adds additional insulation. This jacket promises an athletic fit, is reasonably quiet, and is incredibly warm. It is the ultimate puffy for all-season hunting. 

Why The Puffy?

My second favorite puffy was launched in 2022, and I instantly fell in love with its comfort and warmth. The outer fabric is a tad louder than I like, but it’s not, in most instances, game-spooking loud. Enter Browning’s Packable Puffer Jacket. The PrimaLoft Silver down blend with fluorocarbon-free down water-repellent treatment allows the jacket to be highly compactible and incredibly warm. Browning added elastic binding on the waist hem and cuffs, and I’m a fan of the jacket’s Silvadur technology, which greatly reduces odor control. Use an ozone-treatment system on this puffy before the season, and each time you pull it out of your pack, you’ll be shocked at how much it doesn’t stink. 

Why The Puffy?

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