Want to avoid down fill in your winter jacket but don’t just want to replace it with virgin plastic? We’ve rounded up the best down alternative coats to keep you toasty warm this winter.
Table of Contents
- The best down alternative coats
- tentree Daily Parka
- Jack Wolfskin North York Coat [staff tested]
- tentree Cloud Shell Mid-Length Unisex Puffer
- Rab Deep Cover Parka – Women’s
- Rab Axion Pro Down Jacket – Women’s
- Patagonia Lost Canyon Jacket – Women’s
- The best materials for an eco-friendly winter coat
- Down alternative coats to avoid (for now)
- What makes a good winter coat?
It’s hard to find a cozy winter coat without virgin plastic or questionable down. Trying to find a jacket that’s PFC-free is even harder! Whether you’re looking for a vegan winter coat or just want something eco-friendly to stay warm and dry this winter, we’ve tracked down some great down alternative coats that are genuinely better for people, planet, and birds!
After our round-up, we also offer some quick advice on how to choose a good winter coat that will work for you.
The best down alternative coats
Highlights: Water-resistant puffer jacket made with recycled materials and a PFC-free coating. Breathable, vegan, and smartly designed for style and function. Men’s and Women’s styles/sizes available.
The tentree Daily Parka is a fantastic down coat alternative comprising 100% REPREVE® Recycled Polyester. The jacket is available in Meteorite Black and Black Olive Green and is breathable while being water-resistant to 10000 mm.
The parka has hidden glove pockets as part of a triple access hand patch pocket. There’s also a dedicated cellphone pocket, and a lined hood, sleeves, and body for ease of movement. Drawcords help adjust the fit to keep out breezes and critically taped seams to keep out rain and snow.
The lining carries Bluesign certification and is non-PFC water-resistant (DP 90/10 PRT). This means it is non-toxic and environmentally sound. tentree makes the coat under ethical working conditions in Vietnam.
This is a great parka if you live somewhere prone to cold temperatures. It can handle temperatures as low as -25 degrees C. You can wash the jacket on cold and dry on low.
Patagonia’s Nano Puff® Water-Repellent Jacket is one of my favorite pieces by this inspiring company. It helps keep you warm and dry, is lightweight and non-bulky, and is super durable. Made with bluesign® approved fabric, this jacket compresses well and weighs just 11.9 ounces, making it a great choice for camping and other adventures.
The Nano Puff® Jacket is available in S, X, M, L, XL, and XXL sizes and measures around 35 inches long. It features a 100% recycled shell and liner and recycled materials in its PrimaLoft® Gold Eco insulation. There’s a two-way front zip closure and a stand collar and elastic cuffs to keep out the chill, and side zip-welt pockets and an interior zip pocket to keep your valuables safe.
This jacket features 60 g/m2 of PrimaLoft Gold Eco Insulation covered with a 22-denier rip-stop shell. You can machine wash and dry the jacket.
Jack Wolfskin North York Coat [staff tested]
Highlights: Vegan-friendly, warm down alternative coat made entirely of recycled polyester. PFC-free, machine washable, windproof, water-repellent, breathable, and super cozy.
Jack Wolfskin’s North York Coat has been my go-to winter coat for a few years now and I still love it. This coat is totally vegan, with no down, wool, etc. Instead, the shell and fill comprise 100% recycled polyester, which makes it water-resistant, windproof, quick drying, and super cozy.
The North York Coat is proudly PFC-free (as are all JW products now!) and has lined pockets, a detachable hood, and a helpful two-way zipper (a must for any longer coats).
See my full review here.
Highlights: Water-resistant mid-length puffer jacket made with 100% recycled materials. PFC-free and available in XXS-XXL.
The tentree Cloud Shell Mid-Length Unisex Puffer is a fantastic winter jacket. It has a cozy lining and enough insulation to keep you warm down to -15 C. It comprises 100% recycled polyester and has a PFC-free, Bluesign certified DWR finish for water resistance to DP 90/10 PRT.
This jacket has several smart features, including the ability to pack the puffer’s hood into the collar. There’s also a dedicated cellphone pocket, interior zipper chest pocket, and zippered hand pockets. The storm flap front placket helps to keep out wind and rain. There’s also taping for all critical seams, which makes it extra water-tight. We also love the convenient back neck hanger loop.
Highlights: Fantastic long coat for cozy city adventures, with plenty of space to stow your stuff, and a detachable hood for clear, bright winter days.
Available in three colors, the Patagonia Downdrift Parka is a more stylish recycled down coat than the other options. The shell is 100% recycled postconsumer nylon from fishing nets retrieved from the ocean. The fill is 100% recycled down for cozy comfort.
The Downdrift has a PFC-free DWR coating and detachable hood. There are two deep pockets and an internal pocket, so your valuables can stay safely stowed and dry.
This parka also boasts a two-way zipper with placket. There is a hidden cinch in the hood to keep out chill breezes and the elastic storm cuffs help keep out rain, wind, and snow. We also love that this parka is Fair Trade Certified Sewn.
Highlights: Recycled polyester and down-filled jacket with two-layer waterproof-breathable shell for casual adventuring and full-on winter extravaganzas.
The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka may be the last jacket you ever buy, which is pretty darned eco-friendly in itself. This jacket has a two-layer waterproof-breathable shell, fully welded seams, and a DWR finish. The fill is reclaimed certified responsible 700-fill-power duck down. The zip-out jacket attaches to the parka with center-front zippers and snapped loops at the cuffs and back neck.
This zip-out jacket offers super coziness as a mid-layer or all by itself on non-rainy days. It has two zippered handwarmer pockets lined with brushed tricot, a secure outer pocket, and a zippered interior pocket.
The H2No® performance outer shell is rain and wind resistant, and the horizontal quilting helps insulation stay in place. There are two chest pockets with snaps and two lower pockets with watertight, coated zippers. The zippered interior chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack.
There’s an adjustable and removable hood for added awesomeness and the jacket is hip length.
The downside? This 3-in-1 jacket weighs a stonking 45 ounces (or 1.3 kg). That doesn’t feel too heavy during wear, but you probably won’t want to pack this jacket ‘just in case’.
Highlights: Long winter parka with recycled shell, lining, and fill. Faux fur hood trim option available and two colorways. Stylish and functional for wintery city walks.
The Deep Cover Parka is part of Rab’s responsible collection and features entirely recycled materials and a PFC-free water resistant finish. This longer style jacket is perfect for stylish city ambles in the winter and is available in an Army green and Black in sizes XS-XL. The jacket measures 35.4 inches at the mid-back for a medium.
The Deep Cover Parka features recycled 50D Pertex Quantum face fabric to keep out chill winds and PFC-free DWR lining made with recycled 20D Pertex Quantum. The 700-fill recycled goose is treated with PFC-free Nikiwax for a hydrophobic finish. This makes the parka breathable, lightweight, cozy, and high performance even in sweaty conditions or light rain.
The two-way zipper means you can customize ventilation, stride, and sit without compromise. There are two zippered hand pockets and one chest pocket with zipper. You can even choose to add a faux fur trim to the removable hood. The parka comes with Rab’s Lifetime Warranty.
Highlights: Superb helmet-compatible mountaineering and climbing jacket made with recycled down and a recycled shell and lining. Nikiwax finish and heavyweight insulation.
Rab’s Axion Pro Down Jacket is a winner for climbers and mountaineers needing some serious insulation and flexibility. The heavyweight jacket has 100% recycled 700 fill down to keep your core cozy and the hood is compatible with helmets, so you won’t need to compromise safety or warmth.
This jacket has a PFC-free DWR Nikiwax finish to keep the insulation moisture-free for top performance. The shell is 100% recycled 20D ripstop nylon and the lining is also recycled 20D nylon.
This jacket measures 27.5 inches at the center back, making it not too long or too short to keep out chills. The hood has an adjustable drawcord and there are two hand pockets and one chest pocket with zippers.
The Axion jacket comes with a stuff sack for space-saving packing and is available in sizes XS through XL and in two colors: dark blue (Beluga) and purple (Eggplant).
Best of all, the jacket comes with Rab’s Lifetime Warranty, and the company has a fantastic reputation for helping with rips, tears, and repairs.
Highlights: The best heavy jacket around, made with up to 80% recycled fill and designed by mountaineering guides who know their business.
Bight Gear (formerly MtnLogic) make one of the best heavy jackets around. The Swelter Jacket can keep you super-warm on its own or work as a mid-layer in extreme conditions. Bight relies on design input from more more than 60 guides working at Rainier Mountaineering Inc. This means every product is truly tried and tested by experts who spend six months a year in the mountains.
The result is a superb puffer jacket with a bunch of cool features lacking in less outdoorsy designs. For instance, the Swelter is slightly longer than standard, to avoid the cold gap between layers. There’s also a stretch panel on the cuffs, so you can get the jacket on fast without removing your gloves.
The Swelter boasts Polartec Power Fill insulation comprising up of 80% recycled post-consumer materials. At 18.07 ounces, this jacket isn’t light. It will, however, keep you as cozy as can be. It has a 20-denier rip-stop nylon shell and a DWR finish.
Patagonia Lost Canyon Jacket – Women’s
Highlights: A great fall and spring down alternative jacket made ethically with recycled polyester and PFC-free finish. Relaxed fit and stretch and no bulky hood.
The Lost Canyon Jacket from Patagonia is a lightweight insulated jacket ideal for the shoulder seasons. This jacket is made in a Fair Trade Certified factory and features 100% recycled polyester insulation, 100% recycled polyester taffeta lining, and 70% recycled stretch polyester taffeta face fabric. This has a PFC-free DWR coating to keep out all but the heaviest rain. It is bluesign approved.
While this jacket has a more relaxed and boxy fit than other technical puffers on this list, it still has elastic sleeve cuffs and a back hem designed to keep out the cold. The design allows for easy layering, but this is a bit shorter than other puffers, so if you’re especially long in the torso, check the measurements before buying.
The Lost Canyon Jacket has a chest pocket with zipper for valuables and two simple hand pockets. It is available in sizes XS-XL and in Light Plume Grey, Oar Tan, and Quartz Coral, otherwise known as beige/grey, salmon orange, and light blue.
Highlights: I’m not a big fan of Everlane’s recent labor issues, but this jacket is one of the most eco-friendly puffer jackets around and is made with 60 recycled plastic bottles and recycled down from duvets and pillows.
Everlane’s ReNew Long Puffer Coat is a recycling dream as it proudly boasts recycled down insulation and a recycled shell made from 60 recycled plastic bottles per jacket, helping to keep them out of landfill. Everlane are, typically, one of the better companies for having a transparent and ethical supply chain, but rumblings emerged last year about some attempts at union-busting and more recently the company laid off most of its remote working customer service team (who were pretty badly treated anyway).
So, if Everlane steps up their game in terms of working conditions for US employees, or if you can put those things aside, this winter coat is a great choice!
The ReNew Long Puffer Coat is available in XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, and has a front zip closure with snap storm placket, a drawstring hood, and hidden drawstring waist. It is water resistant, machine washable and can be tumble dried.
The ReNew isn’t a down alternative jacket, but it dodges the ethics issues by using reclaimed fill from down comforters and pillows. The fabric is bluesign®-approved, made with tested and sustainably produced components.
Again, I’ll be staying away from Everlane until they get their house in order in terms of labor practices, but in general this company is one of the more eco-friendly options.
Highlights: A great choice for urban dog walkers, and chic camping trips, but hard to layer under. Has a nylon outer shell and fill made from recycled plastic bottles.
If you’re looking for a fantastic urban puffer jacket in which to look chic while walking your dog, meet (Saint?) Bernardo. The EcoPlume Packable Puffer Jacket is very shapely thanks to channel quilting and smocked side panels, making it a terrible choice for layering under but a great choice when you just need to grab your coat and head out into the cold.
The Packable Puffer has one front zip, a high funnel-neck with zip-out drawstring hood, and is lightweight and packs down well, making it a good choice for camping trips too. It also has inset elastic cuffs and front zip-welt pockets to keep your valuables safe.
Available in Petal Pink, Black, or Opal Grey, this jacket is true to size and comes in XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL. It is insulated with lightweight EcoPlume fill made from recycled plastic bottles, and the fill is bluesign® approved as made with sustainably produced components. The Puffer can be machine washed and dried as the rest of the jacket is made with polyester and nylon.
The downsides? That polyester and nylon isn’t recycled. Also, at 29 inches long, it’ll feel a little short for some and may leave a bit of a gap in your layers for cold to get through.
The best materials for an eco-friendly winter coat
Most winter coats and jackets, whether stuffed with down or not, feature a polyester outer shell treated with a waterproof or water resistant coating. Polyester is made from non-renewable petrochemicals, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and those coatings usually involve perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
Recycled polyester is a much better choice than new polyester and many companies are switching their lines to this material. This polyester typically originates from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other plastic materials that would otherwise choke landfills, waterways, and oceans.
Wool is also popular for sustainable outerwear. This is because wool is naturally water resistant and keeps you cozy. The downside is that it is very heavy and a lot of sheep are required to produce a single wool coat. If you favor wool, be sure to look for animal welfare certifications or items made with recycled or reclaimed wool and no hazardous cleaning, bleaching, or dyeing agents.
Organic hemp and cotton are also good alternatives to down, as is kapok. However, these are not naturally waterproof or water resistant, so be on the lookout for PFCs or other hazardous chemicals. Often, these natural materials are made water resistant through an application of wax or other durable water resistant (DWR) coating.
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Down alternative coats to avoid (for now)
A quick online search for down alternative coats will present you with lots of vegan-friendly options, but barely any of these made the LeafScore cut as eco-friendly. This is because most of these jackets replace down with virgin polyester or other new synthetic materials. So, sure, they may be ‘cruelty-free’ in the sense that no ducks or geese are mistreated directly, but their larger impact on the environment, including on waterfowl, is still unacceptable.
Some of the companies I’d call on to step up their practices include:
- Alpine North
- Save the Duck
I don’t understand why these companies don’t take steps to replace their synthetics with recycled polyester, nor why they continue to use conventionally grown cotton instead of organic. If there’s a brand you love, but the company still uses virgin synthetics, new down, or PFCs, ask them why! With so much recycled material available, and great options for PFC-free waterproofing, there’s really no excuse not to be more eco-friendly.
What makes a good winter coat?
When choosing a new winter coat, here are a few key points to consider:
- Type of insulation – How well does the fill material retain warmth? Can it handle wet conditions (including sweating!)? How small does it pack?
- Special features – If you need any of the following, does the jacket have them: Hood, vents, extra/different sizes of pockets, a powder skirt, double layer?
- Shell material – Does the shell offer rain protection? Snow protection? Is it breathable, flexible, durable, and wind resistant? Is it made from recycled/recyclable materials?
Many down alternative puffer type jackets are now made using ethical and sustainable practices (including some that use recycled down). Even better, many companies making these coats are generally eco-friendly and give back to the community, both local and global.
Down is the soft, fine feathery layer closest to the skin on the breast of a duck or goose. It grows to form a quill (what we typically think of when we envision feathers). Down traps air to prevent loss of body heat, making it a fantastic thermal vest for the birds who grow down and an attractive material for humans wanting to make cozy winter jackets, duvets and pillows.
Unfortunately, ducks and geese don’t willingly give up their thermal vest, so humans forcibly restrain the birds and either kill them and then pluck them or pluck them while the bird is still alive.
Down that is certified responsible comes from birds that were bred to be eaten, so the down is considered a slightly more ethical by-product. In both sets of circumstances, however, the birds involved tend to live short, unhappy lives and die before their time. The Responsible Down Standard does offer some assurance that birds aren’t mistreated, but that still depends on how you view the use of animals for our own purposes.
Down is terrible in wet conditions, while the recycled synthetics are water resistant and great in rain and snow. The synthetics also last longer and maintain their loft or fluffiness, so you don’t end up with patchy cold coverage.
There was a time when few good alternatives to down existed, given its incredible ability to insulate while taking up very little space and weighing barely anything. Now, thankfully, there is both a lot of existing down in the world that can be reused and some fantastic advances in fiber technology that mean we can make a synthetic version of down insulation from recycled plastic.
PFCs are man-made chemicals commonly found in non-stick pan coatings as well as in some carpets, soft-furnishings, and clothing. PFCs have been around for a while, and so have concerns about their toxicity. Sure, they’re great for water-resistance and stopping your eggs sticking to the pan, but once they get into the environment they break down very slowly and can stick around for years to come.
PFCs have adverse effects on the health of those wearing these garments (or using certain non-stick cookware), and also impact wildlife downstream. PFCs have been seen to cause harm to reproductive health and to promote tumor growth and are on the globally-recognized Restricted Substances Lists. Find out more about PFCs here.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly version of a more traditional looking puffer jacket, Patagonia is where it’s at. This California-based company has long led the way (since the 1950s!) in corporate social responsibility and environmental initiatives and continues to push boundaries and improve their sustainable product range. Not only have they helped move the outerwear and technical wear industry towards higher environmental standards, Patagonia even helped push business across the US to close their doors on Election Day to support engagement in democracy.
Whether you need a winter jacket, a rain jacket, or a warm mid-layer for chilly nights, Patagonia has you covered. Many of their coats are FairTrade Certified™ and Patagonia were a founding member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of annual sales to nonprofit partners supporting environmental solutions.
The one downside of Patagonia is that they still use some PFC coatings for their outerwear, although they’ve switched two-thirds of products to PFC-free waterproof treatments already. They have repeatedly addressed this issue too, and have invested millions of dollars in trying to figure out a high-performance alternative. Patagonia remains one of the most environmentally committed companies around.