If you’ve ever struggled to shove a heavy wool coat or long puffer into an overhead bin or under your seat on an airplane, you know how important it is to find a jacket that travels as well as you. The best travel jacket not only keeps you warm but is also lightweight and packable enough to stash in your carry-on.
What to look for in a travel jacket
Outerwear can be a serious investment, but a worthwhile one since the best travel jackets should last much longer than a season or two. Before you start shopping, consider what kind of trip you’ll be taking. Ultra-light packers—say, those going backpacking—will want to find the warmest jacket that weighs the least. Those who will only be exposed to the elements as they dash from the subway to a museum or restaurant can forgo the puffer and opt for something sleeker. It’s also important to keep the following features in mind:
Shell Material. Water-repellent nylon and polyester are lightweight and best at keeping wind, rain, and snow out, but less technical natural fabrics like denim and merino wool are ideal for transitional seasons or destinations with mild winters. If you’re trying to shop more sustainably, some companies use environmentally friendly fabrics like recycled polyester or plant-based nylons made from castor bean oil. Insulation Material. For puffer jackets, you can pick from either down or synthetic insulation. Down insulation—which comes from waterfowl like geese and ducks—tends to be lighter, warmer, and easier to compress. Look for products that have responsible down standard certification (RDS-certified), meaning the down is sourced from farms where birds are treated ethically. If budget is a concern or you’re heading somewhere damp, synthetic insulation is less expensive and doesn’t lose its insulating ability if it gets wet (unlike down). Because synthetic insulation is generally made from polyester, look for products made with postconsumer recycled polyester. Fill Power. The fill power on down insulated products accounts for how well the down lofts and traps heat. You’ll find that jackets with high fill power numbers cost more but are the lightest options because higher-quality down requires less down to trap heat. You won’t find fill power ratings on synthetic insulation—instead, that is measured by grams per square meter. Heavier weights account for warmer insulation. You’ll typically find this information listed on the tag in stores or in the “Materials and Care” section if you’re shopping online. Water Repellency. Unless you’re caught in a downpour, a jacket with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating is enough to keep you warm and dry in drizzly weather or a light snow. If you’re looking for fully waterproof shells, read more about the best rain jackets for travel. Packability. Many puffer coats come with pouches they can be stuffed into (and used as a travel pillow in some cases!), while uninsulated jackets are made with lightweight wool or cotton that can fold up and be tucked into your bag without demanding too much square footage. Price. Jackets that are made to last for years often won’t fall in the under $100 category. Same goes for companies that use sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing processes. Think of these jackets as investment pieces: They’ll be in your closet for years to come. Pockets. Pockets are useful for keeping your essentials close at hand—and also for keeping your hands warm. Look for jackets with interior storage pockets with zippers for keeping your stuff safe and exterior fleece-lined pockets for added coziness.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are the best travel jackets for women and men that will keep you warm and comfortable in a variety of weather.
Lightweight travel jackets
Ibex Shak Lite Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $240, ibex.com; Men’s, $240, ibex.comSizing: XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Features: Two zippered hand pockets, machine washable
Made with merino wool responsibly sourced in Australia, the Ibex Shak Lite is the Goldilocks of jackets for transitional weather. Not too light or too bulky, it’s just right for fall and spring weather. Knitted in a thicker ponte style, it’s heavier than a sweater and can be used as an outer layer when temperatures begin to dip into the 60s Fahrenheit. It’s lightweight enough that you can throw it in your day pack and not worry about it taking up too much space. (But it doesn’t come with a pouch like other packable jackets, so be careful with what else you put in your bag.) In winter, it can also be used as a midlayer under an insulated jacket.
Available in both men’s and women’s sizes in a variety of colors, the collar on the women’s style tapers off like a bomber jacket, while the men’s collar zips straight up to the chin. As with all merino wool products, this jacket is naturally antimicrobial, so you can wear it many times in between washes. When you do need to freshen it up, it’s machine washable. Just be sure to line dry it or it could shrink like other wool products.
Warp + Weft Sea All Gender Denim Jacket
Buy now: all gender sizing, from $58 (was $98), warpweftworld.comSizing: XS-6XL (women’s); XXS-5XL (men’s)Features: Two hand pockets, two chest pockets
Unless you’re on a business trip or headed to a black-tie wedding, denim jackets are suitable for most scenarios. Casual enough for a morning coffee run but cool enough to wear out to a bar, a good jean jacket will keep you warm in that zone after summer ends but before you need to break out the serious insulation (for me, that’s until temperatures dip below 50 degrees). Another plus? Most denim jackets usually include two stash pockets on the inside—handy for keeping your phone, passport, and boarding pass easily accessible at the airport.
Warp + Weft’s Sea Denim Jacket has the stylings of a classic jean jacket and offers an extended all-gender size range (the equivalent of a women’s size XS to 6XL and a men’s XXS to 5XL). In addition to size inclusivity, Warp + Weft incorporates responsible processes into manufacturing its own denim from scratch. In addition to using 1,400 gallons less water than traditional denim manufacturing to make a pair of jeans, Warp + Weft treats and recycles 98 percent of the water it does use while also committing to fair wages and ethical practices for its workers.
Packable down jackets
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $400, mountainhardwear.com; Men’s, $400, mountainhardwear.comSizing: XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, RDS-certified down insulation, packable, two zippered hand pockets
The UL in Ghost Whisperer UL stands for Ultralight—and Mountain Hardwear isn’t messing around. At just 6.17 ounces, this jacket is the lightest option on this list (even with a hood!). But don’t worry, you won’t sacrifice warmth for weight: It’s made with the highest-quality 1,000-fill RDS-certified down that is bluesign-approved and fluorine free. It’s also just as packable as it is lightweight. When you don’t need to wear it, you can stuff the entire jacket into one of the hand pockets and it’ll take up the amount of space as a paperback book.
L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $249, llbean.com; Men’s, $249, llbean.comSizing: XXS-3X (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, packable, two zippered hand pockets, zippered chest pocket
The L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket is insulated with DownTek PFC-Free water repellent down that stays dry ten times longer than untreated down—a crucial detail if you ever get stuck in the snow or freezing rain. Its windproof and water-resistant nylon shell is made with 100 percent recycled fabric. When it’s not in use, it packs down into its own pocket for easy storage. Available in extended petite and plus sizes for women and tall sizes for men, it has over 1,200 five-star ratings on llbean.com.
Jack Wolfskin JWP Down
Buy now: Women’s, $90 (was $180), jackwolfskin.com; Men’s, $180, jackwolfskin.comSizing: XS-XXL (women’s); S-XXXL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, RDS-certified down insulation, packable, two zippered hand pockets
This 700-fill down jacket from German outdoors retailer Jack Wolfskin is another good choice for light packers. It weighs roughly half a pound, depending on the size you order (a woman’s small weighs just 8.4 ounces and a men’s medium clocks in at 10.5 ounces). Made with water-resistant Stormlock fabric, this puffer helps keep wind and rain out and the warmth in, but it’s also breathable enough so you don’t have to worry about overheating. When you don’t need to wear it, it stuffs down into an included pouch smaller than the size of a Nalgene bottle.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $80, uniqlo.com; Men’s, $80, uniqlo.comSizing: XXS-XXL (women’s); XXS-3XL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, down insulation, packable, two zippered hand pockets
For those who live in places with mild winters, an expensive puffer jacket you only use a few times a year might not be a necessary investment. But for trips when you do need an insulated jacket, Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down will do the trick for under $100 and packs up into an included pouch the size of a water bottle.
The water-repellent coating on this jacket can ward off light rain and snow but is also thin enough to fit under a waterproof shell. Made with a minimum of 90 percent down, the 750 fill power is not as heavy duty as the premium Mountain Hardwear jacket mentioned above, but the coat is warm enough to ward off chills on an average NYC winter day that hovers between 30–40 degrees. Fans of Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down will notice the Japanese company has altered the design to have a boxier silhouette and a new fly-front to cover the zipper to make it more stylish. For those who prefer hooded jackets, Uniqlo also offers that style in both men’s and women’s sizes for just $10 more.
Aether Eco Space Hoodie
Buy now: Men’s, $350, aetherapparel.comSizing: XS-XXL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, recycled synthetic insulation, two hand pockets
When Aether launched in Los Angeles in 2009, the idea behind the brand was to create clothing that could withstand the outdoors but wouldn’t make you look like you wandered off the Appalachian trail and into a city. Consider the brand’s signature Space Hoodie for men. At first glance, it looks like a regular hoodie. But upon closer inspection, you’ll realize this lightweight jacket is also water- and wind-resistant—it’s just made without the tell-tale quilting of a typical insulated puffer coat.
In 2021, it was updated with ecoconscious materials like recycled polyester ripstop fabric treated with a DWR coating; no perfluorinated chemicals (or PFCs) that can damage the environment are used. Its 80g PrimaLoft Bio insulation is made of postconsumer recycled synthetic fibers that reach nearly 94 percent biodegradation in under two years. As for warmth—that’s about enough to keep you cozy in most destinations. For extremely cold destinations, this jacket is lightweight enough to wear as a midlayer.
Columbia Titan Pass Double Wall Hybrid Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $240, columbia.com; Men’s, $240, columbia.comSizing: XS-XXL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, recycled synthetic insulation, packable, two fleece-lined hand pockets, one zippered chest pocket (exterior)
This puffer from Oregon-based Columbia uses multiple layers of proprietary technology to keep you warm. The exterior shell offers Columbia’s Double Wall layered construction to block wind and trap heat, while the interior relies on recycled synthetic down as insulation. The interior of the jacket is lined with a shiny gold thermal-reflective pattern—but it’s not just for looks. That’s Columbia’s Omni-Heat Infinity technology, which reflects your body heat back toward you while keeping the jacket lightweight and breathable.
In terms of packability, the exterior chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket and includes a small loop, so you can hang the packed jacket off the side of your backpack. Packed down, the jacket takes up about as much space as a wine bottle would while weighing just under a pound.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Buy now: Women’s, $229, patagonia.com; Men’s, $229, patagonia.comSizing: XXS-XXL (women’s); XS-3XL (men’s)Features: Water repellent, recycled synthetic insulation, packable, two zippered hand pockets, internal zippered chest pocket
Patagonia’s puffer jackets are iconic for a good reason. Not only are they lightweight (the Nano Puff weighs just 10 ounces), but they’re also made using ecoconscious materials and sustainable manufacturing processes. The Nano Puff is made with a recycled polyester ripstop shell and insulated with 60g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco, a 100 percent postconsumer recycled polyester. In addition to using bluesign-approved fabric—meaning it meets the highest safety standards for people and the environment–this jacket is also Fair Trade Certified, which means the people who sewed it earned a living wage for their work.
The Nano Puff’s internal zippered chest pocket can serve as a stuff sack so you can pack the jacket down to the size of a Kindle when you don’t need it. The stuff sack also includes a loop, letting you clip the packed jacket to your bag for easy carrying. For an additional $50, the Nano Puff is also available in a hooded version in men’s and women’s sizes.
Summersalt Reversible Packable Puffer
Buy now: Women’s, $71 (was $95), summersalt.comSizing: XS-2X (women’s)Features: Reversible, synthetic insulation, packable
If having options is more important than high-tech materials, this polyester puffer is fully reversible so you technically are packing two jackets for the space of one. (The pink and red jacket reverses to monochrome red.) That’s not the only clever design detail: When you’re not using it, you can fold the jacket up into an included pouch that is designed to work as a travel pillow.
“I bought this for a two-week trip to Japan and it was absolutely perfect. The color block makes it look stylish and designed and not boring at all—and it definitely keeps you warm,” one reviewer wrote online. “I loved folding it down into the little pouch, which stores easily in the inner pocket of the jacket, to pack away in my suitcase.” However, several reviewers pointed out it has a rather cropped fit, so if you have a long torso, this jacket may not be for you.
This article was originally published in 2021; it was updated on January 5, 2023, with current information.
Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.