Gear Review: L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket

L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket.

Kids Puffy Jacket
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket
$59, 13.5 oz. (boys large/14-16)
Sizes: boys’ and girls’ S-XL (8-18), little boys’ and girls’ S-L (4-7)

From wearing it as a layering piece under a shell when skiing, to backpacking in late March in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park when the temperature dropped below freezing, to innumerable school days, my son has worn this hooded, insulated jacket so much it has hardly seen a hanger (partly because he doesn’t appear to know how to use a hanger). When buying outdoor apparel for kids, you sometimes have to choose between high quality and affordability. I’m a believer that, like adults, kids enjoy the outdoors more when they’re comfortable—but it’s hard pulling the trigger on an expensive item, given how few seasons a kid wears something before outgrowing it. At 59 bucks, the Puff-n-Stuff Jacket is a steal.

First of all, it’s filled with lightweight, compressible, quick-drying PrimaLoft synthetic insulation, used in adult jackets but in many ways perfect for an insulated jacket for kids: Unlike down, it stays warm even when wet (think: walking home from school in rain or playing in snow); it’s highly durable; and you can throw it in the washer and dryer. The insulation makes it warm enough alone for cool-weather camping (down to the 40s Fahrenheit); but the jacket is sized for layering to make it more versatile: My son can wear a rain jacket over it or a fleece under it.

It lacks high-end features like an adjustable hood, but those drive up the price, and the jacket really has all it needs. The elasticized hem, cuffs, and face opening keep the wind from slipping inside or yanking the attached hood off his head. The two tricot-lined hand pockets have zippers, so he doesn’t lose his hat or gloves. The mini-ripstop nylon shell has suffered the usual abuse of almost daily wear-and-tear from a 13-year-old boy without looking any worse. And for backpacking, the boys’ large weighs in well under a pound and packs down to the size of a cantaloupe.

For the number of days of use my son will get out of this jacket—given its durability, it could probably pass down to a second child—at this price, the cost may work out to about 25 cents per day. And that’s for an insulated jacket with the quality an adult would be happy with—and pay about three times as much for. You will be challenged to find a better value.

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See all of my reviews of kids outdoor gear and all of my reviews of outdoor apparel.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza



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