Fitness Wear Review: High-End Puffer Vest vs. Basic Puffer Vest
You often hear "you get what you pay for" and this is typically a reliable pearl of wisdom. However, pricey doesn't always equate to quality and value doesn't always stand for "junk." In this post, I am going to evaluate the difference between a high-end puffer vest designed for outdoor cold-weather activity by the acclaimed Lululemon brand, and a value "no-name" brand I found on Amazon to see if the Lulu vest is really worth the extra price tag.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a lovely gift card to Lululemon valued at $100. I was shocked at the most generous gift and admittedly quite excited to shop - as a self-proclaimed "thrifty" person, I own absolutely nothing except one headband from the high-end athletic-wear manufacturer and I also knew that $100 could get me pretty much anything from the site. I of course looked at yoga pants, since as a personal trainer you can never own enough yoga pants. The yoga pants would have pretty much eaten up my entire gift card, so I also looked at some tech tops. I finally stumbled upon a lovely navy blue vest.
At first I scoffed at the ridiculously high price tag - how could a vest cost so much?! But I considered that, with my tendency to be chilly at new gym and frequent enjoyment of cold-weather running, this might be a very practical addition to my wardrobe. It would only require me throwing in a little of the Christmas money I'd received, so I thought why not invest in a piece from which I could get a great deal of use?
I was thrilled when my beautiful blue vest arrived just a few days later. I tried it on and was surprised at what a nice cut it had - just as the picture shows, it was very tailored in at the sides, creating a flattering silhouette. Additionally, it was also extremely lightweight and not bulky whatsoever. I had my doubts it could actually keep me warm being so thin. I quickly put it on and took it for a test run.
As I set out in some fleece-lined leggings, a lightweight long-sleeve tee, and a thicker pair of Michigan socks (I had to match my vest, of course!), I thought, there's no way this silly little vest will be able to keep me warm in a Michigan winter. But a shocking thing happened - I got hot! I removed my neck gator, unzipped my vest, and enjoyed the rest of my 6 mile loop around town.
I will preface, this was pre-REAL Michigan winter (i.e., the teasing balmy few days we had a few weeks ago that we are now all pining for as actual winter has begun). However, I decided to really put this puppy to the test and ran last Sunday after the big snow. I added some extra pants and a long-sleeve jacket to the ensemble, but was shocked that, with the addition of my Yaktrax running shoe cleats, which I will perhaps review in a future post, I was able to enjoy the great outdoors with no problem whatsoever. Lululemon vest for the win!
A few days later, in my frequent Amazon browsing, I noticed a similar vest online by a company called XPOSURZONE. Costing a mere $36, with an 8% off coupon - I decided I might as well give it a try in the name of market research 😉 (I also really liked the vest and wanted a black one, but there was no way I was forking over $148 to get it - sorry Lulu).
My vest arrived and I was excited to try it on. First things first, it's a little shinier than my Lulu vest, which is a bit more matte looking, although the Amazon vest's fabric is softer and nice to touch, almost like a baby blanket texture, which actually made it more comfortable and less pointy by the neck area. Also, it is still tailored in at the sides but not quite as much, with an ever so slightly boxier cut (but still very feminine). Like the Lulu vest, it has two zip slash hand pockets plus two mini inside pockets, but lacks the additional deep pockets my Lulu vest has on the side area between the underarm and bottom hem. Not a big deal, but worth noting since I have used these pockets to store my phone, mace, and neck gator. Also in this side area, I preferred the flat side look of the Lulu vest to the contrasting vertical stripe on the Amazon vest. The Amazon vest also came with a nifty packing bag that you could use to store the vest in your car, purse, or other small space. Finally, I felt the Amazon vest had better arm holes. The Lulu ones were a little tight and could definitely present a problem for the more well-endowed woman.
I decided to give this Amazon vest a real test and wore it to run a 7-miler in quite similar conditions to my Lulu test run (i.e., snow, freezing, Yaktrax required). The high was only 17º, so I felt I was giving it a very real test. Just like my Lulu test, I wore two long-sleeve tops under plus a tank base layer. On the bottom I wore fleece lined-tights plus regular tights and, at the last minute, threw on a bonus pair of fleece-lined leggings (you can never have enough fleece on your legs, in my opinion). Interestingly enough, just like in my Lulu vest, I got hot! I found myself pushing up my sleeves at times when running with the wind. I also took off my gator and strapped it onto my belt.
During the run, the two vests were extremely similar - both were moisture-wicking (the Lulu perhaps a tad bit more), both were comfortable (the Amazon a bit more so around the chin area), and both allowed me to unzip a little around the neck as I heated up. I would say it was truly a toss-up functionally in the middle of the run.
THE FINAL VERDICT
I would have to say this was truly a toss-up. The pros of the Lulu vest in comparison to that from Amazon's XPOSURZONE were that it was perhaps a slightly more flattering cut (and therefore might be slightly more stylish as "athleisure-wear"), and had 2 additional deep pockets on the sides in which one could store their phone if desired. The major cons for me were the slightly tightly cut arm holes (potential chaffing?), pointy area at the top of the zipper, and of course the outrageous price tag.
The pros of the Amazon vest in comparison to the Lulu vest were the super soft fabric, the nifty carrying bag, slightly more forgiving arm holes, and of course the extremely reasonable cost, which would allow one to potentially buy multiple colors, allowing it to be a great layering piece for everyday wear. On the con side, it was not quite as flattering with a slightly "sportier" look and shape (although not to the point that would prevent me from wearing it ever), and I didn't care for the look on side side as much as I did Lulu's.
If I could only get one (and let's be real, if I hadn't received a gift card), I would totally go for the Amazon vest. If you like the look of Lulu's activewear and money is no issue, you will probably enjoy the cute cut and more matte fabric if you like to earn extra style points. Either way, I don't think you can lose keeping warm this winter in a fun puffer vest!
Stay tuned for more reviews soon as I review the Yaktrax running cleats along with some other winter outdoor essentials, and if you have any other fun products you'd like me to review, send me an email and, you never know, you might see it here!
In good health,