REI's jacket is a down-insulated layering piece that has insulating value a little below that of the Arc'teryx Fission. The higher the number fill, fill, fill, etc.
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Suitable materials will last longer, and you will get more bang for your buck. Insulation materials vary in both price and durability. Goose down insulation keeps its loft and insulating value much longer than synthetic insulation does.
Within down insulation, the rating systems describe weight and insulation value, not durability. More expensive down is warmer per weight, but it won't necessarily last longer than less expensive down. Finally, good weatherproofing is costly. Sealed seams, tight pockets, and protected zippers take effort, design, and pricy materials. If you really want and need to guard against wet and wind, you will pay for it.
Warmth is the most important metric we used to rank each competitor and is a factor of how much insulation is in a jacket, regardless of if its down or synthetic insulation. That said, down fill feels warmer than synthetic The more insulation a jacket contains, the warmer it is. We looked at the insulation quality fill weight and quantity fill weight of each jacket and then compared it to the jacket's cut and length to gauge how the insulation is distributed.
If two jackets have an equal fill weight of 10 ounces, but one has a waist-length hem while the other has a mid-thigh length hem, they are not equally warm.
The most useful measurement for warmth is, of course, comparative testing in actual conditions. We spent a lot of outside comparatively test, swapping jackets among the test team and comparing notes. The top-scoring Arc'teryx Camosun features high-quality, fill down. Such lofty, efficient down keeps the jacket's weight down and its packable size small.
This low number should not dissuade shoppers though. Using heavier, lower quality down brings the cost down and a casual parka like this doesn't need to be as light and compressible as more technical options that need to fit in your backpack. The Canada Goose Expedition Parka is filled with average quality fill down , but it has so much of it that it's the warmest model reviewed. It's also pretty bulky. The second warmest jacket earns a Best Buy award.
The North Face McMurdo is nearly an expedition parka, with the price tag of a casual jacket. It offers the best value in our test. The Patagonia Jackson Glacier also kept us warm in most wintry conditions. The Woolrich Bitter Chill deserves mention for being on the warmer side of the fleet. The Woolrich is the warmest non-down insulated piece reviewed.
Woolrich insulates the Bitter Chill with a lofted batting that blends wool and synthetic fibers. Overall, jackets with synthetic insulation are not as warm as the down models. The Arc'teryx Fission SV provides less insulation than most of the down models reviewed.
This is likely because the garment has less insulation overall, though it did reinforce the idea that if you are looking for warmth, opt for down. REI's jacket is a down-insulated layering piece that has insulating value a little below that of the Arc'teryx Fission.
The fleece jackets are the least insulating products reviewed. Well-suited to more moderate climates, The North Face Arrowood Triclimate is durable, versatile, and affordable, but not incredibly warm. Insulated with synthetic fleece, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the field, which may be just what you're looking for if you live in a warm climate.
When we talk about weather resistance, we're talking about wind and water. These jackets are thick enough to cut the wind, so you just need to look out for drafts. Longer jackets or those with ribbed hems will protect you from below.
Inner cuffs and hoods will also keep warm air in and cold out. That leaves us with water. Water-resistant outer fabric helps keep you and your jacket's insulation dry in wet winter weather. All of these models have some type of water resistance, from basic nylon with a durable water resistant DWR coating to a fully waterproof membrane layer with taped seams. These strategies provide varying degrees of protection. If your winter precipitation tends to fall as rain or wet snow instead of the West's dry powder, consider a winter jacket with a waterproof outer shell, like The North Face Arrowood Triclimate with its DryVent fabric or the Arc'teryx Fission SV that uses Gore-Tex.
These waterproof and breathable fabrics shed water faster and for much longer than a DWR treatment alone. If a jacket has an inner waterproof membrane, you can be sure the outer face fabric is treated with DWR. This knocked the jacket down in the ratings. If you wear your jacket in lower temperatures where it tends to snow instead of rain, and if that snow is relatively dry you know who you are , then the competitors with DWR treatments such as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka , Patagonia Jackson Glacier , or the REI Co-op Down Hoodie are adequately protected.
It's not incredibly water-resistance due to its untaped seams, but it's warm enough to excel in genuinely sub-freezing conditions. Luckily, in those temperatures, precipitation is always solid, and the compromised weather protection isn't a problem.
However, in our testing, the outer fabric to soaked in more snow and water than the others, making it a bit heavy and uncomfortable.
This is the cost of style. The external material is attractive, but not as weather-proof as the smooth face of something like the Marmot Fordham or the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun. We dig the Haglofs Torsang Parka's weather protection. This is a fully waterproof, taped-seams rain shell with light insulation.
It isn't warm enough for many winter climates, but the wet and sleety corners of North America are just the place for it. In terms of weather protection, it is similar to the Editors Choice and the Patagonia Tres. Wintertime is uncomfortable enough. Don't put on an uncomfortable winter parka, too.
Most of the models we reviewed work hard to make braving the cold and wind more forgiving. We found a general correlation between cost and comfort. More expensive jackets use softer materials and more thoughtful tailoring to achieve maximum comfort. A parka's cut has a significant impact on its comfort. A meticulously designed jacket like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka fits most bodies better than a generic square-cut design. A longer hem, which many of these parkas use, also keeps the waist from riding up and exposing you to drafts.
A notable exception is our Best Buy Marmot Fordham. Despite its bargain price, every tester who tried on the Fordham was impressed to find that it's more comfortable than the competition. There is also something of a correlation between comfort and warmth. The biggest jackets we tested are the warmest, but they are also the most confining. Lots of insulation and an extended cut keep the heat in and make for a large package.
This bulky package limits your range of motion, also impeding your comfort. The more comfortable parkas reviewed, like the Arc'teryx Camosun , also have elastic rib knit cuffs, which seal out drafts and snow. Unless you cinch them down around your gloves, velcro-closed cuffs aren't as protective and comfortable as the elastic versions. The rest employ velcro cuffs.
We love the cozy feel of fleece lining, especially when it lines pockets and chin covers. When cinched tight, it works as intended to hold in warmth, making you feel like you're at home in front of the fire, albeit with some tickles to your cheeks.
The soft, down-sweater style construction of the OR Whitefish is far more comfortable than it appears. It looks like a rigid "barn coat" style jacket. However, the construction is tailored and materials selected such that you have all the range of motion you need and a light feeling sort of insulation.
Hoods, multiple hand warmer pockets, two-way zippers, and cuff closures work together to protect you from frigid environments. A hood is mandatory in nasty winter weather, and while it is not a substitute for a warm hat, it certainly makes life a lot nicer. Ideally, these hoods will be highly adjustable to allow for a customizable and secure fit. The best hood in our test is found on the chart-topping Canada Goose Expedition.
The hood is warm, large, and can be cinched down securely and comfortably. The stiff brim also keeps the hood almost out of your field of view. This is unfortunate, as the latest hood is compromised enough that warmth and weather protection suffers. If you leave the removable fur ruff on and don't have to move your head much, the McMurdo's hood effectively seals out the weather. Otherwise, the more sophisticated hoods of the Arc'teryx and Patagonia jackets are at the head of the pack, literally.
The Woolrich Bitter Chill has a roomy and cozy hood. Only the interior layers of the 3-in-1 jackets do not come with any hood, meaning that a warm hat is necessary. Insulated handwarmer pockets are an excellent place to keep cold hands or gloves, and most have a fleece-like liner. The Arc'teryx jackets have the best hand warmers.
All of these feature wrap-around fleece lining. A little lacking in warmth; slim fit. Starting with design, it has an H2No Performance shell on the outside, along with a removable fill down liner on the inside. Moreover, the outside is waterproof and seam taped, which results in excellent weather protection in wet snow and rain.
And even the liner has a DWR treatment for use in light precipitation. What are the downsides of the Patagonia Tres Parka? In addition, the down insert is decently warm and the outer shell does a nice job at cutting wind, but in the coldest of conditions you still will want to add layers underneath.
See the Women's Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka. Super soft liner; premium look and feel. Arms are a bit short for some people. When shopping for a down winter parka, you have a number of similar looking options from respected outdoor brands.
This jacket is warm with fill down, has good length, and a super cozy hood with a removable faux fur liner. The inside of the jacket has a fleece liner that is noticeably soft to the touch, and the outside has a DWR treatment to help with light precipitation.
Add in some classy colorways, and the Montreal is a really nice all-around parka for the cold. Coming back to the all-important fit factor, a number of people have complained that the arms on the Marmot Montreal are on the short end.
But if you can get the fit dialed, the Montreal is a winner. Zipper and hood are subpar. Updated for last winter, this popular parka performs well in tough weather but also looks the part for everyday wear. Like the Tres, the Arctic II is fully waterproof to keep you dry in a range of winter weather conditions, yet also packs a decent punch in terms of warmth. Along with the good value come a few compromises.
And like other products from The North Face, fit is a bit boxier than we would prefer although this can be good for layering. Clean design, easy to move in, and a good amount of down for the price. Less leg coverage than a parka. The Down With It from Patagonia is a good-looking and versatile jacket at a very reasonable price.
We like the length, which works well for city wear but also can double down for light adventuring like winter hiking and snowshoeing. What do you sacrifice by going with a jacket instead of a parka? The obvious answer is leg coverage—the Patagonia Tres and other options on this list end around the thigh, which can make a pretty big difference when wearing jeans or other non-insulated pants in cold weather if you want more length, Patagonia does offer a Down With It Parka version.
Warm, waterproof, and looks great. The sleek Patera is the whole package: The biggest hurdle in choosing the Patera Parka is price. However, you do get some serious return on your investment. The full waterproofing is a very nice feature, and few casual pieces use best-in-class Gore-Tex. You also get a tough yet smooth denier shell, which can handle everyday wear and tear much better than the thinner options above.
And we appreciate the non-puffy style of the Patera: See the Women's Arc'teryx Patera Parka. Better arm length than the Marmot Montreal. More expensive than the Montreal with inferior down fill.
Both share a similar design: And both weigh just a hair over 2 pounds. In terms of differences, the Montreal has a DWR coating while the Downtown does not, and we like the length of the sleeves on the Mountain Hardwear better, which are longer than the Marmot and can accommodate a wider variety of people.
We have the Marmot ranked higher because it uses better down fill vs. Neither manufacturer provides the fill weight for these products, but given that the Montreal weighs 1 ounce more and uses better down, we can assume that the warmth of that piece is on par or slightly better than Downtown Coat the Downtown does have a little longer back length, however.
Perhaps the answer comes down to fit, but overall we give the nod to the Marmot. See the Women's Mountain Hardwear Downtown. A great value and a clean design overall. Not as warm or soft as a down jacket. The vast majority of jackets on this list use down fill, which is warmer and loftier than synthetic insulation.
But there is something to be said for the latter, which costs considerably less and continues to insulate when wet. What are the downsides of a jacket like the Columbia Snow Eclipse?
The jacket does get reasonably high marks for being cozy in cold conditions, but you likely will want to layer up when the temperatures get truly frigid. These issues aside, the jacket looks the part for both outdoor and urban use, comes in a variety of nice colorways, and given the price, remains popular year after year. See the Women's Columbia Snow Eclipse. Perhaps the single most important factor when choosing a winter jacket is its intended use.
Performance jackets, on the other hand, are more technical in nature and often lighter in weight due to the use of premium down and shell materials. These models are designed for mountaineering, climbing, and other cold-weather backcountry use.
To help clarify the best uses for each jacket, we list the category in the product specs and in our comparison table. Nearly all the jackets on this list have down fill, which is the warmest, lightest, and most compressible type of insulation. A few jackets—including the Patagonia Hyper Puff—are made with synthetic, which is heavier and not quite as lofty but does a superior job at insulating when wet. It's also cheaper than down, which is why you'll find it inside some of the budget-oriented designs above like the Caterpillar Heavy Insulated Jacket.
We love both types of insulation and each has its purposes, but down wins out in pure warmth and coziness for winter. For more background on this topic, see our article on down vs. Warmth is a function of many factors: But the two most important factors in determining the warmth of your jacket are fill power and fill weight. Fill Power Fill power is the most heavily marketed spec among winter jackets and parkas, and refers to down specifically nearly all the jackets on this list are down.
The higher the number fill, fill, fill, etc. Performance winter jackets usually are around fill or higher, and casual pieces run from fill to fill. Fill Weight Fill weight is often overlooked but just as relevant as fill power. Instead of measuring the quality of the down, fill weight is simply the total weight of the down inside the jacket. The calculation becomes more difficult as the fill power changes: Around half the jackets on this list provide fill weight, which is more helpful than not.
As discussed above, make sure to take both fill power and fill weight into account. In addition, the shell of the jacket matters, as do the layers underneath. By our best estimation, the majority of the jackets on this list are designed to go well below freezing for use in the heart of the winter months in cold climates like the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. For more lightweight and midweight jacket options, see our articles on the best down jackets and synthetic jackets.
A major contributor to warmth is the layers or lack thereof you wear underneath. Depending on the parka, when the temperature really drops think well below freezing you may want to add a lightweight down or synthetic jacket as a midlayer. The importance of weight in your winter jacket buying decision depends largely on the intended use.
For those looking in the performance category mountaineers, climbers, winter explorers, etc. The type and thickness of the shell fabric matters in overall weight as well. Performance jackets tend to use technical fabrics that are light and thin, while casual pieces use more durable and heavier shells that add weight. On the upside, the thicker shells are much better at avoiding tears and small abrasions and therefore should last longer.
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