Winter jackets. It would be easy to overlook these, right? Just go for the warmest thing, stick it on, and enjoy the cosiness as you step out into a snowy (or non-snowy) wintry scene or embark on an outdoors activity somewhere totally freezing.
But it’s not quite as simple as that.
Alongside the ton of different things to factor into your choice (wind resistance, waterproofing, insulation materials, etc.) there are a whole load of awesome brands out there with even more awesome products, all worthy of your time and consideration.
How the heck are you supposed to choose from them all? Tough call, I know.
Which is exactly the reason why I’ve decided to put together this mammoth guide to the best winter jackets money can buy at the moment. From the classic to the modern, the casual to the expedition-grade gear, there will definitely be something for you on my list!
Just because winter brings frosty temperatures doesn’t mean you can’t have awesome adventures. Read on for all of the best winter jackets on the market right now.
Table of Contents
- Quick Answer: These are the Best Winter Jackets of 2020
- Best Winter Jackets for Men
- Best Winter Jackets for Women
- Best Winter Jackets of 2020
- #1 – Best Overall Winter Jacket for Men
- #2 – Best Budget Winter Jacket for Men
- #3 – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Men
- #4 – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
- #5 – Best Winter Down Jacket for Extreme Cold
- More Top Winter Jackets for Men
- Best Winter Jackets for Women
- #1 – Best Overall Winter Jacket for Women
- #2 – Best Budget Winter Jacket for Women
- #3 – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Women
- #4 – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
Quick Answer: These are the Best Winter Jackets of 2020
Best Winter Jackets for Men
#1 The North Face McMurdo Insulated Parka III – Best Overall Winter Jacket for Men
#2 REI Co-op Stormhenge 850 Down Jacket – Best Budget Winter Jacket for Men
#3 Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Men
#4 Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
#5 Patagonia Fitz Roy Hooded Down Parka – Best Winter Down Jacket for Extreme Cold
|The North Face McMurdo Insulated Parka III||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|REI Co-op Stormhenge 850 Down Jacket||Check on REI|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie||Check on REI|
|Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
|Patagonia Fitz Roy Hooded Down Parka||Check on REI|
Best Winter Jackets for Women
#1 Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka – Best Overall Winter Jacket for Women
#2 REI Co-op 650 Down Parka 2.0 – Best Budget Winter Jacket for Women
#3 Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Women
#4 Arc’teryx Seyla Down Coat – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
|Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
|REI Co-op 650 Down Parka 2.0||Check on REI|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|Arc’teryx Seyla Down Coat||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
Best Winter Jackets of 2020
Two words for you – super warm. I love this North Face jacket for keeping the wind out and protecting against the elements when winter hits.
Well made (it’s North Face, after all) with a top-quality build if you’ve got to stay outdoors for an hour or so, and it’ll keep you warm in minus conditions. I’m talking the kind of jacket that will easily make you feel cosy even if it’s -20 celsius out; in fact, it’s best used in sub-zero temperatures.
You can also keep the wind out with the option to cinch in the waist and tighten the wrists.
Then, when you wear this jacket in your car, you won’t be completely sweltering, since it has adequate ventilation.
One of my favourite things about this jacket is the look – clean cut without looking too utilitarian. It’s cool; I’d say, more winter in New York than winter on Everest. Topped off with the faux-fur hood, it has that classic North Face parka vibe. It’s definitely my top choice for the best overall winter jacket for men.
This REI Co-op winter jacket keeps you warm and dry for a snip of the price of a lot of household name brands out there, so that’s why I’ve decided to make it my best budget winter jacket for men.
What’s keeping you so warm with this winter jacket? The 850-fill-power down, obviously. But this is also what’s keeping you dry, as the down itself has been treated with water-resistant protection. Score.
I like the multi-use versatility here. It’s cool for hitting the slopes; it’s also cool for just wandering around a city during winter. Since it barely weighs a thing (compared to SOME winter coats out there) – and because it can be compressed down into its own hood – it’s awesome for travelling. Good for a daypack, too, when you need to whip out that extra layer of warmth.
There’s some neat stuff going on here. Pit zips on the REI Co-op Stormhenge help with ventilation, while the zippered pockets offer yet more cosiness as they’re lined, and the hood cinches in to give you a snug fit. There’s also a chest pocket for a phone or map or snack, whatever’s most important to you!
All in all, it’s an all-purpose down jacket with great utility. What’s not to like?
#3 – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Men
As far as a winter hiking jacket goes, this one from Patagonia does the trick nicely. When you’re hiking and it’s chilly, you don’t necessarily want something that’s overly bulky or huge, as you’re just gonna feel weighed down and end up a sweaty mess.
That’s why I prefer lightweight like this one when I’m on a hike in winter. It’s windproof, so you’ll feel (almost) invincible when it starts blowing a gale and you’re still warm in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie.
Something about hiking jackets that I always look for is how packable they are. Hiking often involves different terrain, and across a long distance, this can vary wildly, which means having to master your layering with the difference in how strenuously you are working. Having this Patagonia jacket is perfect for multi-day hikes where you’ll be taking a jacket off and putting it back on again.
It easily packs down to a small size, of course. And you know what? It looks pretty cool too.
It may not be for sub-zero temperatures – far from it (you’ll need thermals and/or outer layers for that) – but it works like a charm for the milder winter hikes out there.
#4 – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
Whenever I see something that claims to be a three-in-one offering, I’m a little wary – you never know how gimmicky that kinda thing is going to be. Thankfully, my worries don’t apply to the high-quality Patagonia Tres 3-in-1, a high performing contender for one of the best winter coats out there.
So what’s the 3-in-1 thing about? There are two elements to this winter jacket – the outer-layer waterproof parka, and the inner layer insulated jacket. You can use each by itself or put them together to form one super coat to rule them all.
The outer-layer parka is lightweight, waterproof and can be used alone as a spring jacket. It looks smart, that’s for sure, and does the job of keeping wind and rain at bay. Meanwhile, the inner layer is breathable and insulated, providing warmth by itself on chillier days.
The two jackets then join together via the front zipper and attach at the cuffs and neck with snapped loops. It’s a pretty easy transition. And if you’re not using either of the jackets, it’s fairly transportable, the inner ‘lining’ turning into a neat package that holds it all together.
Overall, the Patagonia Tres is a perfect – and pretty stylish – coat for a guy who wants a jacket for all seasons. It IS pricey, but if a smart, long-life winter coat is what you’re looking for, I couldn’t recommend this enough.
#5 – Best Winter Down Jacket for Extreme Cold
For the ultimate in warmth, this Patagonia offering is literally like wearing a sleeping bag that has been tailored exactly to your body. Well-made and super warm, this is definitely up there as probably the best jacket for extreme cold you could find right now.
Very windproof, and very insulated, I love the feeling of being in a cosy cocoon when I’m wearing the Patagonia Fitz Roy. The shell is light and comfortable, and that Patagonia-level manufacturing is evident everywhere, with a sturdy feeling, a chunky zipper, and other quality features. It’s durable and longlasting.
Basically, if you live somewhere that’s super cold, and regularly under -1 degrees celsius, this jacket is going to work really well as a casual, everyday jacket. It’s a must-have – seriously. It even wards off snow with its DWR finish!
Then again, it’s great for outdoor activities on mountains and in other sub-zero places. When you’re sitting around post-hike, there’s nothing worse than feeling that horrific chill. But this really holds your heat, so you’ll be snug when you’re resting after a gruelling uphill hike. Plus there’s room for a helmet under the hood, so it’s got those climbing credentials under wraps.
One of the only bad things about this coat is that you won’t be able to wear it if it’s mild – you’ll honestly wish that you could wear this jacket more!
More Top Winter Jackets for Men
This winter jacket for men is everything you need to keep you warm in cold weather. Ok, so even if you’re not going out on any Arctic or Alpine expeditions anytime soon, this coat works great if you live somewhere cold.
Strong freezing winds? No sweat. Temperatures of minus 40 degrees? That’s fine. The Feathered Friends Khumbu Down Parka is the sort of thing people buy when they’re heading off to do research in Antarctica, so you can be sure that the (high) price tag is well worth it.
This coat is also pretty rugged and outdoorsy overall, with things like reinforced elbows, cuffs, and lower sleeves, so your movements won’t be wearing it out anytime soon. There are also hand-warming pockets and draw-cords to protect against the weather.
One thing I can’t get over is how light this jacket is, yet how well it copes with wintry conditions.
With all those technical features, it is built for being out in the wilderness – not for style (though I think it’s pretty cool). Probably one of the best winter coats out there, but that cost will price a lot of people out of enjoying this coat for whatever sub-zero conditions they want to embark on.
It might not be the warmest jacket going, but this Arc’teryx jacket has got some good casual vibes, which is why I’ve included it on my list. Heading out grocery shopping, wearing it on the commute, or a stroll around a city park, this winter coat is a great all-rounder.
A good option for someone who wants to be warm but also look smart in an urban environment, you’ll be able to ward off the cold without looking like a lost Arctic explorer. It’s insulated all the way through with that goose down, so you can keep toasty. But in places where you can get sweaty (wrists, neck and underarms), there’s synthetic insulation, so it’s more breathable. Nice touch, I thought.
Definitely warm, but also definitely not for mountaineering, the Arc’teryx Therme Parka does still hold up in inclement weather, not only standing up to chilly conditions, but keeping you dry with its waterproof powers, too.
Speaking of rain, the hood also comes with a nice brim that helps keep any precipitation from wetting up your face. That hood is also helmet-compatible, so you can wear it on your daily cycle to work – even in the rain. A smart-looking everyday winter coat.
One of my favourite things about the REI Co-up Country Down Parka is the fact that it actually replicates the original 1972 parka that was declared “perfect for mountaineering,” which really makes this winter jacket feel legit. The nostalgic, retro design vibes are strong.
So, if you’re here for the design and the style, then I think (like me) you’re pretty much going to love the old-school look of this pretty awesome winter coat.
And it isn’t all style – there’s a LOT of substance going on here. It’s very warm and is like wearing a duvet, but a very cool duvet, obviously. It’s available in some pretty funky colours too – bold red and striking yellow.
With ample pockets and a nice, chunky zipper, the features are simple but well done. It seems bulky at first; however, upon putting this winter coat on, you’ll feel the snug, comfortable fit and appreciate the lack of bells and whistles that can make other, more modern hiking jackets feel overly technical.
Claiming to be “one of the warmest parkas in the world,” this is another serious offering from Seattle company Feathered Friends. It’s designed specifically with rugged activities at sub-zero locales in mind, so it’s a high-end, extreme weather jacket.
The price tag is high. But then again, this jacket will be for you if you are literally making polar expeditions or if you’ve got some money to burn. It’s highly specialised, and it DOES look cool, but the chances are that this jacket will be overkill if you are looking for something to simply match Drake’s activewear steez.
Even though you’ve got all that insulation packed in and durable materials, it doesn’t feel like you’re constricted when you’re wearing it. Sometimes, when you’ve got loads of layers on, there’s a distinct lack of mobility, but the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Down Parka is great for movement.
There’s a lot of hype out there for outdoor gear, but this is the real deal, people.
Last but not least for the best men’s winter jackets out there right now is the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Parka. Relatively affordable – compared to some of the other coats on this list, anyway – this parka does three great and very simple things: it’s light, it’s warm, it’s comfortable.
I’m into this one for how good it is for winter hikes. You’ll feel warm when you’re resting or putting up your tent for the night. Equally, this coat is not SO outdoorsy looking that you’re going to look crazy in a city – especially if you live in a cold city anyway.
Another great thing about this Mountain Hardwear coat is how it packs down to a small size. There’s also no noisy, stiff nylon fabric getting in the way of your mobility or interfering with how conveniently storable this jacket is when you’ve warmed up.
So, if you’re looking for an upgrade to your casual winter jacket, or something for your wintry sport, hiking, or dog-walking needs, there’s nothing stopping this coat being a terrific addition to your winter wardrobe.
Best Winter Jackets for Women
Like the men’s Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka, the women’s version is actually three jackets in one; how could that not be the best ladies’ winter coat out there right now?
For your money, you get the outer coat, the snug inner jacket, and the option to use them both at the same time for a super jacket.
Looking pretty cool, the parka can hold up in spring showers with just the outer jacket, or keep you warm on a chilly winter stroll. The great thing about it is although it’s “casual,” it’s not TOO casual, and the fit is nice.
Differing from the men’s jacket by being much longer in the body, this women’s winter coat is the sort of thing that you’ll end up wearing more than any other outerwear you’ve got in your wardrobe. Personally, I love how versatile these sorts of coats are, from the commute to a countryside hike.
Pair with some gloves and a hat and this Patagonia offering will serve you well even on freezing winter days.
Light and warm, this is the women’s version of the men’s REI Co-op jacket of the same name – and let me tell you; it’s just as good.
One of the best things about this ladies’ winter coat is how it’s a great “in-between” sort of jacket. Yes, it’s not for sub-zero temperatures, but it’s perfect for autumn and spring days that aren’t freezing, but that definitely aren’t warm either – a seasonal buffer, you could say.
I like the big pockets on this one; one of them even acts as a pocket for the whole jacket, with the ability to pack it all down into itself and make it very portable indeed. If you’re going for a little backpacking trip in the mountains, it’s something to keep you warm along the way.
Not as bulky as other winter coats out there, there’s plenty of movement in the REI Co-op 650 Down Parka, 2.0 so you won’t feel burdened down with a big, heavyweight.
One big plus point that I’m into is the hood. It sits just right, doesn’t come out too far, but the other bonus is that the hood is big enough to accommodate a bun or a ponytail – because who wants to go hiking with their hair down?
#3 – Best Winter Hiking Jacket for Women
If you love hiking and the winter weather is upon you, this could be the jacket for you. Not only has the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie got a ton of features you’d expect of a big-name brand – windproof, water-resistant, all that jazz – but beyond the utility, it LOOKS great.
The silhouette is nicely fitted, with a slight cinch in the midsection, making the comfort factor pretty much perfect. You’ll feel very snug wearing this.
The versatility factor is also something I’d like to shout about: it’s great for NYC, it’s great for a hike.
But what makes such a great winter hiking jacket is its lightness, its ability to pack up into a small size, and (obviously) it’s warmth. There’s no feather-shedding going on here either, which is good.
Another good thing is that it’s easy to layer without looking like you’re turning into the Michelin Man. It’s not exactly for the coldest conditions you could imagine, but throw a few layers underneath, and you’ll be as toasty as you want.
Basically, if you’ve been spending money on cheaper, heavier coats than this one and want something quality that will last… well, here it is! Highly recommended.
#4 – Best Winter Parka for Everyday Use
The Arc’teryx Seyla Down Coat is all about that casual vibe. It’s pretty much the perfect option that will see you from the coffee shop to a forest walk in the blink of an eye – and no need to change up your outfit. It’s great for basically all everyday settings.
One of the best things about this is the long body. This keeps your legs and lower body nice and cosy – you won’t get any of that horrible chill factor that you can experience with shorter-cut ladies’ winter jackets.
The colours are cool (nice and earthy), and there are no fancy features that make this jacket too expedition-oriented for everyday wear, but it will see you through chilly winter days.
Unless you count the cosy pockets as fancy features; there’s nothing quite like keeping your hands extra warm in your pockets when it’s frosty out.
Moreover, it looks the part! Throw on some jeans and don a bobble hat for a cute winter look that is good for everything from the biggest urban sprawl to the quietest country lanes. I love it.
More Top Winter Jackets for Women
A super cute offering that is as comfortable as it looks, the Burton Evergreen Long Down Jacket is a great winter coat. It comes in a sorta martini olive colour – complete with red accents on the cuffs and a blue back panel – and effortlessly treads the line between practical and fashionable.
But let’s get down to the details.
There are double-level pockets, so you can put stuff in the lower pockets while keeping your hands warm in the upper pockets. If any winter coat has this feature, I’m already a fan; it basically tells you that the company has really thought about how people actually use the coat and its features.
I’m loving the chunky zippers; they’re smooth and functional, but look great, too.
The thigh-length cut of this one is good, too, which means you’ll be warm from top to bottom (no chills). It’s not one that you’re gonna be heading out into freezing conditions with, but the lightweight nature of it lends its to layering. So if you want to get your snowsports on, you totally can (just wear thermals!).
One last thing I like about this are the secure elasticated cuffs, hood, and bottom hem – keeps cold breezes at bay.
It’s the Women’s REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket again – but this time, it’s a shorter cropped version for added mobility and packability.
A great jacket for its portability (it really packs down small), it’s also a good one to have in your wardrobe for all your hiking needs. Especially if you’re on a budget, because this is probably the cheapest jacket out of every other one on this list. I’m talking a sub-$100 price tag here.
This winter coat fits well, but there’s also enough room to layer it up with a thick sweater underneath; it’s a great option if you’re heading out early for a hike or morning run and you need something to keep the chill off. Once it gets warmer, simply shed the jacket – easy!
There are some large outer pockets, which is always a good thing (can’t have too many pockets). When it comes down to the performance factor, it’s nice and breathable, so you can go out hiking in it without getting too sticky and sweaty.
Functional and stylish, the fit is great and it performs pretty well – especially for the price. I’m a fan.
An awesome jacket that’s super light, super warm, and purpose-built for heading out into the mountains, this offering from Rab is another great choice for a ladies winter jacket – even more so if you are looking for an active jacket.
The hood does an excellent job of keeping the chill out, with a moulded peak and firm visor that doesn’t lose its shape – you know, so you can actually see what’s going on when it’s up.
This is a great option if you don’t want to wear lots of layers when you’re hiking in chilly places, since it keeps you toasty. It’s also breathable, which ensures that you won’t get super sweaty on your adventures.
It’s basically well made for the great outdoors, with some great mobility to the sleeves and body. It also doesn’t look like an expeditionary winter jacket, so it won’t look out of place if you’re just taking the dog for a walk around the park.
With that in mind, it’s a good option if you don’t want to go for that long trenchcoat-like style of jacket, but still want something that covers your hips and behind from the elements.
Totally an investment piece, this Feathered Friends option may not be the cheapest on my list, but style fiends and cold weather adventurers alike will definitely be eyeing this one up.
Coming in a veritable rainbow of colour-popping shades – from black to orchid purple and even a “grass” colour – yes, it may not be cheap, but I am still very much into this.
Feathered Friends is a brand very well known for its high-spec cold-weather clothing. Wearing the Helios Hooded Down Jacket will make you feel very warm even in freezing temperatures.
Other good plus points, apart from the way it looks, functionality-wise, it’s lightweight enough that you can take it out on a winter backpacking expedition without adding too much bulk to your gear. Then again, it’s warm enough that you can sit around doing nothing still warm even when it’s super cold.
Another good point is the simplicity. Even though it’s high-quality, there are no crazy bells and whistles, therefore keeping the weight low.
To sum it up, this jacket will make you welcome the cold. Just looking at it makes me want to head for the snow!
Different to other jackets on this list in that it’s not packed with down, Fjallraven have gone for a more “classic” winter parka, opting to create a sustainable offering with Swedish wool padding and recycled wool in the lining of the Singi Wool Padded Insulated Parka.
There’s even cornstarch bio-plastic in the insulation, which makes up the other 12% of the fill. The eco-friendly credentials are strong in this one!
The insulation will still keep you warm in chilly temperatures; it’s wind and water-resistant, and pretty tough and durable. I would say that this is a good choice if you want a winter coat for hitting the city streets or strolling along your favourite easy park trail.
If you’re a Fjallraven fan, then you’ll love the style. The look is classic; the Fjallraven branding is on the hood toggles and poppers, and the muted colour choices are very cool. The fit cinches in at the waist, too, creating a flattering silhouette and skimming over the hips (but not too long that it’s a trenchcoat) for extra coverage.
It’s the sort of winter coat that you can keep in your closet for AGES. You can even re-treat it with wax to make sure it keeps water at bay over the years.
Buyers Guide – How to Choose the Best Winter Jacket for You
Those were my choices for the very best winter jackets that you can find right now. I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy to decide – there are so many fabulous winter coats that you can choose from. To help you figure out how you should be searching for the winter coat that will suit you best, I’ve put together this handy guide, filled with all the pro tips you’ll need.
1. Casual vs Performance
The difference between a casual winter coat and one that’s made for performance is a bigger deal than you think.
It may be stating the obvious, but a casual coat is for everyday use – usually, something that’s going to keep you warm and dry in winter on your way to work, shopping, taking the dog for a walk or going for a leisurely hike.
On the other hand, performance winter jackets are built with specific activities in mind, from mountaineering to multi-day hiking.
To take two examples from my list of top winter coats, the Fjallraven Singi Wool Padded Insulated Parka is casual. It looks the part, it’s warm enough, but it may be unwieldy (or unworthy) for totally freezing temperatures or adverse weather conditions.
For that sort of thing, you’ll want something for performance. To go to the other end of the scale, something like the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Down Parka, which is Antarctic expedition-level quality, is high performing.
Very loosely, casual equals more affordable, less technical, practical or durable; performance equals more expensive, more specialised and insulating.
Then again, there are instances where a casual coat can cost a ton of money, while a performance winter jacket may be an affordable option.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a winter jacket for hiking, then you should opt for something that suits that activity. But if, say, you are looking for a men’s winter coat that you want for everyday use, there’s no need getting something that’s been crafted with mountains in mind!
2. Insulation Types
Getting to know the ins and outs of insulation will make a big difference to what winter jacket you end up buying.
Basically, insulation is a major factor in how a coat will keep you warm, how it will protect you from the wet, and how it will stop heat from escaping – as well as how well ventilated it is, to keep you from getting sweaty.
Down is a high-end insulator that is almost guaranteed to keep you warm.
If you don’t know, down refers to the fluffy feathers that are taken from (usually) ducks and geese. They are super lightweight but very, very warm.
Sounds good so far, but there’s much more to it than just choosing a down winter jacket and going with it. For one thing, there’s fill power to consider – but there’s more on that later (see “Warmth” section).
One thing to consider is that a lot of the time, down jackets aren’t waterproof, giving you warmth but not rating high on water-resistance. You can get water-resistant down, however, which means the down has been treated with a polymer that increases the water-resistant abilities of the feathers.
The problem about water-resistant down is that it’s pretty pricey and is actually not as good at protecting against the wet as synthetic insulation is.
Synthetic insulation is made up of a whole range of fabrics and materials, sometimes branded by the companies that come up with them. There’s a lot of development in this area, with new products coming out all the time, so it can be pretty hard to keep up with the trends. At least with down, you know it’s always down.
The main reason people would opt for synthetic insulation in their winter coat? It’s usually cheaper than a down coat; it also dries faster, but sometimes the weight and packability decrease as a result.
You can also get combination down and synthetic, so you get the best of both worlds. It’s cleverly done sometimes, too, with synthetic being used around seams and other places where the coat might leak rainwater in.
Then there’s wool. Often, this is mixed with a synthetic material to create the insulation of a winter jacket. Wool is heavier, less quick-drying, but obviously very warm.
As with anything, the type of insulation you go for will depend on what you’ll be using your shiny new winter coat for.
3. Temperature Rating
On some winter jackets, you may notice a “temperature rating.” This essentially puts into numbers how warm a jacket is.
This may sound legit, but a temperature rating is actually something that can only test the base level “warmth” of a jacket in dry air that is not moving. It is likely, however, that you’ll be taking your winter jacket to places where the air is not dry, and where the air is most definitely moving!
While a temperature rating will certainly indicate at least a level of warmth, and while it is easy to fall back on one number, you will have to look at more aspects of a winter jacket before deciding whether it is for you.
Basically, a temperature rating does not take into account changeable aspects of wearing a winter jacket – snow and/or rain, wind speed, your own metabolism, how humid the air is, what layers you may be wearing underneath it, and how strenuous your activity is.
Long story short? Take any so-called temperature rating you see with a grain of salt. Instead, look at its breathability and fill power, amongst other things (see below “Warmth” section).
Not all jackets are meant to be worn as they are. In fact, some of the best winter coats out there are designed to be part of a layering system that is often employed in outfits for outdoor activities.
Obviously, this is going to be different depending on exactly what sort of activity you’ll be doing. Most hikers (me included), for example, swear by layers. A base layer that wicks sweat, a middle layer that’ll keep you insulated, then the outer shell that’ll do all that protecting from the wind, rain, and the icy air.
So, you should think about your winter jacket in terms of how it fits into your layering scheme. For example, a down jacket is easily packable, can be removed and stashed in a daypack when your exertion levels are keeping you too warm – or you can bring it along just in case things get colder later in the day.
In this case, you will want to choose your winter jacket based on how things can be layered underneath it. Some of the coats on my list can actually be used as a middle, insulating layer, while some of them won’t allow for much layering below it.
This is all-important to bear in mind, especially when it comes to sizing. If you are a fan of layering, opting for a larger size than you may usually take might be a good idea.
You may be thinking about how you can keep warm and dry in winter, and you may think the heavier the coat, the warmer – but that’s so far from the truth. In fact, especially if you are transporting your coat in a pack on a multi-day trip, then you’ll really much prefer something light.
And let’s face it; nobody wants to be laden down with something that’s heavier than it should be.
In terms of winter jackets, you can find everything from ultra-lightweight to heavy expedition weight stuff, as well as everything in between.
For me, weight is less wearing the jacket, and more about “what weight does it add to my pack?” Alongside this question is the consideration of how easily it can be packed down and stashed in a backpack without intruding upon all my other gear.
Packability is definitely a good sign, for me at least.
Down is the way to go if you want something lightweight and packable. It’s feathers, after all, so it barely weighs anything.
One thing to consider when you’re buying a winter jacket is that sometimes the weight of the coat will be divided into two: a packed weight, and a fill weight. The latter refers to what the down itself weighs, while the “packed” refers to the jacket as a whole.
Duh, warmth is a HUGE part of a winter coat! That’s the whole reason you’re reading this article, right?
Nobody wants to be sat resting on a hike completely freezing, or totally NOT enjoying a hike because their coat just isn’t protecting them from the elements.
If you’re like me and get cold pretty easily but really enjoy getting out into nature (no matter what time of year), then you’ll want to take the edge off with a coat that really does the trick at keeping you warm.
The funny thing is, warmth can be pretty hard to determine, as everybody is different. It’s often a personal rather than an objective preference.
However, if you have been looking at all the down coats out there and you’re interested, then let me tell you; I recommend a down coat, for sure.
But if you’re wondering what the heck is fill power? Don’t worry; I’m about to tell you.
Fill power basically refers to the amount of air that a certain weight of the down “fill” can trap in order to keep you warm more effectively. In essence, it’s thermal efficiency. Usually ranging from 300 to 900, a fill power of 600 is good quality, while anything above 800 is very VERY good at keeping you warm.
However, the higher a fill power, the less a jacket will compress – making it less transportable – but it will also be more effective at retaining that heat, therefore keeping you warm.
6. Water-Resistant vs Waterproof
Not just about keeping you dry in a downpour, protecting you from the rain is an essential aspect of, at the end of the day, keeping warm.
Basically, how well a coat will do that depends on its outer shell material. But the question is; is it water-resistant… or waterPROOF?
To tell you the truth, down coats aren’t USUALLY waterproof. Water-resistance is usually the only thing they offer against the rain. As I mentioned earlier, down can be made water-resistant with some treatment, but it’s more expensive than regular down, and it’s still not as good at protecting against the elements as a waterproof fabric.
In order to make any winter coat waterproof, the jacket itself needs to be sealed. To take one example, the Fjallraven winter jacket on this list can be treated by you using wax to seal all the seams, thus adding to the longevity of the coat.
Another excellent example of waterproofing in one of the winter jackets on my list is the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka. While the inner “lining” is an insulating down jacket, the outer layer is a water-repelling shell that really adds value. It’s three coats in one, after all!
Some down jackets, like the ones from Feathered Friends, offer higher resistance, but left to the elements long enough, and water will in all likelihood get through. And down jackets take a LONG time to dry out!
7. Wind Protection
The wind is such a significant factor in how warm you’re going to be. It’s easily overlooked, especially if you’re wearing a winter coat that makes you feel warm. But if a wind starts blowing and it easily cuts through the coat, then you’re going to get very cold very quickly.
The solution is to look for a winter jacket that has wind-resistant credentials.
Not only will the materials and fabrics used play a part in how well your winter jacket protects you from the wind, but it will also be the basic design of the jacket that will supplement its wind resistance.
For example, a longer jacket will mean you feel less wind on your lower body, but there are also things like elastic cuffs, necks, and hems that help keep the cold air and wind at bay. Adjustable toggles, which may be found on the hood, cuffs and even cinching in the waist, can all add to how well it blocks out that breeze.
Some winter jackets may have front or back panels as an extra buffer against the power of the wind, too. Others may be designed specifically just to keep the wind off, like a protective shell, rather than be a full-on insulating jacket.
The outer layer of the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka is a good example; in fact, some of the down jackets on this list could be augmented with a windproof outer shell such as this.
You could easily see a hood as an afterthought on a coat – you know, just stick it on the top there for a bit of protection if it rains. But actually, there is the potential for a hood to be a much more complex, much more practical, part of a winter coat.
A hood can be insulated, which is the sort of thing you will find on more high-spec winter jackets (i.e. anything from Feathered Friends). This is the sort of thing that you will be VERY thankful for in a blizzard, or in a freezing situation with an ice-cold wind blowing a gale. It will feel like being wrapped up in a sleeping bag!
On the other hand, if you don’t need a thickly insulated hood, and do only need something for precipitation, then something thinner will do. You may want to consider other things about the hood; how structured it is, for example, and whether or not it has a brim to keep the rain out of your face.
Hoods also have an adjustability factor, with toggles and elastic featuring to help make them more effective at staving off the cold, the wind, and the rain.
Other hoods may have faux fur around the rims, more for style and cosiness than actual practicalities. You may also want to factor in a removable hood, which you can take on and off as you wish.
Although it is overlooked, hoods are a personal choice when it comes to testing out jackets. Some people find them too big, too small, or getting in the way of vision, while other people (myself included, I gotta admit) think about hair or wearing headgear. If you’re mountaineering, climbing, or cycling, whether you can wear a helmet under your hood will definitely be a deciding factor!
Final Thoughts on the Best Winter Jackets
So, there you have it. I’m not going to lie – choosing a winter coat is not a choice you should take lightly. It’s not an easy decision to make when there are a lot of factors in play – and, usually, a lot of money riding on your decision!
There are winter jackets for basically every occasion, running the gamut from everyday jackets for commuting when it’s cold out to coats fit for an Antarctic expedition, and everything in between. Taking your budget, your hobbies, and your style in mind, you should now be much better equipped to find a jacket that fits.
The only way to truly get a feel for the best winter jacket for you is to literally try one on. There is no better way to see how comfortable and warm you are going to be unless you physically don a coat and see if it suits you and how it feels.
Overall, my first choice has to be The North Face McMurdo Insulated Parka III. Its North Face, it’s classic, and it does the trick at keeping the cold out – and it’s versatile enough for a bunch of different uses. Some people may prefer the retro vibes of the REI Co-op High Country Down Parka, however, which I also rate pretty highly.
At the end of the day, though, you’ll need to go with what suits you. A winter jacket is a real investment, so choose wisely!
What are you already rocking? If you’ve got something on my list, or if you’ve got something I’ve totally slept on, let me know in the comments!
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Need More Inspiration?
- Best Down Jackets review
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Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.