When the coldest winter months arrive, it’s time for a serious jacket. Our picks for the best winter jackets and parkas below are among the warmest on the market—they are packed with down fill (or synthetic on occasion) and built to stand up to freezing temperatures and howling winds. They run the gamut from casual pieces designed for around-town use to performance options built for the backcountry. Some toe the line nicely and are fully capable of handling double duty. For more background information, see our winter jacket comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Fill: 550-fill-power down
Weight: 3 lbs. 4.6 oz.
What we like: Warm, waterproof, and reasonably priced.
What we don’t: Heavier and less packable than a more performance-oriented jacket.
You certainly can spend a lot more for a winter jacket, but we love the combination of quality and value offered by the McMurdo Parka from The North Face. This parka covers all of the important bases: it’s warm, waterproof, blocks the wind, and is decently breathable for use in milder temperatures. In addition, we appreciate the upper-thigh-length cut, which offers good coverage while still allowing for plenty of mobility. And at $349, the McMurdo will set you back considerably less than many of the more expensive parka options below.
What are the shortcomings of The North Face McMurdo Parka? It has a decidedly casual look and feel, meaning that it isn’t designed for the backcountry. In addition, you won’t get the same warmth for the weight or compressibility as some of the pricier jackets on the list that use thinner shells and 800-fill down or higher. But these shouldn’t be huge issues for around-town use, which is exactly why many people buy the McMurdo. And the cherry on top: we really like the looks of the jacket (thankfully the faux fur along the hood is removable as that could have been a deal breaker). In terms of fit, we have worn the latest version, and it’s a serious winter jacket with room for layering but didn’t feel overly boxy. On the women's side, the Arctic Parka doesn't share the name but has many similarities including full waterproofing, 550-fill down, and a removable hood.
See the Men's The North Face McMurdo See the Women's The North Face Arctic
Best Value in a Winter Jacket
Fill: 850-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
What we like: Premium down and a nice feature set at a low price point.
What we don’t: Not everyone will like the mix of technical and casual features.
REI has been stepping up its game of late with more premium down offerings—we’ve loved the Magma sleeping bag and down jacket—and next in line is the Stormhenge. As the name insinuates, you get premium 850-fill goose down along with a 2-layer waterproof shell. Impressively, the jacket boasts a number of technical features like pit zips for dumping heat and a 2-way zipper up front. Add in a comfortable and adjustable hood, and this is a standout winter jacket from REI at a very reasonable price.
In terms of categorizing the Stormhenge and who it’s best for, that’s a bit tougher. It has many similarities to a belay jacket or ski shell including the waterproofness and technical features, but the streamlined look and classy colorways could work just fine in the city too. And one thing worth noting: we are never able to track down the fill weights of REI jackets (they’re not listed on the website and we’ve been unsuccessful via phone and email). In use, we’ve found the jacket to be warm enough to be comfortable into the low 20s Fahrenheit with only a light baselayer. That’s pretty impressive considering the price, but it falls short of many of the high-end options on this list like the Rab Neutrino Pro. One final note: stock is limited at the time of publishing, but REI will be releasing an update to the Stormhenge for the fall... Read in-depth review
See the Men's REI Stormhenge 850 See the Women's REI Stormhenge 850
Best Winter Jacket for Performance Use
Fill: 8 oz. of 800-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lb. 5.3 oz.
What we like: Tons of premium down at a reasonable price.
What we don’t: Somewhat technical look and feature set.
The North Face McMurdo above trends toward everyday use, but there are a number of more performance-oriented winter jackets to choose from. Taking warmth, backcountry-ready features, and value into consideration, our favorite option for 2021 is the Rab Neutrino Pro. Most importantly, you get a whopping 8 ounces of 800-fill hydrophobic down, which is considerably more than popular lightweight down jackets from brands like Arc’teryx and Patagonia that cost nearly as much. Updated for last winter, the Rab also sports a new Pertex Quantum Pro shell but retains just about everything that has made this line so popular.
What are the downsides of the Neutrino Pro? It has a somewhat technical look, although the clean design and dark color options make it viable for city use as well. Second, the 20-denier shell fabric is respectable in the performance category and helps with weight and packability, but the jacket is more fragile than the more casual options on this list (as with any down jacket, you’ll have to be careful about snags and tears). Finally, Rab is a U.K.-based company and Americans will have to get used to the European-style left-hand zipper. But we love the warmth, feature set, and reasonable price point, which is why the Neutrino Pro is ranked here... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Rab Neutrino Pro See the Women's Rab Neutrino Pro
Best Winter Parka for Casual Wear
Fill: 4.2 oz. of 700-fill-power down
Weight: 2 lbs. 14.1 oz.
What we like: Clean styling, excellent weather resistance and coverage, and nice versatility.
What we don’t: Pricey for a casual piece.
Finding a winter jacket that is both warm and looks the part for everyday use can be a challenge, but Patagonia toes the line nicely with the Tres 3-in-1 Parka. This jacket is well-insulated, comfortable, fully waterproof, and has clean lines that work well in a variety of situations. Additionally, the versatile 3-in-1 construction gives you the option to wear just the waterproof shell on rainy days or zip in the down inner layer when the mercury drops. It’s true that the Tres doesn’t offer the range of movement of more performance-oriented jackets, but it’s a great option for around-town use and cold spells in places like the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.
Comparing the Tres 3-in-1 to other casual models on this list, the 700-fill-power down is higher-quality than the 550-fill used in The North Face McMurdo, our top choice. And importantly, the parka-length cut offers more warmth and coverage than just about anything outside of Canada Goose. On the flip side, the jacket is expensive (it is Patagonia, after all), and parkas always can be a bit tough to dial in fit. But we love the design and full waterproofing, which Patagonia doesn’t offer with its Jackson Glacier Parka. And for maximum warmth, see the Patagonia Frozen Range below.
See the Men's Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 See the Women's Patagonia Tres 3-in-1
Best Expedition Jacket for Extreme Cold
Fill: 13.3 oz. of 900-fill-power down
Weight: 2 lbs. 1.8 oz.
What we like: Super warm: the most down fill on this list.
What we don’t: The mountaineering look isn’t for everyone.
Seattle-based Feathered Friends is a small company that specializes in premium down products, and they manufacture most everything in the Unites States. We love their lightweight Eos for cool weather, but the heavyweight Khumbu Parka is about as warm as it gets. Most importantly, it’s absolutely jammed with high-quality down: 13.3 ounces of 900-fill goose down to be exact. And you also get thoughtful touches like PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation around the collar, reinforced elbows, and a handy two-way zipper.
The reason the Khumbu Parka is ranked here and not higher is its limited appeal for daily use. It’s true that you can wear this jacket on the streets of Chicago or Boston in the depths of winter, but it’s most at home on big-mountain summits and for uses like high-altitude mountaineering. At the end of the day, more casual options like the Mountain Equipment Lightline and Patagonia Fitz Roy below have a cleaner look and wider appeal, but the Khumbu Parka clearly wins on warmth and down fill.
See the Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka
Best of the Rest
Fill: 9.5 oz. of 700-fill down
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
What we like: Sleek styling and the warmest parka in Patagonia’s winter lineup.
What we don’t: Not ideal for mild days.
The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 above is a very nice casual piece with solid versatility, but you’ll likely have to layer underneath on the coldest winter days. Enter the Frozen Range, which is the warmest parka is Patagonia’s lineup and manages to look good to boot. In addition to being stuffed with a generous amount of premium 700-fill down, the jacket is waterproof with a Gore-Tex shell, offers thigh-length coverage for extra coziness (only the shell of the Tres-in-1 goes down to the thigh), and has a superb hood design that protects your entire head and face while leaving an opening for visibility (this is ideal for super cold and windy places like Chicago and Boston). And we love the buttons on the front, which help the Frozen Range look downright stylish.
It’s worth noting that Patagonia now makes the Frozen Range in a 3-in-1 version. In this case, where warmth is the priority, we prefer the regular parka for a number of reasons. To start, the insulation on the Frozen Range 3-in-1 only goes down to the waist (the shell goes down to the thigh), which makes it less warm overall. Second, all of the extra zippers and attachment points add weight to the jacket, and it comes in a hefty 3 pounds 9 ounces. Last but not least, the 3-in-1 costs $100 more at $799 total. Both are nice options depending on your priorities, but we prefer to save with the warmer and lighter version included here.
See the Men's Patagonia Frozen Range See the Women's Frozen Range Jacket
Fill: 10.4 oz. of 700-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lb. 10.1 oz.
What we like: Warm, looks great, and reasonably priced.
What we don’t: Comes up a little short of the Rab above for serious backcountry use.
If you’re in the market for a super warm down puffy that won’t break the bank, give the Lightline from Mountain Equipment a serious look. This jacket is stuffed with an impressive 10.4 ounces of 700-fill down, and offers excellent protection from the elements with a windproof and water-resistant Drilite shell. In addition, we really like the Lightline’s clean look, sturdy exterior, and multitude of available colorways—it’s a nice option for everything from technical use to everyday wear in cold climates. Last but not least, it’s one heckuva value at $300. Many winter jackets with a fraction of the down cost quite a bit more.
Why is this jacket priced so competitively? U.K.-based Mountain Equipment isn’t all that well-known in the U.S., and the company doesn’t spend a ton on athletes or advertising campaigns. And as often is the case with outdoor gear that wins out in price, the Lightline’s material quality (including the mid-range 700-fill down) is lower than competitors like the Rab Neutrino Pro above. The Mountain Equipment delivers similar warmth and all-around performance but weighs nearly 5 ounces extra and doesn't compress as small. But in terms of value, you’ll have a hard time finding more insulation and comfort for your buck... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Mountain Equipment Lightline See the Women's ME Lightline
Fill: 700-fill-power down
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
What we like: Warm and stylish.
What we don’t: Slim fit, particularly around the collar.
Like The North Face's McMurdo above, Marmot's Fordham is another reasonably priced winter jacket designed mostly for casual use. We think it’s a nice all-around option: the Fordham uses a healthy amount of 700-fill down (higher-quality than the McMurdo), has a tough 2-layer waterproof shell, and features a removable hood for when you don’t need the extra protection. We also like the Fordham's functional, urban look with durable fabrics and plenty of pockets.
Why isn’t the Fordham ranked higher on our list? The fit is a bit snug for a cold-weather layering piece, and particularly in the collar area when trying to add extra warmth like a scarf. It also feels bulkier and puffier than the McMurdo above, especially around the shoulders and arms. But the upside is we found it to offer a step up in warmth on truly frigid days (although its shorter cut can't match the McMurdo's coverage). Overall, the Fordham is a very viable competitor to the casual options on this list with its combination of comfort, durability, and price... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Marmot Fordham
Fill: 625-fill-power down
Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
What we like: Super warm and stylish.
What we don’t: Very expensive.
At the high end of the winter jacket spectrum is Toronto-based Canada Goose. These jackets are the real deal: they’re extremely warm, well-built, and downright fashionable for those that want a sleek look. Our top pick from Canada Goose is the Langford Parka, which hits a nice sweet spot between Arctic and urban use. With 625-fill duck down (it’s ironic that the company uses mostly duck down and not goose) and a thick and durable Arctic Tech shell, they claim that the Langford can be worn down to a freezing -15°F. This is the company’s second-warmest tier of jacket with the famous Expedition Parka viable down to -25°F.
Aside from the awesome warmth, craftsmanship, and looks, our biggest issue with Canada Goose is price. The Langford is a staggering $1,050 (the Antarctic-ready Expedition Parka is a whopping $1,295), but Canada Goose doesn’t use premium down like Arc’teryx or other high-end brands. In fact, the Langford is only a small step up from the $349 The North Face McMurdo in down quality, although it has more fill and is noticeably warmer. But if you run cold, need the extra insulation, or appreciate the styling, Canada Goose has a valuable corner of the market.
See the Men's Canada Goose Langford See the Women's Canada Goose Trillium
Fill: 9.4 oz. of 800-fill-power down
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: Super warm and great coverage.
What we don’t: Design can be a bit polarizing.
If you’re looking for a winter parka that is a little more fashionable than some of the options above, the Kuhl Arktik fits the bill. Most importantly, this jacket is super warm with 9.4 ounces of 800-fill down and has a burly shell that will help cut the wind. For protection from snow and rain, the jacket has wax and polyurethane coatings that will help moisture bead off. And this parka offers great coverage: it has a long cut and warm, substantial hood with a faux-fur brim that can be removed.
To be sure, the design of the Kuhl Arktik Down Parka can be polarizing. The zippers, buttons, and shoulder panels are meant to stand out, and particularly in the Raven colorway (the Carbon is a bit more muted). In addition, the materials are decent but not high-end—the leather too is of the “faux” variety and that can make a difference in terms of durability and looks over time. But if you’ve worn Kuhl products in the past and liked them, the Arktik Down Parka is a nice cold-weather option.
See the Men's Kuhl Arktik Down See the Women's Kuhl Arktik Down
Fill: 5.6 oz. of 800-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
What we like: Super cozy and versatile; clean design.
What we don’t: Jackets like the Rab Neutrino Pro above offer more down for less money.
Down jackets are known for being cozy, but Patagonia’s Fitz Roy is a standout in this regard. In particular, its super plush lining and body-hugging design give it a down sleeping bag-like fit and feel. And the Fitz Roy doesn’t disappoint in terms of warmth: despite cutting the total amount of fill in this year’s update (the old Parka version had 8 ounces of the same 800-fill down), this jacket is warm, versatile, and has a high collar for battening down the hatches. Throw in a helmet-compatible hood, and it can be used as a backcountry piece or around town.
Our biggest knock against the revamped Fitz Roy is price. At around $400, you get significantly less down than a jacket like the Rab Neutrino Pro above for $25 more. That said, it’s hard to beat Patagonia build quality and finish, and this jacket has tremendous crossover appeal and is one of the coziest options around. In addition, we tend to appreciate the Fitz Roy’s level of warmth, which won’t suffice for the coldest winter conditions without layers underneath, but is more versatile than other jackets on this list for use in milder winter weather and the shoulder seasons... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Patagonia Fitz Roy See the Women's Patagonia Fitz Roy
Fill: 2.4 oz. of 750-fill-power down; 60g and 100g synthetic
Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: A waterproof and warm jacket that doubles down for resort skiing.
What we don’t: Pricey and not as long as more casual parkas.
The Arc’teryx Macai is a unique addition here—it’s designed as a resort ski jacket, but arguably is just as functional (if not more so) for daily wear. To start, it’s waterproof and very warm with a combination of 750-fill down and synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas. We love the sleek look, and Arc’teryx even opted for features like flaps over the pocket zippers to keep it clean. Last but not least, the interior is smooth and cozy and reminiscent of a high-end down puffy. You certainly can ski with the Macai and many people do, but the hood and powder skirt are removable and it makes for a great dual-purpose jacket.
Compared to the more casual winter parkas on the list, there are some shortcomings with the Macai. First, the cut is shorter and offers less coverage than a model like Arc’teryx's own Therme below, which also happens to be considerable cheaper at $699. Second, the Macai is fairly burly and has a fortress-like feel, which is great for those who run cold but can be overkill for moderate winter conditions (we have had a tendency to overheat while skiing hard). That said, we love the versatility of the Macai, and its two-for-one nature makes the cost easier to swallow. If you’re in the market for a premium winter/ski jacket, it’s a great option... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Arc'teryx Macai See the Women's Arc'teryx Andessa
Fill: 8.8 ounces of 800-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lb. 13.1 oz.
What we like: Solid warmth and versatility at a good price.
What we don’t: Too heavy for serious backcountry use.
Outdoor Research is known for making quality gear at lower prices than competitors like Patagonia and Arc’teryx, and the Super Alpine Down Parka is another example. Released last fall, this jacket is one of the more versatile models on this list. The parka-length cut and cozy 800-fill-power down offer a healthy dose of warmth for everyday use, while the helmet-compatible hood and water-resistant Pertex Quantum Pro shell add some performance chops as well. All told, the jacket toes the line nicely between cold-weather casual wear and activities like winter camping and ice climbing.
It’s worth noting that the Outdoor Research Super Alpine is the same price as the Patagonia Fitz Roy above but has considerably more down (both use 800-fill-power). That said, the overall heft of the OR at nearly 2 pounds makes it much less desirable for long backcountry missions where weight and space at a premium. Even the Rab Neutrino Pro above, for example, offers very similar warmth at a lower weight and price, but we do appreciate the extra leg coverage on the Super Alpine. In the end, the jacket has a bit less technical prowess than the high-end competition, but it’s a very functional cold-weather piece and a nice value.
See the Men's OR Super Alpine See the Women's OR Super Alpine
Fill: 10.4 oz. of 600-fill-power down
Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
What we like: A good-looking and well-built jacket.
What we don’t: Low fill power for the price.
Similar to Canada Goose, Fjallraven makes good-looking outdoor gear that toes the line between casual and performance (at least casual levels of performance). The Singi Down Jacket is a durable piece that offers solid warmth with its 600-fill down, tons of storage, and clean lines representative of the company’s Scandinavian heritage. Like much of Fjallraven’s gear, the Singi Jacket has a G-1000 shell, which is 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton. G-1000 is an outlier these days but super durable and does resist moisture surprisingly well (you can add beeswax to aid in the process).
If you like Fjallraven’s styling (we do), the Singi Jacket is a fine option. We do have concerns about its warmth: the 600-fill down is middle-of-the-road, although the jacket does have a lot of it along with the burly shell covered above. And for $600, we think a number of our casual options above are better buys, including the Kuhl Arktik. Keep in mind that this coat runs large and should allow plenty of room for layering, which can be a good thing but does impact sizing. And for an interesting synthetic option from Fjallraven, the Yupik has a similar design but uses Supreme Microloft fill and is $100 cheaper.
See the Men's Fjallraven Singi See the Women's Fjallraven Singi
Fill: 3.7 oz. 750-fill down with Coreloft
Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
What we like: A truly waterproof winter parka.
What we don’t: Pricey and fit can be a bit roomy.
Most Arc’teryx jackets are technical in nature, but the Therme Parka is decidedly urban, which is a nice change of pace. The biggest upside of this jacket is that it has a high-end Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and fully taped seams—many jackets in this category use lower-quality, in-house designs that aren’t as breathable or long-lasting. Add in 750-fill goose down around the core with quality synthetic insulation in other high-use areas, and you have yourself a mighty warm parka that is perfect for winter in places prone to wet snow, like the Northwest and Northeast of the United States.
As we’ve come to expect from Arc’teryx, the build quality and look of the Therme Parka are top-notch. The majority of complaints relate to sizing: unlike the company’s normal athletic fit, the Therme is noticeable roomier, and some people find the hood to be a bit large as well. These issues aside, it’s hard to argue with the warmth, weather protection, and styling, which makes the Therme a popular urban parka year after year. And for a women's-specific model with a very similar overall design, see Arc'teryx's Patera Parka.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Therme Parka See the Women's Patera Parka
Fill: Thermarator synthetic insulation
What we like: A versatile winter/ski jacket for less than $200.
What we don’t: Limited warmth.
Columbia often manages to offer some nice values in the world of outdoor gear, and in terms of winter jackets, the popular Whiribird IV is worth a look. We’ll start with what we like most, which is the price at $199. In practice, the Whirlirbid is billed as a ski/snowboard jacket and it certainly fits that bill, but we like the casual looks and multitude of available colorways, so it wears well around the city too. The 3-in-1 functionality means you get a separated insulated jacket on the inside that zips into the outer shell, which is waterproof via Columbia Omni-Tech fabric. All in all, that makes for very a versatile winter jacket for less than $200.
Why is the Columbia Whirlibird IV ranked so far down this list? The thick shell should provide a nice dose of wind protection, but the inner jacket is rather thin and made with Thermarator synthetic insulation (down is the much better insulator), so warmth is more limited than many of the pricier jackets above. Second, we’ve found that Columbia build quality is fairly good overall but the look and feel is a step or two below more premium brands. That said, $200 is a darn good price for a winter jacket that can cross over into winter sports, which is why the Whirlibird is included here.
See the Men's Columbia Whirlibird IV See the Women's Columbia Whirlibird IV
Fill: 700-fill-power down
Weight: 1 lbs. 15.8 oz.
What we like: Tough yet looks good.
What we don’t: Not super warm and fit is a bit snug.
We’ve presented a number of good casual options above, but don’t overlook the Blacktail from Outdoor Research. New for this winter, this burly winter jacket uses 700-fill down, which is high for its category, and has a super durable 150-denier shell on the core and lower arms, which does a great job at preventing wear and tear. Add in clean styling that has mountain town written all over it, and the Blacktail is a versatile cold-weather piece at a good price.
We like the Outdoor Research Blacktail for casual use and light winter work outside, but it’s a far cry from a technical jacket that you’d use in the backcountry. It’s decently warm, and particularly if you factor in its solid wind resistance, but we suspect that it’s lighter on fill than most other options on this list (OR does not provide the fill weight, but the relatively low total weight combined with the thickness of the fabric are good hints that it’s not loaded with insulation). The Blacktail is, however, one of the tougher models around and great for those who plan on putting their jacket through the wringer.
See the Men's Outdoor Research Blacktail
Fill: Synthetic insulation (polyester)
Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: By far the cheapest winter coat on this list.
What we don’t: Heavy, stiff, and could be warmer.
Let’s say you don’t care about fancy high-fill-power down or the latest and greatest synthetic insulation. And let’s say that you just want a warm winter parka that will get that job done for as cheap as possible. If this sounds like you, give the Caterpillar’s Heavy Insulated Parka a serious look. It bucks the performance and even casual trend with a work-like build (outdoor work in the winter is what many people use it for), but it’s a great value for what you get at around $100 (and often found on Amazon for less).
How is this jacket so inexpensive? The insulation and shell of the Caterpillar Insulated Parka are straight polyester—no lightweight insulation or modern waterproof fabrics here. The jacket is water-resistant, and given that you’re not protecting precious down fibers from outside moisture, it does a respectable job of staying warm when wet. In addition, you get ample storage with four large front pockets and one on the sleeve. Is this jacket for climbing mountains? No way. But it’s great for shoveling your walkway, everyday outdoor use, and work in cold climates.
See the Men's Caterpillar Heavy Insulated Parka
|The North Face McMurdo Parka||$349||Casual||550-fill down||Unavailable||3 lbs. 4.6 oz.|
|REI Co-op Stormhenge 850||$249||Performance/casual||850-fill down||Unavailable||1 lb. 11 oz.|
|Rab Neutrino Pro||$375||Performance/casual||800-fill down||8 oz.||1 lb. 5.3 oz.|
|Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka||$599||Casual||700-fill down||4.2 oz.||2 lbs. 14.1 oz.|
|Feathered Friends Khumbu||$639||Performance||900-fill down||13.3 oz.||2 lbs. 1.8 oz.|
|Patagonia Frozen Range Parka||$699||Casual||700-fill down||9.5 oz.||2 lbs. 12 oz.|
|Mountain Equipment Lightline||$300||Performance/casual||700-fill down||10.4 oz.||1 lb. 10.1 oz.|
|Marmot Fordham Jacket||$325||Casual||700-fill down||Unavailable||2 lbs. 12 oz.|
|Canada Goose Langford Parka||$1,050||Casual/performance||625-fill down||Unavailable||3 lbs. 5 oz.|
|Kuhl Arktik Down Parka||$499||Casual||800-fill down||9.4 oz.||3 lbs. 4 oz.|
|Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody||$399||Performance/casual||800-fill down||5.6 oz.||1 lb. 1.1 oz.|
|Arc'teryx Macai Jacket||$999||Casual/performance||750-fill down & synthetic||2.4 oz. & 100g/60g||2 lbs. 4 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Super Alpine||$399||Casual/performance||800-fill down||8.8 oz.||1 lb. 13.1 oz.|
|Fjallraven Singi Down Jacket||$600||Casual/performance||600-fill down||10.4 oz.||4 lbs. 3 oz.|
|Arc'teryx Therme Parka||$699||Casual||750-fill down||3.7 oz.||2 lbs. 5 oz.|
|Columbia Whirlibird IV||$199||Casual/performance||Synthetic||Unavailable||Unavailable|
|Outdoor Research Blacktail||$299||Casual/work||700-fill down||Unavailable||1 lb. 15.8 oz.|
|Caterpillar Heavy Insulated||$110||Casual/work||Polyester||Unavailable||3 lbs. 8 oz.|
- Winter Jacket Categories: Casual vs. Performance
- Insulation Types
- Temperature Rating
- Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof
- Wind Protection
- Women's-Specific Winter Jackets
Perhaps the single most important factor when choosing a winter jacket is its intended use. Casual winter jackets are designed for everyday wear around town—you’ll see them most frequently in cold places like Denver, Chicago, Boston, New York, and even ski towns. 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.
The good news is that going with a casual coat generally saves you a good deal of money. Two of our top casual picks, The North Face McMurdo and Marmot Fordham, are around $300 yet offer ample warm and weather protection for most people. The compromises come in the weight, packability, and range of movement, which matter if you’re climbing mountains but not so much for the morning commute. Toward the bottom of our picks are a couple of parkas that fall into the casual/work category with extra durable polyester shells and great toughness in general. 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 Columbia Whirlibird IV—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. synthetic insulation.
Warmth is a function of many factors: insulation type and weight, shell fabrics, wind, layering, level of exertion, and how warm or cold you run personally. But the two most important factors in determining the warmth of your jacket are fill power and fill weight.
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 (600 fill, 700 fill, 800 fill, etc.), the more loft and warmth it will provide and the more easily it will compress when packing it away. Premium down also is the most expensive, which is why you’ll see this number loosely correlate with price. Performance winter jackets usually are around 800-fill or higher, and casual pieces run from 450-fill to 700-fill.
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. For example, the Rab Neutrino Pro has 8 ounces of 800-fill down, while the Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka has 13.3 ounces of 900-fill, which represents a significant difference. The calculation becomes more difficult as the fill power changes: comparing 850-fill down to 500-fill down is apples to oranges, so it’s most helpful when the fill powers are at least similar.
Unfortunately, fill weight isn’t always provided by manufacturers, and particularly for casual pieces. We’ve done everything within our power to acquire that number—including spending seemingly endless periods of time on hold and explaining that fill weight is different than fill power—and include it in our comparison table when available. Around half the jackets on this list provide fill weight, which is more helpful than not.
Winter jackets don’t have a uniform method of measuring warmth like the EN system for sleeping bags, but there are some good clues. 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. Some jackets are capable of even more extreme conditions (the Canada Goose Langford Parka is given a -15°F rating by the manufacturer), while others are less insulated and designed for active use (REI Stormhenge 850). Of course, layer well and don’t take any chances, but this article presents that warmest jackets that we cover on this site. 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. Due to the hefty amount of insulation inside most of the jackets above, a simple baselayer will do the trick in cold weather that hasn’t yet reached frigid status. 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. This would be a lot of insulation, but it’s an easy adjustment to make so long as you have the extra gear and the jacket has room for layering. Warmth is a lot about personal preference and the specifics of the activity and conditions, but it’s always a good idea to carry an extra layer or two should you get cold or the conditions change.
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.), jackets with large amounts of premium down will be the warmest, lightest, and most packable. Our top pick in this category is the Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka (2 pounds 2 ounces). For those buying at the casual end of the market, weight matters much less—you most likely won’t be carrying your down jacket in a backpack and don’t care as much about shaving ounces. Many casual winter jackets and parkas push the 3-pound mark and higher and won’t pack down as small with lower-fill-power down.
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. Lightweight down jackets require quite a bit of care and attention.
Down loses its ability to insulate when wet, and therefore all jackets on this list offer some protection against precipitation. Most jackets are water-resistant or water-repellant, meaning they have a tightly woven face fabric and durable water repellant (DWR) coating that will bead up and shed light moisture. If you combine that with treated or hydrophobic down (a treatment added to the down itself that reduces water absorption and helps it dry faster), you have yourself a pretty effective system even in wet and heavy snow.
The reality is that if you’ll be wearing a full-on winter jacket, it’s unlikely you’ll require complete waterproofing. Water-resistant shells, like what you get with the Rab Neutrino Pro, offer plenty of protection in freezing, snowy conditions. Even the expedition-ready Feathered Friends Khumbu isn’t fully waterproof (the shell material is waterproof but the seams are not taped) because snow and ice won’t penetrate the fabric like rain. If you do need complete waterproofing, however, there are some options on the market including the Arc'teryx Therme above (and women's Patera). This jacket has fully taped seams and a waterproof Gore-Tex shell for staying dry if it happens to be 34°F and pouring rain.
Exposure to wind can make an otherwise freezing winter day even worse. In terms of the wind resistance of a parka, a number of factors come into play including the type and thickness of the shell, amount and distribution of the insulation, and fabric of the liner. In particular, the shell itself matters most: on performance jackets, you’ll see names like Gore Windstopper or Pertex for excellent wind resistance at low weights, and casual coats block the wind by the sheer thickness of the face fabric.
The truth is that all of these jackets do a respectable job at keeping wind and the other elements at bay. Midweight and lightweight jackets are much less substantial and you run the risk of catching a cold breeze through the jacket itself, but this list is composed of heavyweights that all should be considered highly wind-resistant.
Perhaps more than any other type of jacket, the hood matters a lot with a winter coat. First, the hood almost always is going to have the same type of insulation as the rest of the jacket, so premium down in the body of the coat means excellent warmth for the weight in the hood. Second, a good cold-weather hood can be adjusted and tightened around the head snugly so that wind doesn’t enter or blow the hood off your head (many technical winter jackets also have storm flaps around the collar to block out cold air). Finally, many performance-oriented jackets have helmet-compatible hoods, which are necessary for mountaineering and climbing. Helmet compatibility makes the hood larger and slightly less desirable for wearing without a helmet, but it isn’t a deal breaker for us as long as the hood cinches down evenly.
For use on mild-weather days, some prefer the option to remove the hood from their winter coat altogether. Simply put, these hoods are bulky and can be annoying if they’re just sitting along the back of your head. Most designs have a zipper located just below the collar to make it easy to both remove and put back on. The feature does add weight and bulk, so you’ll typically find it on casual winter jackets. Whether this is a priority will come down to personal preference, but it could be a difference maker in the jacket you select. For example, the popular Marmot Fordham and The North Face McMurdo have removable hoods, while the Patagonia Frozen Range does not.
Our picks above were based on the input from both our male and female testers, and you’ll see that we link to the men’s and women’s versions whenever available. That said, there are a good number of women’s-specific winter jackets, so we’ve created a separate round-up dedicated to that category. Some of the designs are the same but with altered fits and colorways (on occasion, naming and a couple features might differ), and we've included more long, parka-length options given their popularity and around-town appeal.
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