We searched the market for the latest and greatest, evaluating over 70 popular models. After purchasing the top 11, we put them head-to-head in an exhaustive, long-term comparative test. We shoveled snow, collected firewood, strolled through towns, cities, and ski resorts, and waited at train stations in each contender, putting them through the gauntlet so you don't have to. We sloshed around on wet winter days to test weather resistance and gathered opinions on style. We also assessed relative warmth and comfort and employed our comprehensive, objective testing regimen. After at least three months of use with each jacket and years with others, we are confident that you'll reap the benefits to ward off winter chills, whether you're searching for the top all-rounder, the best value, or protection from extreme conditions.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated January 2018
In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, you don't need an HBO subscription to know that Winter is Coming. Some places are experiencing record cold, while others are "business as usual". Regardless of where you reside, work, and play, you'll likely need to consider a winter jacket. To help you stay ahead of the chill, we're always keeping a watchful eye on product developments in this category. After a few months of basic updates and years of staying on top of the market, we are launching our annual comprehensive and comparative review of men's winter jackets. This is the latest of the latest, featuring the best of the best. Our test and editorial team has had many months now of real-time winter testing conditions and has compiled this review for your benefit.
The Best Overall
Arc'teryx Camosun Parka
Beating out the competition in 2017 is the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka, for the second year in a row. In all winter conditions, from hard sleet to snow to assaulting winds to bitter cold, this model keeps you well-protected. Its stylish looks are ready for chilly jaunts around town, and you'll look good no matter what harsh weather conditions you find yourself in. The Arc'teryx designers employ high-quality goose down in critical areas where warmth is paramount, and strategically placed synthetic fiber insulation where higher than average moisture exposure is expected, such as on the hood, shoulders, and cuffs. It wasn't the absolute warmest and doesn't quite qualify as formal attire, but it provided overall reliable performance in all of our test metrics, making it the jacket we reached for the most.
Great protection from inclement weather
Noisy, stiff shell
Read review: Arc'teryx Camosun Parka
Best Bang for the Buck, Overall
Low in price yet high quality in construction and materials, the Marmot Fordham earns our Best Buy Award. This stylish coat keeps you warm and dry via a waterproof exterior insulated with goose down. The Fordham has some features that impressed us for such an inexpensive jacket, like a comfortable cut and an abundance of pockets. It is also available in a range of colors, which means you can decide what suits you best. Comfy and cozy, the Fordham gets you through the winter and last you for a long time - all for a reasonable cost. At a modest price of $200, the Marmot Fordham Vest may make for an excellent layering piece.
Not our wet-weather favorite
Read review: Marmot Fordham
Best Bang for the Buck, Coldest Conditions
The North Face McMurdo Parka III
If your winters aren't "normal," your jacket needs to be above average, too. We can't all afford the $1000 Top Pick for Extreme Cold, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, but the price of The North Face McMurdo III is reasonable. At a third of the cost of the Canada Goose, but still incredibly insulating, this is a natural choice for a Best Buy Award. For northerly latitudes, and the coldest days, the McMurdo's down insulation, long cut, and generous hood combine to protect in day-to-day life at a competitive price tag. This latest review is based on the most recent, greatest, and subtly changed McMurdo III. This newest iteration makes improvements that have their pros and cons but don't alter the overall scoring and award ranking.
Read review: The North Face McMurdo III
Top Pick for Extreme Cold
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
While bitter cold, feet of snow, and icy sidewalks may not describe winter for some, for those living in the northern latitudes in the Midwest, East Coast and Alaska, there is a need for a winter-specific jacket that protects you from prolonged sub-freezing temperatures. Enter the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. This model is the pinnacle of warmth, has abundant features, and is the coziest jacket reviewed. All these traits come at a cost though, and besides being the bulkiest and heaviest parka reviewed, it is also the most expensive. This is a parka for the specific needs of the coldest weather, designed with Arctic and Antarctic applications in mind. On that note, a special Polar Bears International (PBI) edition is available called the Canada Goose PBI Expedition Parka. This jacket comes in a special royal blue color, has a polar bear patch on the shoulder and is an extra $50. A portion of the sales goes to PBI and their mission of saving the polar bears and their habitats.
Brings the heat!
Overkill for most climates
High price tag
Read review: Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Top Pick for Warmer Winter Climates
Columbia Mission Air Interchange
"Winter" isn't always deep freeze and gnarly winds. Some Americans experience winter as a few weeks of occasional night-time frosts. For those milder winters, most of the jackets we tested are overkill. For winter in Tucson and Little Rock, all you need is a little bit of insulation and protection from the occasional rainstorm. In those conditions, two jackets we tested excel. Both The North Face Arrowood Triclimate and Columbia Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1 are lightly insulated full function winter jackets. Each is designed in a versatile 3-in-1 style. Each is a fleece jacket and waterproof jacket that can be zipped and clipped together for greater protection. This versatility gets warm-winter residents through all their seasons. Of these two, the Columbia is less expensive, with smooth-lined sleeves that significantly enhance comfort and usability. For these two reasons, the Columbia Mission edges ahead of the Arrowood and earns our Top Pick award for winters in milder climates.
Versatile 3-in-1 design
Not warm enough for cold winters
For the warmth, fit is confining
Read full review: Columbia Mission Air Interchange
Analysis and Test Results
The above table details the Overall Performance score of each winter jacket reviewed. Read on for specifics on each metric that helped comprise this overall score. Additional details can also be found in each contender's individual review.
Warmth is the most important metric we used to rank each competitor. Warmth is determined by the amount of insulation, no matter if it is down or synthetic insulation. The more insulation a jacket contains, the more loft it provides. We looked at the fill weight and quality to determine how much insulation each winter jacket had and then compared that weight to the cut and length to see how that insulation was distributed. If we have two jackets with an equal fill weight of 10 ounces, but one has a waist-length hem while the other has a mid-thigh length hem, these two jackets are not equally warm. The most useful measure of warmth is, of course, comparative testing in actual conditions. We spent time outdoors, swapping jackets among the test team and "comparing notes".
As we discuss more in our Buying Advice article, the higher the down's fill power number, the higher the quality of the down feathers. This translates into lighter down and more compression. The amount of insulation, not the quality, is what determines a jacket's warmth. The Arc'teryx Camosun features high-quality, 750-fill down to keep the weight down and packable size small. The rest of the down insulated parkas feature down below 750 all the way down to 550-fill for The North Face McMurdo III Jacket.
This number should not dissuade shoppers, though, as the casual parka can get away with using a more substantial down product than a technical parka that you might be carrying in your backpack with you. The Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The Patagonia Jackson Glacier also kept us warm in most wintry conditions. The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka falls between the Patagonia and the Canada Goose Expedition and the Woolrich Bitter Chill deserves mention for being on the warmer side of the fleet. In fact, 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, which was pleasant. After the Canada Goose Expedition, the next warmest earned a Best Buy award. The North Face McMurdo is nearly an expedition parka, with the price tag of a casual jacket. This lattermost model is the best value in our test and turns heads with its significant warmth and low price tag.
Overall, the synthetically insulated models tested were not as warm as the down models. The Arc'teryx Fission SV was less warm than most of the down models reviewed. This is likely due to less insulation in the garment overall rather than a fault of the synthetic fibers, though it did reinforce the idea for us that if you are looking for warmth, opt for down. The exception to this warmth profile is the REI Co-op Down Hooded jacket. REI's competitor is a down-insulated layering piece that has insulating value a little below that of the Arc'teryx Fission.
Some parkas reviewed feature a combination of down and synthetic insulation. The Editors' Choice winning Arc'teryx Camosun uses a synthetic material in areas exposed to moisture, such as the shoulders and hood, and down in the core.
The fleece insulated jackets are the least insulating products reviewed. Well-suited to more moderate climates, The North Face Arrowood Triclimate and the Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1 are durable, versatile, and affordable, but not incredibly warm. Insulated with synthetic fleece, they just don't stack up to the rest of the field regarding warmth - which may be just what you're looking for, depending on what climate you reside in.
Since all of the parkas feature insulation, and 7 out of 11 use at least some down fill, we'll need a weather-resistant outer fabric to protect ourselves from winter weather. The weather-resistant fabric will also shield the insulation from becoming wet. All of the models have some resistant fabric, from basic durable water resistant (DWR) coated nylon to a fully waterproof membrane with taped seams, but they have a wide degree of resistance to soaking through, depending on the weather.
No matter if you choose a material only treated with a DWR or a layered shell like Gore-Tex, proper care is essential for it to stay waterproof. Use of detergents strips the waterproof treatment from the fabric. Go for a DWR or Gore-Tex specific cleaner, then a wash-in or spray-on waterproofing to restore your winter jacket's weather resistance.
If you live in a low elevation or low latitude area where the winter precipitation tends to fall as rain rather than snow, look at a contender with a waterproof outer shell, such as The North Face Arrowood Triclimate with its DryVent fabric or the Arc'teryx Fission SV that uses Gore-Tex. These waterproof/breathable materials shed water faster and for a longer duration than a typical DWR treatment. The Arc'teryx Camosun, Marmot Fordham, North Face McMurdo III, and Columbia Mission Air Interchange all also feature waterproof/breathable fabric exteriors. If you wear your jacket in lower temperatures where it tends to snow and not rain, then the competitors with DWR treatments such as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, Patagonia Jackson Glacier, or the REI Co-op Down Hoodie are more than adequately protected.
Similarly, the McMurdo III jacket from The North Face excels in truly sub-freezing conditions. In those temperatures, the precipitation will remain in its solid form, and the compromised weather protection won't be a problem. With these lattermost, deep freeze specialists, the compromise in weather protection comes at the seams. The seams of the McMurdo, for instance, are not sealed or taped like those on either Arc'teryx jackets.
The wool/synthetic blend insulation of the Woolrich Bitter Chill jacket is protected by a textured, soft external fabric and a waterproof/breathable backing. Ultimately, the waterproof/breathable membrane will block moisture. However, in our testing, we found the outer fabric to catch more snow and water than the others. 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.
Even though a jacket might claim to be waterproof, make sure that the seams are fully taped. Why? When a shell jacket is put together, it is stitched through (or in some cases welded together using high-frequency microwave technology). This stitching leaves small holes in the fabric, and if they are not taped, they become an easy entry for moisture. The Arc'teryx jackets and The North Face Arrowood have taped seams
Wintertime is uncomfortable enough for many. Don't put on an uncomfortable winter parka, too. Most of the models reviewed have added in extra attributes to make braving the cold and wind more forgiving.
Fleece lining on the inside of the pockets and where the chin flap meets the face add coziness to the parka. The North Face McMurdo parka, as well as both Canada Goose products include a fur (or faux fur) hood trim. When cinched tight it makes you feel like you are at home in front of the fire, albeit with some tickles to your cheeks. The cut of the parka also keeps comfort in mind. A meticulously designed jacket like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka is likely going to fit your body better than some of the other square-cut designs, and the longer hem, which many of these parkas use, keeps the waist from riding up and exposing you to drafts.
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 Camosun, REI Co-op Down Hoodie, Woolrich Bitter Chill, and Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber all have elastic cuffs. The rest employ velcro cuffs.
In assessing the comfort of various products, we found a general correlation between cost and comfort. More expensive jackets use softer materials and closer tailoring to achieve maximum comfort. A notable exception, however, is our Best Buy Marmot Fordham. At a bargain price, every tester who tried on the Fordham was impressed to find its initial comfort to exceed that of 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 two "3-in-1" jackets are mainly differentiated in comfort. The Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange edges out The North Face Arrowood Triclimate with its smooth sleeve lining. This lining binds less and goes on and off easier.
It is the addition of winter-specific features that set the jackets in this review apart from the rest. Features such as a hood, multiple hand warmer pockets, two-way zippers, and thought out cuff closures are important attributes of a solid winter jacket. A hood is mandatory during nasty winter weather, and while it is not a substitute for a warm hat, a hood makes life a lot nicer.
Only the interior layers of both 3-in-1 jackets to not come with any hood, meaning that a warm hat is necessary. If you wear the fleece liner of either the The North Face Arrowood Triclimate or the Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1, you will need a separate warm hat.
Additional hood adjustments to get a customizable and secure fit are essential for a well-rounded parka. The best hood in our test is on the chart-topping Canada Goose Expedition. The hood is warm - it's also large, but can be cinched down securely and comfortably, and the stiffness of the brim keeps it all but out of your view. The hood of the updated Best Buy winning The North Face McMurdo III is smaller than previous versions. This is unfortunate, as the latest hood is little enough that warmth and weather protection suffers. If you leave the removable fur ruff on and don't have to move your head much, you can make the McMurdo seal out the weather. Otherwise, the more sophisticated hoods of the Arc'teryx and Patagonia jackets lockdown at the head, literally, of the pack.
The hood of the Woolrich Bitter Chill is roomy and cozy. The hood of the REI Co-op Down Hoodie is simple and low profile, but offers decent protection and comfort. The two "3-in-1" jackets have a hood on the shell jacket, but neither is insulated.
Handwarmer pockets are an excellent place to keep cold hands or to keep gloves, and most have a fleece-like liner. The best handwarmers are on the Arc'teryx jackets. Both of these award winners feature fully insulated hand warmer pockets with fleece lining the fabric the back of your hand touches. There is insulation between your hand and body, and between your hand and the outdoors. This not only means that your hand is insulated while in the pocket, but that there is no draft when the pocket is open. The next best hand warmer pockets, like those on the REI Down Hoody, put the user's hand between the insulation and the wearer's body.
Finally, while better than nothing, we wish for a more sophisticated design than the jackets that feature a single layer of fabric protecting the hands in a warming pocket. The Canada Goose models, for instance, both have uninsulated hand pockets. Special mention must be made of the hand warmer pockets on our Best Buy, The North Face McMurdo III. The pockets are uninsulated, but they are fleece-lined, and there are four of them! With a set at chest level and waist level, there is a hand warming option for every posture.
Again, in updating the McMurdo to version 3, The North Face has compromised one of the things we liked the best. The newest version still has four fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, but the upper, chest level ones are now situated further from the main jacket center zipper. This means that you have to contort your shoulders and elbows to get your hands into them. So much so, in fact, that these pockets aren't comfortably usable. Nonetheless, the jacket is incredibly worthy.
When wearing a trench-coat-length parka, the need for two-way zippers becomes apparent as the extended length can inhibit stride, and wearing a long coat while seated can be awkward and uncomfortable without this feature. Cuff closures can be simple elastic closures, a snap closure, or Velcro, but a good winter parka needs to allow you to seal out the snow and cold and to enable you to use gloves. Open cuffs with internal gaskets, like on the Arc'teryx Camosun and Woolrich Bitter Chill, combine fashion and function.
Other features that may be important to you are internal phone pockets with headphone ports, snow skirts to seal out the cold, or built-in face warmers. We liked the features of the Canada Goose Expedition Parka; it has almost a dozen pockets, a snow skirt, and a drawcord waist, not to mention a fur-trimmed hood. We also liked the features on both The North Face McMurdo III Jacket and our Best Buy Marmot Fordham. Both come with an array of pockets, including an internal Napoleon pocket that has a headphone channel, so your electronics stay dry. The McMurdo jacket adds removable fur hood lining and unique integrated face mask/neck gaiter. Other jackets, like the REI Co-op Down, were bare-bones models with little more than two hand pockets.
Style is personal, and we allow our personalities to show through some of our clothing choices, including a winter jacket. This review includes parkas that could be worn from a nice restaurant to a Broadway show, and ones that look clean and simple, but are more at home walking the dog or taking the gondola. We already talked about the differences between technical and casual parkas, and while technical jackets might be at home in the mountains, they are easily worn in urban settings and can let some of your outdoorsy personality show through. Casual urban parkas don't usually work the other way, though, as they may be missing crucial elements for safe winter adventuring, such as hoods or waterproofing.
Most of the models reviewed have a more extended cut, which adds warmth and weather resistance, giving a different look than the waist-length athletic cuts that most of the backcountry-inspired jackets have. We liked the style of the Patagonia Jackson Glacier and Arc'teryx Camosun, which are both stylish enough to dress up with but can be worn while snowshoeing or ice skating and still perform well. The Woolrich Bitter Chill scores high in this category as well.
The technical REI Down Hooded is a different style than the bomber cut of the Canada Goose Chilliwack, while the skier inspired Arrowood Triclimate contrasts with the practical bulk of the Canada Goose Expedition. The Marmot Fordham and Arc'teryx Fission SV are neutral products. Across the board, we tested different "looks" to find something for everyone.
With few exceptions, quality winter outerwear is not inexpensive. For a quality winter parka, expect to invest, but expect that investment to pay off for a few years of consistent use, depending on the activity. Are you going to be in contact with razor-sharp winter climbing gear, like ice axes, or will you only be using the parka to get from home to the bus stop during the winter? After investing a large sum of money in a winter jacket, we want to feel like our investment is protected, so we like the lifetime guarantees of companies like Canada Goose and Patagonia, who stand by the craftsmanship and materials of their products.
One of the most important things we looked at is outer fabric. More solid heavy-duty, canvas-like exterior materials can withstand more abuse than the thinner shell of say the REI Co-op Down Hood. Zippers, snaps, and Velcro receive a lot of wear as well, so we looked at these closures to make sure they were durable enough. We gave our highest score in this category to the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The large zippers, durable outer material, and substantial construction make this jacket last. Similarly, the cousin Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber is quite rugged. We were concerned about the durability of the technical models tested. These are used around sharp ice climbing tools, and the thin shell on the REI Co-op Hooded won't hold up well to a wayward ice screw or axe.
A good jacket in this category protects you from winter's harsh elements by keeping you warm and dry. The challenge is finding the right type of jacket for your individual needs. Depending on your location and lifestyle, you may be in the market for something casual and stylish to keep you warm when going outside, or you may be looking for something more technical with features designed for an athletic lifestyle. Regardless of your preference, we hope that this review has helped you find the best for you. Check out our Buying Advice article for more detailed advice on sorting through the different types of jackets available.
— Jediah Porter
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.