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Hands-on Gear Review
Arc'teryx Camosun Parka Review
Cons: “Crinkly” shell fabric
Bottom line: Near perfection in a winter coat, at a premium price.
The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka uses materials tested on harsh alpine climbs and gives them a stylish look suitable for urban use. This is a lifestyle parka, ideal for casual and professional situations, but it also performs well when occasionally used at the ski resort or on a snowshoe hike. It uses a unique combination of down and synthetic insulation (down in the core and synthetic in areas prone to moisture exposure, such as the shoulders and hood) to keep you warm and dry in all conditions. Its Gore-Tex shell makes it the most appropriate choice for wet weather environments, although if you are more concerned with wet weather warmth than style, we'd recommend Best Insulated Jacket Review for more options. This is our Editors' Choice Award winner for best winter jacket because of its attention to warmth, weather resistance, and durability in a wide range of winter climates.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka uses a combination of high-quality 750-fill-power goose down throughout the torso and CoreLoft synthetic insulation in areas of high exposure to moisture such as the hood and shoulders. Weighing 35.8 ounces, it is lighter than many of the other casual parkas in this review, though decidedly heavier than the technical parkas.
The Camosun was our top scoring winter jacket, earning our coveted Editors' Choice award.
Arc'teryx uses their trademarked Down Contour Construction and Down Composite Mapping technologies to place quality, high fill-power down and synthetic insulation in key areas around the body. The result is a jacket that is quite warm without the bulk typically associated with warm, insulated parkas. The arms and underarm areas have much less insulation than the body, with the majority of the down located around the core using sewn-through baffles underneath the outer shell.
The removable hood cinches tight around the face to add warmth and stretch knit wrist gaskets hidden behind a longer open cuff prevent drafty winds from stealing heat. The Camosun has a medium length fit, covering most of the upper thigh, giving it some of the added warmth and protection of a traditional trench coat. Though plenty warm for most low latitude winters, it is not nearly as warm as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, though it is much more usable across a broader range of settings. Our Best Buy The North Face McMurdo III is also warmer than the Camosun, while the Arc'teryx Fission SV is far less insulating. Our Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange could be in a different category entirely, as it is not nearly as insulating as the Editors' Choice.
This jacket uses a two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite shell as well as Arc'teryx's Nu DWR treatment, and it sheds rain and snow with ease. We wore this jacket on stormy days at the ski hill and autumn touristing in Yellowstone National Park and had no issues with the fabric wetting through despite prolonged exposure to wet and gloppy snow. Fully taped seams, typical of this manufacturer's high-quality construction (and required by the Gore-Tex licensing agreement), keep wetness from finding its way in through the shell.
A vital component of this jacket's resistance to nasty weather conditions lies in its use of synthetic insulation in areas of moisture exposure like the hood, shoulders, and underarms. When sweat from hard work or moisture from the inundation of the outer shell gets into a down baffle, moisture can spread quickly, significantly reducing its effectiveness as an insulating material. Putting synthetic insulation in those areas instead is an ingenious way of using the best properties of both materials.
While the front zipper is water resistant, the hand pocket zippers are not, and the storm flaps covering them are on the underside. This makes sliding your hands into the fleecy pockets easier but gives rain a chance to make its way into your pocket if you aren't careful to keep them zipped up. By keeping any non-waterproofed materials, like the wrist cuffs hidden underneath the outer shell, this jacket is more impervious to wet conditions than the The North Face Gotham III, which has a soft rib knit collar and cuffs exposed to the rain.
Only the Arrowood Triclimate from The North Face and the Arc'teryx Fission SV protect against the weather as well as the Camosun. Even the Woolrich Bitter Chill, with that manufacturer's long pedigree in wet weather and their bomber shell fabrics, has stylish pockets and seams that leave the Bitter Chill more vulnerable to wet and wind than the Camosun.
With an anatomical construction that allows for unencumbered movement and no-lift gusseted underarms, the Camosun Parka is comfortable to move in, despite being packed full of warm down and synthetic insulation. Although the rib knit collars and cuffs of the Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber might feel softer and cozier than those of the Camosun, they are much less weather resistant. The stretch-knit gaskets inside the cuff are also soft and flexible, providing a good seal without feeling too snug, and soft fleece lines the collar and pockets.
The shell material of the Camosun is highly weather resistant, but the scratchy and "loud" texture bothered some. For this reason, we slightly downgraded the overall comfort score of the Camosun. Try it out, as only some of our testers found this to be a problem. All of the highly weather resistant jackets in our test have stiff shell fabrics that compromise comfort. The most comfortable jackets, like the Marmot Fordham, Patagonia Jackson Glacier, and REI Co-op Down Hooded have softer shell fabrics that are at least slightly more vulnerable to the weather.
The features that make this jacket so appealing are largely invisible, hidden underneath the shell. It has mapped insulation, small taped seams, and ergonomic tailoring to give the wearer a comfortable experience without adding bulk or constriction of movement.
There are only two hand pockets and one internal zippered pocket. This keeps the exterior clean and straightforward, but adding at least one more internal pocket or an external chest pocket would give a lot more options. It is worth noting that the handwarmer pockets are insulated front and back. Most jackets in our test put the handwarmer pockets outside the insulation. A few good jackets put the hand warmers between insulation and the wearer's body. Both Arc'teryx jackets, this one, and the Arc'teryx Fission SV, insulate both sides of the hand warmer pockets for maximum effect. The cut is long enough that we would prefer seeing a double zipper, as the front tended to bunch up while sitting, especially on reviewers with shorter torsos.
The hood is removable with large snaps and has adjustable cinches and a laminated brim to keep precipitation off the face. We liked the hood but found in the first version we used that it comes unattached far too easily when picking up the jacket by the hood or hanging it from a coat rack. The second and third iterations we tested, in the early winter of 2016 and 2017, had far more robust snaps. It is not clear if this was an in-line change in the product or a function of manufacturing differences. Either way, the hood snaps worked better the second time around.
We like jackets that can look good on the ski slopes as well as at an office party, and if you are looking at a winter parka made by an outdoor apparel company instead of on Fifth Avenue you probably do, too. Arc'teryx keeps things classy with the Camosun by keeping the exterior free and clean of unnecessary pockets, placing the two hand pockets behind small storm flaps and hiding the insulating down baffles under an outer shell.
While not as refined as the Woolrich Bitter Chill for the most formal of events, this jacket's only exterior flash comes from the small classic logo on the shoulder. This model is a technical jacket in a casual package, and we have long appreciated the neat appearance of Arc'teryx garments that can bridge the style requirements of active and formal attire.
With a heavy duty N150 denier nylon shell covering the Gore-Tex Paclite membrane, this parka held up well to stacking firewood, skiing at the resort and shoveling the driveway in winter storms. The outer shell did not scuff or abrade, and the stains can be washed out using a Gore-Tex treatment wash such as ReviveX Durable Waterproofing. We did not have any durability issues, and this stems from high-quality materials and craftsmanship.
The most prominent threat to durability on this jacket would come from the snaps (that attach the hood) potentially pulling out, and the small diameter elastic cinches on the hood being over-tightened and stretching out or snapping. Down is durably insulating, but the lining fabric doesn't stand up to abuse. For true toss-it-around durability, fleece insulation like that in the Columbia Mission Air Interchange or The North Face Arrowood Triclimate will last just as long as down in insulation value but won't tear or spill out. Of course, fleece isn't nearly as warm as down.
Whether you live in a ski town or live in the city, you can easily appreciate the quiet and understated style of this top of the line parka and will be impressed at its ability to keep you looking good and feeling warm in any winter conditions you may encounter.
Arc'teryx garments typically come with premium prices because of the large amount of technology and design that go into them. Spending $649 for a winter jacket is a serious investment compared to our Best Buy winner, the $250 Marmot Fordham, but it can be worth it when you consider the materials and the long lifespan you can expect from the Camosun Parka.
For looking good around town on chilly winter days, the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka scores high marks in warmth, weather resistance, comfort and style, the qualities we most admire in a winter jacket. For this, it wins our Editors' Choice Award.
— Jediah Porter
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