The Best Winter Jacket Review

Nothing makes cold weather comfortable like the perfect winter jacket. We’ve tested more than ten of a variety of weights and styles, to help you find the very best for your needs in winter. All contenders are compared side-by-side, and scored according to a range of factors including warmth, weight, features, weather resistance, and durability. Within every review we discuss each of these factors and detail the product's features. This is indeed a mixed bag of options. The spectrum runs from those designed to keep you as warm as possible, to those with “fast and light” as their intended use. We’ve done our best to highlight the pros and cons of each, and to make clear their best applications.

If you’re looking for something lighter weight, take the time to read through our Men's Down Jacket Review, and be sure to check out our Women's Winter Jacket Review as well.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Chris Simrell ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab February 26, 2014

Top Ranked Winter Jackets - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 14 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket
Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket
Read the Review
Feathered Friends Volant
Feathered Friends Volant
Read the Review
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Read the Review
Feathered Friends Icefall Parka
Feathered Friends Icefall Parka
Read the Review
Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award        Top Pick Award 
Street Price $460$379Varies $709 - $845
Compare at 5 sellers
$599Varies $249 - $415
Compare at 5 sellers
Overall Score 
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User Rating Be the first to rate it
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75% recommend it (3/4)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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67% recommend it (2/3)
Pros Box baffles, excellant hood, good pocket design, unique features, great fit.Box baffle construction, very warm for its weight, excellent hood and hood adjustment, elasticized closures at waist and sleeves. reduce weight.Very long arctic parka style cut, warmExtremely warm, very protective hood, long cut, dual front zipper.Very warm, box-baffle construction, weather resistant, durable.
Cons A bit pricey - but you get what you pay for.No large interior storage pocket, expensive, front pockets make you look pregnant.Inefficient features, heavy.Not suitable for most people (narrow application).Heavy, not very packable.
Best Uses Cold-weather alpinism, ice climbing, ski touring, snowmobiling, winter backcountry travel.All types of climbing, general cold weather use.Outdoor research science or outdoor photography in frigid climates.Extreme cold, high altitude mountaineering, arctic,General use, very cold conditions, winter mountaineering, heavy winter belay parka, winter camping
Date Reviewed Feb 25, 2014Feb 24, 2013Nov 18, 2013Feb 24, 2013Apr 01, 2013
Style - 10%
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Features - 10%
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Warmth - 40%
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Water Resistance - 15%
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Durability - 15%
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Compactness Weight - 10%
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Product Specs Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket Feathered Friends Volant Canada Goose Expedition Parka Feathered Friends Icefall Parka Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket
Baffle Type box-baffles box-baffles sewn-through under an outer shell fabric box-baffles box-baffles
Total Weight 775g/27.3oz 794g/28oz 2336g/82oz 936g/33oz 1005g/37oz
Down Fill Power 750 850 625 850 650
Down Fill Weight 330g/11.6oz (L) 311g/11oz (M) Not known 391g/13.8oz (M)
Main Fabric DRILITEå¨ Loft II Pertex Shield XT Waterproof/Breatheble Arctic-Tech, Coyote fur around hood. Pertex Shield XT waterproof/breatheble SL Rip AFX
# of Pockets 2 hand, 2 interior (1 zip, 1 drop-in), 1 zippered exterior chest 2 hand, 2 interior zip 4 zippered exterior, 4 exterior velcro, 1 arm, 1 zippered interior 2 hand, 2 external cargo, 2 interior Velco 2 hand, 1 chest, 1 interior, 1 interior mesh
Hood Option? Yes Yes (removable) Yes Yes (removable) Yes (removable)
Stuffsack? Yes Yes No Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Feathered Friends Icefall Parka
$599
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Feathered Friends Volant
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Feathered Friends Hooded Helios
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Outdoor Research Incandescent
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Rab Infinity
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Brooks Range Mojave
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Mountain Hardwear Nilas Jacket
$550
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Canada Goose Expedition Parka
$795
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Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket
$375
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The North Face Gotham Jacket
$299
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Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody
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North Face Nuptse 2
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With excellent features and great warmth, the K7 Jacket from Mountain Equipment makes for a stellar cold weather belay jacket.
Credit: Molly Ravits
There is a lot of variety in the world of winter jackets. Naturally, the spectrum of contestants we chose to test is rather large. So First, let’s define what’s included here – 1) All of them are down insulated. 2) They all weigh at least one pound (16oz) or more. Down insulated jackets weighing less than one pound are found in our Men's Down Jacket Review. Synthetic insulated jackets are found here - Men's Insulated Jacket Review.

Within those set parameters remains quite a bit of variation. On the lighter end of our spectrum there are products that weigh just over one pound. These tend to feature super-light outer fabrics and are often designed with weight-saving functionality forefront in mind. They are generally intended for backcountry use by those looking to travel light, and usually also serve as an excellent alpine and ice climbing belay option. On the heavy end of our spectrum are the contenders truly ready for the worst of winter conditions. Maximizing warmth is the name of the game here. In between you will find mid-weight options that function well in a variety of applications, offering a bit of a balance both around town and on backcountry trips.
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Chris Simrell in the Patagonia Northwall softshell and Rab Neutrino Endurance down parka.
Credit: Molly Ravits
Warmth
Although there are many factors that ultimately determine the overall warmth, the most significant is the amount of down it contains – the fill weight - and the "loft" of the jacket, ie how much air it can trap between you and the frigid winter air. The warmest model in this review, the Feathered Friends Icefall, contains over 13oz of down. The Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket, the Feathered Friends Volant, and the Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket are next in line with about 11-12oz of down insulation. This is significantly more down, and noticeably more loft and warmth, than the lighter jackets in this review like Rab Infinity, Feathered Friends Hooded Helios, Outdoor Research Incandescent and Brooks Range Mojave all of which have between 7 and 9 ounces. The fill weight of each is noted in the specs listing beneath the scoring. How much down a jacket contains is only part of what makes it warm however. In the table above, which compares all the challengers side-by-side, you will also find the down fill power - the higher the fill power, the loftier the down. The fill power number is actually a measurement of volume. It is the amount of cubic inches per one ounce of down. In other words, 800 fill power down is warmer for its weight than 600 fill power down. Most of the designs in this review are made with 700 or more fill power down. It is the combination of these two factors; the fill weight, and the fill power, that will give you a good estimate of the overall warmth. Many other factors however also play a role in the warmth of a jacket - the length of the cut, the design of the hood, the features etc. Read the "Warmth" section of each product review for more details on specific products. For a more in depth discussion of fill power and down insulation see our Winter Jacket Buying Advice article.
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Mountain Hardwear Nilas, Feathered Friends Volant, and Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka in Greenland.
Credit: Eric Guth


Contruction
The method of construction plays a role in the overall warmth of a product as well. Many of the products in this review are made with a sewn-through style of construction. This is the way in which many lighter weight down jackets are made and it is indeed the lightest method of baffle construction. In this style, down baffles are created by simply sewing the outer fabric directly to a backing layer. This means that there is no down insulation at each point of stitching, and allows for cold spots in these areas. Box-baffles allow for the down insulation to loft more fully throughout the baffle, and thus mitigate the cold spots. The warmest options we reviewed use box-baffling throughout to maximize warmth. These are the Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket, Feathered Friends Icefall, Feathered Friends Volant, and the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket. The Brooks Range Mojave, although a light weight option, features box-baffling in the chest. The North Face Gotham and Canada Goose Expedition Parka are designed a bit differently than the more technical jackets in this review. These two parkas are down insulated underneath a heavyweight outer shell fabric.
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The author, toasty warm after a bit of ice climbing, in the Mountain Hardware Chillwave Jacket.
Credit: Molly Ravits

Weight and Compactness
Generally speaking, down parkas are not as light, nor are they as packable as down jackets. The reason to opt for a parka over a jacket is warmth, and with added warmth is added weight and bulk. Several of the contenders in this review, those at the lightest end of the weight spectrum, are actually extremely packable. The beauty of down as an insulation is that it compresses much better than synthetic insulation, and you will get more warmth from the space it occupies in your pack. If weight and compressibility are a major concern look for a design that combines high fill power down with a lighter outer fabric. Heavier, more durable outer fabrics do not compress as well. The Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket, for example, is more compressible (yet similarly warm) than the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave due to the lower fill power down and heavier fabrics of the Chillwave. Certain models offer convenience in packability, like the Outdoor Research Incandescent, which is not only light, but also packable into its own pocket and clippable to your climbing harness - an excellent feature for multi-pitch ice climbing.

Water Resistance
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The Brooks Range Mohave uses Down-Tek treated down, which adds a hydrophobic coating to the down itself.
Credit: OudoorGearLab
Down is vulnerable to water; when it gets wet, it loses it loft and warmth. You primary defense against precipitation is your outer fabric. If you’re living and/or recreating in a wetter climate, consider that a synthetic insulted jacket or parka may be the best choice. That being said, all the products we reviewed are water resistant to some degree and will stand up to snow all day long and a short light rain (at least for a while). The notable exception in this review is the Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket which uses a functionally waterproof Pertex Shield+ shell fabric which is bonded (not stitched) to prevent leakage at the seams. If you're looking for maximum wetness protection in a down jacket this is the product to look at. Also of note are the Rab Neutrino Endurance and the Feathered Friends Hooded Helios, both of which use a Pertex Endurance outer fabric that is constructed with a highly water resistant coating to add water repellency. This increases their versatility. The Feathered Friends Volant and Feathered Friends Icefall both use a highly water resistant Pertex Shield fabric. Generally speaking however, if it is cold enough outside to warrant a down parka, it will be either clear or snowing. All of the models we tested will stand up to a snowstorm, unless it is exceedingly wet.
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Kevin Racking up in the Brooks Range Mojave. Hyalite Canyon, MT
Credit: Chris Simrell

The other factor in the water resistance of your down parka is the down itself. Hydrophobic down insulation is one of the newest innovations in the outdoor gear market. Currently the Brooks Range Mojave, and the Mountain Hardwear Nilas are the only down models in this review that features this technology. The merits of hydrophobic down, at least in theory, are faster drying times for your down if it does get wet, and in general, better resilience versus water and moisture in the first place. This is a technology that will certainly evolve and improve. Products that feature hydrophobic down are a bit more versatile in that you can be more confident it your garments defense against moisture. This does not mean however that they are equivalent to synthetic insulations in terms of function and warmth when wet. We are looking forward to reviewing more down parkas, jackets, and sleeping bags with this new technology as more products come to market.
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A sample of DownTek treated hydrophobic down after being sprayed with water. Notice how the water is beading up on the down rather than soaking into the fibers.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab

Durability
Down itself is durable and will likely last the lifetime of your parka. Your main durability concern will be fabrics and features, such as zippers, pockets, cinch cords etc. Some parkas, like the Feathered Friends Hooded Helios have zipperless “clamshell” pockets and elastic bottom hems and are thus a tiny bit more durable since there are no zippers or cinch cords in those places to begin with. The primary durability issue however is with the outer fabric. More than likely a well used down parka, no matter the fabric, will eventually tear a hole here or there and require a quick and easy patch. The lighter parkas we reviewed however, like the Rab Infinity, the Brook Range Mojave and the Outdoor Research Incandescent, feature ultra-light fabrics that are more susceptible to snagging relative to the parkas that use more beefy materials. A few of the parkas we reviewed have taken durability as a major concern and feature different, and heavier, fabrics in the high wear and tear areas. The Mountain Hardwear Chillwave is a good example of this, as is the North Face Nuptse 2. the North Face Gotham Jacket and Canada Goose Expedition Parka also both feautre extremely durable outer fabrics.

Keep in mind also the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Some companies, like Outdoor Research, offer a lifetime warranty on their gear.

Versatility
Unless you are choosing a winter jacket for a particular use, or expedition (in which case you may have a more narrow application), the versatility of the parka you choose is important. Certain products we tested had very narrow applications. The Feathered Friends Hooded Helios, for example, excelled as a light belay parka for ice and alpine climbing, but due to fit performed fairly poorly for wearing day-to-day around town in winter. The Feathered Friends Icefall and Canada Goose Expedition Parka also lack versatility. We found them to be much too warm and unwieldy for all but the coldest of conditions. Some parkas like the North Face Gotham Jacket are great for urban wear, but don't perform well at all in the mountains.

The parkas we found most versatile were the Rab Neutrino Endurance, the Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket, and the Outdoor Research Incandescent. All of them work great in the mountains, offer varying degrees of warmth, and are comfortable, and functional around town.
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Zeb Engberg gets psyched for a day of ice climbing in the Adirondacks. He's wearing the Patagonia Fitz Roy parka, Patagonia Nano Puff Hybrid fleece, and Mountain Hardwear Drystein pants.
Credit: Max Neale
Comfort
The comfort of a parka is partly a subjective interpretation. There are however features that add or subtract comfort. The North Face Nuptse 2 lost comfort points for lacking a hood, a major factor in your warmth and comfort. Others, notably the Feathered Friends Hooded Helios, have a short cut and are a bit less comfortable for normal everyday use. Overall, parkas with more down tend to feel more “cozy” to wear. A good fit, both in the body and in the hood (and around the face), will certainly increase the comfort. The Rab Neutrino Endurance and the Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket for example, have a longer cut in back to cover the butt, and have excellent hoods that perfectly cover the face and nose when facing a cold wind. Keep an eye out also for little touches that add to the overall comfort. Some will have fleece lined hand pockets, for example, which feel much nicer than un-lined pockets.

Editor's Choice Award
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The Mountain Equipment K7 Jacket is our Editor's Choice Award winner for winter down jackets. Lots of factors combine to make this an all around fantastic winter jacket: With box-baffle construction and high quality materials - both down and fabrics - the K7 Jacket is very warm for its weight, quite packable for a warm winter jacket, and equipped with well thought-out and smartly designed features. This jacket performed extremely well in all situations from winter alpine climbing, ice climbing, to wearing around town.

Top Pick Award
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We gave our Top Pick Award to the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket. Although some will find it too heavy for backcountry use, the Chillwave is a good all-around parka that does a parkas most important job quite well - it keeps you very warm. Packed into its warm box-baffled construction are 12 ounces of 650 fill down. A well-designed hood provides excellant warmth and weather protection, and is removable, adding a touch of versatility to the parka. Mountain Hardwear has also provided for durability concerns here, with the Chillwave featuring windproof / water resistant AirSheild nylon for the main body fabric and then a heavier, more durable fabric on the high wear areas of the shoulders, upper back, and outer arms.

Best Buy Award
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Although not necessarily cheap, the Rab Neutrino Endurance is a great choice as an all-around, does-it-all product. 23 ounces in total weight, the Neutrino Endurance features 8 ounces of 800 fill down, a comfortably long cut, highly weather resistant fabric, and an excellant protective hood design. We found it performed excellently as a winter climbing belay parka, and equally well as a day-to-day winter option for around town.

Chris Simrell
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