Shopping for a winter parka is an experience that immediately entangles you in a morass of options and complicating factors. When you just want a winter jacket, you don't want to be confused by hunting or ice climbing options. A ski jacket can work for all around use, but most just need a warm outer layer for errands, shoveling the walk, and commuting. We've narrowed the field from over 80 popular models, selected the best, and conducted extensive comparative tests. We now have several years of data on our old favorites and add in new samples as they arise, ever searching for the best of the best. To help you decide, we assess each jacket for warmth, weather resistance, comfort, style, features, and durability. We buy these jackets retail and have our experts test them thoroughly in real-world conditions side-by-side. We also test women's winter jackets as well as down, synthetic and ski options to help you find what you need.
The Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2018
We justed revisited our selection and added in some familiar old products and some new gear. Our test team is in Wydaho's Tetons, chasing cold truck camper mornings, bison sightings, and changing colors. We head to the hills each time early autumn snow dusts the peaks, and we make chilly motorcycle commutes to fully test weather resistance. We love winter, and love winter gear. This round, we re-purchased two award winners just to be sure: the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun and Best Buy The North Face McMurdo III. These two products more than held up to the scrutiny and keep their respective awards. We also added in two new jackets the OR Whitefish and the Haglofs Torsang. The Whitefish is a basic down jacket with a durable and fashionable shell.Currently, we're on the hunt for a synthetic Editors Choice counterpart. We purchased the Haglofs Torsang with this in mind, following up on exciting online reviews. What we found was excellent wet weather performance, but a style, warmth rating, and fit that just didn't light our fire. We're holding off on granting this second Editors Choice award, but we're out there looking. Patience is a virtue in pursuit of the best gear on the planet.
The Best Overall
Arc'teryx Camosun Parka
The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka beat out the competition for the third year in a row. In all winter conditions, from hard sleet to snow to assaulting winds and 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 come your way. 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, like on the hood, shoulders, and cuffs. It isn't the absolute warmest and doesn't quite qualify as formal attire, but it provided reliable performance in all of our test metrics, making it the jacket we reached for the most.
The Camosun is an expensive piece of equipment. For most winter conditions, this is perhaps the only drawback to this Editors' Choice winner. In the absolute coldest of conditions, the Camosun will be overwhelmed. In those conditions, if money is no object, check out the Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition. The Expedition is like a sleeping bag with arms.
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 impress us on 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 will last you a long time — all for a reasonable cost. At a modest $200, the Marmot Fordham Vest is likely to make for an excellent layering piece.
The Fordham's shell is made of waterproof/breathable fabric, but the seams aren't sealed. Extended rain or wet snow overwhelms the shell, and the down insulation starts to take on water. This is a function of the budget price point of the jacket. If you want down insulation and a fully waterproof shell, you'll have to pay more than this. If the weather protection compromise is ok with you, this is a great value. For better wet weather protection, the upgrade to the Arc Teryx Camosun is worth the extra cost.
Read review: Marmot Fordham
Best Bang for the Buck, Coldest Conditions
The North Face McMurdo Parka III
If your winters are hardcore, your jacket needs to be above average, too. We can't all afford the $1,000 Top Pick for Extreme Cold, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, but the The North Face McMurdo III is reasonably priced. 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 you during day-to-day life. This latest review covers the latest, greatest, and subtly updated McMurdo III. This newest iteration makes improvements that have their pros and cons but don't alter the overall scoring and award ranking.
The fabrics and construction of the McMurdo are a little stiff and confining relative to the Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition. This is something you'd expect of a budget piece of equipment. The McMurdo, while warmer than many jackets in our review, isn't nearly as insulating as the Expedition. Again, this is what you'd expect at a budget price point. For the bitter cold, when every dollar counts, we highly recommend the McMurdo III.
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, a winter-specific jacket that protects you from prolonged sub-freezing temperatures makes sense. Enter the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. This model is the pinnacle of warmth, has abundant features, and is the coziest jacket reviewed. This is a parka for the coldest weather, designed with Arctic and Antarctic applications in mind. On that note, a special Polar Bears International (PBI) edition is available. This jacket comes in a 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.
The primary drawbacks of the Canada Goose Expedition are weight, bulk, and price. This is a large jacket, in every way. The quality and performance are impeccable, but such specialized performance comes at a cost. This is not your everyday winter jacket. Only those exposed to truly bitter cold will justify these drawbacks. But if you need the insulation, you won't do better than the Expedition Parka. This is the gold standard among polar researchers and adventurers for good reason.
Read review: Canada Goose Expedition Parka
Analysis and Test Results
The table above details the Overall Performance score of each winter jacket we reviewed. Read on for specifics about how the jackets faired in each metric that helped comprise this overall score. Additional details can be found in each contender's individual review.
Every purchase is an exercise in value assessment. What am I getting for what I'm paying? With winter jackets, you consider your climactic needs, your metabolism, comfort and stylistic factors, how much you'll wear it, and your budget. Thankfully, there is a vast range of options, in terms of price and value, on the market. From $100 bargains to technical gear exceeding $1,000. The best values will be those items that earned exceptional scores for their position in the price range, such as the McMurdo Parka III, by The North Face.
As you assess your value needs, here are a few thoughts for your consideration. First, comfort in uncomfortable conditions is a rare blessing. The right jacket turns the gnarliest of weather into a pleasant romp through a snow globe. Next, durability matters. Suitable materials will last longer, and you will get more bang for your buck. Insulation materials vary in both price and durability. Goose down insulation keeps its loft and insulating value much longer than synthetic insulation does. Within down insulation, the rating systems describe weight and insulation value, not durability. More expensive down is warmer per weight, but it won't necessarily last longer than less expensive down. Finally, good weatherproofing is costly. Sealed seams, tight pockets, and protected zippers take effort, design, and pricy materials. If you really want and need to guard against wet and wind, you will pay for it.
Warmth is the most important metric we used to rank each competitor and is a factor of how much insulation is in a jacket, regardless of if its down or synthetic insulation. That said, down fill feels warmer than synthetic The more insulation a jacket contains, the warmer it is. We looked at the insulation quality (fill weight) and quantity (fill weight) of each jacket and then compared it to the jacket's cut and length to gauge how the insulation is distributed. If two jackets have an equal fill weight of 10 ounces, but one has a waist-length hem while the other has a mid-thigh length hem, they are not equally warm. The most useful measurement for warmth is, of course, comparative testing in actual conditions. We spent a lot of outside comparatively test, swapping jackets among the test team and comparing notes.
The top-scoring Arc'teryx Camosun features high-quality, 750-fill down. Such lofty, efficient down keeps the jacket's weight down and its packable size small. The rest of the down insulated parkas feature down below 750, all the way down to the 550-fill in The North Face McMurdo III Jacket. This low number should not dissuade shoppers though. Using heavier, lower quality down brings the cost down and a casual parka like this doesn't need to be as light and compressible as more technical options that need to fit in your backpack.
The Canada Goose Expedition Parka is filled with average quality 625-fill down, but it has so much of it that it's the warmest model reviewed. (It's also pretty bulky.) The second warmest jacket earns a Best Buy award. The North Face McMurdo is nearly an expedition parka, with the price tag of a casual jacket. It offers the best value in our test.
The Patagonia Jackson Glacier also kept us warm in most wintry conditions. The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka falls between the Patagonia Glacier and the Canada Goose Expedition. The Woolrich Bitter Chill deserves mention for being on the warmer side of the fleet. 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.
Overall, jackets with synthetic insulation are not as warm as the down models. The Arc'teryx Fission SV provides less insulation than most of the down models reviewed. This is likely because the garment has less insulation overall, though it did reinforce the idea that if you are looking for warmth, opt for down.
The fleece jackets are the least insulating products reviewed. Well-suited to more moderate climates, The North Face Arrowood Triclimate is durable, versatile, and affordable, but not incredibly warm. Insulated with synthetic fleece, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the field, which may be just what you're looking for if you live in a warm climate.
When we talk about weather resistance, we're talking about wind and water. These jackets are thick enough to cut the wind, so you just need to look out for drafts. Longer jackets or those with ribbed hems will protect you from below. Inner cuffs and hoods will also keep warm air in and cold out. That leaves us with water. Water-resistant outer fabric helps keep you and your jacket's insulation dry in wet winter weather. All of these models have some type of water resistance, from basic nylon with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating to a fully waterproof membrane layer with taped seams. These strategies provide varying degrees of protection.
If your winter precipitation tends to fall as rain or wet snow instead of the West's dry powder, consider a winter jacket with a waterproof outer shell, like The North Face Arrowood Triclimate with its DryVent fabric or the Arc'teryx Fission SV that uses Gore-Tex. These waterproof and breathable fabrics shed water faster and for much longer than a DWR treatment alone. (If a jacket has an inner waterproof membrane, you can be sure the outer face fabric is treated with DWR.) The Arc'teryx Camosun, Marmot Fordham, and North Face McMurdo III all have waterproof and breathable membranes. The McMurdo III does not have sealed or taped seams like the Arc'teryx jackets though, so water can seep through. This knocked the jacket down in the ratings.
If you wear your jacket in lower temperatures where it tends to snow instead of rain, and if that snow is relatively dry (you know who you are), then the competitors with DWR treatments such as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, or Patagonia Jackson Glacier are adequately protected. Another jacket that works well in those conditions is the McMurdo III. It's not incredibly water-resistance due to its untaped seams, but it's warm enough to excel in genuinely sub-freezing conditions. Luckily, in those temperatures, precipitation is always solid, and the compromised weather protection isn't a problem.
The Woolrich Bitter Chill jacket's blended wool/synthetic insulation is protected by a textured, soft external fabric and a waterproof/breathable membrane backing. Ultimately, the waterproof/breathable membrane blocks moisture from getting to you. However, in our testing, the outer fabric to soaked in more snow and water than the others, making it a bit heavy and uncomfortable. 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.
We dig the Haglofs Torsang Parka's weather protection. This is a fully waterproof, taped-seams rain shell with light insulation. It isn't warm enough for many winter climates, but the wet and sleety corners of North America are just the place for it. In terms of weather protection, it is similar to the Editors Choice and the Patagonia Tres.
Wintertime is uncomfortable enough. Don't put on an uncomfortable winter parka, too. Most of the models we reviewed work hard to make braving the cold and wind more forgiving.
We found a general correlation between cost and comfort. More expensive jackets use softer materials and more thoughtful tailoring to achieve maximum comfort. A parka's cut has a significant impact on its comfort. A meticulously designed jacket like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka fits most bodies better than a generic square-cut design. A longer hem, which many of these parkas use, also keeps the waist from riding up and exposing you to drafts. A notable exception is our Best Buy Marmot Fordham. Despite its bargain price, every tester who tried on the Fordham was impressed to find that it's more comfortable than 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 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, Woolrich Bitter Chill, and Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber all have elastic cuffs. The rest employ velcro cuffs.
We love the cozy feel of fleece lining, especially when it lines pockets and chin covers. The North Face McMurdo parka, and both Canada Goose products feature fur or faux fur hood trim. When cinched tight, it works as intended to hold in warmth, making you feel like you're at home in front of the fire, albeit with some tickles to your cheeks.
The soft, down-sweater style construction of the OR Whitefish is far more comfortable than it appears. It looks like a rigid "barn coat" style jacket. However, the construction is tailored and materials selected such that you have all the range of motion you need and a light feeling sort of insulation.
Winter-specific features set these jackets apart from your spring/summer/fall options. Hoods, multiple hand warmer pockets, two-way zippers, and cuff closures work together to protect you from frigid environments.
A hood is mandatory in nasty winter weather, and while it is not a substitute for a warm hat, it certainly makes life a lot nicer. Ideally, these hoods will be highly adjustable to allow for a customizable and secure fit. The best hood in our test is found on the chart-topping Canada Goose Expedition. The hood is warm, large, and can be cinched down securely and comfortably. The stiff brim also keeps the hood (almost) out of your field of view. The hood on Best Buy winning McMurdo III is smaller than previous versions. This is unfortunate, as the latest hood is compromised enough that warmth and weather protection suffers. If you leave the removable fur ruff on and don't have to move your head much, the McMurdo's hood effectively seals out the weather. Otherwise, the more sophisticated hoods of the Arc'teryx and Patagonia jackets are at the head of the pack, literally.
The Woolrich Bitter Chill has a roomy and cozy hood. Only the interior layers of the 3-in-1 jackets do not come with any hood, meaning that a warm hat is necessary. If you wear the fleece liner of the The North Face Arrowood Triclimate, you will need a warm hat.
Insulated handwarmer pockets are an excellent place to keep cold hands or gloves, and most have a fleece-like liner. The Arc'teryx jackets have the best hand warmers. The Haglofs Torsang Parka and the OR Whitefish also have fully insulated hand warmer pockets. All of these feature wrap-around fleece lining. 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 McMurdo III 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.
Unfortunately, The North Face downgraded these pockets on the newest version of the McMurdo (III). The latest version still has four fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, but the upper, chest-level ones are now situated further from the center zipper. This means that you have to contort your shoulders and elbows to get your hands into them. So much so, that these pockets aren't comfortably usable. Nonetheless, the jacket is incredibly worthy.
We wish that the jackets featuring a single layer of fabric protecting the hands in a warming pocket had a more sophisticated design. The Canada Goose models, for instance, both have uninsulated hand pockets.
When wearing a trench-coat-length parka, the need for two-way zippers becomes apparent. The extended length can inhibit stride, and wearing a long coat while seated can be awkward and uncomfortable without this feature. The Haglofs Torsang Parka is a long coat with a separating zipper on the bottom. Getting this zipper started is annoying, but once rigged it runs smoothly.
Cuff closures can be simple elastic closures, a snap closure, or Velcro, but a good winter parka needs them. They seal out the snow and cold and integrate well with gloves. Open cuffs with internal gaskets, like those on the Arc'teryx Camosun and Woolrich Bitter Chill, combine fashion and function. The Haglofs Torsang has soft inner gaskets with velcro closed outer cuffs. This is perhaps the best of both worlds.
Other features that may be important to you include internal phone pockets with headphone ports, skirts to seal out the cold, or built-in face warmers.
We liked the feature set on 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 appreciated 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 (referencing the famous pose) 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.
Style is personal. Our personalities show through our clothing choices, winter jackets included. This review includes parkas that could be worn to a nice restaurant and a Broadway show, and others that are clean and simple but are more at home walking the dog. 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. They are likely missing crucial elements for safe winter adventurings, think hoods or full waterproofing.
Most of the models reviewed have an extended cut, which adds warmth and weather resistance. It also gives them a different look than the waist-length athletic cuts that most 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 but also perform well while snowshoeing or ice skating. The dapper Woolrich Bitter Chill scores well in this category as well.
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.
Our newest jackets are polarizing in terms of fashion. Except for the OR Whitefish. Its subtle style is unanimously appreciated. Our most fashion-conscious tester roundly approves of the look of the Whitefish. This same tester did not like the look of the Haglofs Torsang. This tester's summary of the Torsang was as follows — "It looks like a tube. You look like a blood sausage". Not all testers are so disapproving of the Torsang's style, but this opinion is strong enough to be worth noting.
With few exceptions, quality winter outerwear is expensive. For a quality winter parka, expect to invest. On the upside, that investment will pay off for a few years of consistent use, depending on your activity levels. 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 all 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 offered by companies like Canada Goose and Patagonia, who stand by the craftsmanship and materials of their products.
One of the most critical durability considerations is a jacket's outer fabric. Solid, heavy-duty, canvas-like exterior materials can withstand more abuse than a thinner shell. Zippers, snaps, and Velcro get a lot of use, so we looked at these closures to make sure they are durable enough.
We gave our highest score in this category to the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The large zippers, durable outer material, and quality construction make this jacket last. Similarly, the Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber is quite rugged.
We are concerned about the durability of the technical models tested. These are frequently around sharp ice climbing tools. Quality options like the Arc'terxy Camosun are less worrisome. It didn't scuff or abraid when loading wood or tossing skis over the shoulder.
A winter jacket needs to do a lot of things. And it needs to do them well. For all around, day-to-day wear, comfort, fashion, and protection need to align in a the whole is greater than the sum of its parts kind of way. The search is difficult. We hope that our efforts here help you. We know that many will take our initial recommendations and purchase an award winner. We also know that many are digging deeper into the information. We are happy to oblige readers on every level, as well as to take your feedback on how we can better help you make your choices. Winter is approaching. Select a good winter jacket, hunker down, and enjoy the changing seasons.
— Jediah Porter