The Best Overall
Arc'teryx Camosun Parka
Weight and fill power
: 2.14 lbs, 750 | Number of pockets
Great protection from inclement weather
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 temps, 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
Weight and fill power
: 2.75 lbs, 700 | Number of pockets
Not our wet-weather favorite
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 price, the Marmot Fordham Vest is likely to make for an excellent layering piece.
The Fordham's shell consists of waterproof/breathable fabric, but the seams aren't sealed. Extended rain or wet snow overwhelms the exterior, and the down insulation starts to take on water. This vulnerability to the elements is a function of the budget price point of the jacket. If you want down fill 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
Weight and fill power
: 3.62 lbs, 550 | Number of pockets
If your winters are hardcore, your jacket needs to be above average, too. We can't all afford the 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 northern 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, 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
: 625 | Number of pockets
Brings the heat!
Overkill for most climates
High price tag
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. The Expedition 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 lists at a slightly higher price. 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
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team of expert testers was spearheaded by Jediah Porter. As a professional, internationally certified American Mountain Guide and year-round mountain dweller, Jed spends a lot of time out in the cold elements. Whether you're shoveling the driveway, backcountry skiing, or on an arctic expedition, Jed has the knowledge and experience to evaluate how each jacket will meet your specific needs.
Having tested the latest and greatest winter jackets for years now, our scoring metrics and evaluation methods have been fine-tuned and thoroughly fleshed out. We've used these jackets in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Tetons, mid-winter New York, and backcountry skiing and ice climbing destinations across the country. We made sure to find the limit of each coat's warmth, weather resistance, and comfort across a wide range of activities and conditions.
Related: How We Tested Winter Jackets
Analysis and Test Results
We rated each jacket's performance in key areas including warmth, weather resistance, comfort, style, durability, and value. Read on for specifics about how the jackets faired in each metric that helped comprise this overall score.
Related: Buying Advice for Winter Jackets
A selection of 2018 tested jackets. From time to time we add in new jackets and reconfirm our impressions of older ones. Clockwise from upper left: Haglofs Torsang, OR Whitefish, TNF McMurdo, TNF Gotham, Arc Teryx Camosun.
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 major bargains to technical gear that feels like a serious investment. 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, quality 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.
The Canada Goose coyote fur hood lining is controversial, it's also really warm.
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.
Down Fill Power and Fill Weight — Higher down fill power numbers denote higher quality down feathers. This translates into lighter, warmer down fill that is also more compressible. Ultimately though the amount of insulation, not the quality, is what determines a jacket's warmth. The amount used, usually measured in ounces, is described by a jacket's fill weight. Manufacturers usually advertise a jacket's fill power but not its fill weight.
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.
To get a jump on winter jacket testing we took evening motorcycle rides in mountainous autumnal temperatures to simulate colder, more rugged conditions. (We eventually got into some rain and snow as well.)
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.
Removable faux fur lining and an integrated facemask help you stay toasty when wearing the McMurdo III.
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 Best Buy McMurdo III is a great deal, and a great deal warmer than much of the competition. For deep cold on a budget, look closely.
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.
Despite its slim appearance, the Editors' Choice-winning Arc'teryx Camosun Parka is very warm, thanks to body-mapped down and synthetic insulation. It also sports a waterproof/breathable membrane and taped seams.
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 variety 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.
Wheather you choose a DWR treated jacket or a layered shell with a waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex and a DWR coating on the outer fabric, you have to take good care of it to keep it waterproof. Detergents strip DWR treatments from the fabric but letting the jacket's get dirty makes the waterproofing less effective. Go for a DWR or Gore-Tex specific cleaner. When you DWR finish wears off (they all will), use a wash-in or spray-on waterproofing to restore your winter jacket's weather resistance.
A large, comfortable and adjustable hood does a great job of keeping you out of the weather. We liked the one on the Arc'Teryx Fission SV.
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, allowing water to seep through and hurting the jacket's overall ratings.
If a jacket claims to be waterproof, make sure that the seams are fully taped. Why? Stitches punch tiny holes in the fabric. If they are not taped, they become an easy entry point for moisture. The Arc'teryx jackets and The North Face Arrowood have taped seams.
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 ski skirt on the Canada Goose Expedition Down Parka seems odd since you wouldn't want to hit the slopes in this sleeping bag of a jacket. But it works wonders to keep drafts at bay.
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.
Fleece linings are comfortable, but can be binding. Haglofs mitigates the issue by lining the lower hem and the sleeves with smooth, light nylon.
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.
Comfortable knit cuffs keep snow out and your wrists warm.
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.
The Arc Teryx Camosun is nearly a perfect day-to-day winter coat. Even with its imperfections, it surpasses the field and runs away with our Editors Choice award for years now.
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.
Even if you aren't "working out" in a winter jacket, some range of motion is helpful. Here, lead test editor watching elk in Yellowstone National Park.
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.
Pockets for days. If you lose anything while wearing the Expedition, it's not the jacket's fault.
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.
Patagonia Jackson Glacier has one of the best hoods in the review.
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 has both chest mounted hand warmers, as used here, and waist level ones.
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.
Two-way zips, like the one found on the Haglofs Torsang Parka, are super useful.
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.
Cuffs like these on the Torsang jacket hold winter winds at bay.
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.
Limited features, like the two pockets and a hood on the REI Down Hoodie, keep things simple but don't fight the weather as effectively as more elaborate options.
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.
The OR Whitefish is one of our newest style favorites.
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 versatile Camosun tops our style list.
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.
The Bitter Chill is a good-looking, neutral jacket, appropriate for many occasions.
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 were so disapproving of the Torsang's style, but this opinion is strong enough to be worth noting.
The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka's sturdy fabric increases durability.
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.
Overtime jacket colors change but our rigorous testing process never fails to sort out the best of the best.
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.