Testing these winter jackets requires cold temperatures, wind, snow, and rainy weather. We tested across North America, primarily in the mountain towns of Jackson Hole and Mammoth Lakes. We also spent time in Upstate New York's dreary autumn shoulder season. When exciting new jackets came out before the weather was truly frigid, we jumped on a motorcycle to crank the wind chill up and jumped in the shower to test waterproofing. During our months of testing, we endured temperatures below zero, whiteout conditions, and every type of precipitation, from rain to heavy snow to light powder. With our findings, we hope to help you make the best decision on your new piece of winter gear.
We tested warmth by wearing each jacket in sub-zero temperatures in the Rocky Mountains, a task that not every type of jacket can handle. We waited until the testers just couldn't stand the cold any longer and noted the time. Jackets that helped our testers stay warm for longer in colder temperatures scored higher. Jackets were worn side-by-side and by each tester to ensure a comprehensive and accurate comparison of each jacket's warmth, fit, and comfort during extended sessions of team testing.
We tested for weather resistance in real winter conditions, ranging from wet snow and rain in the Northeast to blowing snow and bitter cold storms in the Rockies. This helped us understand how much precipitation each fabric could handle before soaking through. We looked for any signs of water penetrating the jacket, as well as closely inspecting seams and zippers for flaws. To double-check manufacturer claims, we hopped in the shower to make sure a jacket's performance was up to par. While some jackets are meant only to protect from cold and dry snow, others performed almost as well as a traditional rain jacket.
Throughout our testing period, we noted how jackets felt overall and how they fit in important areas like the shoulders, hood, and sleeves. We compared interior and exterior fabrics for friction and smoothness. We passed the jackets around and asked testers which they would prefer to wear for multiple winters. We interviewed various testers with different body shapes to see which jackets fit which body types.
Style is the most subjective of our metrics, and everyone has different tastes. As such, our ratings in this metric might not reflect your style. In general, we awarded points for jackets that are styled to be worn in various situations. We liked jackets that looked sharp yet could blend into a crowd if needed. We wore each jacket around towns and cities and interviewed bystanders about what they thought of each jacket. We used a wide variety of testers to ensure that we got opinions from people with different styles.
While wearing each jacket during daily life in the city and the country, we noted how the pockets, hoods, and other features provided convenience to our lives. We counted the pockets, checked for fleece linings, looked at flaps, checked zippers, and figured out how each jacket was designed to help make life easier in the coldest season. We scored products highly that had a well-designed suite of features, not just those with a lot of pockets.
Winter jackets are supposed to protect us when the weather takes a turn for the worst. The last thing we need is for our jacket to fail or fall apart when we need warmth and weather protection the most. We looked at the durability of the outer shell, insulation, and zippers and then tested our hypothesis with harsh testing that pushed the jackets to their limits. We scrubbed the shell fabric to get the DWR finish to wear off, and we intentionally zipped the inner jacket fabric into the zippers to see how it held up.