Testing 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.
Warmth was tested by wearing each jacket in sub-zero temperatures in the Rocky Mountains until the testers just couldn't stand the cold any longer. Jackets that helped our testers stay warm for longer and in colder temperatures were scored higher. Jackets were worn side-by-side and by each tester to ensure a comprehensive and accurate comparison of the warmth, fit, and comfort of each jacket 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. When in doubt, we hopped in the shower to make sure a jacket's performance matched its claims.
Throughout our testing period, we noted how jackets felt overall, as well as how they fit in important areas like the shoulders, hood, and sleeves. Interior and exterior fabrics were compared for friction and smoothness. We passed the jackets around and asked testers which they would prefer to wear for a multiple winters. Multiple testers with different body shapes were interviewed to see which jackets fit which body types best.
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 a variety of situations. We liked jackets that look sharp, and yet could blend in to a crowd if they needed to. 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 make sure that we got opinions from people with different styles.
While wearing each jacket during daily life in the city and in the country, we noted how the pockets, hoods, and other features of the jacket 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 that had 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.