Best Winter Jackets for Women of 2020
Best For Keeping Warm
The Marmot Montreaux keeps us feeling incredibly warm and looking stylish all winter. Insulated with 221 grams of high-quality 700 fill down, this jacket is thick but maintains a lofty, lightweight feel. Plush fleece lines the core and does a lot to hold in warmth. With the insulated and faux-fur lined hood over our ears and this cloud of a jacket reaching our knees, we stayed toasty in 10-degree weather. With its water-resistant shell and hydrophobic down, the Montreaux handles wet weather remarkably well, but it's not waterproof. It certainly keeps us dry in the snowy conditions it was designed for and effectively blocks harsh winds thanks to its fleece liner.
Water initially beads up and rolls off the durable water repellant (DWR) finish, but the fabric saturates in heavy rain. The treated down resists collapsing for a time, but it's insulating properties are still compromised when wet. Though it's a lot of jacket, it compresses well and is easy enough to cart around. Some folks find it hard to zip, but it never bothers us. If you're in the market for a warm, knee-length parka with a flattering look and faux fur hood, this is the one for you.
Read review: Marmot Montreaux
Best For Wet Climates
Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka - Women's
Winter can be messy — sleet, snow, freezing rain, the whole nine yards. If you live in a wet climate, having a waterproof winter jacket is crucial. The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 is our top recommendation. Its three layers keep you ready for ever-changing conditions. The inner jacket is insulated with 150 grams of 700 fill recycled down. It's water-resistant enough to get you out of a drizzle and is a great standalone option for clear and chilly days. The outer layer is Patagonia's H2No shell. Waterproof, windproof, and breathable, this layer is a force that can reckon with winter. We switch between them during shoulder seasons. When we zip the two together, this jacket seems unstoppable. We feel more protected in sloppy wet weather than in any other winter jacket we tested.
When the two layers are combined, the Tres is tight in the shoulders. If you wear thick winter sweaters often, consider sizing up. The hood and outer handwarmer pockets are uninsulated. Luckily they are roomy enough to accommodate a beanie and gloves. The hood is also highly adjustable, which helps you snug it down enough to see out clearly. It takes a minute to zip the two layers together, but it's an impressively straightforward process. This jacket is expensive, but you are getting three high-quality options for the price of one, two at the most.
Read review: Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka - Women's
Best Budget Buy
Columbia Suttle Mountain Long
The Columbia Suttle Mountain parka offers a unique take on winter insulation. Instead of just stuffing in more air and heat-trapping synthetic or down insulation, Columbia lines the jackets with small dots of silvery heat reflective material. This is meant to bounce your body heat back at you, while the spaces in between let the jacket breathe. The result is less bulky than most winter jackets. The fleece-lined, faux-fur trimmed hood helps hold the heat in. You can even flip the fur ruff over to extend the hood, which blocks even more wind. Though the jacket isn't waterproof, its DWR finish sheds water impressively well.
We find that the Suttle warms you up the most when you're moving but stays a little too chilly to stand around in the coldest of weather without extra layers. The mid-thigh cut makes it a little less insulating as well. And, while you can adjust the cuffs to help hold in warmth, an inner gasket would help keep you cozier. For more moderate climates, active adventures, or folks who just tend to run hot, this comfortable, durable, and stylish jacket offers a solid value.
Best Heavyduty Buy
The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka - Women's
The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka is a classic winter parka that will last years without breaking the bank. Reaching just above our knee and insulated with 550 fill goose down, this parka kept us warm when temperatures plummeted. The shell is thick, waterproof, windproof, and loaded with features. The Boroughs' cozy fleece cuffs convert to mittens. This small, but awesome feature comes in handy if you're caught out in a storm. So does the cozy insulated hood. A cinched waist helps shape the jacket and tailor the fit. A two-way zipper gives you plenty of room for your legs to move, and a storm flap lets you pull this jacket on and snap it shut in a hurry.
This jacket is heavy and tight in the shoulders. Between that and the stiff fabric, which is especially prominent in the collar, this winter coat can feel restrictive. It's noticeable when you first pull it on or if you wear it over heavy layers. Otherwise, you get used to it. The faux fur ruff around the hood is beautiful but bunches oddly, making the hood noticeably uncomfortable when it's attached. With the fur removed, the hood is much more comfortable on this warm and protective coat.
Read review: The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka
Best for Active Use
Arc'teryx Patera Parka
If you overheat easily and find yourself ripping off your winter jacket the second you step inside, consider the Arc'teryx's Patera Parka. This comfortable and fashionable option is built for city living. It moves with you as you duck in and out of the cold — from public transit to the coffee shop to the office. The need for rapid-fire temperature regulation inspired a heat mapping insulation system. High-loft, 750 fill down covers the tops of your arms, your shoulders, your chest, and your back and bum (when standing). Synthetic insulation covers your sides, the underside of your arms, and the lower eight inches of the jacket. The effect works well for us when we're rushing around. And the jacket is fully waterproof for warmer, wetter winters.
The downside is that the jacket isn't as warm as others, particularly when you sit down in the cold. The two-way zipper stops about eight inches above the hem. This design feature gives you plenty of room to walk but does let more cold air in. The higher cut does make the zipper more accessible than many parkas we tested, but it can be prone to sticking. All told, this trim, lovely and durable jacket will keep wet snow and rain at bay and will keep you moving in cold winter weather.
Read review: Arc'teryx Patera
Why You Should Trust Us
Liz Williamson has tested winter jackets in Yosemite and around Lake Tahoe since 2015. She's tested over 100 jackets in some of the harshest conditions from the High Sierra to the Andes to Patagonia. Her background in design and wildlife management gives her knowledge of the practical needs of outerwear in cold environments as well as the more functional and style considerations of day-to-day use around town.
Liz is joined by Clark Tate. Clark combines a Master's Degree in Environmental Science with a decade of science writing to build our jacket testing plans and ratings. Clark developed an appreciation for finding the right winter coat over 9 winters living and playing in mountain towns like Breckenridge, Durango, and Lake Tahoe.
After spending a dozen hours researching over 50 of this season's winter jackets, we purchased the top models to test side-by-side. We spent 150 hours switching between coats in similar conditions and running repeatable tests, from standing in the shower to laying in a snowbank to standing outside in freezing weather to watch the sunrise. We hiked and walked over 100 miles in inclement weather. We tested these in temps ranging from 50 to -10 degrees, in heavy winds, sideways snow, and sloppy shoulder season weather.
Analysis and Test Results
We judged these jackets based on their warmth, weather resistance, comfort, style, and durability. Then we factored in cost to find the best performance to price ratios for you. Remember that all ratings are relative to the other jackets in this review. A score of "7" in warmth is still very toasty. It's just not as warm as the coast that scores higher. Consider your climate and favorite outdoor activities to determine which test scores are important to you, whether that's a completely waterproof option, the very warmest jacket, or the one that will help you keep from overheating.
It's important to find the right winter jacket for your needs and your budget. The Marmot Montreaux provides an excellent performance to price ratio. It earns top scores and is among the least expensive jackets in the test. Still, it might not be right for your needs. It's relatively thin polyester fabric isn't as durable as many heavy-duty (and also heavier) options. It's not waterproof either.
If you need a waterproof jacket, you can bang around during outdoor chores, The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka's higher price tag is likely to offer more value in the long run. The rugged shell fabric feels bombproof and does an excellent job of keeping you dry and warm in nasty weather. Its reasonable price tag, and dogged durability makes it a great value for heavy-duty use. The Columbia Suttle Mountain parka isn't as warm as the Boroughs, but it isn't nearly heavy either. It not waterproof but feels just as durable and is much better for milder winters or harder work since it's a little cooler and much more comfortable.
Expensive purchases can also offer excellent value. For example, the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka gives you three jackets for the price of two budget options. It also offers ecological and ethical value. The coat is insulated with 100% recycled down and 75% recycled polyester (100% in the down layer and 50% in the shell). Its sewing labor is Fair Trade Certified. All of Patagonia's offerings reach similar environmental and ethical standards. Rab, Eddie Bauer, and The North Face all champion the responsible down certification. If these practices align with your ethics, and you have the extra cash to spend, they offer value as well.
When shopping for a winter jacket, you want to find one that will be warm enough for your needs. If a jacket has down insulation, the quality of the down (fill-power) and how much down is in it (fill-weight) determines its warmth. Higher fill-power numbers mean higher quality down and more warmth per weight. But it also matters how much of that high quality down is in the jacket. Companies rarely display their jacket's fill-weight because the numbers don't tell the whole story. Jackets with synthetic insulation can be even harder to gauge by the numbers. Lucky for you, we tested each of these jackets side-by-side in snow, rain, wind, and frigid temperatures to find out which ones are warmest.
The toastiest jacket we tested is also our favorite, the Marmot Montreaux. Loaded with 700 fill power down from its hood to its hem, this jacket keeps us cozy on frigid days. Its fleece-lined torso traps extra heat and keeps the wind out. Knee-length parkas are our favorite option in brutally cold weather, which we think of as 10-degrees and below. If you run cold or live in a freezing climate, we'd recommend considering a knee-length parka, like the Montreaux or the Patagonia Jackson Glacier.
The Rab Deep Cover, The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka, Arc'teryx Seyla Down, Jackson Glacier, and Down With It Parka are all hot on the Monteaux's heels. The Down With It and Deep Cover are incredibly warm thanks to their masses of mid-quality down. The Seyla and Jackson Glacier have less down, but it's higher quality (750 and 700 fill, respectively). The Outer Boroughs jacket has lower quality down but a thick and windproof shell that holds in heat.
Keep in mind that the warmest jackets may be overkill for you. The Arc'teryx Patera combines down and synthetic insulation. While it boasts 750 fill European goose down, it doesn't have much of it. And the 100 grams of Coreloft synthetic insulation isn't as warm. We started getting chilly when temperatures hovered around 25F. Unless we were moving fast and generating heat, we could feel the cold air on our arms and shoulders. In milder weather, we appreciated the system. It helped us cool us off when we started to overheat.
Most of the jackets tested have smart features that help keep out the cold. Insulated hoods, like those on the Marmot Montreaux and The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka, keep our heads happy in stormy weather. Smaller hoods can hold warmth more effectively but also restrict movement and your ability to wear a cap underneath. We prefer roomy hoods like the one on the Eddie Bauer Sun Valley Down Parka. Fur ruffs keep the cold off our face, and cuffed sleeves keep drafts from creeping up our arms. Insulated fleece-lined pockets are lifesavers on truly frigid days.
Jackets scoring a little lower, like the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka, often lack these little extras. That doesn't mean they aren't warm. The Tres has less insulation than the warmest options and lacks an insulated hood, faux fur ruff, and cuffs to seal out the deep cold. With a hat, gloves, and base layers though, the Tres can keep up.
Winter weather can range from cold, dry snow, sleet, wind, and freezing rain to straight-up rain. Knowing what you're likely to run into will help you pick a coat. If you live in a wet climate like Seattle, having a moderately warm and completely waterproof winter jacket is a good idea. If cold temperatures, biting winds, and dry snow are your reality, warmth and wind resistance are more critical than water-resistances, and a DWR finish should suffice.
All the models we tested offered some protection from wet weather, from a water-resistant coating to a full-blown waterproof membrane. To test how well each jacket keeps you dry and cuts cold winds, we went for walks on wet snow days, stood in the shower, headed out in windstorms, and braved blizzards.
The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Down Parka is the best option for wet weather. The water and windproof outer shell works wonderfully on its own as a rainjacket. The nicely shaped hood and storm flap zipper cover kept all but a few drops of water out during our shower tests. With the down layer zipped in, it will keep you dry and warm. The Arc'teryx Patera, Fjallraven Nuuk Insulated Parka, The North Face Arctic Parka II, and the Outer Boroughs Parka are also fully waterproof and windproof. They are great options for wet climates, but each has a small detail or two, like a leaky zipper, that keeps them from earning top weather protection honors.
For windy, cold, and, wet conditions, the Outer Boroughs Parka offers true shelter from the storm. With the hood on, and the collar zipped up, the only part of you exposed is your eyeballs. Pull-on a pair of goggles, and you're good. But be sure to remove the fur ruff in the rain. Otherwise, it can funnel rainwater into the jacket. This jacket is overkill for many conditions, but it's at its best in the worst of them.
Other jackets, like the Canda Goose Shelburne, feature a combination of burly shell fabric with a DWR treatment. These jackets will keep you protected in a dry snowstorm and will shrug off light rain long enough for you to hightail it inside. The super warm Montreaux is not waterproof, but it's DWR finish, and water-resistant down did a surprisingly good job in our shower test. After four minutes, only the fronts of our thighs were wet. It's best reserved for dry snow or drizzles, though.
If you're just dealing with cold and wind, the Canada Goose Shelburne's windproof shell and the thick down of Patagonia Down With It Parka and the Marmot Montreaux will do the trick.
Winter jackets can feel oppressive and restrictive. We love the ones that don't. We also love soft details that keep us warm in a storm. The most comfortable jackets we reviewed wrap you in down from your head to your knees like cotton candy, without ever feeling cloying. They are warm, flexible, and light, always feeling a little like a hug. A cozy hood doesn't hurt.
The Marmot Montreaux earns a perfect score for nailing this feeling, providing us with enough heavenly comfort to sail through the winter. With it's nicely fitted, downy hood, and soft fur ruff, wearing the Montreaux is like walking around with a pillow. It offers instant comfort with a plush, fleece-lined torso, and collar. Fleece cuffs and pockets keep your hands happy. These subtle features add a comforting touch. The Rab Deep Cover Parka also scores well for its lofty, unrestrictive down fill and light nylon shell.
Being able to move and flex in a jacket plays a big role in comfort. Jackets that run small or are tight on the shoulders keep reminding you that you're wearing them. We the ones we can pull on and forget. We're impressed with the cut and comfort of the Arc'teryx Patera. It's form-fitting but never restrictive, with plenty of shoulder room. Its sleek looks belie the cozy down baffles inside. Soft storm cuffs hug your wrists, and the insulated hood snugs around your head.
The North Face Gotham II ranks highly as well. Hitting just below the waist, it offers unrivaled mobility and a soft and pleasantly weighted feel, like a down comforter. Just below the top tier in comfort, Patagonia Tres is a little tight in the shoulders and lacks an insulated hood. Still, we pull on all three versions of this coat most often than any of these winter jackets, since one of them will always be right for every type of weather.
Why not be warm and stylish? The models we tested ranged in length, fit, function, and fashion. Some have smooth, sleek outer shells like the Arc'teryx Patera Parka. Others feature beautiful chevron baffling, like the Marmot Montreaux. We like both styles, but some companies execute them better than others.
The Rab Deep Cover Parka and Marmot Montreaux win top style honors. They are similar jackets, with thin fabric, down baffles, and a hood with a faux fur ruff. The Deep Cover has horizontal seams and a mid-thigh length. The Montreaux's baffles are angled to create a chevron pattern, and it reaches our knees. Both have a mat fabric finish and earned us compliments like crazy. The Deep Cover is a bit sportier, due to it's shorter length and straightforward seams. The Montreaux is more elegant, thanks to angled seems that suggest a slight drape.
The Patera nails sleek winter style. Clever insulation mapping cuts down on bulk at your sides to offer the trimmest silhouette of any jacket we tested. The handwarmer pockets never interrupt the elegant line, and the face fabric's high-quality is evident. The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka is a close runner up, with princess seams and a similar sleek appearance. The handwarmer pockets often bulge, though, keeping it from having the most refined style . Canada Goose products also offer a polished look, and the Camp Hooded Jacket and Shelborn Parka are no exception.
Some of our testers, and many reviewers, love the look of The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka. Its cargo chic with a cinched waist that lends it a feminine shape. The Columbia Suttle offers a similar utilitarian style that we love.
A durable jacket should serve its intended purpose for years, if not decades. To get one, you may need to spend more to get a higher quality product, but that's not always the case. Thicker fabrics stand up better to rough use. But if you'll just be walking around town, thinner shells often work fine.
The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka, with its minimal exterior stitching and tough nylon, polyester, and cotton shell seems indestructible. The fabric stiffness that makes it less comfortable now will likely translate to longer use. Arctic Parka II and Canada Goose Shelburne Parka feel similarly bombproof.
The Patagonia Tres's two-layer H2No membrane and polyester twill fabric isn't stiff, but it also seems invincible. Between the sturdy material and minimal external stitching, there isn't much to snag or unravel. We did notice a few down feathers escaping from the inner jacket. It's not enough to concern us, but this layer is thin, snaggable, and has loads of external stitching. Keeping this layer up and running will require some care. Luckily, Patagonia will always fix it for you if you ask. We think their Jackson Glacier jacket will stand the test of time.
The Arc'teryx Patera's 2-layer polyester and Gore-Tex shell also brushes off sharp sticks and brambles. We expect it to maintain its weather and windproof properties for many years to come. The Columbia Suttle seems just as robust.
The most comfortable jackets we tested, don't earn the highest marks for durability. Jackets like the Montreaux and Arc'teryx Selya Down wrap all that lovely down in a thin nylon or polyester shell. We only ripped one tiny hole in the Montreaux during testing, it hasn't gotten any bigger, and it's easy to fix. But you do need to take better care of this type of winter jacket.
If you're wearing a jacket in the winter, it better have a hood. Better yet, an insulated one. A warm hood makes a huge difference in cold weather. If you add a faux (or real) fur ruff to protect your face from frigid winds and flying snow, you'll be ready for genuinely rough weather. Our favorite insulted hoods in this review belong to the Montreaux, the Columbia Suttle Mountain, the Arc'teryx Patera, and the Eddie Bauer Sun Valley Down Parka.
The style of a fur ruff and the ethics of real fur are both controversial topics. We let the function of a faux ruff speak for itself. They make a jacket more protective in a storm. Killing a wild predator for one is a next level topic. Canada Goose is the only manufacturer in this review that uses real fur.
Fleece-lined pockets are another stand-out feature that contributes to your warmth and comfort. It's easy to get caught out in the cold without gloves, and a warm, inviting pocket can make all the difference. We love fleece anything on these jackets, from collars to cuffs. The Montreaux's fleece-lined torso went a long way to keep us come and warm, and the cuffs on the Rab Deep Cover and Sun Valley parkas are also plush and super warm.
Two-way zippers are all but mandatory on mid-thigh or knee-length parkas to keep it easy for you to move around. All the longer jackets we tested have one. The inner down jacket of the Tres 3-in-1 Parka is the one exception. The down layer is flexible enough that it's not an issue. The Patagonia Down With It jacket takes it to the next level by adding snaps on either side of the hem, making it easy to walk even if you're all zipped up.
The Canada Goose Shelburne parka offers kick-pleats for better mobility. Secured by button snaps, we could feel the cold air leaking into them though, and the snaps are uncomfortable when we sit on hard surfaces. We feel similarly about the zipper stopping eight-inches from the hem of the Arc'teryx Patera. It adds mobility but lets in cold air.
The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka offers a unique feature that we fell in love with — cuffs that convert to mittens. They're ready to flip down in case of icy winds, or impromptu snowball fights. When they get wet, though, they stay cold.
There is no perfect winter jacket for every occasion, but there are plenty of excellent options out there. We hope we've helped you find the right style and fit for your life.
— Liz Williamson and Clark Tate