Best Winter Jackets for Women of 2020
Best For Keeping Warm
The Marmot Montreaux kept us looking stylish and incredibly warm all winter long. Insulated with high-quality 700 fill down, this jacket is thick and lofty while maintaining a lightweight feel. Plush fleece lines the core and helps hold in warmth. With the insulated hood over our ears and this cloud of a jacket reaching our knees, we stayed toasty in 10-degree weather. With a water-resistant shell and hydrophobic down, the jacket 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. The Montreaux is also very stylish.
Water initially beads up and rolls off the 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 isn't that annoying to cart around. 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 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.
The Tres is tight in the shoulders. If you often wear thick winter sweaters, consider sizing up. The hood is uninsulated but is big enough to wear a beanie underneath. It's also highly adjustable, which keeps it out of our faces. It takes a minute to zip the two layers together, but it's straightforward. 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 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, we get used to it. The faux fur ruff around the hood is beautiful but bunches oddly, making the hood uncomfortable when it's attached. With the fur removed, the hood is comfortable on this warm and protective coat. Bring it on winter.
Read review: The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka
Best Waterproof Budget Buy
The North Face Arctic Parka II
The North Face Arctic Parka II is the most affordable water and windproof winter jacket in the review. It's 550 fill down is warm enough for moderate winter weather, and the cotton and nylon face fabric is rugged. It's likely to last you years, increasing the return on your investment over time. The knee-length hem dips in the back to provide extra protection when you take a seat. Other features that help cut the chill are a removable faux fur ruff around the insulated hood and nylon cuffs to keep cold drafts out.
It's tough to get the fit right on this jacket, and a poor fit makes for an uncomfortable coat. Our standard size is tight in the shoulders and arms. The next size up is too large everywhere else, and an oversized jacket can be drafty. The parka's uninsulated pockets are cold, despite fleece lining. While it isn't perfect, it's weatherproof, and that's worth the reasonable price tag.
Read review: The North Face Arctic Parka II
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. It does make the zipper more accessible than many parkas we tested, but it's 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 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. 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. We did it all for you and explain our findings below.
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. It's reasonable price tag, and dogged durability makes it a great value for heavy-duty use. The North Face Arctic Parka II isn't as warm as its Boroughs big sister, but it isn't as heavy or expensive either. It is just as waterproof and durable.
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. 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 Down With It.
The Rab Deep Cover, The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka, Arc'teryx Seyla Down, 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 has less down, but it's higher quality (750 fill). The Outer Boroughs jacket has lower quality down but a thick and windproof shell that holds heat in.
Keep in mind, though, 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 a lot of 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 a base layer, 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 our favorite option for wet weather. The water and windproof outer shell works great on its own as a rainjacket. The nicely shaped hood and a storm flap over the zipper kept all but a few drops of water out in our four-minute shower test. 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 all fully waterproof and windproof as well. 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. We always love pulling the Patera on.
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 and 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.
Whether you're holiday shopping in the city, running errands around town, or exploring your local trails, 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 the 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 winning the refined style award.
Canada Goose products 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. It's your jacket. You do you.
A durable jacket should serve it's 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. We tested jackets with pliable polyester or nylon shells and others with burly, multi-layer waterproof fabrics. Thicker fabrics are less prone to snagging or tearing and 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.
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. It does have a sticky zipper, though, which could worsen with time. Buyer reviews don't indicate that it stops working, just that it can be challenging to get it to start.
The most comfortable jackets we tested, don't earn the highest marks for durability. Jackets like the Montreaux and Arc'teryx Selya Down are so light and comfortable because they wrap all that lovely down in a thin nylon or polyester shell. It's easy to poke a hole through. 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 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 contribute 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 shell liner does, so it's also available when you zip the down liner in to make the double layer coat. The down layer is flexible enough that it's not an issue.
The Canada Goose Shelburne parka offers kick-pleats for better mobility. Secured by button snaps, we could feel the cold air leaking in, and the snaps are uncomfortable when we sit on hard surfaces. Overall we didn't find this feature that useful. 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.
The Patagonia Tres Down Parka offers three jackets in one. While the Tres is a proper winter jacket, the Arrowood is only appropriate for very mild climates. If you are in the market for a raincoat, a puffy coat, and a winter jacket, the Tres may be the jacket for you!
There is no perfect winter jacket for every occasion, but there are several excellent options out there. We hope we've helped you find the right style and fit for your life.
— Liz Williamson and Clark Tate