Options are abundant when searching for a new winter jacket; we're here to help. We researched over 70 different models before purchasing the best 13. We then put each one through exhaustive side-by-side analysis, testing in brutal snowstorms and on warmer than usual sunny winter days, comparing each one. We also wore each contender in the rainy weather so we could determine which ones are the best for specific climates. From stylish winter jackets that looked exceptional but may not offer as much warmth to heavy duty parkas meant to handle whatever mother nature throws your way, we've found something for everyone.
The Best Winter Jackets for Women of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
From sunny days where temperatures reach 50F to colder days where the highs are only -10F, winter weather can be unpredictable. When it's time to buy a winter jacket, it's important that it's the right one for the environment you live in so you can be sure you've covered all of your bases. For the second year in a row, the Canada Goose Kensington has scored the highest in all of our rating metrics. Following closely behind, the Marmot Montreaux is our Best Buy, and is the warmest jacket in the review, at a cool $300, as well as Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka - Women's, which wins a Top Pick for those residing in wet climates.
Best Overall Jacket for Women
Canada Goose Kensington Parka
Once again proving a fierce competitor, the Canada Goose Kensington Parka has stolen the show, winning our Editors' Choice Award. Hitting above the knee, the Kensington is the epitome of a winter jacket. It has it all: style, serious warmth, and function-focused details. This feature-loaded jacket has everything you need. A detachable coyote fur ruff on the removable hood adds a classic parka feel while offering extra protection from cold winds and snow. The smooth, but thick, durable polyester material on the outer shell repels water well, despite only being billed as water-resistant, not waterproof. Insulated with 625-fill-power down, this wasn't the warmest jacket we tested, but we never felt cold in this contender. The above-the-knee cut allowed for movement without being restrictive, and the microfleece-lined pockets, thick knit cuffs, and an adjustable cinched waist proved Canada Goose's attention to detail. No matter what mother nature has in store this winter, the Kensington Parka can handle it.
Read review: Canada Goose Kensington Parka
Best Bang for the Buck
Who says winter has to be cold and miserable? Why not look fabulous and stay warm? The Marmot Montreaux kept us looking stylish and incredibly warm all winter long. Insulated with plush Down Defender 700 fill power down, we had no problem being outside in 10-15F degree weather, as the down insulation is thicker and loftier than any other model we tested. Treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating, the polyester fabric is water-resistant, but not waterproof. When we tested this jacket in the elements, water initially beaded up and rolled off, but the Montreaux eventually became saturated in heavy rain. We were impressed by how it performed in snowy conditions and we didn't have any issues with penetrating wind, thanks to its thick down. We wore this contender in snowy weather for an extended period and came out with a dry core (keep in mind that down insulation doesn't like getting wet and after an extended period in the rain, down can lose its loftiness AKA its warmth). Besides being incredibly warm, the Montreaux is also very stylish. If you are in the market for a long, knee-length style parka with a form-fitting look and sleek faux fur hood, this is the jacket for you. What makes it even better, is that it's half the price of the Editors' Choice award winner, the Canada Goose Kensington Parka.
Read review: Marmot Montreaux
Best Buy on a Budget
The North Face Arctic Parka II
Finding a winter jacket that's warm and waterproof and won't break the bank is hard. We get it. That's why we awarded The North Face Arctic Parka II our Best Buy on a Tight Budget. Insulated with 550-fill goose down, this model kept us warm and dry when we were shoveling the driveway. The DryVent waterproof exterior material is a cotton/nylon blend and did an excellent job of repelling water when the weather got sloppy. The outer shell is highly durable and windproof; despite being such a burly winter jacket, it was also quite stylish and less than half the price of our Editors' Choice Award Winner. The Arctic Parka II offers a classic winter parka look with its faux fur ruff around the hood and a smooth exterior appearance. For this price, you'll be warm and fashionable, and it won't break the bank.
Read review: North Face Arctic Parka II
Top Pick for Wet Climates
Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka - Women's
Depending on where you live, winter can be messy. Sleet, snow, freezing rain, the whole nine yards. If you live in a wet climate, having a dependable jacket for the winter is crucial; the Patagonia Tres Down Parka is the perfect winter parka to tackle any weather condition. Three jackets in one allow you to be ready for anything that mother nature throws your way; this contender is perfect for a wet climate like the Pacific Northwest, as the outer shell is Patagonia's signature H2No Performance Standard Fabric. Waterproof, windproof and breathable, this layer is a force to be reckoned with, especially since the down layer is insulated with 600-fill-power 100% traceable duck down. A great lightweight option for clear and cold days, this jacket has been treated with a DWR coating. It's water-resistant but not fully waterproof; when all layers are worn together, we felt protected in sloppy wet weather better than any other jacket we tested. With a price tag of $529, the Tres Down Parka is expensive, but you have to consider that you're getting three jackets for the price of one!
Read review: Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
We gauged our winter jackets based on five criteria: warmth, weather resistance, style, comfort, and durability. The table above displays the Overall Performance score of each jacket in our review, ranking from highest to lowest.
All the jackets we tested delivered some degree of warmth. When buying a winter jacket, one of the most important features is the level of warmth being offered. It's also important to look at the climate you experience on a regular basis and think about what you intend on using the jacket for. Choosing the right jacket is crucial for staying comfortable and warm and enjoying the great outdoors during the winter.
A jacket's warmth is based on the loft or fill-power of the insulation, along with the fill-weight. Lucky for you, we tested each one side-by-side in snow, rain, wind, and frigid temperatures - all in our effort to find out which ones were the warmest for various climates.
We went hiking in each model and braved windy storms. We also wore them in varying degrees of temperatures and stood in place for extended periods. You name it, we did it. Overall, the Warmth metric accounted for 30% of the total rating, as we believe it to be the primary function.
The warmest jacket we tested was our Best Buy award winner, the Marmot Montreaux, which earned a perfect 10 out of 10. Loaded with 700 fill-power down from hood to knee, we stayed toasty on some seriously cold days. The loft of the down performed extraordinarily, trapping heat and keeping the wind out. Our Editors' Choice award winner, the Canada Goose Kensington Parka, was close in warmth and was filled with 625 fill white duck down. The durable shell on the Kensington Parka kept cold air out and warm air in, scoring a near perfect 9 out of 10 in the warmth metric.
Also scoring a 9 out of 10, cue the Patagonia Down With It Parka, which is insulated with 600-fill-power recycled down. We also appreciated the level of warmth that the Rab Deep Cover Parka offered, complete with 650 fill European duck down, along with the Canada Goose Camp Hooded. The Down With It Parka and Deep Cover were nearly comparable in warmth, though the Down With It was ultimately a touch warmer. Both are insulated with plush, thick down from the hood to above our knee and did an excellent job keeping cold air out and heat trapped inside. Most of the jackets offered specific features, which helped improve our warmth on cold days - the main one being fleece-lined pockets! What a lovely, cozy feature on a supremely cold day.
Thickly insulated hoods, like the Canada Goose Shelburne Parka and the Marmot Montreaux kept us toasty and secure in stormy weather. The knee-length parkas were our favorite to wear in super cold weather, like the Patagonia Down With It Parka and The North Face Metropolis Parka II. The extra protection and down insulation made a difference when it came to staying warm in frigid weather (10F and below). If you are someone that is always cold, or you just like to stay toasty warm, we'd recommend considering a knee-length parka.
A common misconception is that because a jacket or parka has a higher fill, it will be the warmest. The Arc'teryx Patera Parka has 750 fill European goose down, but is not the warmest contender; in fact, it ranks towards the bottom in regards to keeping us toasty on a cold winter day, scoring a 6 out of 10. While it is not as lofty as the Montreaux or the Kensington Parka, the Patera uses Coreloft synthetic fill in high moisture spots - inner arms, hem, and collar. We could feel the cold air on our arms and shoulders in cold weather because of this. In a milder climate of 35-40F, however, we appreciated the Coreloft synthetic fill while out on a short hike, especially when we started to get hot and sweaty. If you're seeking a jacket that handles breathability and ventilation, we like the Arc'teryx Darrah Coat.
We generally found that synthetic and insulated models with low fill powers lacked considerable warmth and were among the lowest, in regards to warmth, in our testing. The Arc'teryx Patera Parka is a synthetically insulated winter option, complete with 100g of Coreloft synthetic insulation. It's not the best parka for weather below 25F or super cold snow storms, but we were impressed with how well it performed while blocking wind and keeping our core warm. Compared to the Columbia Heavenly Hooded Long Jacket, with only synthetic down 100% polyester fill, the Arc'teryx Patera Parka was much warmer, but not as waterproof.
The Arc'teryx Darrah Coat and the Columbia Heavenly Hooded Long Jacket were two other synthetic jackets we tested. While they were both surprisingly warm, they were not as toasty as the jackets that are insulated with thick down and high fill powers, such as the Rab Deep Cover Parka or the Marmot Montreaux. The Columbia Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket is insulated with an unknown amount of Omni-Heat synthetic fill, while Arc'teryx Darrah Coat has 100 grams of synthetic insulation which is equivalent to 600-fill goose down. Despite being insulated with the equivalent of 600-fill goose down, the Arc'teryx Darrah Coat was warmer in windy and stormy conditions.
We'd believe that warmth and water resistance almost go hand in hand. Winter weather can range from snow, sleet, wind, freezing rain, or just plain old heavy rain.
All the models we tested offered some level of protection from the elements, from DWR (durable water repellent) coated nylon or polyester shell to full-blown waterproof fabric. Before buying a winter jacket, it's important to consider the climate you live in and the purpose of the jacket. If you are living in a wet climate like Seattle, having a jacket that is waterproof and warm is important. If cold temperatures and snow are your typical winter conditions, a DWR coating should suffice. To figure out each jacket's degree of Weather Resistance, we put them through an array of tests.
We went on walks on snow days, stood in place for an extended period in windy conditions, braved blizzards in the middle of the night, and we even brought the two-layer waterproof models in the shower.
It's no surprise that the two waterproof models we tested, The North Face Arctic Parka II and the Patagonia Tres Down Parka performed well in wet weather. Some competitors we tested had windproof outer shells and hoods, like the Canada Goose Shelburne Parka and the Arc'teryx Patera Parka. The durable exterior shells kept us toasty and warm in windy weather, as did the thick down of Patagonia Down With It Parka and the Marmot Montreaux.
Whether you're holiday shopping in New York City on a blustery day, or running errands around town in light snow, why not look stylish and warm? The models we tested ranged in length, fit and function. Some had a smooth, sleek outer shell like the Arc'teryx Patera Parka, while others had beautiful chevron baffling, like the Marmot Montreaux. Everyone has their own preference, but what stood out the most concerning style was the fit. If your jacket doesn't fit you correctly, chances are you won't like wearing it, which sounds like a waste of money. With that said, make sure to know your size and how the jacket fits before buying one, or brace yourself for the impact of reordering and returning until you figure out the best fit.
Some of the jackets we tested were very form-fitting, like The North Face Metropolis Down Parka II, while others had extra room and had a baggy fit, like the Columbia Heavenly Hooded Long Jacket. If you're someone that likes to layer up, a jacket that offers more room in the arms and torso will be perfect for fitting a heavy layer or sweater underneath. While everyone has their own opinion when it comes to style and how a jacket fits, the jackets we found to be the most appealing over our two months of testing were the form-fitting ones, like the Canada Goose Kensington Parka and the Rab Deep Cover Parka; both scored a perfect 10 out of 10.
Our Editors' Choice award winner, the Canada Goose Kensington Parka, is the epitome of a classic winter jacket. Oozing with style from head to toe, this knee-length contender is a show stopper. From the smooth, sleek, water-resistant outer shell to the adjustable cinched-waist, no detail has been left out. The quality construction of the Kensington Parka is apparent across the board. Canada Goose continues to impress and the Camp Hooded was no exception.
Compared to The Legendary Whitetails Anchorage Parka, which has many stylish features, the Canada Goose Kensington offers a heavy-duty option that's going to last longer. Military grade buttons and zippers add a durable touch without jeopardizing the classy look of the jacket. The coyote fur ruff is highly functional in cold weather, as well as super stylish. The Kensington is comparable to armor, but it's also attractive, form-fitting, and feminine.
In cold weather and stormy conditions, if your jacket isn't keeping you warm, your level of comfort might also suffer. For some, fashion is more important than practicality, but for this review, we focused on both. We tested a range of contenders with various kinds and levels of insulation, like the knee-length Marmot Montreaux, insulated with plush 700 fill-power down, or the lightweight synthetic Arc'teryx Darrah.
The models we tested delivered varying levels of comfort. Specific comfort features that attributed to high scores were thick and insulating hoods like on the Marmot Montreaux and the Canada Goose Kensington Parka. Plush down that was warm and not restricting was also taken into consideration, such as the down found on the Rab Deep Cover Parka.
The Marmot Montreaux was exceptionally comfortable, despite being insulated with plush down from our head to above the knee; it's also very cozy and warm, which allowed us to be content in the frigid outside elements. The torso, cuffs, pockets, and collar are also lined with fleece; these subtle, but vital features, add a cozy and warm touch. Last but certainly not least, the Canada Goose Camp Hooded earned a perfect score in this metric, provided us with enough comfort to sail through the winter.
You may not realize how important a warm hood is until you try on a contender that doesn't have any insulation at all, like the Patagonia Tres Down Parka; however, there is enough room underneath the hood for a beanie. Our head to be noticeably colder in stormy or freezing conditions, versus when we were wearing a model that had a toasty hood. Another factor that was important in measuring comfort was mobility. Jackets that ran small, or were tight on the shoulders, like the Arc'teryx Darrah, weren't as comfortable to wear because they were restricting and hard to fit another layer underneath.
Alternatively, a jacket that is too tight or too loose may be restricting, distracting, and not as comfortable as it could and should be. If it's too big for your body, it may not be trapping heat properly. We encourage you to take the time to make sure you are buying a jacket that fits your body type.
A durable jacket has the potential to last you multiple seasons. Often that means having to dish out extra money for better quality construction, but at least you'll know you are getting your monies worth. So what makes a jacket durable? To us, durability means that the jacket can handle what it is intended to do, plus some, with quality construction that will last for years to come. We tested jackets that had soft, polyester or nylon DWR shells, as well as thick, burly two-layer waterproof fabrics. Obviously, in most cases, the heavy duty waterproof fabric is going to be more durable and will protect against snags and tears more than the DWR shells. If you are someone that plans on adventuring to new levels in their winter jacket, a heavy duty durable coat will be right up your alley.
The equivalent of snow bunny armor, the Canada Goose Kensington is highly durable and attractive and is the only jacket to score a perfect 10 out of 10 in the durability metric. The water-resistant polyester fabric almost feels impenetrable to snags and tears. The lack of stitching on the outer shell helps make this jacket more durable, and this is a model that will last you for years to come. In fact, we'd venture to say it's a solid investment.
We loved the Patagonia Tres Down Parka; however, when we were zipping the outer shell into the down layer, the down kept getting caught in the zipper, and we had to take our time. There's potential to snag the down on the zipper, compromising the down layer. Fortunately, if you take your time, you can avoid this issue. The two-layer waterproof fabric on the outer shell is what makes this jacket very durable. Patagonia's signature H2No breathable, waterproof, and stretchy fabric seems almost impenetrable and doesn't have much exterior stitching; because of this, we don't see much room for snags occurring. We tested this jacket in the shower, and the outer shell did a stand-up job repelling water, earning it a near perfect 9 out of 10.
We noticed minimal down feathers escaping from the Patagonia Tres Parka's down layer. While we only tested this jacket for two months, we can tell you that if too much down escapes, the loft and warmth will start to diminish, which will affect your winter investment. If a jacket has a lot of stitching on the outer shell, there is potential for a snag to occur. The Patagonia Tres had a sturdy, durable outer shell that was ready to withstand anything that we threw at it.
We did notice that it was easier for snags to occur on The North Face Metropolis Parka II. The Metropolis Parka II and the Deep Cover Parka has tons of exterior stitching. Finicky zippers seem to be a common issue with some of the jackets we tested; for example, the primary zipper on the Arc'teryx Darrah gave us problems when we tried to zip it up. The Arc'teryx Patera is highly durable, despite its finicky zipper. The outer shell is 2-layer Gore-Tex, 75D polyester with DWR treatment and is waterproof, windproof, and breathable fabric. We found the outer shell to be very durable against snags, due to the lack of exterior stitching. When tested in high winds and heavy rain, this jacket was comparable to the Patagonia Tres Down Parka regarding their level of durability.
One of the most overlooked but crucial features when buying a winter jacket is the hood. A thickly insulated hood makes a huge difference in cold weather, as opposed to a thin non-insulated hood. For someone living in a climate that gets heavy snow and cold temps, a hood with thick insulation and faux or real fur will protect your face and keep you warm. We understand that the real fur can be controversial and not for everyone. Feel free to read more about this in our Sourcing Ethics section of our buying advice. The Canada Goose Shelburne Parka offers an oversized adjustable hood for an even tighter fit on those extra windy days. Detachable hoods are common, and offer versatility, but what if you get caught outside in a storm without it?
There were certain features we loved, like fleece-lined pockets. Whether the exterior pockets were lined on one-sided or both, fleece pockets are a stand-out feature that attributed to additional warmth and comfort on super cold days. Not everyone carries gloves with them at all times; because of this, the fleece-lined pockets are super practical. Fleece also was a theme with collars and cuffs. We loved the fleece-lined torso of the Marmot Montreaux, and the nylon cuffs on the Rab Deep Cover Parka were also plush and super warm. Double-sided zippers were almost a mandatory requirement on all the winter jackets; we found this especially true with the knee-length parkas. While somewhat restricting, we gained a significant amount of mobility with the double-sided zipper (when walking).
The Canada Goose Kensington Parka and the Canada Goose Shelburne Parka offers kick-pleats on the back of the jacket for better mobility. Secured by button snaps, we could feel the cold air leaking in, and the snaps were noticeably uncomfortable when we were sitting on hard surfaces; we honestly didn't find this feature that useful. Even though both offered a tailored look, the cinched waist on the Kensington Parka was more robust than the waist on the Columbia Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket.
Another interesting feature that the Kensington Parka offered was internal carrying straps. We didn't find ourselves utilizing the straps all that often, but for the weight (close to nothing), it's a good option to include - especially if you are living in a mild climate.
The Patagonia Tres Down Parka offers a 3-in-1 option and is the only jacket like it in our review. If you are in the market for a raincoat, a puffy jacket, and a winter jacket, the Tres may be the jacket for you!
We hope that we've been able to help you decide what type of winter jacket is the right style and fit for your life. If you're still wavering between a few contenders and need help narrowing down your selections, consider reading or re-reading the Buying Advice in your quest to determine which model will best suit your needs.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.