Winter doesn’t have to be a season of freezing in sleet and snow in uncomfortable and bulky parkas. We took 10 of the best winter jackets on the market and compared them side-by-side to see which is best for your specific winter needs, whether you need a layer to keep warm while walking the dog or for belaying your partner in frigid temps. Everything from warmth to comfort to style are discussed as we put each jacket through a handful of situations to test their mettle. There were a few surprises and a few favorites, and while all were useful in a handful of situations others were clearly the cream of the crop.
If you’re looking for something lighter weight to keep you warm during or between bouts of physical activity, take the time to read through our Men’s Down Jacket Review , and be sure to check out our Women’s Winter Jacket Review for casual and technical models designed for females.
The Best Winter Jacket for Men Review
The Rab Neutrino Endurance is a high quality down coat with enough features to keep you warm and dry in a lightweight package. The classic stitch-through baffle design is updated with 225g of 800-fill hydrophobic European goose down, a Pertex Endurance outer material, and a wire brimmed helmet-compatible hood, all in a 23 oz package. While the Arc’teryx Therm e and Canada Goose Expediti on Parka are warmer, the Neutrino is the best jacket for technical activities where you need to ca rry your insulation layer with you, such as ice or rock climbing and backcountry skiing, so it wins our Top Pick award for best technical winter jacket.
The North Face Gotham Jacket combines après-ski style and modern features at a great value, winning our Bed Buy award. A great winter coat is worn day-in and day-out during the harsh winter season and this product is equally appropriate whether on a ski run or huddled around a campfire. While we would have preferred a few more weather resistant features and thicker insulation, overall the jacket performed well when used on day trips to the mountains and cold evenings down town.
The Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket is unique in this review – a waterproof down jacket. Unlike some manufactures that are trying to boost down’s resistance to water with treatment of the down itself, Outdoor Research has simply encased regular down in this jacket with a waterproof, stitch-free, outer shell. Though not nearly as warm as many of the jackets in this review, it is indeed storm-ready in a way most other winter down jackets are not. In our testing, we found that the Floodlight performs best as a product for backcountry ski touring in wet climates like the Pacific Northwest (where it just so happens OR is based).
Brooks Range Mojave
The Brooks Range Mojave is unique in our Parka review in that it is the only product that features hydrophobic down – a new technology. Brooks Range has used a DownTek hydrophobic coating on the 800+ fill power down in the Mojave, meaning that the down insulation is less susceptible to the de-lofting normally caused by water and moisture. The Mojave also features box-baffles in the chest, and a lightweight Pertex Quantum outer fabric. All together the Brooks Range Mojave is a well-rounded, warm for its weight light down parka, complete with cutting edge technology.
The Outdoor Research Incandescent is a smartly featured light parka. In our experience, it proved to be an excellent ice climbing belay parka. At 17.9 oz. total weight, and with 7 oz. of 800 fill down, it is both lightweight and extremely packable. The Incandescent is certainly not as warm as many of the other parkas we reviewed, but for moving quickly, and when appropriately layered, it performs very well. And added bonus – It stuffs into its own pocket and clips to your climbing harness. A big plus for multi-pitch ice.
Feathered Friends Hooded Helios
The Feathered Friends Hooded Helios is a great climbing belay parka that feels much more at home in the mountains than downtown. Since it is not available from major retailers, you must order online directly from the small manufacturer in Seattle, perhaps a small inconvenience to some but you won’t be disappointed. If you are looking for a winter jacket immediately, check out our Top Pick Award Winner, the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket. It is only a little less warm, is somewhat heavier, and is widely available at many major online retailers; the Chillwave will save you $185-275.
It is both lightweight and extremely packable, and offers a few unique features. Overall we found that the Feathered Friends Hooded Helios performed very well as a technical climbing parka, and performed less well as a general use or “around town” parka relative to the other jackets in this review.
Feathered Friends Volant
With 850-fill down, fully baffled construction, and weight saving features, the Feathered Friends Volant Parka puts most other down parkas to shame. Since it is not available from major retailers, you must order online directly from the small manufacturer in Seattle, perhaps a small inconvenience to some, but you won’t be disappointed. This high performance, packable oven is ideal for ice and alpine climbing, but works equally well at keeping you warm when standing around on the ski hill and walking around town at night.
For a top rated parka you can buy at major retailers, we recommend the Rab Neutrino Endurance or the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket.
The Volant is among the warmest down parkas we’ve reviewed. Every aspect of the jacket is designed to provide as much warmth as possible while also keeping weight down and maintaining durability. The Volant weighs only 28 ounces overall and is built to the same exacting standards as the company’s high performance sleeping bags. Drawbacks include the lack of interior storage pockets, front pockets that make you look pregnant, and a hefty $379 price tag.
The Volant is not a lightweight, casual jacket for mild climates. If you’re looking for something lighter and more compressible, check out some of the lighter parkas in this review like the Outdoor Research Incandescent, the Rab Infinity, the Brooks Range Mojave, or the more climbing specific Feathered Friends Hooded Helios. All of which are more compressible, weigh around one pound, and are more suited to milder winter weather.
The Patagonia Fitz Roy is a balanced parka. It’s not particularly light, nor is it particularly warm, but it is very comfortable and quite versatile. We found that the Fitz Roy was an excellent every day parka, warm, comfortable, and well fitting, but also performed in the mountains. It is among the least insulated parkas we tested with 6.5 oz. of 800 fill down, but it features warmth-inducing box-baffle construction and a comfortably long cut. With its total weight of 22.8 oz. this means there are lighter parkas with slightly more down, but they tend to lack the day-to-day versatility of the Fitz Roy.
The Rab Infinity has been discontinued; however, the Rab Infinity Endurance has taken its place, keeping the same features you love and adding a water-resistant coating.
The Rab Infinity is among the lightest down parkas in our review at 16 oz. The very light outer fabric allows the jacket to pack down easily, and gives the wearer the impression of being surrounded by simply the down itself. Despite the pleasant lightness, the Infinity is warm for its weight. The Rab Infinity is a good choice if you like a more minimalist design.
While factors such as warmth and protection are useful in determining a coat to wear all winter, also style should be discussed as a factor. A winter coat is often worn all season, sometimes for days on end. As nice as it is to have a bright and colorful ice climbing parka, huge and warm, it won’t feel too useful when waiting for a concert to open it’s doors late at night or out catching a movie in January. For this reason, many of us choose a parka not just as a tool but also as a piece that can be worn in everyday situations, and look nice at the same time. How to pick a jacket based on all these criteria? As always with gear, the first thing to consider is where it will be used. An ice climber and a photographer have very different needs, carrying different equipment and moving at a different rate. When reading through each product review, make sure to ask “would this work for what I need?” Sometimes you will find the best product isn’t something that was even on your radar, but an entirely new idea to breathe life into a winter season!
What makes a jacket a ‘winter jacket’? We chose the coats in this review based on their warmth, weather resistance, and comfort. A good jacket should be insulated with some form of either synthetic or down material to trap air warmed by the body. In addition, winter can bring severe storms, with rain and snow as well as cold temperatures. A jacket should not only provide warmth but some weather protection. We define a winter jacket as a layer that will keep the wearer warm, even when not moving.
Walking into an outdoor store one can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of wonderfully puffy coats available each winter season. Each product we reviewed uses high quality materials and is designed to solve specific needs, so first we need to define what types of cold weather jackets exist and for what activities.
Down insulation is the original workhorse for winter warmth. Down feathers can hold an incredible amount of trapped air in their soft clumps, which our bodies heat up, insulating the wearer from cold. In the past, down jackets were giant tubed baffles stitched together and thrown over the shoulders like a nylon papoose, but modern design and fashion have given us an upgrade both on technology and fit.
Down is ideal in the winter because it compresses very small, traps a ton of air, and can last many years when properly cared for. Once wet, down can clump together into useless balls of wet feathers, no longer insulating or providing warmth. In most parts of the world, winter is synonymous with snow, and in order to skirt this issue many down jackets come with some kind of nylon shell or durable water repellent (DWR) chemical treatment on either the exterior material or the down itself to stay dry.
Different qualities of down exist and we reviewed products from 550 fill power to 800 fill power. The power of the fill is the quality of the down, not unlike thread count in sheets. Typically higher fill power will feel smoother, be lighter for the warmth, and compress a little bit more. Lower fill power down may feel a bit ‘clumpy’ and small burrs might be noticeable through thin fabric, though the performance is still adequate.
This review includes all jackets that are insulated with down, but they are all thick, longer hemmed, and warm layers designed to keep the wearer warm even in still situations. We reviewed lightweight, technical down jackets designed for use during or between aerobic activity in our
Best Down Jacket review, worth checking out if you are interested in a coat for layering or lighter, 3-season use.
Synthetic Fibers are very thin tubes of plastic laid down in sheets and folded over, not unlike the type found in common house insulation – only a lot softer! Companies like Primaloft and Polartec, and individual outdoor clothing manufacturers produce types of this insulation, which attempts to mimic down by trapping warm air in the spaces between the fibers. The advantage of synthetic insulation over down is that it does not clump together when it gets wet, so it can still insulate the wearer somewhat.
All of the jackets we have reviewed here are down-insulated, due mostly to the incredible weather resistant shell materials the coats are paired with, which keeps the down feathers dry unless in a downpour. In the event that moisture is unavoidable, synthetic insulation may be used throughout the jacket or in specific areas prone to moisture like the armpits or cuffs.
If you need a synthetic jacket to wear in a wet climate or keep on hand in case of a storm, see our Best Insulated Jacket
review for models insulated entirely with synthetic materials.