Denier D is the measurement of the weight of a thread, and the lower the number the lighter the weight. Manufacturers usually advertise a jacket's fill power but not its fill weight. The Woolrich is the warmest non-down insulated piece reviewed.
Our test team is in Wydaho's Tetons, chasing cold truck camper mornings, bison sightings, and changing colors. We head to the hills each time early autumn snow dusts the peaks, and we make chilly motorcycle commutes to fully test weather resistance. We love winter, and love winter gear. This round, we re-purchased two award winners just to be sure: These two products more than held up to the scrutiny and keep their respective awards.
The Whitefish is a basic down jacket with a durable and fashionable shell. The Arc'teryx Camosun Parka beat out the competition for the third year in a row.
In all winter conditions, from hard sleet to snow to assaulting winds and bitter cold, this model keeps you well-protected. Its stylish looks are ready for chilly jaunts around town, and you'll look good no matter what harsh weather conditions come your way.
The Arc'teryx designers employ high-quality goose down in critical areas where warmth is paramount, and strategically placed synthetic fiber insulation where higher than average moisture exposure is expected, like on the hood, shoulders, and cuffs.
It isn't the absolute warmest and doesn't quite qualify as formal attire, but it provided reliable performance in all of our test metrics, making it the jacket we reached for the most. The Camosun is an expensive piece of equipment. For most winter conditions, this is perhaps the only drawback to this Editors' Choice winner.
In the absolute coldest of conditions, the Camosun will be overwhelmed. The Expedition is like a sleeping bag with arms. Low in price yet high quality in construction and materials, the Marmot Fordham earns our Best Buy Award. This stylish coat keeps you warm and dry via a waterproof exterior insulated with goose down.
The Fordham has some features that impress us on such an inexpensive jacket, like a comfortable cut and an abundance of pockets. It is also available in a range of colors, which means you can decide what suits you best. Comfy and cozy, the Fordham gets you through the winter and will last you a long time — all for a reasonable cost.
Extended rain or wet snow overwhelms the shell, and the down insulation starts to take on water. This is a function of the budget price point of the jacket. If you want down insulation and a fully waterproof shell, you'll have to pay more than this. If the weather protection compromise is ok with you, this is a great value. For better wet weather protection, the upgrade to the Arc Teryx Camosun is worth the extra cost. If your winters are hardcore, your jacket needs to be above average, too.
At a third of the cost of the Canada Goose, but still incredibly insulating, this is a natural choice for a Best Buy Award. For northerly latitudes and the coldest days, the McMurdo's down insulation, long cut, and generous hood combine to protect you during day-to-day life.
This newest iteration makes improvements that have their pros and cons but don't alter the overall scoring and award ranking. This is something you'd expect of a budget piece of equipment. The McMurdo, while warmer than many jackets in our review, isn't nearly as insulating as the Expedition. Again, this is what you'd expect at a budget price point.
While bitter cold, feet of snow, and icy sidewalks may not describe winter for some, for those living in the northern latitudes in the Midwest, East Coast and Alaska, a winter-specific jacket that protects you from prolonged sub-freezing temperatures makes sense.
Enter the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. This model is the pinnacle of warmth, has abundant features, and is the coziest jacket reviewed. This is a parka for the coldest weather, designed with Arctic and Antarctic applications in mind. A portion of the sales goes to PBI and their mission of saving the polar bears and their habitats. The primary drawbacks of the Canada Goose Expedition are weight, bulk, and price.
This is a large jacket, in every way. The quality and performance are impeccable, but such specialized performance comes at a cost. This is not your everyday winter jacket. Only those exposed to truly bitter cold will justify these drawbacks. But if you need the insulation, you won't do better than the Expedition Parka. This is the gold standard among polar researchers and adventurers for good reason. Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The table above details the Overall Performance score of each winter jacket we reviewed.
Read on for specifics about how the jackets faired in each metric that helped comprise this overall score. Additional details can be found in each contender's individual review. Every purchase is an exercise in value assessment. What am I getting for what I'm paying? With winter jackets, you consider your climactic needs, your metabolism, comfort and stylistic factors, how much you'll wear it, and your budget.
Thankfully, there is a vast range of options, in terms of price and value, on the market. See the chart below to compare each jacket's score with its price. The best values have the highest scores and the lowest prices. They show up in the bottom right corner. To see which jacket a dot represents, hover over it with your mouse. As you assess your value needs, here are a few thoughts for your consideration. First, comfort in uncomfortable conditions is a rare blessing.
The right jacket turns the gnarliest of weather into a pleasant romp through a snow globe. Suitable materials will last longer, and you will get more bang for your buck. Insulation materials vary in both price and durability. Goose down insulation keeps its loft and insulating value much longer than synthetic insulation does. Within down insulation, the rating systems describe weight and insulation value, not durability. More expensive down is warmer per weight, but it won't necessarily last longer than less expensive down.
Finally, good weatherproofing is costly. Sealed seams, tight pockets, and protected zippers take effort, design, and pricy materials. If you really want and need to guard against wet and wind, you will pay for it. Warmth is the most important metric we used to rank each competitor and is a factor of how much insulation is in a jacket, regardless of if its down or synthetic insulation. That said, down fill feels warmer than synthetic The more insulation a jacket contains, the warmer it is.
We looked at the insulation quality fill weight and quantity fill weight of each jacket and then compared it to the jacket's cut and length to gauge how the insulation is distributed. If two jackets have an equal fill weight of 10 ounces, but one has a waist-length hem while the other has a mid-thigh length hem, they are not equally warm. The most useful measurement for warmth is, of course, comparative testing in actual conditions. We spent a lot of outside comparatively test, swapping jackets among the test team and comparing notes.
The top-scoring Arc'teryx Camosun features high-quality, fill down. Such lofty, efficient down keeps the jacket's weight down and its packable size small. This low number should not dissuade shoppers though.
Using heavier, lower quality down brings the cost down and a casual parka like this doesn't need to be as light and compressible as more technical options that need to fit in your backpack. The Canada Goose Expedition Parka is filled with average quality fill down , but it has so much of it that it's the warmest model reviewed. It's also pretty bulky. The second warmest jacket earns a Best Buy award. The North Face McMurdo is nearly an expedition parka, with the price tag of a casual jacket.
It offers the best value in our test. The Patagonia Jackson Glacier also kept us warm in most wintry conditions. The Woolrich Bitter Chill deserves mention for being on the warmer side of the fleet. The Woolrich is the warmest non-down insulated piece reviewed. Woolrich insulates the Bitter Chill with a lofted batting that blends wool and synthetic fibers. Overall, jackets with synthetic insulation are not as warm as the down models.
The Arc'teryx Fission SV provides less insulation than most of the down models reviewed. This is likely because the garment has less insulation overall, though it did reinforce the idea that if you are looking for warmth, opt for down. REI's jacket is a down-insulated layering piece that has insulating value a little below that of the Arc'teryx Fission.
The fleece jackets are the least insulating products reviewed. Well-suited to more moderate climates, The North Face Arrowood Triclimate is durable, versatile, and affordable, but not incredibly warm. Insulated with synthetic fleece, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the field, which may be just what you're looking for if you live in a warm climate.
When we talk about weather resistance, we're talking about wind and water. Sometimes, all that glitters is gold. Well, actually shimmering metallic fabric, to be exact. It might not be the perfect for harsh winter storms, but it is ideal for moderate climates.
Oh yeah, and the price is pretty awesome, too for a water-resistant jacket. Puffer jackets may be trendy this season; however, it can be hard to play in the snow in a super bulky coat. We respect that in a gal. But water resistant is NOT waterproof. The North Face, Hanna, and Boden coats, for example, are listed as water resistant.
Water resistant means it will slow a sprinkle down for a while, but with any decent amount of time or in real rain that kid is going to be wet through. A waterproof coat, on the other hand, truly keeps the water out. Thanks so much for reminding me about the difference between waterproof and water resistant. A lot of people do — which is why they make them. Marmot is known for outerwear, and rain jackets in particular. With fill down, it does have one of the lowest fill powers on this list competitors like the REI Co-op Down Jacket and Outdoor Research Transcendent use fill down.
Aside from price, the Marmot Tullus is pretty bare bones. But if you can find it on sale, the Tullus is one of the cheaper down jackets available from a top brand. Down Sweaters The down sweater is the most casual category of down jacket. But they perform well for everyday use, travel, light adventuring, and layering for winter sports. The temperature range for these jackets depends on factors like layering and exertion, but we find that down sweaters are suitable for approximately 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit 2 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Ultralight Down Jackets Ultralight down jackets are designed for backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, and other outdoor pursuits where every ounce matters. These down jackets generally have similar fill weights as down sweaters, but are ultralight due their use of premium down fill power , thin shell fabrics denier , and minimalist zippers and pockets.
They are high quality jackets in general, and if you are willing to take a little extra care to avoid damaging the shell, we prefer ultralights over down sweaters due to their warmth-to-weight ratio and athletic fit that's easy to layer.
They still look great too, although the designs do have more of a performance cut. They also are far puffier than the other categories with more down, and as a result take up quite a bit more space in your pack. Because of this, we only bring them along if the extra warmth is absolutely necessary.
At the warmest end of the spectrum are heavyweight winter jackets and parkas. It all starts with that lofty and premium warmth that can only be found in a down-filled product. Down insulation functions so effectively because the loose clusters of feathers are great at trapping body heat.
But unlike down sleeping bags, which have an official EN rating system that tests and measures their warmth on a concrete scale, down jackets are more like the Wild West. Below is information that should help you fill in the gaps. Fill Power Fill power fill, fill, fill, etc.
The number is calculated based on how much space one ounce of down clusters takes up in a cylindrical tube. This is known as the amount of loft, and the more loft a jacket has, the more body heat it traps and the warmer you will be. Put another way, achieving the same amount of warmth with a lower fill power requires more down, adding weight and bulk to achieve the same comfort goals. At this level of quality, you reap the highly touted benefits of down insulation: Some high-end climbing brands like Feathered Friends and Montbell use fill down, but that high of a number is a rarity and fill is considered premium.
Fill weight is the actual amount of down stuffed into a jacket, measured in ounces. For example, if Jacket A has 6 ounces of fill down and Jacket B has 3 ounces of fill down, you can expect that Jacket A will be significantly warmer we estimate that it would increase comfort levels in low output activities by approximately degrees.
Lower fill power down offers less warmth per ounce, so to compare apples to apples you should use similar fill powers. We find it interesting that fill weight is much less publicized than fill power, which leads to a lot of confusion for shoppers who associate higher fill power as always meaning more warmth.
Down Fill and Insulation Explained. Factors like fit, layering, your levels of exertion and circulation, and wind all play a role. Generally, we think of down sweaters and ultralights—which usually have between 2 and 4 ounces of fill weight—as providing solid warmth in conditions ranging from around 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit 2 to 15 degrees Celsius with low levels of exertion, such as puttering around a campsite. More fill will help you move toward the bottom end of the range and less will push you toward the middle.
A cozy baselayer can buy you an extra 5 to 15 degrees depending on its thickness and quality. These types of jackets are very popular for three-season alpine use and in cities for everything but the heart of winter. When the mercury drops below freezing, you will be more comfortable wearing a true midweight or heavyweight down jacket for winter. The fill weight of these jackets should be 4 ounces at the absolute minimum and often is in the range of 5 to 6 ounces or more the Rab Neutrino Endurance and Montbell Mirage Parka.
For bitter cold and climbing the highest peaks, an even heavier down parka may be in order. For uses like backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, ski touring, or whenever you have to lug around your own gear, the total weight of your down jacket should play a significant role in your buying decision. As a result of all the fun tech, they also cost considerably more than your typical down sweater.
We keep a close eye on the ratio of fill weight to total weight to see what lengths the manufacturer went to trim weight the shell denier is a good hint too, and more on that below. Three of our ultralight picks have healthy amounts of premium down and are relatively light at around 10 ounces or less for the hooded versions. Some even opt for a pullover style to cut out half of the zipper. No matter what the manufacturer names a jacket, keep a close eye on fill weight and total weight to make your own determination.
Denier D is the measurement of the weight of a thread, and the lower the number the lighter the weight. A lower denier rating means the material is less durable and more prone to abrasion. Much of the difference in weight of an ultralight jacket is trimmed by using a lower denier fabric for the shell. Other factors like premium down it provides the most warmth for the least amount of weight and ultralight zippers play a role as well, but the shell fabric is most important.
Almost every jacket on this list is made with reasonably lightweight shell fabrics. The thinnest jacket is the Montbell Mirage Parka, which has a very fragile 7D shell, and the thickest is the Mountain Equipment Lightline , which has a 40D shell. If ounces matter and you intend to use the jacket in the backcountry, treat yourself to an ultralight. If most of your use will be in the city, a down sweater is sturdier and should save you money in the process.
Down enthusiasts love its compressibility and for good reason. An ultralight jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer can be stuffed into its own pocket and end up much smaller than a Nalgene bottle.
The tiny packed size means you have little reason to leave it behind, and can fit it easily into either a daypack or overnight backpacking pack. Keep in mind that the higher the fill power the more easily it will compress. Fabric thickness also plays an important role, and thinner denier fabrics logically pack down smaller.
Along with warmth for the weight, compressibility is an area where down absolutely dominates synthetic insulated jackets. Down feathers unfortunately lose much of their ability to insulate when wet, turning into a clumpy and soggy mess.
Recently, gear manufacturers have started treating down to make it more water resistant. Another way that gear manufacturers fight moisture is a DWR Durable Water Repellant treatment on the outside on the jacket. This treatment helps prevent water droplets from forming and entering your jacket—essentially the water has a harder time staying on the fabric and beads up and rolls off instead.
Neither a DWR finish nor hydrophobic down will keep your down completely dry, but they make nice lines of defense against light to moderate precipitation. Fit is jacket-specific, but there are two main considerations here. First, down sweaters have a more casual fit than ultralight or performance jackets, including boxier torsos, arms, and hoods when available.
Fit also varies significantly by brand. The Patagonia jackets on the list are surprisingly boxy given their quality and feature sets. Outdoor Research and REI jackets are middle of the pack in terms of fit: Most down jackets on this list are offered in hooded and non-hooded versions.
For casual use or as a midlayer for skiing, many people opt for a down vest or go without the hood and carry a separate beanie instead. For a deeper dive into the topic, see our article:
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