The Detroit Post
Thursday, 28 October, 2021

Best Weather Jacket

James Lee
• Wednesday, 02 December, 2020
• 13 min read

You certainly can spend a lot more for a winter jacket, but we love the combination of quality and value offered by the Mauro Parka from The North Face. This parka covers all the important bases: it’s warm, waterproof, blocks the wind, and is decently breathable for use in milder temperatures.

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In addition, you won’t get the same warmth for the weight or compressibility as some pricier jackets on the list that use thinner shells and 800-fill down or higher. And the cherry on top: we really like the looks of the jacket (thankfully the faux fur along the hood is removable as that could have been a deal breaker).

In terms of fit, we have worn the latest version, and it’s a serious winter jacket with room for layering but didn’t feel overly boxy. On the women's side, the Arctic Parka doesn't share the name but has many similarities including full waterproofing, 550-fill down, and a removable hood.

Add in a comfortable and adjustable hood, and this is a standout winter jacket from REI at a very reasonable price. It has many similarities to a belay jacket or ski shell including the waterproofed and technical features, but the streamlined look and classy colorways could work just fine in the city too.

And one thing worth noting: we are never able to track down the fill weights of REI jackets (they’re not listed on the website, and we’ve been unsuccessful via phone and email). In use, we’ve found the jacket to be warm enough to be comfortable into the low 20s Fahrenheit with only a light base layer.

The North Face Mauro above trends toward everyday use, but there are a number of more performance-oriented winter jackets to choose from. Taking warmth, backcountry-ready features, and value into consideration, our favorite option for 2021 is the RAB Neutrino Pro.

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Most importantly, you get a whopping 8 ounces of 800-fill hydrophobic down, which is considerably more than popular lightweight down jackets from brands like Arc’very and Patagonia that cost nearly as much. Updated for last winter, the RAB also sports a new Vertex Quantum Pro shell but retains just about everything that has made this line so popular.

It has a somewhat technical look, although the clean design and dark color options make it viable for city use as well. Finding a winter jacket that is both warm and looks the part for everyday use can be a challenge, but Patagonia toes the line nicely with the Tree 3-in-1 Parka.

This jacket is well-insulated, comfortable, fully waterproof, and has clean lines that work well in a variety of situations. Additionally, the versatile 3-in-1 construction gives you the option to wear just the waterproof shell on rainy days or zip in the down inner layer when the mercury drops.

It’s true that the Tree doesn’t offer the range of movement of more performance-oriented jackets, but it’s a great option for around-town use and cold spells in places like the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. Comparing the Tree 3-in-1 to other casual models on this list, the 700-fill-power down is higher-quality than the 550-fill used in The North Face Mauro, our top choice.

On the flip side, the jacket is expensive (it is Patagonia, after all), and parkas always can be a bit tough to dial in fit. But we love the design and full waterproofing, which Patagonia doesn’t offer with its Jackson Glacier Parka.

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Seattle-based Feathered Friends is a small company that specializes in premium down products, and they manufacture most everything in the Unites States. And you also get thoughtful touches like PrimaL oft Gold synthetic insulation around the collar, reinforced elbows, and a handy two-way zipper.

It’s true that you can wear this jacket on the streets of Chicago or Boston in the depths of winter, but it’s most at home on big-mountain summits and for uses like high-altitude mountaineering. At the end of the day, more casual options like the Mountain Equipment Lifeline and Patagonia Fitz Roy below have a cleaner look and wider appeal, but the Thumb Parka clearly wins on warmth and down fill.

The Patagonia Tree 3-in-1 above is a very nice casual piece with solid versatility, but you’ll likely have to layer underneath on the coldest winter days. Enter the Frozen Range, which is the warmest parka is Patagonia’s lineup and manages to look good to boot.

In addition to being stuffed with a generous amount of premium 700-fill down, the jacket is waterproof with a Gore-Tex shell, offers thigh-length coverage for extra coziness (only the shell of the Tres-in-1 goes down to the thigh), and has a superb hood design that protects your entire head and face while leaving an opening for visibility (this is ideal for freezing and windy places like Chicago and Boston). Second, all the extra zippers and attachment points add weight to the jacket, and it comes in a hefty 3 pounds 9 ounces.

Both are nice options depending on your priorities, but we prefer to save with the warmer and lighter version included here. If you’re in the market for a super warm down puffy that won’t break the bank, give the Lifeline from Mountain Equipment a serious look.

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U.K.-based Mountain Equipment isn’t all that well-known in the U.S., and the company doesn’t spend a ton on athletes or advertising campaigns. And as is often the case with outdoor gear that wins out in price, the Lifeline’s material quality (including the mid-range 700-fill down) is lower than competitors like the RAB Neutrino Pro above.

The Mountain Equipment delivers similar warmth and all-around performance but weighs nearly 5 ounces extra and doesn't compress as small. But in terms of value, you’ll have a hard time finding more insulation and comfort for your buck... Read in-depth review See the Men's Mountain Equipment Lifelines the Women's ME Lightline.

Like The North Face's Mauro above, Marmot's Fordham is another reasonably priced winter jacket designed mostly for casual use. We think it’s a nice all-around option: the Fordham uses a healthy amount of 700-fill down (higher-quality than the Mauro), has a tough 2-layer waterproof shell, and features a removable hood for when you don’t need the extra protection.

The fit is a bit snug for a cold- weather layering piece, and particularly in the collar area when trying to add extra warmth like a scarf. But the upside is we found it to offer a step up in warmth on truly frigid days (although its shorter cut can't match the Mauro's coverage).

Our top pick from Canada Goose is the Lang ford Parka, which hits a nice sweet spot between Arctic and urban use. The Lang ford is a staggering $1,050 (the Antarctic-ready Expedition Parka is a whopping $1,295), but Canada Goose doesn’t use premium down like Arc’very or other high-end brands.

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In fact, the Lang ford is only a small step up from the $349 The North Face Mauro in down quality, although it has more fill and is noticeably warmer. But if you run cold, need the extra insulation, or appreciate the styling, Canada Goose has a valuable corner of the market.

Most importantly, this jacket is super warm with 9.4 ounces of 800-fill down and has a burly shell that will help cut the wind. For protection from snow and rain, the jacket has wax and polyurethane coatings that will help moisture bead off.

And this parka offers great coverage: it has a long cut and warm, substantial hood with a faux-fur brim that can be removed. The zippers, buttons, and shoulder panels are meant to stand out, and particularly in the Raven colorway (the Carbon is a bit more muted).

And the Fitz Roy doesn’t disappoint in terms of warmth: despite cutting the total amount of fill in this year’s update (the old Parka version had 8 ounces of the same 800-fill down), this jacket is warm, versatile, and has a high collar for battening down the hatches. That said, it’s hard to beat Patagonia build quality and finish, and this jacket has tremendous crossover appeal and is one of the coziest options around.

You certainly can ski with the Macao and many people do, but the hood and powder skirt are removable and it makes for a great dual-purpose jacket. First, the cut is shorter and offers less coverage than a model like Arc’very's own There below, which also happens to be considerable cheaper at $699.

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Second, the Macao is fairly burly and has a fortress-like feel, which is great for those who run cold but can be overkill for moderate winter conditions (we have had a tendency to overheat while skiing hard). If you’re in the market for a premium winter/ski jacket, it’s a great option... Read in-depth review See the Men's Arc'very Malaise the Women's Arc'very Andessa.

The Sing Down Jacket is a durable piece that offers solid warmth with its 600-fill down, tons of storage, and clean lines representative of the company’s Scandinavian heritage. G-1000 is an outlier these days but super durable and does resist moisture surprisingly well (you can add beeswax to aid in the process).

Keep in mind that this coat runs large and should allow plenty of room for layering, which can be a good thing but does impact sizing. And for an interesting synthetic option from Fjallraven, the Pupil has a similar design but uses Supreme Microsoft fill and is $100 cheaper.

Most Arc’very jackets are technical in nature, but the There Parka is decidedly urban, which is a nice change of pace. Add in 750-fill goose down around the core with quality synthetic insulation in other high-use areas, and you have yourself a mighty warm parka that is perfect for winter in places prone to wet snow, like the Northwest and Northeast of the United States.

The majority of complaints relate to sizing: unlike the company’s normal athletic fit, the There is noticeable roomier, and some people find the hood to be a bit large as well. Columbia often manages to offer some nice values in the world of outdoor gear, and in terms of winter jackets, the popular Whirlybird IV is worth a look.

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The 3-in-1 functionality means you get a separated insulated jacket on the inside that zips into the outer shell, which is waterproof via Columbia Omni-Tech fabric. Second, we’ve found that Columbia build quality is fairly good overall but the look and feel is a step or two below more premium brands.

We’ve presented a number of good casual options above, but don’t overlook the Blackmail from Outdoor Research. Add in clean styling that has mountain town written all over it, and the Blackmail is a versatile cold- weather piece at a good price.

We like the Outdoor Research Blackmail for casual use and light winter work outside, but it’s a far cry from a technical jacket that you’d use in the backcountry. It’s decently warm, and particularly if you factor in its solid wind resistance, but we suspect that it’s lighter on fill than most other options on this list (OR does not provide the fill weight, but the relatively low total weight combined with the thickness of the fabric are good hints that it’s not loaded with insulation).

It bucks the performance and even casual trend with a work-like build (outdoor work in the winter is what many people use it for), but it’s a great value for what you get at around $100. The jacket is water-resistant, and given that you’re not protecting precious down fibers from outside moisture, it does a respectable job of staying warm when wet.

Winter weather is more than just freezing temperatures: it can also mean snow or rain, biting winds, and lots of slush. The above-the-knee cut extends coverage down the legs without being too restrictive, and a removable faux fur brim adds warmth and style.

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Added up, the Arctic is a great value at $299, and the durable shell and overall construction mean you can expect a long lifespan out of the jacket. And in terms of fit, we’ve found the Arctic to be slightly boxy from the waist down and would recommend sizing up if you have broad shoulders.

But for a warm and waterproof winter jacket at an affordable price, the Arctic is our top pick for 2021. Waterproof down parkas like The North Face Arctic above are ideal for places that see a lot of rain and snow (including the Pacific Northwest), but for many women, warmth is the primary consideration in a winter jacket.

For this, we turn to Marmot’s Montreal Coat, which is reasonably priced at $285, warm with a healthy dose of 700-fill down and a mid-thigh cut, and comfortable with a soft and supple fleece lining along the torso, cuffs, and hand pockets. Add in a durable water repellent finish and cozy hood with a removable faux fur liner, and the Montreal is a nice everyday defense against the cold and occasional precipitation.

While this means you sacrifice some coverage and protection, it also gives the Montreal a more mobile and playful feel (great for mobility-dependent activities like riding a bike, shoveling the driveway, etc.). And while you certainly can get more warmth with a pricier parka that can be double the cost or more, we’ve found the Montreal to be sufficient for temperatures above around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a good match for the majority of winter conditions.

Keep in mind that like many casual parkas, it does run small, so consider sizing up if you plan to layer underneath... Read in-depth review See the Women's Marmot Montreal Down Coat. In addition, the down insert is decently warm, and the outer shell does a nice job at cutting wind, but in the coldest of conditions, you still will want to add layers underneath.

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Add in a nice variety of color options and the premium build quality that Arc’very is known for, and you have a fantastic winter parka that should stand up to cold and wet weather for years to come. It’s worth noting that the Pat era was updated for 2021 with a slightly more relaxed fit (we found the previous version to be a bit restrictive) and a new two-way zipper, both of which are positive additions.

You also get a tough yet smooth 75-denier shell, which can handle everyday wear and tear much better than the thinner options above. And we appreciate the non-puffy style of the Pat era: it manages to be reasonably insulated and weather -resistant while keeping a low-profile, almost rain jacket -like look.

We like the length, which works well for city wear but also can double down for light adventuring like winter hiking and snowshoeing. And the 600-fill duck down isn’t of the high-end variety like the performance options above, but you get a respectable amount of it at 7 ounces and the jacket offers plenty of warmth for most uses.

The vast majority of jackets on this list use down fill, which is warmer and loftier than synthetic insulation. The jacket does get reasonably high marks for being cozy in cold conditions, but you likely will want to layer up when the temperatures get truly frigid.

Two of our top casual picks, The North Face Mauro and Marmot Fordham, are around $300 yet offer ample warm and weather protection for most people. The compromises come in the weight, pack ability, and range of movement, which matter if you’re climbing mountains but not so much for the morning commute.

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Toward the bottom of our picks are a couple of parkas that fall into the casual/work category with extra durable polyester shells and great toughness in general. Staying warm in the ski-specific Arc'very MacaiUnfortunately, fill weight isn’t always provided by manufacturers, and particularly for casual pieces.

Winter jackets don’t have a uniform method of measuring warmth like the EN system for sleeping bags, but there are some good clues. Wearing the Marmot Fordham on a subfreezing Darby our best estimation, the majority of the jackets on this list are designed to go well below freezing for use in the heart of the winter months in cold climates like the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.

Some jackets are capable of even more extreme conditions (the Canada Goose Lang ford Parka is given a -15 °F rating by the manufacturer), while others are less insulated and designed for active use (REI Stonehenge 850). Of course, layer well and don’t take any chances, but this article presents that warmest jackets that we cover on this site.

Due to the hefty amount of insulation inside most of the jackets above, a simple base layer will do the trick in cold weather that hasn’t yet reached frigid status. Depending on the parka, when the temperature really drops (think well below freezing) you may want to add a lightweight down or synthetic jacket as a mid layer.

This would be a lot of insulation, but it’s an easy adjustment to make so long as you have the extra gear and the jacket has room for layering. A plush lining is comfortable with or without a long-sleeve layer underneath The importance of weight in your winter jacket buying decision depends largely on the intended use.

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Performance jackets tend to use technical fabrics that are light and thin, while casual pieces use more durable and heavier shells that add weight. Weight isn't a major consideration for casual wear Down loses its ability to insulate when wet, and therefore all jackets on this list offer some protection against precipitation.

Most jackets are water-resistant or water-repellant, meaning they have a tightly woven face fabric and durable water repellent (Dr) coating that will bead up and shed light moisture. If you combine that with treated or hydrophobic down (a treatment added to the down itself that reduces water absorption and helps it dry faster), you have yourself a pretty effective system even in wet and heavy snow.

Water-resistant shells, like what you get with the RAB Neutrino Pro, offer plenty of protection in freezing, snowy conditions. This jacket has fully taped seams and a waterproof Gore-Tex shell for staying dry if it happens to be 34 °F and pouring rain.

The Vertex shell on RAB's Neutrino offers good water resistance Exposure to wind can make an otherwise freezing winter day even worse. In terms of the wind resistance of a parka, a number of factors come into play including the type and thickness of the shell, amount and distribution of the insulation, and fabric of the liner.

On a backcountry ski trip with the windproof Arc'very Fire bee AR Perhaps more than any other type of jacket, the hood matters a lot with a winter coat. Second, a good cold- weather hood can be adjusted and tightened around the head snugly so that wind doesn’t enter or blow the hood off your head (many technical winter jackets also have storm flaps around the collar to block out cold air).

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Most designs have a zipper located just below the collar to make it easy to both remove and put back on. The feature does add weight and bulk, so you’ll typically find it on casual winter jackets.

For example, the popular Marmot Fordham and The North Face Mauro have removable hoods, while the Patagonia Frozen Range does not.

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