For the coldest winter months, these heavyweight jackets and parkas bring the warmth. When the coldest winter months arrive, it’s time for a serious jacket. Our picks for the best winter jackets and parkas below are among the warmest on the market—they are packed with down fill (or synthetic on occasion) and built to stand up to freezing temperatures and howling winds. They run the gamut from casual pieces designed for around-town use to performance options built for mountaineering. Some toe the line nicely and are fully capable of handling double duty.
You certainly can spend a lot more on a winter jacket, but we love the combination of quality and value offered by the McMurdo Parka from The North Face. This parka covers all of the important bases: it’s warm, waterproof, blocks the wind, and is decently breathable for use in milder temperatures. In addition, we appreciate the upper-thigh-length cut, which offers good coverage while still allowing for plenty of mobility. What are the shortcomings of The North Face McMurdo Parka? It has a decidedly casual look and feel, meaning that it isn’t designed for the backcountry. In addition, you won’t get the same warmth for the weight or compressibility as some of the pricier jackets on the list that use thinner shells and 800-fill down or higher. But these shouldn’t be huge issues for around-town use, which is exactly why many people buy the McMurdo. 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).
REI Co-op Stormhenge 850
REI has been stepping up its game of late with more premium down offerings—we’ve loved the Magma sleeping bag and down jacket—and next in line is the Stormhenge. As the name insinuates, you get a premium 850-fill goose down along with a 2-layer waterproof shell. Impressively, the jacket boasts a number of technical features like pit zips for dumping heat and a 2-way zipper upfront. Add in a comfortable and adjustable hood, and this is a standout winter jacket from REI at a very reasonable price. In terms of categorizing the Stormhenge and who it’s best for, that’s a bit tougher. It has many similarities to a belay jacket or ski shell including the waterproofness and technical features, but the streamlined look and classy colorways could work just fine in the city too.
The North Face McMurdo 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 2020-2021 is the Rab Neutrino Pro. 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’teryx and Patagonia that cost nearly as much. Updated for last winter, the Rab also sports a new Pertex Quantum Pro shell but retains just about everything that has made this line so popular. What are the downsides of the Neutrino Pro? It has a somewhat technical look, although the clean design and dark color options make it viable for city use as well. Second, the 20-denier shell fabric is respectable in the performance category and helps with weight and packability, but the jacket is more fragile than the more casual options on this list (as with any down jacket, you’ll have to be careful about snags and tears).
Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka
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 Tres 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 Tres 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 Tres 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 McMurdo, our top choice. And importantly, the parka-length cut offers more warmth and coverage than just about anything outside of Canada Goose.
Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka
Seattle-based Feathered Friends is a small company that specializes in premium down products, and they manufacture most everything in the United States. We love their lightweight Eos for cool weather, but the heavyweight Khumbu Parka is about as warm as it gets. Most importantly, it’s absolutely jammed with high-quality down: 13.3 ounces of 900-fill goose down to be exact. 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.
If you’re in the market for a super warm down puffy that won’t break the bank, give the Lightline from Mountain Equipment a serious look. This jacket is stuffed with an impressive 10.4 ounces of 700-fill down and offers excellent protection from the elements with a windproof and water-resistant Drilite shell. In addition, we really like the Lightline’s clean look, sturdy exterior, and a multitude of available colorways—it’s a nice option for everything from technical use to everyday wear in cold climates. 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 often is the case with outdoor gear that wins out in price, the Lightline’s material quality (including the mid-range 700-fill down) is lower than competitors.
Kuhl Arktik Down Parka
If you’re looking for a winter parka that is a little more fashionable than some of the options above, the Kuhl Arktik fits the bill. 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. To be sure, the design of the Kuhl Arktik Down Parka can be polarizing. The zippers, buttons, and shoulder panels are meant to stand out, and particularly in the Raven colorway (the Carbon is a bit more muted). In addition, the materials are decent but not high-end—the leather too is of the “faux” variety and that can make a difference in terms of durability and looks over time.