Best Winter Jackets: Columbia, Canada Goose, North Face and More

How to select the best winter jacket for your climate, your personal needs, and your budget.
person standing in a winter wood scene with an orange park on
Winter can be unforgiving. Your winter jacket should be too. Daniel Bowman via Unsplash

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A good winter jacket has always been essential, and if you spend a lot of time outside, you know that you will practically live in the jacket during the cold months. Which is best for you when there are seemingly endless options out there? We’ve done the research and selected six of the best winter jackets, each appropriate for specific conditions.

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Winter Jackets

The best winter jacket depends as much on your climate as it does on your taste. And not just in terms of temperature, either. Is your winter weather typically windy? Does the temperature tend to rise and fall quickly? Is the weight of the jacket a factor? Do you go out in extreme cold, whether you want to or not? Knowing how to dress for cold weather is half the battle. Take all these qualifiers into consideration as you explore our suggestions below.

Do You Need a Windproof Jacket?

Wind will penetrate winter jackets not designed to deflect it, and if you’re going to be spending time in windy areas, your best winter jacket demands you consider wind-proofing as much as warmth and other factors.

DryVent and Gore-Tex are well-known technologies for keeping you dry while also allowing a garment to breathe, so you don’t become clammy and then even colder. What’s less known is that both are also very effective at blocking wind. For general wear (what we’re prioritizing in our selections here), DryVent has an edge as it’s less expensive, and the fabric is lighter and less rigid. For more extreme conditions, however, Gore-Tex is more durable and slightly more breathable — you’ll just be paying for that boost in dollars and in fabric weight.

Remember, too, that layering is your friend, and a windproof jacket can be added as an outer shell to other warmth-oriented cold-weather gear.

Best Windproof Winter Jacket: The North Face Carto Triclimate Jacket

Sleek and Ready 3-in-1

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The North Face Carto Triclimate Jacket uses DryVent fabric technology for a light jacket that does heavy lifting when it comes to stopping all wind and water. What sets it apart from others are the thoughtful and practical details: the adjustable hood and cuffs, the mix of interior and exterior pockets; the well-cut collar, and the removable inner layer that allows the jacket to transition easily as temperature and precipitation levels change.

Which Insulation is Best?

It’s not breaking news that warmth is an essential element in picking a winter coat or jacket. But knowing which winter jacket is the warmest is not as straightforward.

The warmest jackets are generally going to be down jackets, and down warmth is given in two measurements: down weight, and down fill. Taken alone, either measurement can be misleading, and getting the warmest coat versus a chilly bundle of buyer’s remorse means paying attention to both.

Down fill power is fundamentally a measure of quality. The number (say, 550) is how many cubic inches one ounce of the down could fill. Down fill weight is a measure of quantity: the ounce measure given is how many ounces of down are packed inside.

With a low fill power, a high fill weight doesn’t necessarily mean the jacket will be super warm, and with a low fill weight, even a high fill power can leave you wanting. If you know the fill power, the fill weight—if not clearly spelled out—can be roughly eyeballed or felt.

Best Warm Winter Jacket: Canada Goose Expedition Parka

An Investment in Warmth

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The Canada Goose Expedition Parka is pricey, but it will last much longer and keep you much warmer than most other winter jackets. If you’re looking for warmth in the most frigid of places, Canada Goose does manufacture parkas one step warmer, for temperatures down to -22°F, that were initially developed (and still used!) by researchers in Antarctica.

At a 625 (read: high quality) fill power of white duck down without skimping on fill quantity, this Canada Goose jacket is extremely warm, and it has features such as a removable coyote-fur ruff on the hood, fleece-lining on the chin guard, a mid-thigh cut, and hidden rib-knit sleeve cuffs that make sure chill can’t creep in.

If you’re looking for something warm-but-not-Antarctic, the Canada Goose Carson Down Parka is another excellent winter jacket.

Do You Need a Lightweight Winter Jacket?

High-quality down fill (known by higher fill power numbers) paired with smaller, strategic quilting patterns result in superbly effective, superbly lightweight winter coats. Again, the way to know you’re getting a warm lightweight jacket and not one that’ll let the cold in is to check the down fill number. If you pay attention to that number and don’t get distracted by other details, you’ll land an ideal lightweight winter jacket.

Best Lightweight Winter Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Big Warmth, Light Weight

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At an 850 down fill power, this is a very warm down coat. Additionally, the cut, quilting pattern, and peripheral vision–friendly hood clinch its spot as the best lightweight winter jacket. It’s also made in a men’s coat.

Do You Need a Versatile Winter Jacket?

Some winter jackets incorporate removable layers, which enable you to make the jacket appropriate for a range of temperatures. If you’re out and the weather suddenly warms, you can simply remove one layer. An additional benefit is that the jacket then becomes appropriate for spring and fall along with winter.

Best Versatile Winter Jacket: Columbia Horizons Pine Interchange Jacket

Customizable Coat

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Plenty of winter coats come with layers that you can mix to match your climate, but the Columbia Horizons Pine Interchange winter coat consists of a waterproof outer shell and a warm inner jacket. Each can be worn separately or together, meaning you can use it as a lightweight jacket, a rain jacket, a windbreaker, or a winter coat.

Is a Puffer Coat a Smart Choice?

Puffer jackets provide warmth in all the right places, and allow for a large quantity of down to wrap around you without overwhelming you. While it’s in part an aesthetic choice, it also has practical considerations. Puffer coats are lightweight and take up very little room in a bag because they can be compressed into a small package

Best Puffer Jacket: The North Face Metropolis Insulated Parka III

Parka Puffer

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Water-resistant and sewn from all-recycled polyester, this North Face jacket is the essential puffer jacket. At a 550 down fill rating, it will keep you toasty in winter temps, The hood can be snapped on or off, and a two-way zipper allows for additional customizing. A well-filled collar will keep your neck warm with or without the hood—something that not all jackets with removable hoods will do.

The Budget Winter Jacket: What You Get for Under $65

The quality and quantity of down is unavoidably the arbiter of how good a winter jacket is going to be. Good feathers, and a lot of them, come with a price. There are, of course, branding and price markup differentials, but if function is as important as looks, you need to pay for it. That said, there are some winter jackets on the market that have decent insulation and practical features. Going with a name brand is always a wise choice here.

Best Cheap Winter Jacket: Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Jacket

Affordable Down

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Eddie Bauer’s lightweight down jacket offers surprising quality at a low price. A 650 down fill power means it’s not as warm as, say, the 850 Arc’teryx above, but it’s roughly one-fourth the price.

Best Winter Jacket FAQ: people also ask

How much should I spend on a winter jacket?

How much you should spend on a winter jacket depends on how extreme your climate is, and how long you want it to last. A good down coat will cost you a few hundred dollars and up. If that’s out of range, you can cheat the system by layering an affordable insulated layer with a windproof one, and keeping your neck, wrists, and head covered.

What winter jacket is the warmest?

The warmest winter jacket is the one with the highest down fill power and the highest down fill weight. In our research, it was the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, which was originally designed for scientists in Antarctica.

A Final Word on Shopping for the Best Winter Jackets

When you’re choosing the best winter jackets, you need to consider how you want the jacket to feel on you, and how you want to feel in your climate. Wind and water matter, and when it comes to down-filled winter jackets, remember to pay attention to both the quality (down fill power) and the quantity (down fill weight).