Where We Tested
We put each of these women's jackets through vigorous testing in all kinds of conditions. We went out in the sun, rain, coastal gales, stormy winter weather, and the deep freezes of the deep North. We wandered around Lake Tahoe, California, Mount Baker, Oregon, Jay Peak, Vermont, and Maine's mountains and coastal towns. We hope our findings help you choose the best warm winter jacket for your environment and activities.
Part of our testing process includes personal day-to-day use and experience with each product. We left the house wearing one jacket and carrying several more every day, switching them out in the same conditions to get more direct comparisons. We wore these jackets regularly for months, from early morning commutes to bitterly cold dog walks.
Alongside this experiential evidence, we conducted more objective detailed testing to ensure we had a well-rounded understanding of every jacket in the test.
To see how these jackets perform in the worst conditions, we temperature test them in the late evenings and early mornings, often the coldest part of any day.
We head out in storms, below-freezing temperatures and wintery mixes wearing different layers, from t-shirts to fleeces and long-underwear to test warmth. When we get home, we take notes on the weather conditions, what layers we were wearing, and how warm we stayed.
For the final test, we stand still outside in below-freezing temps for 10 minutes. We take surface temperatures at set points around the jacket with a laser thermometer, looking for leaking warmth. We also take detailed notes about how warm we feel.
We wear these jackets in wet and sloppy weather whenever we can, noting how well they bead and shed water or whether it soaks in right away. We also wear each one in the shower for 2.5 minutes, recording when the fabric starts to saturate and if any water reaches our T-shirt. We use a new t-shirt every round to see exactly where the water infiltrated with each jacket.
To test how well they stand up to wind, we pick the wildest day in the forecast and stand outside. This round was a rowdy 25-knot day standing beside the North Atlantic. Chilly. We wear each jacket for 10 minutes, noting if, when, and wear the breeze creeps through.
We wear each jacket with different layers to try their fit and mobility in various conditions. We take notes every time we wear one, detailing any constrictions or annoyances we notice during the day.
Then we put each through our comfort obstacle course. We bundle up, then reach above our heads and cross our arms to see if the shoulders are restrictive. We zip them up and take the stairs in twos to check the legroom, then sit down to see if they bunch up or constrict our hips.
We pull the zipper all the way up to see if it rubs our chins (a common issue) with the hood up and with it down. We check to see if there are wrist cuffs and evaluate their coziness, if there are pockets, and how soft and insulated they are. What we don’t do is mess around.
We know that style is subjective, so we don’t weigh it that heavily. We also seek second (and third) opinions. We have friends pull these on to get a sense of their fit across body types and collect opinions on their style. We also compare notes about any compliments we receive when wearing them. However, we mostly pay attention to how wearing the jacket makes us feel because that’s what style is all about.
Thoroughly examining each jacket — from zippers to fabrics to pockets liners and ruff quality — helps us determine its durability.