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In the past decade, we've tested nearly 50 of the best women's winter jackets to find the right one for you. We present the top 15 contenders available today, from soft and cozy coats to durable beasts that shrug off winter storms. To test them side-by-side, we wear them while commuting, shoveling snow, hoofing through winter storms, and standing around the tailgate after a long day of skiing. We pulled them on over t-shirts and fleece layers to test comfort stood still in the coldest pre-dawn hours to test warmth. Bitter North Atlantic winds and our shower helped us test weather resistance. No matter what your winter looks like, we've got a great option for you.
It is essential to layer up if you want to enjoy outdoor activities when temperatures drop during the winter months. Starting with a warm base layer is key, and stacking up insulation in the form of fleece and other synthetics is a good follow-up. However, when it comes to protection against the elements, your outermost layer is crucial, and winter parkas are just one of many jacket options. If you plan to hit the slopes, you may opt for a shorter and more trim ski jacket. If weight to warmth ratio is important, you can't go wrong with a cozy puffy jacket.
Editor's Note: We updated this article on August 30, 2022, removing one discontinued jacket from the lineup and ensuring our selection is up to date.
Insulation: 250 grams of synthetic | Hood: Insulated, faux fur
REASONS TO BUY
Warm, waterproof, and protective
Supple fabric with a relaxed fit
REASONS TO AVOID
Large cut can feel bulky
Fabric doesn't shed water well
The Fjallraven Nuuk was a fast favorite among the testers. The Nuuk keeps us warm in bitter temps. It is soft and pliable with enough weight to feel like a hug and has plenty of insulation. It's also waterproof, with a generous hood and faux-fur ruff that flips out to block the wind. A generous cut leaves plenty of room to layer up without feeling like an overstuffed pillow. We also found that it breathes well. Even when we worked hard enough to sweat, our base layers stayed dry. And we absolutely love the pockets. They are functionally sized and artfully tucked away, lending it a functional, laidback style.
The Nuuk is heavy, which is a fair tradeoff for how much goodness it packs into every pound. We don't love carting it around a store, though, which is why the Arc'teryx Patera Parka outcompetes it in town. The relaxed fit can sometimes feel overwhelming, particularly the sleeves, which are a roll or two too long. It also prevents the jacket from feeling flattering. While the jacket kept us dry in our shower tests, the face fabric did hold onto water more than we'd like for wetter winters. If you like hugs, staying warm and dry in snowstorms, or apres tailgates, this one's for you.
Insulation: 238g of 650 fill power duck down | Hood: Insulated
REASONS TO BUY
Cute outdoorsy style
Cut for function
Warm and comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as durable
No inner security pocket
The REI Co-op Norseland Insulated Parka drapes you up in down for a price that feels like a steal. Winter jackets are an investment, and this is a reasonable one. It also feels well-built and likely to last. The 238 grams of 650 fill-power down is lightweight and warm in freezing weather. A fleece-lined hood, soft, deep pockets, and colorful wrist gaiters keep your extremities happy. Hitting midthigh, this jacket extends further in the back to hold in the heat where you need it. A two-way zipper in front and zippers on either side at the hem give you all the mobility you need to race up steps or launch a snowball attack. The jacket is Bluesign approved, is filled with responsibly harvested down, and the polyester lining is recycled.
The Norseland is warm, but it is not the warmest model in the test. It has plenty of down, but a shorter hem, extended side zips, no cinch at the waist, and a shallow hood. You'll likely need warm pants or long johns when temperatures plummet. Although the hood fits well and features soft high-pile fleece insulation, it doesn't extend far enough to keep cold, dry winter wind or wet snowflakes off your face. Additionally, we wish the collar was roomier. You can tuck your chin into the top of the zipper, but still it's a tight fit. If you don't, the zipper rubs. If you need a light and warm jacket with a laidback style that won't blow your winter gear budget, the Norseland is an excellent choice.
Canada Goose gives the Canada Goose Expedition Parka a temperature rating for -22 degree weather and below. We tried it out on a walk in a -20 degree windchill in northern Vermont. It did the trick. That's a warm winter coat. Duck-down insulation, incredibly waterproof Arctic-tech fabric, and a hood with a real coyote fur ruff work together to block out cold air and brutal winds. With the hood deployed in our shower test, we barely even heard the water. It's also surprisingly wearable, with plenty of room in the shoulders and two pockets tucked inside the insulation.
Even in locales with cold winters, this much protection is usually not necessary, so this jacket may be overkill for your needs. It also weighs a lot. While it’s surprisingly comfy, especially with the waist cord cinched, the jacket does feel bulky. If you're in conditions rowdy enough to warrant it, you won't mind; the Canada Goose Expedition Parka is the jacket for your next Arctic expedition.
Insulation: 250g of 700 fill goose down | Hood: Insulated, down ruff
REASONS TO BUY
Very light and warm
Long with a protective hood
Comfy wrist gaiters
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the most stylish option
No waist cinch to hold heat in
The Outdoor Research Coze Down Parka wraps 250 grams of 700 fill power goose down around you from head to mid-calf. The high-quality feathers keep the jacket light, and the pliable nylon shell is cloud-soft. An insulated that extends beyond your face in what Outdoor Research (OR) calls a down-baffle ruff helps keep the weather at bay. It works like a fur ruff to block wind, though not as well. OR says that this jacket zips up to your nose. While its collar is very tall and wide enough to tuck your face into, it only reached a bit above our lead tester's chin. Still, it's the most comfortable tall collar in the test, with a knit lining and inner down baffle to hold in more heat. Knit wrist-cuffs and lined pockets tucked beneath the down keep your hands warm.
The Coze is frumpy in a way that only very fashionable—or very tall—people can probably pull off as elegant. Our lead tester loves wearing it, despite teasing from a few friends — friends who weren't nearly as warm as she was. We wish it cinched at the waist, which could lend a more flattering shape. More importantly, it would stop frigid temps from sneaking up and into our down cocoon. It's not a problem with temps around freezing, but it might be when the weather turns truly cold. If you want to float around outside in a cloud, thumbing your nose at conventional fashion, you’ll want to seriously consider the Coze.
Insulation: 59g of 750 fill down, 100g of Coreloft | Hood: Insulated
REASONS TO BUY
Warm and comfortable
Helps regulate temperature
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the warmest option
The Arc'teryx Patera Parka balances warmth, breathability, lightweight comfort, and classic style. It's a great option if you're always on the go, overheat easily, or find yourself ripping your jacket off the second you step inside. It's also light and compact enough to drape over your bag. The jacket uses high-loft, 750 fill down to hold maximal warmth around your shoulders, chest, back, and over your arms. It uses synthetic insulation in areas that are more likely to get wet, like the collar, hood, side panels, underarms, and around the lower eight inches of the jacket. The combination works well for us when we're rushing around. The jacket is also windproof and fully waterproof for warmer, wetter winters.
The main shortcoming is the jacket isn't as warm. During testing, we noticed the chill in our arms and thighs in temperatures approaching single digits, especially when sitting down outside. The two-way zipper stops about eight inches above the hem. This feature gives you ample room to walk but doesn’t prevent cold air from creeping in. You can close it with a small snap to circumvent this issue, but then the jacket becomes a touch restrictive. We liked it best in weather above 10 degrees. The trim and durable Arc'teryx Patera Parka will keep you feeling comfortable and looking put together in winter weather.
Insulation: 700 fill recycled down | Hood: Zip-off, uninsulated
REASONS TO BUY
Three jackets in one
Warm and form-fitting
Shell is waterproof and durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Uninsulated hood and outer pockets
Tight in the shoulders
No double zipper on the down layer
If you want a jacket that can take you from early fall to late spring, the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka is the one for you. The three jacket options keep you ready for ever-changing conditions. The inner jacket is insulated with 150 grams of 700 fill recycled down. It's water-resistant enough to get you out of a drizzle and is a great standalone option for clear and chilly days. The outer layer is waterproof, windproof, and breathable. This jacket seems unstoppable when you zip the two together, which takes about a minute. It's also one of the more stylish and flattering options we tested.
The Tres is tight in the shoulders when you combine the layers. If you wear thick winter sweaters often, consider sizing up. Though the hood and outer handwarmer pockets are uninsulated, they are fortunately roomy enough to accommodate a beanie and gloves. The hood is also highly adjustable, which lets you snug it down enough to block out rain or snow. This jacket is expensive, but you are getting three high-quality options for the price of one, two at the most.
Liz Williamson has tested winter jackets in Yosemite and around Lake Tahoe since 2015. She's tested over 100 jackets in harsh conditions, from the High Sierra to the Andes and Patagonia. Her design and wildlife management background gives her knowledge of the practical needs of outerwear in cold environments and the more functional and style considerations of day-to-day use around town.
Liz is joined by Clark Tate. Clark combines a Master's Degree in Environmental Science with a decade of science writing to build our jacket testing plans and ratings. Clark developed an appreciation for finding the right winter coat over ten winters living and playing in mountain towns like Breckenridge, Durango, South Lake Tahoe, and Jay Peak. She now lives in Downeast Maine and frequently visits New England's snowy peaks.
Our testing of winter jackets is divided across five rating metrics:
Warmth tests (30% of overall score weighting)
Weather Resistance tests (25% weighting)
Comfort tests (25% weighting)
Style tests (10% weighting)
Durability tests (10% weighting)
After spending a half-day researching this season's winter jackets, we purchased the top models to test side-by-side. We spent 160 hours switching between coats in similar conditions and running repeatable tests, from standing in the shower to laying in a snowbank to standing outside in freezing weather and bitter winds while checking for heat leaks with a laser thermometer. We hiked and walked over 100 miles in inclement weather. We tested these in temps ranging from 50 to -20 degrees (with wind chill), in sideways snow, and sloppy shoulder season weather.
Analysis and Test Results
We judged each jacket based on warmth, weather resistance, comfort, style, and durability. Note that the ratings are also relative to the other jackets in this review. A score of "7" in warmth is still very toasty. It's just not as warm as models that score higher. You’ll want to consider your climate and favorite outdoor activities to determine which test scores are important to you. You may need a completely waterproof jacket, the warmest option, or the one that will help you keep from overheating.
It's essential to find the right winter jacket for your needs and your budget. The REI Norseland Insulated Parka provides an excellent performance to price ratio. It earns high scores and is among the least expensive jackets in the test.
The Marmot Montreaux has better scores and is still reasonably priced, while the award-winning Outdoor Research Coze Down Parka earns chart-topping scores for a bit more. Any of these options is a good buy. Still, they might not suit your needs since they all have relatively thin polyester fabric that isn't as durable as heavier-duty options.
Even a more expensive purchase can offer excellent value. For example, the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka gives you three jackets for the price of two budget options. It also offers ecological and ethical value. The coat is insulated with 100% recycled down and 75% recycled polyester (100% in the down layer and 50% in the shell). Its sewing labor is Fair Trade Certified.
Rab, Eddie Bauer, REI, Outdoor Research, and The North Face all champion the responsible down certification and offer recycled fabrics. If these practices align with your ethics, and you have the extra cash to spend, they offer value as well.
You want a winter jacket that will be warm enough for your needs. This metric is one of the most critical factors in your decision, and we gave it the highest weighting at 30% of the overall score. If a jacket has down insulation, the quality, or fill-power, of the down, how much down is in it (fill-weight), and the face fabric's thickness determine its warmth. Higher fill-power numbers mean higher quality down and more warmth per weight. We consider anything over 600 to be excellent. But it also matters how much of that high-quality down is in the jacket.
But the numbers don't tell the whole story. Jackets with synthetic insulation can be even harder to gauge by the numbers. Lucky for you, we tested each of these jackets side-by-side in snow, rain, wind, and frigid temperatures to determine the warmest ones.
The warmest jacket by far is the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. We were not surprised by this finding; it's rated for temperatures starting in the negative double digits and trending down. It's also cumbersome and is too much jacket for most people most of the time.
The toastiest jackets you're likely to need day-to-day are also some of our favorites — the Fjallraven Nuuk Parka, the Outdoor Research Coze, the Marmot Montreaux, and the Rab Deep Cover. The Nuuk relies on thick, durable fabric, a protective hood, and synthetic insulation to hold in warmth. The puffy-style Montreaux is loaded with 700 fill power down with a fleece-lined torso. The Deep Cover is incredibly warm thanks to its masses of mid-quality down.
Knee-length parkas like the Montreaux or the Patagonia Jackson Glacier are incredibly cozy in brutally cold weather, which we think of as 10-degrees and below. The Outdoor Research Coze reaches to the middle of your calves and covers your head with a large, deep, and very warm hood. Coze is right.
The The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka and the Jackson Glacier are also plenty warm for most winter weather. The Jackson Glacier has less down but higher quality (700 fill). The Outer Boroughs has lower quality down but plenty of it, and a thick and windproof shell that holds in heat.
Keep in mind that the warmest jackets may be overkill in some conditions, which is why we rate the Arc'teryx Patera Parka so highly. It places 750 fill down where you need to hold in heat and synthetic insulation where you're likely to generate sweat and need more breathability.
Most of the jackets tested have convenient features to help keep out the cold. A warm hood makes a huge difference in cold weather, and we like hoods that are large enough to allow you to fit a beanie underneath. Insulated hoods with faux-fur ruffs that roll out around your face, like those on the Expedition Parka, Nuuk and The North Face Arctic Parka, keep our heads happy in stormy weather. The OR Coze has a unique down baffle ruff that serves a similar purpose but less effectively. We haven't found anything that can replicate the wind-cutting power of fur, real or faux.
The Canada Goose Expedition Parka uses real coyote fur in the hood ruff. While a fur ruff certainly makes a jacket more protective in a storm, the ethics of using real fur can be controversial to some. Canada Goose is the only manufacturer in this review that uses real coyote fur.
Extra features like cuffed sleeves keep drafts from creeping up our arms, and insulated fleece-lined pockets are lifesavers on truly frigid days. And don't forget, a solid base layer can go a long way in keeping your body heat close.
Winter weather can range from cold and clear with dry snow to sleet, wind, freezing rain, and regular old wet rain. If you live in a wet climate like Seattle, having a moderately warm and completely waterproof winter jacket is a good idea. If cold temperatures, biting winds, and dry snow are your reality, warmth and wind resistance are critical. Weather resistance ratings have a 25% weighting in the overall score.
All the models tested offer some protection from wet weather, from a water-resistant coating to a full-blown waterproof membrane. To test how well each jacket keeps you dry and cuts cold winds, we went for walks on wet snow days, stood in the shower for 2.5 minutes, headed out in windstorms, and braved blizzards.
The Canada Goose Expedition Parka wins weather resistance. It's impenetrable. A tough outer shell and an insanely protective hood block wind and snow. Though it's not meant to be used in temperatures where water is in liquid form, it shrugs rain off as well as anything else.
The Arc'teryx Patera Parka and Patagonia Tres are also windproof and are our favorite wet weather options. Both have nicely shaped hoods with good coverage and completely waterproof exteriors that didn't let a drop in during our shower tests. The Tres Parka's water and windproof outer shell work wonderfully on its own as a rain jacket.
The North Face Arctic Parka, The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka, and Fjallraven Nuuk also offer excellent shelter from the storm. Their hoods roll out to form protective tunnels, and their collars zip up to your nose. All three collars are a bit tight when zipped, but the Nuuk's is the least comfortable, and its fabric wets out in the rain or wet snow. The Outer Boroughs gaps where the faux-fur ruff snaps to the hood that cold air can funnel through.
The Outdoor Research Coze is another impressive option. Instead of a fur ruff, the hood is bordered with a down baffle. It forms a protective ring around your face, and you can cinch it down to keep the wind at bay. It's great but doesn't work as well as fur. The Coze also has an impressive DWR coating. It shrugged off 2.5 minutes of steady water in the shower test.
The Patagonia Jackson Glacier and REI Norseland Parka both have impressive wet weather chops. They have DWR coatings that shed moisture effectively, and the zippers keep water out. Unfortunately, both also have small and shallow hoods that do very little to protect your face.
Winter jackets can feel oppressive and restrictive. We love the ones that don't. We also love soft details that keep us warm in a storm. The most comfortable jackets we reviewed are supple and cut to give you plenty of shoulder room to stretch, move, and layer. Some wrap you in down from your head to your knees. Others drape you in comfortingly weighted canvas. A cozy hood doesn't hurt. All of these features factor into comfort, which in turn has a 25% weighting in each product's overall score.
If you like puffy jackets, consider the Outdoor Research Coze, the REI Norseland, or the Patagonia Down With It Parka. All earn top marks for combining a great cut with a velvety soft feel. We also adore the Marmot Montreaux with its nicely fitted, downy hood and soft ruff. It offers instant comfort with a plush, fleece-lined torso and collar, though the shoulders are a little tight. The Rab Deep Cover Parka and Canada Goose Camp Hooded also score well for their lofty, unrestrictive down fill and light nylon shells.
If you need a sturdier exterior but don't want to cut on the cozy factor, we suggest the Fjallraven Nuuk. Its design gives you plenty of room to layer and move, the fabric is buttery soft, and its slight heft truly feels like a hug. The one flaw is that its collar is too tight when zipped to the top.
We also found the cut and comfort of the Arc'teryx Patera Parka impressive. It's trim and flattering but never restrictive, even with the collar fully zipped, and it offers plenty of shoulder room. The sleek outer belies the cozy down baffles inside. Soft storm cuffs hug your wrists and the insulated hood snugs around your head. The Columbia Suttle Mountain Long jacket is similarly easy to wear. It's light with a roomy cut and a soft fleece liner in the hood.
Why not be warm and stylish? We know it's not the most critical factor, but it makes a difference in how you feel when you wear the jacket, so we give style a 10% weighting in the overall score. We tested models that vary in length, fit, function, and fashion. Some have smooth, sleek outer shells like the Arc'teryx Patera Parka. Some sport the rugged, functional look of the Fjallraven Nuuk. Others feature downy baffles, like the Marmot Montreaux. We like all of these styles, but some companies execute them better than others.
The Rab Deep Cover Parka and Marmot Montreaux are two of the most stylish jackets we tested. They're similar, with thin fabric, down baffles, and a hood with a faux fur ruff. The Deep Cover has horizontal seams and a mid-thigh length. The Montreaux's baffles are angled to create a chevron pattern, and it reaches our knees. Both earn us compliments like crazy. The Deep Cover is a bit sportier, while the Montreaux is more elegant, thanks to those angled seams, which suggest a slight drape.
The Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka nails sophisticated winter style, with princess seams and pleasing proportions. We like the look of all three layers. The Patera is a close runner-up. Clever insulation mapping cuts down on bulk to offer a trim silhouette. The handwarmer pockets never interrupt the elegant line, and the face fabric's high quality is evident.
A durable jacket should serve its intended purpose for years, if not decades. To get one, you may need to spend more. Thicker fabrics stand up to rough use, but thinner shells work fine if you avoid manual labor and ski edges. Most of the jackets in this review are made with quality materials and should last, but there are differences between products. This metric has a 10% influence on the overall score.
The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka and The North Face Arctic Parka parkas seem indestructible with minimal exterior stitching and tough nylon, polyester, and cotton shell. The Canada Goose Expedition Parka feels similarly bombproof. However, we worry about the hook-and-loop storm flap closures on the Arctic and the name-brand Velcro ones on the Expedition Parka; both could wear out over time.
The 2-layer polyester and Gore-Tex shell on the Arc'teryx Patera Parka also brushes off sharp sticks and brambles. Based on our experience with this and other Arc'teryx products, we expect it to maintain its weather and windproof properties for many years to come.
The Patagonia Tres has a two-layer H2No membrane and polyester twill fabric that seems invincible. There isn't much to snag or unravel between the sturdy material and minimal external stitching. We did notice a few down feathers escaping from the inner jacket. It's not enough to concern us, but this layer is thin, snaggable, and has loads of external stitching. Keeping this layer up and running will require some care.
Some of the softest and most comfortable jackets we tested didn't earn the highest marks for durability. Jackets like the Montreaux wrap all that lovely down in thin a polyester shell. We ripped a small hole in the Montreaux during testing. It hasn't gotten any bigger, and it's easy to fix, but you do need to take better care of this type of winter jacket than we did if you want it to last. The Jackson Glacier Parka is a good compromise, offering a light and soft down puffy feel with thicker, presumably more durable, fabric.
There is no perfect winter jacket for every occasion. Still, there are plenty of excellent options for your needs, and based on the information we've presented here, you can choose one suitable for the conditions and climate where you live. We hope we've helped you find the right jacket to keep you outside this winter.
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