As several characters in the fictional Game of Thrones universe kept reminding us, winter is (always) coming. Whether you like it or not, the mercury will soon begin to drop and you’ll be trading your swim shorts for snow jackets, all in the name of beating the chill.
While it’s incredibly easy to remove layers of clothing during summer to keep yourself cool, keeping warm and toasty during winter is a completely different ball game. There is the obvious method of donning several layers of clothing, but if you start to boil from the inside, you need to remove them and carry them around with you for the rest of the day.
What you really need is a top-performing winter coat or jacket that will serve as a single layer either over a sweatshirt or fleece jacket when temperatures really do plummet, or over a simple t-shirt when all you need is something to fight the cold when taking a weekend stroll. However, practically every clothing brand under the sun has its own interpretation of what constitutes a ‘best’ winter coat or jacket, but that isn’t always the case.
We’ve, therefore, placed ourselves in your soon-to-be winter boots to sift through the coats and jackets that you really ought to spend your money on in preparation for winter. Of course, no two jackets are made the same, and different brands will utilise different fabric technologies in the fight against harsh winter conditions. To help you with some of the more technical jargon, here’s what you should be looking out for when looking for a winter jacket or coat.
Gore-Tex is perhaps the biggest name in waterproof, breathable fabrics, having been around since 1969. Gore-Tex fabrics, and with that, jackets that employ the use of it, can both repel water – such as rain – while still allowing water vapour (such as sweat) to pass through its membrane, resulting in a breathable finish.
Coreloft is a brand of synthetic non-woven insulation material. Instead, polyester fibres are crimped together to trap air, which results in a material that is highly effective at retaining warmth. It’s naturally hydrophobic too, so will be equally effective in both wet and dry conditions. Coreloft is primarily found in Arc’teryx products.
Down vs Synthetic Insulation
Two of the main terms you’re likely to come across when searching for a winter jacket or coat refers to the insulation: down or synthetic. Which insulation type you choose will depend on what you intend to use your jacket for.
Unless the manufacturer clearly specifies the insulation in its jacket is made from feathers, down is in fact made from the plumage found underneath the feathers on a goose or duck. Down is a complete natural at retaining heat (ideal for jackets intended for extremely cold weather climates) as well being naturally breathable, meaning it will happily wick sweat away from your body.
It’s lightweight nature also lends it to be packable, so if you ever get so warm you need to take your jacket off, you can easily stuff it into a bag. The main downside to down insulation is that it doesn’t function so well if it gets wet. Some jackets will cater to this, covering them in a highly effective waterproof outer layer, but if the down layer is on the outside, you’ll want to hope you don’t get caught in the rain.
However, with down also comes the addition of fill power, which we’ll cover later.
On to synthetic insulation, which as its name implies, is manmade. However, it is designed to mimic the qualities of down insulation but can still function as well even when wet. It’s made by taking various sizes of polyester fibres and intertwining them, which in turn holds heat within several air pockets.
While this is great news for synthetic insulation, more of it is needed to replicate the same effect as down, so synthetically insulated jackets and coats will be heavier than their down counterparts. However, if caught in the rain, synthetic insulation will dry much much faster than down.
Durable water repellent refers to a coating that is applied to various fabrics before they roll off the production line to make them water-resistant. It’s not uncommon to find DWR treatments on materials such as Gore-Tex to help minimise the amount of water it’s required to repel. DWR treatments can become less effective over time, but can be re-treated as necessary.
Down Fill Power
Down fill power is indicated by a number, usually between 300 and 900, that indicates the loft of the down insulation. This basically refers to how warm the down jacket will be, with the higher the number meaning the warmer it will be, due to the larger weight of air the down can trap.
Hard Shell vs Soft Shell
Another commonly used term used in relation to outerwear is either hard shell or soft shell, but what do they mean? In general, a hard shell jacket is what you want to protect against rain and wind. The actual fabric that goes into their construction can vary, they all have the same overall goal. You will, however, need to think about the layers you wear under your hard shell, as if you build up a lot of sweat, the outer layer may not be as effective at wicking sweat if you’re wearing a thick fleece.
Conversely, if you’re outside in cold and wet rain, and don’t have any layers underneath, the hard shell jacket will pass on that cold temperature to your body. With this taken care of though, you can easily wear a hard shell jacket all year round, not just in winter.
Soft shell jackets, on the other hand, aren’t fully waterproof but can be water-resistant and extremely breathable. They tend to be warmer than their hard shell counterpart too and offer a greater range of movement, making them more suitable for climbing.
Best Winter Jackets FAQ
Before buying, consider the type of jacket you need based on your activities, the insulation it provides and of course, the quality. Make sure it fits you well so take your time trying on different styles. A good winter jacket is an investment, so be prepared to shell out hundreds of bucks for it. Buyers usually spend an average of $100 to $300 for a coat from Columbia or L.L. Bean. Your wool coats and down jackets must be cleaned once or twice a season. For your fleece jackets, washing after wearing them six to seven times is the norm. At its most basic level, a coat will be made from heavier materials than a jacket, and will generally be warmer too. A coat will also tend to be longer than a jacket, falling below the waist.
How to choose the right winter jacket?
How much does a good winter jacket cost?
How often do you wash your winter coat?
What is the difference between a coat and a jacket?
Before buying, consider the type of jacket you need based on your activities, the insulation it provides and of course, the quality. Make sure it fits you well so take your time trying on different styles.
A good winter jacket is an investment, so be prepared to shell out hundreds of bucks for it. Buyers usually spend an average of $100 to $300 for a coat from Columbia or L.L. Bean.
Your wool coats and down jackets must be cleaned once or twice a season. For your fleece jackets, washing after wearing them six to seven times is the norm.
At its most basic level, a coat will be made from heavier materials than a jacket, and will generally be warmer too. A coat will also tend to be longer than a jacket, falling below the waist.
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This hooded down jacket is water-repellent and with 60% duck down filling, will keep you toasty warm. Subtle accents on the shoulders, hood and pockets provide some stylish contrast. A great option for pairing with both casual and smarter outfits.
The ReNew Long Parka is made from 64 renewed plastic bottles, rocks a below-the-hip length and has fleece-lined pockets to keep your hands toasty warm. A water-resistant coating and PrimaLoft insulation make it the perfect defence against bad weather.
The Boxy Puffer Jacket is just the ticket for when the weather turns foul. Waterproof to 4000mm of rainfall, windproof and entirely breathable, this puffer will also keep you toasty warm thanks to DuPont's Sorona insulation. An insulated collar and fleece-lined pockets only add to its weather-beating credentials.
Outerknown's puffer jacket is cut to the brand's heavyweight fit specification, meaning it offers enough room to wear over a sweatshirt. Recycled materials and 100% down filling make it lightweight and remarkably warm. Better yet, it can be packed up into its own chest pocket.
The Tundra Quilted Hooded Jacket is a testament to that, which uses a recycled polyester ripstop fabric for the outer shell, complete with a DWR coating, and PrimaLoft insulation to keep you snug as a bug. Proudly claiming it will withstand against rain, snow or hail, the Tundra also looks damn fine while doing so.
The Styrman Ultralight jacket is Mission Workshop's take on the traditional trench coat, but one that is designed to outperform all of its competition. it employs a fully seam-taped design, giving water an impossible chance of seeping in, yet it's lightweight enough that it easily be packed away in a bag for when the rainclouds dispense. When it comes to rain, the Styrman will happily protect you against serious downpours as opposed to just a light drizzle, and for days when it's so cold you can't feel your face, it will prove to be the perfect outer layer over a fleece or sweater.
Nowhere is that better exemplified than in the Drive Jacket. Combining elements of a shell and a sweater, you'll be kept warm – thanks to Primaloft Golf insulation – and dry thanks to the water-resistant woven shell. Put the hood up and your head will be caressed in luxury by way of a cotton-cashmere lining, and you'll find the same material inside the sleeves too. Slick and sophisticated in its styling too, this is a winter jacket for all urban explorers.
The Wool-lined Waxed Trucker jacket a great defence against winter conditions, due to its waxed outer layer which is a dab-hand at shielding against wind and rain. On the inside however, it's all about warmth and comfort, with a serious helping of the wool lining.
On top of that, the waxed layer will naturally lighten in colour based on your movements, resulting in a unique look and with fully lined sleeves, you can easily slip one on over a t-shirt and reap the warming benefits.
They include the Ritter jacket. A waterproof and windproof jacket with a 650-fill power filling to keep you especially warm, while microfleece lining in the pockets help warm up your fingers
Take the Isthmus Parka. Not only does it look flippin' fantastic with its 60s-inspired silhouette, but it's lined with a high-pile fleece that's made from 30 per cent recycled polyester, while the outer shell is made from recycled nylon and given the DWR treatment making it wind and water-repellant. Throw in 7, yes 7, pockets and you have one seriously capable, do-it-all winter jacket.
The Edward down coat has been designed with the very coldest days imaginable in mind. To that degree, it ticks all the boxes: windproof, water-repellant and breathable. It hugs your body with a combination of duck down and feathers, so will essentially feel like you're wearing a duvet with sleeves. Extra details such as storm cuffs and a removable hood – complete with storm visor, we might add – make it your one-stop defence against Mother Nature.
From beachwear to outerwear and the Taylor puffer jacket. A water-resistant coating and down-filling make this a soft and comfortable jacket that's suited to both dry and wet weather. The hood can come off for when rain does go away, and pockets on the exterior and interior give you plenty of space to carry your essentials.
The Fission SV Insulated Jacket is a prime example of that, and the fact the company says it's the warmest fully waterproof jacket in its Essentials collection should be enough alone to sell it to you. But just in case you needed more convincing, it utilises Gore-Tex, allowing it to prevent rain and snow getting in, while still being breathable to keep your body well ventilated. Coreloft insulation is what you can rely upon to keep you toasty warm, while a DropHood and collar caress your neck in scarf-like fashion. Arc'teryx caters for all budgets too, with its insulated jacket collection ranging from US$149 - $999 for the ultimate is ski-specific protection.
If you're going to invest in Canada Goose you may automatically veer towards its fully-fledged parkas, but they're designed to withstand conditions you'd only really find in the Arctic Circle. For everyday winter use, something like the Kent jacket would be more logical. It rocks a slim fit silhouette with a clean and minimal outer layer, ensuring you remain looking your best during the daily commute.
The Kent utilises the company's Tri-Durance SS fabric, a 3-layer design that keeps wind and rain at bay, while keeping you well insulated. Vent mesh panels in the back encourage airflow so you don't become a hot, sweaty mess. Canada Goose jackets are renowned for their high asking prices, but the Kent is well below the $1,000 mark you could easily spend on one of its parkas.
This Ultra Light Down Jacket, for example, guarantees at least 90% down plumage filling and is lightweight enough that it can be packed into its own bag for when not in use. UNIQLO has also given it a water-repellant coating to help keep light showers at bay and best of all, it's available in a huge range of colours.
While Mammut obviously caters for those who choose to brave the extreme outdoors still, it also has a range for those who prefer to venture around city streets as opposed to scaling mountains.
The Convey Tour is a prime example of a Mammut jacket that can be worn both in urban environments and for long hikes. It employs Gore-Tex Paclite fabric technology to make it windproof, waterproof and breathable, meaning it will wick sweat away from your body to keep you cool and dry inside.
But just because it's the brand to be seen in on the slopes, doesn't mean that can't carry over to everyday wear either. With down jackets being all the rage right now, the Bosco is the one you'll really want. With a figure-hugging fit and the company's quintessentially ski-inspired style, the Bosco is all style and all substance. It's filled with goose down insulation for superior warmth, while the outer layer is water-repellent to keep rain at bay.
Your neck will be well protected too thanks to a stand-up collar and you're not left wanting when it comes to storage space, with five pockets placed conveniently around the outer layer. And considering the brand's heritage, the Bosco is one of the more affordable jackets on this list. Bonus.
More often than not, you're going to see Burberry trench coats wondering the streets, and that's because Burberry is the brand responsible for launching it to the market. Founder Thomas Burberry invented the gabardine fabric that goes into making traditional trench coats, way back in 1879. Without him, the trench coat may not exist today.
The Kensington Heritage trench coat is the piece that retains the years-old design, but has been updated with modern body proportions in mind. The gabardine fabric is on hand once again to repel water, while the remaining trench coat criteria is all present and correct. It may not have quite the same warming properties as some other coats on this list, but for splendidly British-inspired wet-weather protection, there's nothing better.
We therefore had to include this Arctic Parka DF winter coat as a recommendation. Designed to block out wind, rain and even snow, this unassuming parka jacket is made using a water repellent Ramar fabric before being coated with Teflon to really make sure Mother Nature is kept at bay. A down filling provides extra warmth while typical parka features such as a multitude of pockets and a detachable fur trim complete the urban look.
One of C.P. Company's most recognisable pieces which continues to be made today is the Goggle Jacket. The latest iteration uses a soft shell design, but remains a tough beast against the elements. It's hoody-like appearance gives way to a water and windproof outer layer. The inner layer comprises a lightweight mesh that might not be the warmest thing ever, but provides comfort and stretch. Pop it over generous mid-layer and you'll be well protected. And of course, the iconic goggle hood makes a return for a quirky touch of design.
The Iridescent Bomber is part of the company's very latest fall/winter collection, meaning it makes use of some of the latest fabric and material technologies. They include a 20-denier nylon, which is tough enough to avoid being ripped and feather down insulation to keep you cosy and warm during cold and windy days. It's probably not the best idea to wear the Bomber out in torrential downpours, but if you need a transitional winter jacket to simply protect against the cold, you're going to struggle to find one better made than anything from Herno.
The Ashby is one of the most iconic collections in Barbour's lineup, playing host to all the subtle features that make it quintessentially Barbour. They include a tartan check interior lining (which changes colour depending on the colour of jacket you choose), corduroy collar and two-way zip closure with storm flap. The main feature is of course the 6oz waxed Sylkoil fabric, which if treated regularly will happily repel water for years to come.