You pretty much know that winter jackets from the usual suspects are gonna be great: Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Columbia, Marmot, REI, Eddie Bauer (maybe our fave of the big manufacturers), etc. Some are styled a little differently, some have varying degrees of water repellency, the fits can range from boxy to snug, but pick one from the brands you’ve heard of and you’re gonna be happy.
But where’s the fun in that? We’re all about exploring, even when it’s just risking a swing and a miss on a spendy offering from a brand we’d never heard of before. The two below jackets though, are anything but misses.
First, the Amundsen Peak Anorak.
Yes, it’s expensive. $530. But, and you know there’s a but coming, this is a jacket that you can easily have for the rest of your life. At least, that’s how it feels. It’s a waterproof, stretchy shell that was built for Antarctic expeditions. Built by founder Jørgen Amundsen in fact, a descendant of explorer (and Historical Badass) Roald Amundsen. This isn’t a fur-lined parka, though. It’s a shell meant for fending off snow or driving sleet, over a baselayer of insulation below. There are huge zippered vents below the arms to dump heat. Because it’s assumed you’ll have a backpack, the main pocket is across the chest so it’s not blocked by a hip belt. The hood is meant to cinch around a helmet. The quality is remarkable, with tough seams, water-tight zippers, and a pleasing heft.
I wear it while snowshoeing, Nordic skiing in terrible weather, or as a rain shell when it’s bitterly cold. I will use it for those things until I can’t do them anymore, because I have little doubt this jacket will outlive me. I’d rather pay $500 for this jacket once, than buy a new shell for $200 every five or so years. • BUY $529
Then, for truly, truly cold weather, I’m a very big fan of the Minnesota-based Askov Finlayson Winter Parka. I’m also a big fan of their approach to sustainability. The parka itself uses recycled insulation, which is great, but the entire brand is built around removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they produce. They count all of the emissions related to the manufacture, sale, and shipping of their apparel, including employee commutes, and then purchase enough credits to offset those emissions by 110%.
As for the jacket, it’s insulated with 3M’s Thinsulate, a recycled polyester that feels like down. Tested to minus-20 Fahrenheit, I’ve comfortably worn it over a simple wool shirt and been plenty warm just sitting around in temperatures in the high teens. It’s not technically 100% waterproof, but it’s DWR-treated, and has a waterproof membrane sewn into the fabric, so wet snow, even light rain is not a problem. The hood is big, soft, and covers up to your chin, sealing in warmth. It’s a long parka, too, extending to the tops of your thighs for max core warmth. I use it when I know I’m going to be stationary or just walking in brutal cold. Honestly, lately, it’s been by the front door for having a beer outside at the pub at night when the temps are in the high 30s. Bonus: It comes with a Faraday pouch for your phone, so you can have it with you, but not receive calls, if you’re out there to get away from everything. Double Bonus: You can wear it for a full winter and if you don’t like it, they’ll take it back and refund your purchase. • BUY Mens: $495; Women’s $395
Or maybe you prefer the known quantity
We like the Outdoor Research Super Alpine Down Parka for its warmth, coverage, and light weight (about 1.5 pounds). Plus, it’s on sale for $279.
Mountain Hardwear’s Firefall/2 Insulated Parka is warm, long, and waterproof for ski expeditioning. On sale for $213.
The Patagonia Isthmus 3-in-1 jacket is a parka that has a removable outer shell with a fleece jacket below that can handle just about any weather you throw at it. $349