Best Winter Jackets In 2021 For Extreme Cold (Men & Women)

We’ve all been there… Shivering muscles, chattering teeth, the inability to speak, and the worst of all – frozen fingers. Those are the symptoms of hypothermia that we all want to avoid. Winter is coming, and you need a jacket that’s capable of protecting you from the icy wind and the shocking temperatures. Take a look at these best winter jackets and find out which one fits best to your personal situation.

How To Choose A Winter Jacket

Before we start with the reviews, you may want to understand all the important aspects and features of a winter jacket. This section of this article can help you with that. If you wish to skip this and jump to the reviews, you click here.

Fit

If your jacket is too big, it won’t be as effective. The gaps make a passage for cold air and that’s something you definitely want to avoid. You should also make sure that your jacket is not too small. There should be some space left to add some extra layers. Your jacket alone is not going to be enough. You might also want to wear thermal underwear and a sweater. If it’s really cold, then you may want to add more layers. During my camping trip through Iceland, I wore about 4 layers because it was so cold.

The best winter coats also have an inner sleeve, which ensures that snow doesn’t creep in. A high neck is also an important feature to protect you from the snow or wind and to prevent the common cold.

Intended Use

Before you buy a winter jacket, you may want to think about what you’re going to do with it. Do you live in New York and is it just very cold during winter? Then you probably want to choose a casual winter jacket. They’re designed for casual wear and won’t be as expensive as performance jackets.

Performance jackets are specifically designed for sports in cold conditions. So if you plan on mountaineering, climbing and hiking in the backcountry, then a performance jacket is what you need. In general, they’re lighter in weight, more expensive and offer some handy features.

Insulation & Weather Protection

Down is the number one pick for winter jackets. It’s the warmest, lightest and most packable type of insulation. The only way down can become a problem is when it gets wet. Most down jackets are water-resistant but not waterproof. If it rains enough, it will get wet, and you really want to avoid that. Soggy down is by far the worst. It’s heavy, doesn’t dry easily and doesn’t insulate. Therefore, down jackets are best used at freezing temperatures with little or no rain around. Heavy hail or snowfall won’t penetrate the fabric easily. Some jackets feature hydrophobic down, which is nothing more than upgraded down. A special treatment makes it dry faster and reduce water absorption.

On the other hand, if you need a jacket that’s good at insulating when wet, then you may want to go for a synthetic jacket. While it’s heavier, less packable and less warm than down, it’s also much cheaper and maybe a better choice if you have a limited budget.

What about wool? Well, you really want to avoid this type of insulation. It’s stylish and all that, but it won’t protect you from the cold world. On the other hand, it can be very effective if you wear it under your winter coat.

Wind protection is also another feature that you need to look out for. Wind resistance is determined by five main factors:

  • The fit

If your jacket is too big, the gaps allow wind to enter and steal your warmth.

  • The thickness and fabric of your jacket’s outer layer

This is probably the most important factor. Many great winter jackets feature outer layers made by Pertex or Gore Windstopper. These are brands that stand out in wind resistance.

  • The amount of insulation
  • The insulation distribution
  • The fabric of the liner

Insulation Quality And Amount

While there are a number of factors that make sure you’re warm, fill power and fill weight are the most important ones.

Fill power is used to express the warmth and packability of a down jacket. The higher this number, the better but also the more expensive the jacket is. In general, casual jackets have a fill power of 400 to 700, while performance jackets can near the 900.

Fill weight is another important number. It simply represents the total weight of the down. So, also this number determines the warmth and packability of a jacket. Although this number is often overlooked, it’s just as important as fill power. One doesn’t mean anything without the other. For example, a 500 fill power jacket with 10 oz. of down will be warmer than a 700 fill power jacket with 4 oz. of down. Unfortunately, not every manufacturer mentions the down weight of the jacket. However, I did my best by emailing around and squeezing that information out of them.

Weight, Storage Space And Durability

While weight and storage space may not be important to you, it may be important to the mountaineers, hikers, climbers, etc. Those people are looking for lightweight, packable and insulating jackets, in other words, down jackets. Casual jackets are much heavier and bulkier, but that doesn’t matter if you just use it to walk to work.

So how do manufacturers make their performance jackets so lightweight and packable? Well, they use types of fabrics that are light, thin and fragile. Casual jackets use thicker and heavier material, which is also what makes it more durable. They won’t tear as easily as performance jackets and are more abrasion-resistant.

Hood

As you may already know, keeping your head warm is important if you want to keep the rest of your body warm. That’s why the hood of a jacket cannot be overlooked. Manufacturers use a number of tricks to ensure a quality hood:

  • They usually insulate the hood with the same type of insulation as the rest of the jacket.
  • Many performance jackets have helmet-compatible hoods. This is especially handy in case you’re a mountaineer or climber. These types of hoods are larger and could be less comfortable to wear without a helmet.
  • Most quality cold-weather hoods have the ability to adjust the tightness around your head. This makes it possible to prevent the wind from entering or blowing the hood off your head.

Most casual jackets have hoods that can be detached by zippers. This is a very handy feature in case the hood is bulky and heavy. If you don’t need it, you can just zip it off and put it in your backpack. Performance jackets often don’t have this feature because it adds some weight.

The Reviews

The North Face Gotham III – Most Comfortable Men’s Jacket

Best for you if: you’re a man who needs a fashionable jacket to walk from home to work with. You’re looking for a coat that features a lot of comfortability but is affordable at the same time. You experience a lot of dry snow in the winter and you don’t mind a heavy jacket with a lot of pockets.

The Good

  • The soft lining and great fit give you a cozy feeling
  • It doesn’t limit your range of movement
  • The price is on the low side compared to its competitors
  • A strong nylon outer shell protects the down insulation, you don’t need to worry about tearing it by accident
  • Keeps you warm in normal US winter temperatures
  • Elastic cuffs and hem ensure that the wind, rain and snow stay out
  • Built-in neck gaiter can protect your face from the cold
  • Can easily be compressed in a medium-sized stuff sack
  • Keeps you dry in snow and moderate rain
  • Features a removable faux fur that does a great job in protecting your face from the wind
  • The hood’s size can be adjusted, which is especially handy in windy situations
  • More than enough pockets (6) to store all your things like keys and phone

The Bad

  • Several customers use this jacket in Canada or Alaska but they do mention that you need to layer your clothing properly 
  • Pretty heavy (3 pounds and 1.6 ounces)
  • The pockets are not insulated
  • If it’s raining too much, moisture will come in through the hem and cuffs

For more information, check out the in-depth review.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Men/Women – Most Lightweight Jacket

Best for you if: you need a winter jacket with a focus on lightness and compressibility. You need a coat that you can easily bring on a hiking adventure. You’re a minimalist that values simplicity and effectiveness.

The Good

  • Is both available for men and women
  • Extremely lightweight, which makes it the perfect jacket to bring on your next adventure trip
  • Can be stuffed in its own pocket, which results in a tiny package that’s easy to bring along
  • Can serve as a casual jacket or as a performance jacket
  • Is very successful in keeping you warm in extremely cold conditions
  • Outer shell manages to protect you from the wind
  • Features hydrophobic down (what is this?)
  • An elastic cord makes it able to tighten the hem
  • Has the right fit – sleeves and hem are the right length
  • Pockets are positioned at the right height
  • The geese were treated with respect
  • This jacket is relatively eco-friendly

The Bad

  • Vulnerable to sharp surfaces like sticks and rocks
  • Won’t keep you dry in heavy or prolonged rain
  • Sleeves aren’t elastic at the end and don’t feature Velcro tape
  • No inner pocket or chest pockets – only two hand pockets
  • Hood cannot be tightened

For more information, check out the in-depth review.

Arc’teryx Therme Parka – Most Waterproof  And Durable Men’s Jacket

Best for you if: You’re a man who’s desperately in need of a fully waterproof winter jacket. You want a warm and breathable coat but it still needs to look clean and stylish. Oh, and you’re prepared to pay a hefty price.

Picture of the Therme Parka

The Good

  • This jacket manages to offer a lot of insulation while remaining sleek
  • Uses water-resistant synthetic insulation in spots prone to moisture
  • Completely waterproof and windproof
  • This jacket is suitable for many sorts of situations (urban use, skiing, hiking,…)
  • Gore-Tex provides excellent breathability
  • The outer shell has a smooth and textured feeling
  • A nylon outer shell with a 75-denier rating makes this jacket very durable
  • It’s very lightweight for its size (2 lbs and 5.6 oz)
  • Features the necessary pockets and elastic cords to tighten the hood
  • Clean looking storm flaps protect the zippers (can be closed with buttons)
  • Looks fashionable and a little futuristic in my opinion
  • Features internal elastic cuffs to ensure that water, snow and wind stays out

The Bad

  • It’s expensive
  • The pockets are not insulated
  • This jacket is not designed to be stuffed into a backpack

For more information, check out the in-depth review.

Marmot Montreaux – Warmest Women’s Jacket

Best for you if: you’re a woman who gets cold quickly. This is really one of the warmest winter coats and they are sold for a reasonable price. You like the look of knee-length jackets, and you’re looking for a coat for urban use. The Montreaux can handle light rain but is best used in extremely cold conditions (dry snow can’t hurt).

The Good

  • Scores very high in warmth but doesn’t look bulky
  • Excellent price to warmth ratio
  • The removable faux fur does a good job in protecting your face from the cold wind
  • A fleece lining around the core traps your body heat
  • Hand pockets are insulated with down
  • Say goodbye to coldness around your legs and butt
  • two-way zipper to decide how much space you want to give your legs
  • All the necessary pockets (hand pockets, two zippable interior pockets)
  • A removable hood
  • The pockets feature a microfleece lining (feels great)

The Bad

  • Water resistant but not waterproof
  • Vulnerable to sharp edges – can easily rip if you’re not paying attention

For more information, check out the in-depth review.

Arc’teryx Patera Parka – Most Waterproof  And Durable Women’s Jacket

Best for you if: you are a woman who’s desperately in need of a fully waterproof winter jacket. You want a warm and breathable coat but it still needs to look clean and stylish. It also needs to hold up against branches, thorns, rocks or other sharp things.

Oh, and you’re prepared to pay a hefty price.

 

A model wearing the patera parka

The Good

  • This jacket manages to offer a lot of insulation while remaining sleek
  • Uses water-resistant synthetic insulation in spots prone to moisture
  • Completely waterproof and windproof
  • This jacket is suitable for many sorts of situations (urban use, skiing, hiking,…)
  • Gore-Tex provides excellent breathability
  • The outer shell has a smooth and textured feeling
  • A nylon outer shell with a 75-denier rating makes this jacket very durable and tear-resistant
  • It’s lightweight for its size
  • Features the necessary pockets and elastic cords to tighten the hood
  • Clean looking storm flaps protect the zippers (can be closed with buttons)
  • Features internal elastic cuffs to ensure that water, snow and wind stays out

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • The zipper sometimes doesn’t work properly
  • Not enough down insulation in the sleeves
  • To face extremely cold conditions you need to layer your clothing correctly
  • The pockets are not insulated
  • This jacket is not designed to be stuffed into a backpack

For more information, check out the in-depth review.

 

Conclusion

So, which jacket is the best one? That’s not so easy to answer since that depends on your situation.

If you need a jacket for climbing mountains are expeditions in raw nature, then I suggest you go with the Ghost Whisperer 2 (men & women). Not only is it super light and compressible, but it also scores impressively high in every important aspect of a winter jacket. Besides, you can even use this jacket in town since it also looks casual.

On the other hand, if you need a casual jacket to accompany you in the freezing winters of Chicago or New York City, the Montreaux (women) or the Gotham 3 (men) is probably the best choice.  They’re both very fashionable and the Gotham 3 keeps you warm in normal New York City winter temperatures. The Montreaux is much warmer and you can use it to face temperatures as low as 5ºF (-15ºC). Of course, you can face much colder temperatures if you properly layer your clothing.

Because these jackets are not completely waterproof, the Therme Parka and Patera Parka are a much better choice if you live in a rainy and moderately cold place.

 

I hope that I could help you make a choice. Please, leave some feedback by rating this article with the stars below. And as always, just shoot me an email with any questions or hiccups. You can contact me on this page. Happy to help move things along.

Stay safe and keep exploring!

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