As polar explorers and mountaineers, we use cutting-edge equipment in the world’s harshest environments. While we’re serious about outdoor adventure, we also live in a range of extremely cold climates from Canmore, Alberta and Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Crested Butte, Colorado, and other moderately cold mountain towns and cities.
These are the best-insulated winter jackets we use for daily life.
Below, you’ll find a range of belay or down jackets (also known as a “puffy”), streamlined micro-puffy jackets, insulated shells, and active insulation. A micro-puffy can serve as a midlayer or outerlayer, working as a versatile option throughout the cold months. Many of these modern jackets also have synthetic counterparts or hybrid synthetic-down designs.
A handful of these options are well-suited for skiing or high cardio output plus day-to-day meanderings. Others work best for everyday use rather than training sessions. But all will keep you toasty and protected from the low temperatures.
For more extreme models, check out our Best Winter Parkas of 2021-22 According to Polar Explorers.
Best for: Streamlined micro-down for everyday errands, low to moderate output, as a midlayer, or to pull on during backcountry ski stops
In the northern Rockies, which are chilliest in December and January, most people in Canmore wear svelte down jackets like the Cerium LT Jacket. We’ve found it best conserves heat until the temperatures reach about -17˚C, then a beefier model is better. While this versatile, popular Arc’teryx jacket works well for everyday life, it’s also a great layering piece for outdoor adventures.
Day to day, the Cerium LT works well as an outermost layer or midlayer beneath a shell, which blocks precipitation and wind, or a full-on parka. The lightweight, compressible design lends itself to backcountry ski and splitboard hut trips, snowshoe outings, ice skating, and winter hikes. The design’s insulation generally suits ascents with a mellower grade at a moderate or slow pace and is nice to slide on during breaks. For steeper climbs and cardio-busting activities, active insulation jackets provide better breathability than this micro-puffy.
The jacket is packed with premium 850-fill white goose down and Arc’teryx also strategically placed synthetic insulation in the areas where moisture usually builds up. That synthetic fill’s lightweight, breathable polyester yarn packs down well.
An insulated, mid-height collar helps block the breeze from sneaking in, and we appreciate the smooth interior liner. The Cerium LT’s face fabric blocks moisture and wind fairly well, too. To carry our belongings, the exterior hand pockets have zip closures. There’s also an internal zippered pocket with an integrated stuff sack.
See the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Jacket
Best for: A slim-fitting down jacket that blocks water and wind
If you don’t like moving around with bulk, the streamlined The North Face Bellion Down Jacket is your new first pick. Areas of synthetic insulation (dubbed the Heatseeker Eco and made with 100% recycled polyester fiber) complement the down filling. The resilient, compressible synthetic fill is water repellent.
Despite its fully waterproof exterior, the jacket is fairly breathable. But when heat does build up, underarm zippers allow extra ventilation. We appreciate the wrist gaiters, too.
Skiers, riders, and bikers can fit their helmets beneath the compatible hood. You’ll find an internal chest pocket, two internal mesh pockets, a wrist pocket (for a goggle wipe), and two hand pockets for stashing goods.
See The North Face Bellion Down Jacket
Best or: Running errands or biking around town in warmth, comfort, and style
On casual outings (as in, not walking miles in a blizzard) in freezing temperatures, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hood Jacket is one of our favorites. And though wet heavy snowfall can dampen this jacket, it rebounds fast.
We found this jacket blocks wind really well and the collar is just right: not too tight yet sturdy enough when zipped to stand and protect our chin and lower face. The elastic cuffs around the wrists are comfortable, though not extra long, if that’s a priority. And though the hood is comfortable and snug, it’s too head-hugging to fit a helmet or a hair bun beneath.
Among the eco-friendly traits of the design, it has third-party certified RDS goose down. This means that the geese sourced for the down are not force-fed or live-plucked, a process that is traced from the farm to the apparel factory.
See the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie
Best for: Super compressible down jacket for alpine tours and everyday travel
It’s a delicate balance: The more insulation a jacket has, the bulkier it will be. This Swiss-made puffy is one of the most compressible we’ve found. Although not as packable as a micro-puffy, it is warmer.
The Mammut Broad Peak IN Hooded Jacket is a great grab for winter commutes and strolling local trails. You can still access the zippered hand pockets while wearing a backpack with a hip belt or climbing harness. The chest pocket is likewise compatible with a pack’s chest strap. The waterproof front zipper also goes in both directions, which is a helpful touch if you do need to wear a harness.
The exterior’s Pertex Quantum fabric is tightly woven, soft, and malleable, so the down insulation can completely retain its loft. Plus, that buttery material makes it enjoyable to wear.
See the Mammut Broad IN Hood Jacket
Best for: Blustery, cold, or damp days in the city, mountain trips, and expeditions in the Himalaya
The Rab Positron Pro Down reigns as an insulation layer and wind-blocker for gusty commutes like the blasts that rip through downtown Chicago. The jacket doesn’t pack small, but if you’re traveling to an extreme enough environment, the space it needs is well worth it. You won’t notice the bulk when you’re warm rather than shivering.
This Rab is constructed with a tenacious, tightly-woven material called Pertex Quantum Pro, which is treated for water resistance. Despite the coating, the fabric remains lightweight, soft in the hand, and fairly breathable, too.
The boxwall build throughout the torso, hood, and upper arms eliminates seams where cold air could sneak through. The hood is compatible with a helmet.
See the Rab Positron Pro Down Jacket
Best for: Flexibility in extremely cold temperatures like building snow caves and sledding with kids or skiing and snowboarding at the hill
The Sync Performance Stretch Puffy Jacket couldn’t have a more on-point name. We grab this jacket when the temperatures drop toward -18˚C to -23˚C, but we know we’ll be working up a sweat. Shoveling. Sledding. Working on the snowmobile. Clearing off the trailer. You name it.
This jacket is especially comfortable for ripping through trees on a snowboard or skis at the resort. No matter how fast you’re moving, this pliable jacket moves with you and the 30-denier exterior fabric never feels like it’s about to rip against a tree limb or tool.
Beyond the flexible nature, the jacket is breathable yet warm. The fabric’s durable water repellency means it blocks moisture and snow. For the folks who do not want to purchase a down jacket, this 100% synthetic fill is a great alternative.
See the Sync Performance Stretch Puffy Jacket
Best for: Superlight packable, ultra-warm, athletic choice for above a midlayer or beneath a parka or rain jacket in dry, cold conditions
We found the Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoodie to be feathery light, super warm, and also durable. It’s a solid choice to squish into a small backpack when you head out the door or for rougher adventures like ice climbing.
Though the jacket is beefed up with 850-fill down, it also has a portion of synthetic insulation made from polyester yarn, which aids the loft retention. The hood fits very comfortably and blocks wind well, and the elastic wrist cuffs are sleek, too.
One of our favorite components of the jacket is the zipper. It’s small yet hefty. After years of use, it has yet to snag or break. This is one of our go-to jackets to pack throughout the year.
See the Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoodie
Best for: Long periods of idling, from watching outdoor hockey to glassing for animals on a fourth season hunt
Sometimes you simply need a super burly jacket. It’s a good idea to have one on hand in case of emergencies, whether you’re covering wintry ground on foot or making a long commute in your rig. Stout down jackets are also comfortable to pull on for spectating events during cold snaps.
We’ve used this design for glassing for animals during a high-elevation fourth-season hunt in the mountains. Despite sitting and scouting for lengthy periods of time, we never got cold. Not even chilly.
High-wear spots are reinforced with 30-denier fabric. The down’s PFC-free coating means the clumps won’t clump together and lose their warmth factor if they get damp or wet. Inside, two spacious pockets are available to carry items, plus two hand pockets, and two chest pockets.
See the Big Agnes Fire Tower Down Belay Parka
Best for: Everyday stylish, cozy winter jacket for ice-cold cities, towns, and mountain communities
Though not very contoured, the Stio Colter Infinium Down Jacket made in Jackson Hole, Wyoming quickly became one of our favorites.
The Colter has nicely tailored cuffs that taper out a bit more than others, reaching diagonally over the back of your hand. The hem’s length is slightly longer in the back, which is nice for more lower back protection against harsh wind. There are also two side zippers on the hem to widen the circumference of the jacket.
Inside the jacket, the down’s water repellency means its loft and warmth is steadfast in snowfall and humidity. The Gore-Tex Infinium fabric fiercely blocks wind, yet is buttery, smooth, and quiet. The outermost layer’s recycled polyester is paired with a Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable laminate and treated with a PFC-free DWR, so water beads off the surface. All said, the jacket’s exterior is tough but cozy, including the down-filled hood.
See the Stio Colter Infinium Down Jacket
Best for: Extreme warmth, withstands cold temperatures and wind; outer layer for belaying, physical labor, and commutes
The Alpha Parka is the warmest down-insulated belay parka that Arc’teryx makes. Although lightweight, its construction resists tears and abrasion. It’s a top choice as an outermost layer. While this burly build is fit for alpine and rock climbing, it’s also a solid choice to pull on for around-town travel during wild wintry conditions.
The jacket’s Gore-Tex Infinium fabric blocks wind and is super breathable. Similar to the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Jacket, high-perspiration areas are filled with synthetic insulation to offer warmth even when damp. The kicker: the Alpha Parka’s face fabric is Hadron, a proprietary and lightweight blend made from a liquid-crystal polymer, which is durable and resistant, yet soft.
The taller collar successfully retains warmth and the hood (which is helmet compatible) offers ample protection. We like the cuff gaskets, which block any biting wind from getting to our wrists and forearms. In addition to two hand pockets, there are two internal dump pockets and a chest pocket.
See the Arc’teryx Alpha Parka
Best for: A longer heat-holding coat for everyday meanders in the coldest weeks of winter
Adding an extra foot or so of jacket length does more than boost style, floor-reaching designs offer a load more heat while protecting the hips and upper legs from freezing gale-force winds or when digging out the truck after a huge snowfall. Riding a bike with a frosty seat, sitting down on a chilly bus or subway train, or riding in a vehicle sans seat heaters becomes not only bearable, but comfortable. The Canada Goose Shelburne Down Parka is our premium choice for that style.
The full-length parka is water-resistant and features two back vents for dumping heat, if necessary. The hood includes a detachable fur trim that, in an everyday context, can help prevent snow flakes from flying into the hood.
To help keep the wrists warm, we really like the thick, long rib-knit cuffs. We also like that the two fleece-lined hand pockets are soft.
See the Canada Goose Shelburne Down Parka
Best for: As a work garment and everyday commute
The Arctic Patrol Modular Parka ($1,600) is more of a work garment for oil rigs in the North Sea or for taking a temperature reading at the South Pole than for shoveling the driveway.
This heavy-duty jacket is waterproof and everything-proof. This 3-in-1 modular parka (insulator, shell, and parka) will keep you warm in the nastiest conditions. But you’ll pay for it. Expect to pay double the price of most other parkas.
There’s reinforced fabric on exposed areas of the jacket. The cuffs, hem, and hood are adjustable. Ventilation underarm zippers help dump heat, if needed. The brand also developed a technology called Life Pocket, which is a cold-resistant pocket that stays two times warmer than a regular winter jacket pocket, helping to preserve the battery of devices in the cold.
See the Helly Hansen Arctic Patrol Modular Parka
Best for: Everyday use, even when blizzard or arctic conditions challenge in-person conversation
Stylish, trendy, and brilliantly marketed (the one-of-a-kind Inuit collection is stunning), Canada Goose stores turn up everywhere from Ilulissat, Greenland to urban malls.
Some of this jacket’s design elements point to its industrial lineage. For example, it has a clear ID window on the chest so you can wear a name tag for when conditions are so bad that communication is difficult.
The Snow Mantra Parka ($1,600) is one of the brand’s more retro models, although the price is anything but retro. There’s a removable fur ruff, two-way adjustable down-filled hood, and webbing grab straps on the shoulders. This is a good, industrial-use parka for those who live or work in cold regions.
See the Canada Goose Snow Mantra Parka
Best for: Insulated shell for skiing or riding in frigid conditions and wind-biting ski lift rides
When you don’t need a full-on down jacket but you need more than a shell or a shell paired with a fleece midlayer, this insulated shell makes all the difference. The Picture Organic Haakon Jacket is a great everyday and ski or snowboard jacket for mild to cold conditions. It works well from below freezing to -9˚C, or days with occasional spouts of bitter wind.
Regardless of the narrow, athletic fit, the jacket’s knit construction beneath the arms and along the body offers freedom of movement. Even after months of use on the ski lifts, no wear and tear is visible around the torso or shoulders.
At 20,000mm/20,000g of waterproof-breathability, this hip-length jacket is also one of the most water-resistant and breathable options on our list, making it a good choice for active users. There are underarm zippers, too. Inside, the brushed liner is soft, and the jacket is sound-free.
See the Picture Organic Haakon Jacket
Best for: Slender-fitting active insulation jacket for high output, winter runs or nordic ski days
For high-cardio output in wintry conditions, go for active insulation. These jackets, including the Dahlie Winter Run 2.0, blend breathable fabric in high-perspiration areas with insulation in vulnerable spots to keep the core warm.
The sleeves are articulated and very well-fitted. Don’t expect to layer much beneath, either a synthetic t-shirt or streamlined long sleeve base layer will do. Beneath the armpits, the fabric is ventilated. The fabric on the shoulder, upper arms, and across the chest is filled with PrimaLoft aerogel insulation, which is very lightweight and warm.
With action in mind, this jacket performs best if you’re on the move. Once you stop, especially if you’ve been sweating, and a breeze picks up or the sun starts to go down, you can start to feel a chill. For performance-oriented outings, this is a solid choice.
See the Dahlie Winter Run 2.0
When in doubt about whether a winter jacket is truly one of the warmest on the planet, look for these features:
This means that there are no sewn-through seams where cold can leak through. The seams of the baffles, or down chambers, are protected by another down baffle on top of it, so the insulation is continuous. This is an old principle in sleeping bags, but only the warmest jackets have this feature.
Some otherwise warm jackets are cut short so that climbing harnesses can be worn with them. These aren’t always ideal for everyday travel or tasks. Sometimes you want a jacket that reaches mid-thigh or lower for drive or bike commutes in winter.
If you need it: “Make sure it’s oversized to accommodate layers,” advises polar guide Eric Philips.
Good jackets have a comfortable down-filled collar that zips under the chin and has a soft interior liner. Other models have a down-filled hood, too.
The more insulation, the pricier a cold-weather jacket becomes. In general, as the quantity of insulation goes down, so does the cost.
Most of the warmest jackets for everyday adventures have a price tag of $300 to $450, like the Sync Performance Stretch Puffy Jacket, $349, and Picture Organic Haakon Jacket, $350, which both have synthetic insulation for high-action activities like skiing and snowboarding.
At the upper-end of the scale, there are jackets the $1,000 range like the Canada Goose Shelburne Down Parka, $1,275, and the Arc’teryx Alpha Parka, $1000. A step down, though still on the pricier end is the Big Agnes Fire Tower Down Belay Parka, $500, and the The North Face Bellion Down Jacket, $530.
The Stio Colter Infinium Down Jacket, $429, Arc’teryx Cerium LT Jacket, $430, and Rab Positron Pro Down Jacket, $425 are among the coziest, best-constructed, and detail-oriented choices for everyday use. They differ in their strengths but each fit well and deliver.
The most economic option is an active insulation blend for high-cardio output, like running: the Dahlie Winter Run 2.0, $170.
Many of these jackets have components of sustainable design while others have none. For the longevity of the planet and human exploration, it’s essential for brands worldwide to prioritize high-level product design that also pushes the needle forward on environmentally-friendly materials, fabric treatments, sourcing, and manufacturing solutions that are less toxic for people and the earth.
A few sustainable design features in these insulated winter jackets include Fair Trade Certified, Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certified, OEKO-TEX standards, and Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified. The lattermost ensures that down and feathers are sourced from animals that have not been subjected to harm, in order to incentivize human treatment of ducks and geese.
Some products are Bluesign certified or have bluesign-approved materials, meaning the materials and accessories had a minimal impact as possible on the environment and humans.
A handful of jackets feature recycled fabrics including polyester and polyester-based insulation, like in The North Face Bellion Down Jacket.
Some manufacturers implement eco-friendlier compounds onto the face fabric, such as PFC-free Durable Water Repellent.
Brands can also opt for a PFC-free chemical treatment for the down itself, so that the down clusters are moisture and water resistant though not bogged down with environmentally toxic chemicals. As a result, the down absorbs less water, retains warmth and loft, and dries faster.
The Big Agnes Fire Tower Down Belay Parka, for instance, features the DownTek PFC-free water repellent down fill insulation. The Stio Colter Infinium Down Jacket has ALLIED Feather & Down’s HyperDRY water-resistant down.
Another eco-choice for production is dope dyed: pigment is added to the material compounds, which reduces water use, as well as CO2 emissions. The process also increases a color’s resistance to fade or run.
Likewise, here are the jacket details that may or may not serve you on a frigid work day or commute or in your environmental standards — it depends on the specific conditions and your personal needs.
The outstanding debate is, can synthetic fill live up to the warmth that natural down fill provides? Ultimately, down won’t serve you well if it’s completely soaked. As a general rule of thumb, if you are in a dry, cold environment, down is the ideal choice. If you’ll be wearing this jacket in wet, cold environments, synthetic is more steadfast.
That said, technology has really skyrocketed in this arena. A lot of our favorite jackets blend the two types of fill into targeted areas in the jacket. Other coats are stuffed with hydrophobic down or the exterior fabric is treated for water resistance. The innovations blend the best of both worlds.
Insulated jackets are chock-full of down, synthetic fill, or a blend of the two and they excel at retaining heat. They do not all equally provide wind or water resistance. Be sure to pay attention to those attributes if you live in a climate that’s very windy, humid, or wet.
Not all down jackets are compact and can compress down to the size of a large russet potato. Some designs are very bulky and take up a lot of space, but their tradeoff is that they deliver the most coverage, loft, or warmth. Others are super packable, fit in their own pocket or a small stuff sack, or can be pushed into the bottom of your backcountry ski pack with ease. For instance, the Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoodie is very stuffable, and we always bring it on a backcountry snowmobile or ski tour, while the Stio Colter Infinium Down Jacket is far less so.
Morgan Tilton Adventure Journalist Morgan Tilton specializes in travel and outdoor industry news. She’s received multiple North American Travel Journalists Association awards including multi-accolades for “Wild & Broken: A First SUP Descent of Utah’s Escalante River,” an essay about her 100-mile SUP trip down the country’s most remote whitewater with four friends. When not typing, she’s splitboarding, running, paddling, or throttling in Southwest Colorado’s mountains, where she grew up and lives.