The best parkas for every degree of cold this polar coaster winter
Plus, the technical details and must-have materials to know
If you're still on the lookout for a great winter coat, the good news is that many outerwear styles are currently on sale, and some may be further marked down ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now may be the perfect time to upgrade from a lightweight, insulated jacket or transitional topper to something more heavy duty that will take you through the cold winter months.
There are four main factors to consider when shopping for a parka: Your lifestyle and the climate where you live, the ideal length and shape, whether you prefer synthetic or down insulation or a combination of both, and how you feel about fur trim (which is often included with higher-end and designer coats).
Beyond that, it's just about finding something in your budget that you'll enjoy wearing for many years to come — after all, according to experts such as Audrey Paiement, Director of Sales and Merchandising at Kanuk, a down jacket (for example) can last for up to 25 years if you take care of it properly. We took a closer look at each of the four factors you'll want to consider and sourced some options for different temperatures.
While the ideal parka should be quite versatile, knowing where and how you'll generally want to wear it can help narrow down the multitude of options. For example, a coat for a quick car-to-office commute doesn't need to be as warm as one intended for outdoor work or winter sports excursions. Many parkas will list what temperature rating they're designed for, which is the easiest way to determine the level of warmth you can expect, and you'll want to pick a range that makes sense for where you live.
Shape and material
Oversized and extra-long parkas are very popular right now, but they may not be the best choice for your needs. For example, transit commuters may want a shorter length and sleek design that won't take up more than one seat on the bus, while someone who often walks long distances outdoors would benefit from a longer parka that offers additional lower body and leg coverage.
Another thing to consider is the fabrics used to make the parka, which can add covetable performance features, especially if they involve multi-layer or customized technical materials. For example, a ripstop shell fabric will be less likely to rip or tear, wind and waterproof nylons will offer added protection against the elements, and more fashionable styles may feature stylistic extras such as colourful patterns and novel textures. Of course, it can also be a matter of personal preference; some shoppers simply prefer natural cotton or wool over the more ubiquitous synthetic fabrics for their parkas.
There are three main types of insulation: down, synthetic (typically polyester staple fibres that have been bonded or knit together), and a fill that's a combination of the two (read more about the pros and cons of the different types here). According to Greg Grenzke, Design Director at Arc'teryx, down generally has a better warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic fill, meaning a similarly-warm coat will be lighter. But it boils down to budget, personal preference (synthetic options are vegan-friendly) and typical usage.
Just keep in mind that most down-filled parkas will list a "fill power" number, which can range from 300 to over 900 and gives a good indication of how warm the coat will be. "A down jacket's warmth is based on the mix of air and down … 800 to 900 is kind of the best on the market," says Paiement. "It's something you'll pay for, but... it gives you the perfect warmth ratio. When you go lower than that [to 500 or 600] it's not necessarily bad, but it means the feather is more heavy, the combination with the air is a bit less efficient." Additionally, down parkas may also list a down-to-feather ratio; the higher the down ratio (the first number), the warmer the coat will make you feel.
A final thing to consider is that there are several brands offering synthetic-fill parkas made with post-consumer materials such as recycled water bottles that are more eco-friendly than traditional polyester-insulation options.
Vegan friendly, fur- and down-free outerwear is more available than ever, and many fashion brands — and even cities have gone completely fur-free in recent years. But parkas with built-in and removable fur-trim hoods are still popular on the market, and if you're interested in buying one you may want to do additional research about the company's sourcing policies to ensure that they align with your values. You may see terms such as "natural", "ethical" and "sustainable" but information about supply-chain traceability, trade-group certification and compliance to third-party animal-welfare standards can provide more clarity about a brand's efforts and priorities.
Here, 8 stylish parkas for every degree of cold you may face this winter.
These relatively-compact coats are great for quick commutes.
This midi-length parka features a faux-fur trimmed hood, a polyester-cotton shell and a 100% polyester lining.
Women+ PrimaLoft Hooded Active Parka, $129, Joe Fresh
Designed for city adventures, this water- and wind-proof parka features a faux-fur-trimmed hood and 550-fill goose down.
Men's Outer Boroughs Parka, $549.99, The North Face
These very warm, versatile parkas are equally great for weekdays in the city as they are for outdoor country weekends.
Available in five colours, this all-purpose coat style from Canada Goose is rated to –25°C and features a removable down-filled hood.
Ellesmere Parka, $1,050, Canada Goose
This made-in-Montreal coat with synthetic insulation comes with a lifetime guarantee and is good for temperatures as low as –26°C.
Meteorite, $745, Kanuk
This water-resistant coat features a recycled poly-fill made from plastic bottles.
ColdControl Max Modern Parka Jacket, $208, Gap
These parkas are made for the coldest days of winter.
This men's parka, made in Quebec using Canadian-sourced down, is machine washable and rated to –30°C.
Alban Jacket, $649, Quartz Co.
Great in temps up to –30°C, this waterproof parka features a ripstop shell fabric and polyester-blend fill.
Nova Waterproof Polar Parka, $749, Frank And Oak
Available in four stylish colours, this goose-down Aritzia coat will keep you comfortable in temperatures as low as –30°C.
TNA Parka Long St. Anton, $398, Aritzia
Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.