Best Winter Parkas of 2021-22 According to Polar Explorers

Gear

Compared to sleeping bags or tents, picking a down parka for extreme cold weather is pretty simple. All the parkas below can handle up to -40˚.

As a polar explorer, I’ve faced some of the coldest conditions on the planet. And while you may or may not be headed to the Arctic, there are lots of places around the world that present nearly arctic-level cold.

Forty below feels the same whether you’re skiing to the North Pole or dealing with a cold snap in Minnesota in January. So if your work or play takes you into truly frigid conditions, check out one of these warmest jackets that you can buy.

Warmest Winter Jackets: Polar Parkas Tested

In my decades of exploring some of the coldest places on Earth, I’ve tested many parkas. If you want to learn more about the category, check out my detailed breakdown of important features at the end of the article.

But if you’re just shopping for a parka that I know will work in arctic conditions, check out the product selections below. All of these will keep you warm, no matter how cold it gets.

Feathered Friends Rock and Ice Parka, $849

Best For: 8,000-meter climbs, polar expeditions

  • Fill Power: 900+ goose down
  • Fill Weight: 582g (20.5 oz)
  • Packed Weight: 1304g (2 lb 14 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Pertex Shield XT waterproof/breathable
  • Sustainability Features: None

I know this parka intimately because I’ve used it for years. I’ve never been cold in it. It has two spacious interior pockets for water bottles, though the pockets are a little loose and shallow and one-litre bottles may fall out if you’re not careful.

The Rock and Ice Down Parka ($849) uses 900+ fill down insulation, giving it an incredibly high CLO Value (meaning it has a very high warmth-to-weight ratio). It uses Pertex Shield XT waterproof/breathable fabric. While you would never wear this parka in wet or sleety weather — it’s too warm — this sort of fabric improves windproofness. As you’d expect at this price range, it uses excellent zippers (YKK No. 8) and skimps nowhere.

See the Feathered Friends Rock and Ice Down Parka 

Fjallraven Expedition Down Jacket, $700

Best For: Expeditions, everyday use

  • Fill Power: 700 (90% goose down, 10% feathers)
  • Fill Weight: 680g (24 oz)
  • Packed Weight: 1760g (3 lbs 14 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Polyamide
  • Sustainability Features: PFC-free DWR on face fabric, traceable down

This classic parka (the original design dates back to 1974) has weathered the years because its time-tested design works. The Expedition Down Jacket ($700) is the right length, neither too long nor too short. Its hood and collar are protective but don’t block breathing, which would lead to premature icing up. In addition to the down fill, there’s extra synthetic padding around the shoulders to resist backpack pressure.

The one retro feature that fails to deliver are the snaps. No one does up snaps, especially with mittens or thick gloves on. Little Velcro strips protect the zipper from drafts much better. Bonus: The cost of the parka recently dropped by $200.

See the Fjallraven Expedition Down Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Parka, $800

Best For: High-altitude alpine climbs

  • Fill Power: 800 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 1280g (2 lbs 13 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Polyamide
  • Sustainability Features: None

Billed as a high-altitude climbing parka, the Absolute Zero Down Parka ($800) comes a little shorter than some other models to accommodate a climbing harness. It’s plenty long in a standing position, but if you’re sitting in a tent and leaning forward to cook, your back may be a little exposed — unless you’re also wearing insulated pants with a bib in back, which is much better than just waist-high pants. Those kidneys get cold easily.

The two outside zippered slash pockets are very handy because they give easy access to a folded map, cell phone, lip balm, sunglasses, small snacks, or an InReach device. The parka comes with integral wristlets, which are either useful or an impediment if you already wear your own.

In the photo, the model has the hood flap partly in front of his mouth. That is fine on day outings or summit pushes lasting a couple of days, but on longer expeditions, tuck it under your chin. Winter camping would be so much easier if we didn’t breathe all that moist air, which quickly makes the material soggy, then freezes, then thaws when you put it on again, then becomes even icier when it refreezes.

See the Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Down Parka

Mountain Equipment Gasherbrum, $750

Best For: Polar expeditions, alpine climbs

  • Fill Power: 800 goose down
  • Fill Weight: 380g (13.4 oz)
  • Packed Weight: 785g (1 lb 12 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Lightweight polyester inside and out with a GORE-TEX membrane
  • Sustainability Features: Down Codex-approved for traceable, ethically, environmentally sourced down fill

This featherweight parka is a little modest on the down compared to some other models, but 380g of 800-fill is more than enough to keep frigid temperatures at bay. And modestly priced compared to some other European models, the Gasherbrum Jacket ($750) is a good choice for UK readers.

The parka’s GORE-TEX Infinium 10-denier shell is durable, and the inner pockets are excellent. There’s a mesh pocket shaped to hold a one-litre bottle and a generous zippered security pocket for maps and other things. I would keep some aerial flares in there, for example: They’re my initial deterrent against curious polar bears, and I keep a couple in every garment I have.

See the Mountain Equipment Gasherbrum Jacket

Rab Expedition 8000 Jacket, $800

Best For: 8,000-meter climbs, polar expeditions

  • Fill Power: 850 goose down
  • Fill Weight: 526g (19 oz)
  • Packed Weight: 1340g (2 lbs 15 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Pertex Quantum Pro for the exterior, Pertex Quantum for the interior
  • Sustainability Features: RDS certified down, fluorocarbon-free hydrophobic down

The Expedition 8000 Jacket ($800) is a solid parka that comes with two inner pockets, but they’re not big enough to hold one-litre bottles. The nice thing about these beefy parkas for polar use is that if you want to save on Thermos bottle weight, these parkas can sit atop the sled (under bungee cords) and will keep uninsulated bottles from freezing for several hours.

It has a helmet-compatible hood and, a little strangely, pit zips and back zips for venting. If it’s mild enough to need those, I’d say it’s too mild for this parka.

See the Rab Expedition 8000 Jacket

Norrona Trollveggen Ace Down Jacket, $800

Best For: Mountaineering

  • Fill Power: 950 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 844g (1 lb 14 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: PU-coated Vectran
  • Sustainability Features: PFC-free DWR, Bluesign certified fabric, RDS certified down, factory inspected

The Trollveggen Ace ($800) is the warmest, most durable jacket Norrona makes. This parka is cut short to accommodate a climbing harness. That makes it good for mountaineering and climbing rather than general polar travel or town use.

So yes, this is a bit of a specialist’s parka. It uses durable PU-coated Vectran outer fabric for a windproof, highly water-resistant external face. And because of the expected use on rock and ice, it has both horizontal and vertical liquid crystal polyester fibers to prevent further tear damage if an accident occurs. If you expect to get on vertical walls in super cold conditions, this jacket is a worthy contender.

See the Norrona Trollveggen Ace Down Jacket

Patagonia Grade VII Down Parka, $900

Best For: Alpine climbs, ice climbs, belay-and-bivy, commuters

  • Fill Power: 800 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 743 g (1 lb 10 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: 100% recycled polyester/Pertex
  • Sustainability Features: Fair Trade Certified sewn, 100% recycled nylon shell, fluorinated DWR, Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard

Patagonia packs the Grade VII Down Parka ($900) with ethically sourced 800-fill down. And while it seems strange that the collar comes way above the chin and half over the face, which would result in ice-over after a few days of subzero use, the design points to the brand’s intended purpose. This is Patagonia’s premier belay-and-bivy parka.

In short, Patagonia intends climbers to wear this parka when belaying their partner in bitter cold. Ice climbers and mountaineers are the primary target market.

That’s not to say this jacket won’t keep you warm on flat land. For those looking for the ultimate cold-weather commuting jacket for frigid winter days, this parka could fit the bill. The jacket uses recycled nylon as part of its sustainability goals.

See the Patagonia Grade VII Down Parka

PH Designs Omega Down Jacket, $1,550

Best For: Polar expeditions

  • Fill Power: 900 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 1450g (3 lbs 3 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Waterproof/breathable, windproof, and lightweight HS2 outer fabric
  • Sustainability Features: None

A solid product from a bespoke UK company that makes several interesting polar products. This epic parka, the Omega Down Jacket ($1,550), uses 900-fill down and is available in custom sizes. It’s meant for use in extreme cold, even for extended periods of inactivity.

It starts with HS2. The lightweight, wind- and water-proof, breathable fabric provides the first layer of protection in harsh conditions. Underneath, down insulation baffled in a differential cut allow full loft.

The jacket boasts five expedition pockets plus a large helmet-compatible hood. There are Velcro-adjusted cuffs and cordlocks at the hem, which help you stay cozy if you are barred up in your tent during inhospitable conditions. And there’s an option of filling the jacket with 950 down, which drops the Typical Operating Temperature even lower. Pricey, though.

See the PH Designs Omega Down Jacket 

Western Mountaineering Snojack Parka GWS, $850

Best For: Expeditions

  • Fill Power: 850 goose down
  • Fill weight: 350g (12.5 oz)
  • Packed weight: 805g (1 lb 12 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: GORE-TEX Windstopper
  • Sustainability Features: None

Western Mountaineering has a cult-like following for its excellent down sleeping bags. And while the Snojak Parka GWS ($850) comes in a little shy on the fill weight (350g), it’s a strong contender in very cold weather.

This baffled construction uses double draft tubes to protect against cold seeping through the No. 5 YKK zippers, as well as insulated front pockets. Large internal pockets should fit water bottles.

The only negative is the outer shell. Western Mountaineering uses Windstopper, which becomes like a starched shirt in deep cold. Otherwise, this is a very sound design.

See the Western Mountaineering Snojack Parka GWS

Baffin Polar Parka, $800

Best For: Polar expeditions

  • Fill Power: 800 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 1293g (2 lbs 14 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Polyester
  • Sustainability Features: None

Baffin’s original reputation in the adventure realm was for their polar skiing boots, but the Polar Parka ($800) is a solid wind-resistant product. They also make a matching pair of insulated pants, which are much harder to find.

Together with some expedition-quality booties, this parka and insulated pants allow you to do camp chores comfortably at -40 degrees without huddling in your sleeping bag. As with Mountain Hardware’s Absolute Zero Parka, the exterior slash zip pockets are super handy.

See the Baffin Polar Parka

Parkas for Cold Towns

These equally warm jackets are cut longer, so they are less suitable for tent life, because they would ride up when you sit, which lets in cold air. But for living where winters can get frigid, whether Wabakimi or Wisconsin, these multi-pocketed models deliver.

Helly Hansen Arctic Patrol Modular Parka, $1,600

Best For: As a work garment and everyday commute

  • Fill Power: PrimaLoft Gold insulation
  • Fill Weight: 200g
  • Packed Weight: 1179g (2 lbs 10 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Waterproof, windproof, durable exterior polyester
  • Sustainability Features: Includes a repair kit, PFC-free DWR

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 in -40˚.

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

Canada Goose Snow Mantra Parka, $1,600

Best For: Everyday use, even when blizzard or arctic conditions challenge in-person conversation

  • Fill Power: 675 goose down
  • Fill Weight: Unavailable
  • Packed Weight: 4300g (9 lbs 8 oz)
  • Shell Fabric: Arctic Tech (85% polyester, 15% cotton) for cold, dry conditions
  • Sustainability Features: None

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. Brrrr!

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, 2-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

How To Choose A Cold-Weather Parka

When in doubt about whether a model is truly one of the warmest parkas on the planet, look for these features:

Offset Baffles

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 parkas have this feature.

Longer Length

Some superwarm parkas are made not for polar expeditions but for 8,000m peaks. Some of these are cut short so that climbing harnesses can be worn with them. These aren’t appropriate for polar travel. You want a parka that reaches the floor of the tent when you’re sitting down, without being a cumbersome car-coat length.

Oversized

“Make sure it’s oversized to accommodate layers,” advises polar guide Eric Philips.

Neck Protection

You don’t always want to close the hood flaps. Good parkas have a meaty down-filled collar that zips or Velcros well under the chin. At the same time, you don’t want the collar to come up in front of the mouth, because breath will foul it in short order.

Sustainable Features

Many of these parkas 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 parkas include RDS-certified down, Bluesign certified fabric, PFC-free DWR treatments on face fabrics, and using recycled materials in the jacket.

Price

These parkas should have a pound or nearly a pound of down insulation and cost US$700 to $1,200 or more. That doesn’t mean that every $1,000 down parka is arctic expedition appropriate. Sometimes, part of the cost is style rather than substance.

Winter Parka: Subpar Features

Likewise, here are the parka details that may or may not serve you on a polar expedition or frigid commute — it depends on the specific conditions and your personal preference.

Fur Ruff

A ruff is for wind protection, and around camp or in the tent, wind is not an issue. A ruff is just one more thing to ice up from breath. For the same reason, you don’t need a tunnel hood that extends far in front of the face. Get a parka with a ruff only if you live in places like Oymyakon, Russia, or Ely, Minnesota, or if you work at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Snaps

This is not a deal breaker (the Fjallraven and Rab parkas are full of them) but no one does up snaps while wearing mittens or thick gloves. So, why put them in? This lack of thoughtful design might indicate problems in more important areas of the parka.

Knit Cuffs

These just get in the way of gloves and wristlets.

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About the Author

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. Canada's premier arctic traveler, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and is currently working on a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada.

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QBF
QBF
1 month ago

Except for the price, the perfect winter coat for those who live in central and northern Minnesota is the Helly Hansen Arctic Patrol Modular Parka ($1,600 US). Minnesota is the “Ice Box” of the continental United States.

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Official News Pakistan

This is very informative post

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