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Need a new winter jacket? What to look for when shopping, according to an expert

Plus, shop our selection of the best men's and women's winter jackets of 2023.

Senior couple hiking in winter mountains in beautiful sunny day winter jacket concept.
These are the things you should look out for when shopping for a winter jacket. Image via Getty.

Winter jackets are one of the most important aspects of your wardrobe, especially if you live in Canada. Choosing the right jacket can be tricky though, especially when you’re looking for something that will keep you warm while also looking fashionable.

Whether you're looking for a new jacket now or just want to find out what to look for in the future, we spoke with Denise Coleman, vice president of apparel at Sporting Life, for her top tips on how to shop for a winter coat.

What criteria should you use to evaluate a winter jacket?

When you are in the market for a new winter jacket, here are some important factors to consider before making your purchase:

  • Insulation to keep you warm.

  • Waterproofing or Durable Water Repellent (DWR) to protect you from rain and snow.

  • Comfort, since the ideal jacket should feel soft and flexible.

  • Fit that suits your lifestyle.

  • Design elements such as zippers that are easy to do up.

Female hand holding a small transparent plastic bag with winter jacket's filling (down) sample. Choosing qualitative filling for winter clothes.
Insulation is an important factor when shopping for a winter jacket. (Getty Images)

Insulation

When it comes to choosing a winter coat, where you plan on wearing it will help determine what degree of warmth an ideal coat should have.

If you are going to be skiing or snowboarding, then a good coat should be able to keep you warm in frigid temperatures. However, if you are just looking for something that can keep you warm while doing daily activities, then a more insulated coat may not be necessary.

"Make sure it’s comfortable and warm enough for however you get outside," suggests Coleman. "Whether it’s walking your dog, running errands, or exploring the trails."

Some people prefer their jackets to have down filling instead of synthetic materials, since down is lighter and more compressible than other insulations. However, down and feathers are also derived from animals, which some shoppers are looking to steer clear of.

"As for insulation, down is a great insulator but so are many of the synthetic options available in the market today," says Coleman.

Cheerful  multi ethnic  couple hang out in the city during a snowy winter day
Consider things like waterproofing and comfort when shopping for a winter jacket. (Getty Images)

Waterproofing or Durable Water Repellent (DWR)

Look for a waterproof fabric on the outer shell to block wind, moisture and rain from penetrating into your clothes. Coleman says this is one of the most important factors in a winter jacket.

Comfort

While style is important when it comes to finding a great winter jacket, comfort is just as important — nobody wants to be stuck wearing a jacket that's stiff or uncomfortable.

"If you get hot or cold easily, make sure that the jacket is roomy enough to accommodate a sweater or a lighter fleece underneath so you can add or remove [it] as needed," says Coleman.

"You’ll notice that heavier winter parkas now come with internal backpack-type straps, which is a neat feature especially if you are going in and out a lot. You can take your coat off and carry it easily hands-free."

Young handsome guy in a warm knitted clothes against a background of black wall
Choose the right fit for the best comfort. (Getty Images)

Fit and design

Depending on your activities, the length of the coat is another important factor when shopping.

"You may consider a longer style if you do a lot of outside walking," added Coleman. "If you are an active person and/or run in the colder seasons, you may want to consider a shorter length to help with mobility and full range of motion."

In addition, you'll want to look out for design elements such as east to fasten zippers and closures so you are not struggling while heading out the door.

Answer these questions when shopping for your new jacket:

1) Decide what type of coat suits your lifestyle best: Are you looking for something that will keep you warm or is more about fashion?

2) Consider your location: Do you live in a colder climate or spend lots of time outdoors? If so, consider a jacket with a heavier weight to it.

3) Take stock of how much room you have in your closet: Do you have enough space for a bulky winter coat?

4) Consider how much money you want to spend on a new jacket: Are you willing to splurge on a high-end jacket that will last several seasons?

To help you get started, you can narrow your options down from our categories below.

Best overall winter jacket for women: The North Face Women's Gotham Jacket

The North Face Women's Gotham Jacket. Image via Amazon
The North Face Women's Gotham Jacket. Image via Amazon

The Gotham jacket is fitted, insulated with 550 fill goose down and equipped for winter with durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. For price and quality, it doesn't get much better than this. It's also made from recycled fabric, so you can make an eco-conscious choice this winter.

$300 at Amazon

Best overall winter jacket for men: Columbia Pike Lake Hooded Jacket

Columbia Pike Lake™ Hooded Jacket (Mens)
Columbia Pike Lake Hooded Jacket. Image via Amazon.

This jacket offers multilayered waterproof protection to get you through mild to severe winters. It also has recycled Microtemp XF II insulation to keep you warm and comfy.

$200 $217 at Amazon

Best women's winter jacket under $150: Only Amanda Jacket

Only Womens Amanda Jacket. Image via Sporting Life.
Only Womens Amanda Jacket. Image via Sporting Life.

A quilted puffer with synthetic fiber down insulation that will surely keep you warm, along with a roomy hood for blocking winds around the city.

$60 $119 at Sporting Life

Best men's winter jacket under $150: GEMYSE Mountain Jacket

GEMYSE Men's Mountain Jacket. Image via Amazon.
GEMYSE Men's Mountain Jacket. Image via Amazon.

A multi-purpose jacket fit for winter activities or day-to-day wear. Its outer shell is waterproof, and inside the jacket is a thick fleece lining to keep you warm.

$120 $140 at Amazon

Best women's winter jacket for cities: Rudsak Misa Down Puffer

Rudsak Misa Down Puffer (Womens). Image via Rudsak.
Rudsak Misa Down Puffer. Image via Rudsak.

An insulated, fitted down coat with recycled leather sleeves is perfect for the city weather and lifestyle. This jacket can keep you warm at -30C and its faux fur trim can be removed.

$600 $945 at Rudsak

Best men's winter jacket for cities: Arc’teryx Therme Parka

Arc'teryx Men's Therme Parka. Image via Arc'teryx.
Arc'teryx Men's Therme Parka. Image via Arc'teryx.

This minimalist insulated jacket is made for cold, wet winters yet is lightweight enough for the city lifestyle. Whether you are running errands, going into the office or taking a stroll, this jacket has you covered.

$850 at Sporting Life

Best women's winter jacket for cold climates: Helly Hansen Adore Puffer Winter Parka

Adore Puffer Winter (Womens). Image via Helly Hansen.
Helly Hansen Adore Puffer Winter. Image via Sport Chek.

High Loft insulation keeps you snug and warm on those cold winter days. This puffer also has a hood to block winds and a water-repellent shell for maximum protection.

$266 $380 at Sportchek

Best men's winter jacket for cold climates: MEC Guides Down Parka

MEC Guides Down Parka (Mens). Image via Mountain Equipment Company.
MEC Guides Down Parka. Image via Mountain Equipment Company.

Keep warm while out and about in the Guides Down Parka. With a down-insulated shell, water-resistant exterior and a back pocket to hold essentials, this jacket can take you through any cold weather situation.

$270 $450 at Mountain Equipment Company

Best vegan jacket for women: Indyeva Solukko Vegan Mid-Length Jacket

Indyeva Solukko Vegan Matte Mid-Length Jacket (Womens). Image via Indyeva.
Indyeva Solukko Vegan Matte Mid-Length Jacket. Image via MEC.

Immerse yourself in the warmth of this 550 fill power down-filled coat for a look that is cozy and insulated, while still giving off an urban style.

$300 $500 at Mountain Equipment Company

Best vegan jacket for men: Frank and Oak The Melville Puffer Coat

The Melville Puffer Coat (Mens). Image via Frank and Oak.
The Melville Puffer Coat. Image via Frank and Oak.

This utility-inspired puffer has Thermore Ecodown insulation, a vegan fibre that outperforms down feathers in the cold. It has polar fleece lining to keep you extra warm and waist adjustments for a better fit.

$194 $400 at Frank and Oak

Most stylish jacket for women: The North Face Arctic Parka

The North Face Arctic Parka (Womens). Image via The North Face.
The North Face Arctic Parka (Womens). Image via The North Face.

The Arctic Parka has a flattering fit along with being waterproof, breathable and insulated top down to keep you warm this winter. It's also finished with secure pockets and easy closures for the ultimate comfort.

$440 at The North Face

Most stylish jacket for men: Rudsak Deron Down Bomber

Deron Down Bomber (Mens). Image via Rudsak.
Deron Down Bomber (Mens). Image via Rudsak.

This sleek bomber is water and wind resistant, with premium insulation that will keep you warm throughout winter in style.

$550 $995 at Rudsak

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