There are two main types of insulation in winter coats: down and synthetic.
Each type of insulation has its own advantages and disadvantages so it's best to be aware of the information to ensure you buy the right winter coat for your needs.
DOWN - DESIGNED FOR COLD, DRY CLIMATES
Down is the lightest and most compressible insulation on the market, so if weight and size are important to you, choose down. However, it's important to remember that down is not ideal in wet conditions. If you spend your winters in a dry, cold climate, a down jacket will perform to its full potential and protect you from the elements, but if you live in a climate like the west coast of British Columbia, your down jacket may perform less well.
When down gets wet, the feathers clump together and lose their insulating properties and loft. In most cases, the coat must be dried properly in a dryer to regain its original loft.
SYNTHETIC INSULATION - DESIGNED FOR COLD AND WET CLIMATES
There are a wide variety of proven synthetic insulations available. PrimaLoft, used by The North Face in their ThermoBall Triclimate jacket, is one of them and we love it. Although synthetic insulation may be heavier than down, it is just as warm, much more affordable and effectively resists moisture.
Check out this article to find out which type of insulation is best for you!
WILL IT BE WEATHERPROOF ENOUGH?
In other words: GORE-TEX or DWR treatment?
To perform well in all conditions, a winter jacket must have a weather-resistant outer shell, whether it's waterproof or treated with a durable DWR finish. The outer shell of a winter coat is your first line of protection against the elements, so make sure it's appropriate for the region you live in.
Coats with a GORE-TEX membrane will be in their element in wet environments where they can put their waterproof properties to good use. If you experience wetter, rainier winters with milder temperatures, such as on the West Coast, a winter coat with a GORE-TEX outer shell is essential.
Winter coats with a durable DWR water repellent treatment will be weather resistant, but will not perform as well as those made of GORE-TEX. If you live in an area with cold, snowy winters and don't often run into slush or rain, then a coat with a water-repellent finish is more than sufficient.
CONSERVE BODY HEAT AND KEEP THE COLD OUT
A large portion of our body heat escapes through our head, so almost all winter coats will have a hood. Ideally, choose a coat with an adjustable hood. A hood with barrels will allow the hood to be tightened around your head so that it can stay in place even in a gust of wind. Many technical winter coats will have a hood, but if you layer your coat with a layer that already has its own hood, a removable hood can be easily detached to remove any excess bulk.
Pockets are an essential part of our winter coat. Having secure and utilitarian pockets allows your coat to be functional and organized.
Look for a coat with an internal pocket that is compatible with an audio cable so you can move around while listening to your current music. This pocket can also hold your important cards if your wallet is too big to keep up with you on the slopes.
For those looking for a technical winter jacket for mountaineering or backcountry skiing, check the location of the pockets and their depth. Pockets that are easily accessible and large enough can make all the difference.
*To learn more about winter coat technical features such as sealed seams or laminated zippers, refer to the Altitude Sports Raincoat Guide.
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE FIT?
For some, winter is the perfect time to make a statement with their clothing choices. You always look best when you feel good about yourself, so choose a winter coat with a good fit.
If you're looking for a winter coat to walk around town in, you can always get away with a fitted, well-insulated coat. However, if you're looking for a winter coat for the slopes, make sure you have enough room for extra layers.
A coat should be snug enough to keep the cold air out. However, if you take it too tight, you may not have enough room to put anything but a t-shirt underneath.
LET THE WINTER BEGIN!
Find your new winter coat on Altitude Sports! If you are a member, you get free returns and many benefits. The right winter coat is truly the best way to enjoy the cold season.