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How to Buy the Perfect Winter Jacket

Photo: Moose Knuckles

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There are many kinds of jackets that you can wear over the course of a typical year. Spring calls for lightweight jackets that offer minimal protection from light wind and showers. The warm summer months will either see something cool like a linen blazer or, more likely, no jacket at all. As the weather begins to turn cold in the fall, you’ll look to heavier layers in wool, leather, and waxed cotton. And then there’s winter. With the harshest climates and coldest temperatures, winter calls for the most discerning and informed shoppers when it comes time to buy a jacket for the season. And with our guide on how to buy the perfect winter jacket, you’ll know exactly what to do by the time the snow starts flying this December.

A good winter jacket will quite literally help you survive the winter. Depending on where you live (or where you’ll be traveling), December through March can feature dangerously low temperatures. If you’re out in these conditions without proper insulation, then you could suffer from afflictions like frostbite, hypothermia, or worse. So it is extremely important that you know how to properly outfit yourself, and that’s where this guide comes in. So take a look below to discover the elements you need to consider when shopping for the ideal winter jacket.

Photo: Moose Knuckles

Figure Out Your Needs

How Warm Can You Go

As we stated in our intro, winter can be a deadly time of year if you find yourself caught out in the cold without the proper attire. However, it needs to be stated that this is not the case everywhere. If you live in Los Angeles, then your winter jacket needs will differ considerably from someone who lives in Toronto. So before you begin your search, you first must determine what sort of winter jacket you’ll be needing. If you’re staying in a warm climate all winter, then you can obviously opt for something lighter. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in a cold area, then a more robust offering will be required.

A great reference tool for determining what type of winter jacket you need can be found on the website of Moose Knuckles. The Canada-based outerwear and apparel brand certainly knows how to engineer gear to keep out the cold, and they’ve set up a Protection Rating system for their jackets that lets you know how warm they’ll keep you. From Level 1’s lightweight “Chilly” rating to Level 4’s hardcore “Canada Cold” certification, you’ll be able to find a layer to suit all of your wintry needs.

Photo: Moose Knuckles

Make Insulation Your Foundation

Time To Get Down

When it comes to winter jackets, insulation is the name of the game. A jacket’s insulation, or fill, is the stuff that keeps your heat in, and there’s no more important factor when it comes to getting yourself a quality winter jacket. There are a few options out there when it comes to insulation, but by and large, most jackets will feature either synthetic insulation or down insulation. Synthetic insulation is just what it sounds like: man-made material, usually consisting of polyester fibers, that attempts to mimic the natural properties of down. Real down filling, on the other hand, is derived from goose or duck feathers. It is one of the best insulators in the world and is considered the gold standard of jacket insulation due to its nigh-unbeatable insulating prowess.

But while down is universally considered the best insulation for winter jackets, not all down is created equal. Down is rated by its fill power, which measures how much loft an ounce of down produces. Higher numbers signify better insulative properties and more premium down, so it’s smart to stick with a brand like Moose Knuckles, which uses only Responsible Down Standard-certified duck and goose downs of highly-rated 650 to 800 fill power.

Photo: Moose Knuckles

Get Your Style Down

Select Your Silhouette

There are quite a few style options when it comes to winter jackets, and you’ll want to find one that suits your taste. You’ve got puffer jackets for the style-conscious outdoor enthusiasts, ski jackets for the winter athletes, and wool pea coats for the dapper dresser who doesn’t need too much insulation. But for our money, there’s no beating a classic down parka. Whether you go quilted or non-quilted, with or without a hood, you can’t go wrong with a down parka or parka-style jacket. It’s a timeless style that will never look out of place in cold weather, and it’s been proven to perform in the harshest conditions for generations.

Photo: Moose Knuckles

The Comfort Factor

Don’t Get Weighed Down

OK, you’ve nailed down your climate needs, boned up on down insulation, and pinpointed your style. But you’re not ready to buy your winter jacket just yet. Before you pull the trigger, you’ll need to take the variable of comfort into account. With winter jackets that are engineered for the cold, things can get out of hand pretty quickly size-wise. And while an enormous puffy down-filled coat will certainly keep you warm, it won’t do you much good if it’s so big and bulky that you can’t comfortably move around. Therefore, we recommend finding a jacket that manages to effectively insulate without the bulk. Jackets can accomplish this in a number of ways, often using high fill power down and innovative ways of compactly securing it — like Moose Knuckles’ secure 4-ply construction — along with incorporating stretchy technical fabrics into the shell.

Moose Knuckles Forestville Jacket

Rated for “Canada Cold,” the Forestville Jacket — a fur-free take on Moose Knuckles’ iconic 3Q parka — will keep you warm in the coldest conditions that the Great White North is known for. The slim-fit jacket features a streamlined silhouette that stays close to your body and features a stylish stand collar. The detachable hood is shearling-lined, and the coat is equipped with four soft-touch brushed pockets along with two interior zippered pockets. The 650-fill power down insulation is protected by a nylon down-proof liner, while you’re protected from the elements thanks to a wind-resistant and water-repellent outer shell.

Purchase: $1,045

Moose Knuckles Saint Ulric Parka

A fashion-forward and contemporary twist on the classic non-quilted parka, the Saint Ulric features a slim cut and an extra-long length of 37” for outstanding coverage. Outside of the chic styling and extra length, the Saint Ulric shares a lot in common with the Forestville Jacket above. It features the same pocket set up, the stand collar with detachable shearling-lined hood, the weatherproof exterior, the 650-fill power insulation, and the Canada Cold rating. But this jacket still has its own unique identity, as further exemplified by its handy zipper adjustable side seam vents

Purchase: $1,045

Moose Knuckles Valleyfield Jacket

Stepping up a bit, we have the Valleyfield, one of Moose Knuckles’ most premium offerings. This streamlined jacket features goose-down insulation that tips the scales at a whopping 775 fill power, which allows this lightweight and sharp-looking jacket to boast a Canada Cold rating. Other luxe features include wool felt trim on the detachable hood, grosgrain trim along the front zipper and chest pockets, zippered welt pockets at the chest and side-entry patch pockets at the hip, and rib-knit storm cuffs with adjustable branded tri logo velcro tabs. Topping things off (literally) is a performance knit nylon blend outer shell that’s breathable while remaining water-repellent and wind-resistant.

Purchase: $1,095