Parkas have come a long way, especially in Canada where it seems we spend the better part of the year cozied up in one.
It’s no secret that Canadians experience harsh winters, the kind of weather that makes you think 10 degrees is totally appropriate for shorts and tees.
Winter is a mere month and a half away (December 21st to be exact), which means retailers are brimming with parkas ready to protect us from the impending polar vortex.
Since freezing weather is no reason to sacrifice style points, we’re happy to observe racks upon racks of ultra stylish winter parkas. However, it’s also important to understand what to look for when purchasing one for exceptionally cold temperatures. Afterall, hypothermia isn’t a good look on anyone, no matter how stylish you look in negative 20.
Here are a few things to look out for when purchasing a parka that’ll ensure maximum warmth:
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Insulation is one of the first things you should consider. Even mild Canadian winters are awfully cold. You always want some kind of insulating fibre, whether it’s synthetic or natural. Down is a common natural fibre we’ve come to rely on to keep us cozy and warm. It’s also lightweight so we don’t feel weighed down by a heavy coat. For those who are super active, it’s always beneficial to pick a lightweight parka.
A synthetic insulating fibre also works well in sub-zero temperatures and tends to dry quicker than down if you happen to get soaked. One of the cons of synthetic fibres is that they tend to be heavier than down and not quite as durable in the long run.
A Solid Hood
Not everyone is a fan of hoods. Luckily, a lot of brands are making their hoods detachable. It’s a good idea to have the option of a hood and one that’s fur or faux fur lined will keep you extra protected from the cold.
A drawstring is an additional feature that will keep the cold out of your hair – literally.
If you decide to go with a down parka, you’ll want to look at the fill power of the down, which is basically a measurement of the volume. Without going into too much convoluted detail, you might see a number like “600 fill” or “850 fill”. Go for the higher number for maximum warmth.
Having a waterproof parka isn’t always necessary, but it’s definitely not a bad idea either. Down-filled parkas that don’t have a waterproof shell are pretty much useless if you get it wet. You can easily snuff out down’s insulating power with one big splash.
Breathability is also important if you don’t want to feel like a hot, sweaty mess in your coat. You want a bit of ventilation, which fabrics like Polartec and NeoShell offer. Most of the time, the tag on the jacket will tell you if a coat is made to offer breathability so you don’t have to fret too much about the specific fabric names.
The construction of a jacket is an important factor to consider as well. You might come across the term, “box baffle construction,” which will likely be mentioned on a hangtag or on a tag inside the garment. Box baffle construction is a great insulating feature because it optimizes the warmth of the downfill and minimizes cold spots.
The length of your parka will undoubtedly affect its ability to keep you warm. A bomber style parka won’t cover the lower half of your body so your legs will suffer a little. If warmth is your primary concern, select a slightly longer parka that covers your behind completely.
Pockets and other features
Pockets are a matter of taste but they tend to prove useful, if not just to store your mitts or keys. They’re also great at keeping your hands warm if you neglect to bring your gloves out.
Fun features like a removable fur lining, double zippers and removable gilets also help the crusade against the cold.
Style is entirely subjective, but parkas don’t necessarily have to be unflattering. We’ve seen some incredibly stylish parkas on runways and stores that make it almost desirable to wear one.
Gone are the days of being mistaken for the Michelin Man in your parka. Companies like Canada Goose, Nobis, The Wild North and Mackage ensure that stylish designs are on par with warmth and practicality.