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At its core definition, a parka is a hip-length coat stuffed with bird down or synthetic fibers for warmth, often including a fur-lined hood. The Caribou Inuits developed it in the Canadian Arctic for warmth while hunting and kayaking. Whether or not your vacation plans involve such rigorous activities, this jacket is indispensable for travel to cold climates.
A decent parka usually costs around $200, so it’s an investment piece that should last more than one trip. Two qualities to consider when buying one are fill and shell material. Most parkas come with either bird or synthetic fills. The higher the fill weight number, the warmer the jacket will be. Goose or duck fill tends to be warmer, lighter, and longer-lasting, though it makes the coat more expensive and prone to losing insulation power when wet. Synthetic stuffing is cheaper and less vulnerable to water, but it's bulkier and has a smaller warmth-to-weight ratio. Also, keep in mind the shell material. High-quality shells consist of tightly woven fabric for durability, and they also have a water-repellent coating to keep the interior of the jacket dry.
From budget-friendly to packable selections, we’ll get you covered — quite literally — for your next journey with this comprehensive list of the best parkas on the market.
Best Overall: Marmot Guides Down Hoody
Marmot’s Guide Down Hoody will keep you warm in snowy and rainy conditions while also allowing you to move around, whether you’re strolling casually or engaging in snow sports while vacationing. The double-weave polyester shell is treated with Down Defender, a process that keeps moisture out and prevents the warm 700 fill power down from losing its insulation ability.
Marmot’s Angel-Wing Movement design allows for a full range of motion, which is crucial if you don’t plan to spend your trip sitting around. To keep the cold out and ensure a good fit, you can adjust the Velcro cuffs and drawcord hem. The jacket has zippered interior and chest pockets to stash away small items as well as handwarmer pockets to thaw cold fingers. The color selection includes black, cobalt blue/blue night, slate gray/cinder, team red/dark crimson and true blue.
Best for Women: Eddie Bauer Women's Sun Valley Down Parka
The Sun Valley Down Parka provides warmth with style and comfort. The shell consists of nylon, polyester and cotton. It has a water-repellant finish so that water beads onto the surface rather than absorbing into the fabric. The jacket has 650 fill power down, which yields warmth without adding too much weight. You'll appreciate this when packing or carrying the coat around. The down is Responsible Down Standard-certified, which means that live plucking and force-feeding of birds were not involved in the process of making the product. Besides the fill, the jacket also includes fleece lining in the back and in the zip pockets for added warmth. According to lab-conducted tests, the low activity rating for this parka is 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the moderate activity rating is -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
While some parkas look and feel bulky, you can travel with ease and style with this coat. Thanks to the two-way zipper, you unzip from the bottom so that you can move your legs around. The parka also sports a flattering fit that’s not too slim or relaxed. Style-wise, there’s a snap-off hood with detachable fur ruff. The product comes in eight colors: driftwood, dark loden, navy, black, capers, cider, plum and dark plum.
Best for Men: The North Face Men's Gotham Jacket III
The North Face is synonymous with luxurious mid-end jackets. Its Gotham Jacket III provides excellent coverage for your chilly destinations. This parka is warm, coming with goose 550 fill power down insulation that has RDS certification. To seal the heat in and keep the cold out, it also sports an adjustable hood and ribbed trim. While you stay warm, you won’t feel stuffy. The polyurethane coated shell is waterproof, windproof, breathable and seam-sealed. There’s also ample storage space for travel gear, including chest, bicep and internal pockets. The jacket mostly comes in shades of black and taupe — its color selection includes asphalt gray/black, urban navy, black, red, asphalt gray, British khaki and new taupe green.
According to reviewers, the jacket runs large, so it’s a good idea to size down. But if you plan on layering, the large size is perfect for slipping a sweatshirt underneath.
Best for Kids: Columbia Girls' Katelyn Crest Jacket
Whether you’re vacationing in the countryside or city, this jacket will endure the toughest trails and rowdiest snowball fights. The jacket is 100 percent synthetic, consisting of a polyester shell, nylon lining and polyester insulation. The shell is water-resistant, so it's useful for moderate precipitation during your trips. While synthetic, the 240 g fill is warm, sealing out the cold effectively. Size-wise, some reviewers mention the parka runs small, so you may want to size up.
The jacket also looks pretty, coming with a gathered waist and warm faux fur hood. The quirky color choices include black, empress, bright plum, spray, hydrangea, punch pink and more. From Columbia’s boy selection, the Snowfield Jacket sports a similar build, coming in understated hues like black heather, blue heron heather and cypress heather.
Best for Budget: Alpine North Down Parka Coat
Traveling is expensive, so it’s not always feasible to drop hundreds of dollars on a coat. You won’t find a warmer or higher quality parka between $70 and $130 than this one from Alpine North. The warm insulation consists of 70 percent duck down and 30 percent synthetic materials. The cotton and polyester blend shell is water-repellent to keep water from soaking into your clothes.
In terms of storage, you can store your various gear inside of the jacket's many exterior and interior pockets. On the outside, there are two welt pockets, two patch pockets and two hidden snap pockets. Inside, you’ll find lining pockets for your cell phone and charger, as well as one welt pocket. If your itinerary includes evening activities, the parka features reflective trim detail and piping for nighttime safety.
Best Fishtail Parka: Rothco M-51 Fishtail Parka
During the Korean War, Army designers wanted to create a lightweight warm coat that allowed for movement. Thus they developed a fishtail design that split in the back with a drawstring on each hem. The wearer can then tie each half of the split around each leg to keep out wind and retain heat.
The Rothco M-151 Fishtail Parka takes inspiration from that very design. It’s a stylish coat for mild to cold weather during the spring, coming with a button-in quilted liner for warmth. Besides the fishtail feature, this jacket also flaunts a drawstring hood and adjustable cuffs for heat retention. The extra large two front flap pockets allow you to stow away your small belongings when you’re out for a walk or hike. The two classic colors are black and olive drab.
The jacket’s main appeal is its vintage look. The lightweight cotton fishtail parka is not as warm as the other products listed here; it's better geared towards brisk walks in mildly cold weather with light wind. For extra warmth, wear a sweater underneath or as one reviewer suggests, add stuffing underneath the liner.
Best for Saving Space: Arc'teryx Thorium AR Hoodie
Packable and lightweight don't have to mean flimsy and cold. The Arcteryx Thorium AR Hoody packs down to the size of a water bottle, so it will fit in your luggage and on your body. It comes with incredibly warm 750 gray goose down that lines the core and sleeves. It also has Coreloft synthetic insulation along the hood, cuffs and underarms to retain warmth when wet. Other heat retaining features include the elastic cuffs, adjustable hem cords and full front zip with chin guard and wind flap. The taffeta shell is also wind- and water-resistant for trips to areas with dramatic weather changes. If your vacation plans include sports, this jacket will allow you to stay active. The regular fit facilitates freedom of movement, even with layers. Additionally, the shell fabric is highly breathable, so you won't feel stuffy when exercising.
You won't be limited in terms of color choice. The men’s selection includes black, dark moss, dark basalt, katalox, magma, thalo blue, and triton. Women can pick from colors such as antilles blue, azalea, black, light chandra and tiki.
The Thorium AR Hoody doesn't come cheap, but its quality is unmatched in terms of packable parkas.
Best 3-in-1 System Parka: 5.11 Tactical 3-in-1 Parka
A 3-in-1 jacket consists of two jackets that zip together to perform as one when it's cold outside. When it gets warmer, you can peel off one layer. 5.11's 3-in-1 parka accommodates unexpected weather changes during your trip, coming with a removable fleece inner jacket, waterproof shell and detachable hood. Travelers who don't like carrying too many bags will appreciate the design for easy access to duty gear with features such as side zippers, mic clips and hidden chest pockets. The pockets are also great for storing belongings while you're walking around. To cinch the jacket to your size, use the elastic tightening cord. You can pick from three colors: range red, dark navy and black.