Last Updated: August 1, 2021

Parka Vs. Jacket: What Is Better For Winter?

Need some warm outerwear for winter but you’re not sure whether to pick up a parka or jacket? We got you! I’ll tell you about all the differences between parkas and jackets, and help you figure out which is a better fit for you!

After I’ve covered all the key differences between jackets and parkas, I’ll include some of the best products in both categories. So, you might just find the exact winter coat you’re looking for, if you just keep on reading!

What’s The Difference Between Parkas And Jackets?

Marmot Jacket External Pockets

There can be lots of differences between a specific parka and a specific jacket, but ultimately it’s all about one thing: length. Traditional jackets usually end just above your hips while parkas are usually mid-thigh.

Also, all parkas have a hood and most of them feature a (faux) fur trim on that hood. Although many jackets come with either fixed or detachable hoods, there are lots of options that don’t have this feature.

Finally, there’s the issue of pockets. Parkas generally have more pockets than standard short jackets, simply because there’s more room for them. Most parkas will have dual access pockets near your hips, and then probably some more pockets on the chest, arms, and maybe even in the lining.

With standard jackets, there’s just less room to work so it’s physically not possible to fit that many pockets on a jacket.

What Is Warmer?

Arcteryx Therme Parka

Parkas are usually warmer, simply because they cover more of your body. But that doesn’t have to be the case – it heavily depends on the materials, insulation, waterproofing and lining. A good jacket that has DWR coating and is insulated with 800 fill power goose down will be much warmer than a thin parka that has no waterproofing and features 400 fill power duck down.

But then again, a parka will at least do something to keep your thighs warm. A hip-length jacket does absolutely nothing for your legs, which is why a parka is the better option in the dead of winter.

Also, parkas are generally not as breathable as traditional winter jackets. Even when you look at a Gore-Tex parka or something made from a similarly breathable fabric, the ventilation is rarely as good as it is on a classic winter jacket. There’s just so much material, and you get warm in a parka pretty fast. Start walking around and you’ll get sweaty in no time, even in extremely low temperatures.

However, both parkas and jackets can have ventilation zippers under the armpits. These increase the breathability of the coat since they let you decide when you want to let some fresh air inside.

Waterproofing And Windproofing

Minimalist Waterproof

If you just want a coat that is both waterproof and windproof, you could pick up either a parka or a jacket. But you should pay attention to the materials, exterior coating and construction quality.

Waterproof parkas and jackets should all have seam-sealed construction and DWR coating if they are not made from a high-end waterproof fabric. These are features to look for in both jackets and parkas, depending on what for you’re getting the coat.

Also, it’s a good idea to look for coats that have waterproof zippers, if you spend a lot of time outside in really heavy rains. Especially if you usually carry electronics or valuables in the pockets. A cheap zipper is virtually useless in heavy rain, and it will do nothing to protect the valuables inside. You should look for YKK AquaGuard zippers, if you’re looking for true waterproofing. But bear in mind that these are quite rare, and they’re only featured on the best high-end coats.

If you specifically need something windproof, you should look at the other features of the coat as well. A snap placket over the zipper ensures that wind can’t get in through the zipper teeth. The same goes for drawcords at hem and Velcro adjustable cuffs. A true windproof coat gives you the option of creating a seal on its every hole, so there are no openings through which the wind can get inside.

Packability And Travel

Patagonia Torrentshell Packable

Parkas tend to be big, bulky and heavy. They are definitely not packable or portable, and if you want a coat that’s not going to take up half your suitcase you should stick with a standard jacket.

Some of the high-end parkas actually come with backpack straps inside. When you wear the jacket like a backpack, its weight is evenly distributed so it feels a lot lighter than it actually is. Have you ever tried carrying a parka for 15-20 minutes draped over your arm? You get so uncomfortable in the first five minutes that it suddenly seems okay to be warm and sweaty.

A classic winter jacket, on the other hand, is a great travel companion. And with so many lightweight and packable options that stuff into their pockets, it’s never been easier to pick up an insulated winter jacket that will fit into the pocket of your other jacket! I’ll include a few examples below; just know if that’s what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered!

Everyday Or Recreation?

Parkas are meant to be everyday outerwear, something you will wear around town or when you’re going to work. You’ll hardly ever see a parka for hiking or skiing. And it’s obvious why – the mid-thigh length is quite restrictive and simply doesn’t allow for the freedom of movement one needs when they’re trying to hike to the top of a mountain.

They are also too heavy and too warm to be comfortable on long outdoor adventures. That’s why you’ll never see an experienced hiker in a parka. You might see them standing around in a pair of shorts in the middle of a snowy field, but you’re not going to see them wearing a thick down parka.

If you want a coat that’s super warm and that you can wear while you go about your life, a parka is a good option. But if you need breathable outerwear that is suitable for all sorts of outdoor adventures, a traditional hip-length jacket is much more your speed. And you can go a step further and pick up something that’s specifically designed for winter hikes or mountaineering, for ultimate comfort and convenience!

Top Products


Best Parkas For Winter

The North Face Women's Arctic Parka II

The North Face Women's Arctic Parka II, TNF Black, Large

The Arctic Parka from TNF is one of the brand’s best sellers in women’s outerwear. It’s popular for its stylish design that goes great with all outfits, as well as excellent performance in cold weather. The coat is breathable, waterproof, windproof and it boasts seam-sealed construction for ultimate protection from the weather.

It is also insulated with a combination of 550-fill power goose down and recycled polyester insulation, for superb warmth in extreme colds.  This parka also features internal and external pockets, so you should have plenty of room for all the essentials in your daily life.

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The North Face Men's McMurdo Parka III

The North Face Men's McMurdo Parka III, TNF Black/TNF Black, Medium

The McMurdo Parka is TNF’s best option for men. It’s a pricey coat but if you hate being cold, this parka is worth every single penny.

It is insulated with 550 fill power goose down all over, so it will perform exceptionally well in really cold weather. The parka is also 100% waterproof with DWR coating, so you can confidently wear it in the rain without worrying that the down will get wet!

This coat is also windproof with a snap placket over the main zipper and adjustable cuffs. It has a fixed hood with removable faux fur trim and some seriously spacious pockets that can easily fit your lunch for the day.

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Columbia Women's Hillsdale Reversible Parka

Columbia Women's Hillsdale Reversible Parka, Black ,Medium

The Hillsdale Parka from Columbia is a great coat for women. It’s reversible, so it’s kind of like you’re getting two coats for the price of one! One side of the coat is smooth while the other is quilted, and both sides feature two roomy open pockets!

This parka is made from Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Tech Rebound Stretch fabric, which boasts excellent waterproofing and breathability. It is insulated with 600 fill power goose down for exceptional warmth even in extremely cold weather. And it boasts an adjustable hem, stretchy cuffs, and a snap placket over the main zipper, so you can easily keep all the wind out!

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Columbia Men's South Canyon Long Down Parka

Columbia Men's South Canyon Long Down Parka, Waterproof & Breathable, City Grey, Large

The South Canyon Parka by Columbia is an excellent choice for men who never want to be cold again. It features 650 fill power down insulation, as well Omni-Heat reflective lining. The lining consists of tiny silver dots that reflect your own body heat, which significantly improves the overall warmth of the coat.

On top of that, the outer layer of the parka is actually Omni-Tech, Columbia’s proprietary material. It is waterproof, windproof, and highly breathable, for excellent performance in all weather conditions. And with two chest pockets and four waist pockets, you’ll have plenty of space for your everyday necessities!

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Best Jackets For Winter

Patagonia Nano Puff

The Nano Puff from Patagonia is one of the best packable jackets you can get. It is very warm thanks to the excellent Primaloft insulation, and it’s so lightweight you’ll barely even feel it on your body! The jacket is available for both men and women, and you can get it in a few different styles, including options with and without a hood.

The Nano Puff packs into one of its pockets, for ultimate portability. It is so thin and lightweight that you can carry this jacket in the pocket of a different jacket and entirely forget that it’s there! On top of that, this jacket boasts DWR coating for excellent waterproofing, as well as an adjustable hem and stretchy cuffs that will keep the wind out.

 

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Marmot Zeus Jacket

Marmot Men's Lightweight, Water-Resistant Zeus Jacket, 700 Fill Power Down, Jet Black, Large

The Marmot Zeus jacket is great for men who want something ultralight and warm. This jacket features 700 fill power down, so it’s surprisingly warm for such a thin and lightweight coat. It is only water-resistant and it’s not suitable for heavy rains – at least not without a waterproof shell over it.

This jacket is actually an awesome mid-layer. It will provide you with the warmth you need when you’re skiing or climbing in extreme colds. If you wear a waterproof shell jacket over it, you’ll be unstoppable! The lightweight Zeus jacket boasts two hand-warming pockets, and you can even fold the jacket into one of those pockets. On top of all that, it has stretchy cuffs that are designed to keep the wind out of your sleeves.

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Columbia Women's Peak to Park

Columbia Women's Peak to Park Insulated Jacket, Malbec, X-Small

The Peak to Park jacket is Columbia’s take on a versatile jacket for women. It’s stylish enough that you can wear it every day, but still packed with features and rugged enough that you can confidently wear it out on the trail. This jacket is fully insulated with synthetic down for premium warmth even in wet weather!

The water-resistant fabric of the jacket will keep you dry in light rain, while the synthetic insulation retains its properties even if it gets wet. This jacket also has some great wind-resistant features like the snap placket over the front zipper and the adjustable cuffs and hem. Plus it has two external and one internal pocket, so you can always have all your must-haves handy!

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Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

The Torrentshell jacket is Patagonia’s best waterproof outer shell you can get your hands on. It’s made from 3-layer H2No, which has an exceptionally high waterproof rating. This fabric is also very breathable, and the jacket even has underarm zips so you can let some cool air in if you ever get too warm.

It’s not an insulated jacket, so if you’re looking for premium warmth you should pair it with a nice mid-layer like their Nano Puff. This jacket packs into one of its zippered pockets, and it weighs a mere 14 ounces, so you can always have it as a spare in your backpack!

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