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What to Look For: Choosing a Winter Coat

When shopping for your next winter jacket, do you know what to actually look for? If there is one thing RefrigiWear knows well, it's how to create a garment for cold conditions. There are 4 main things to consider: where you are using the jacket, insulation, materials, and features.

Where Are You Using Your Winter Jacket And What For?

Your environment really affects what to look for in a winter coat. Obviously it is cold. That’s why you need a jacket, but how cold is it? RefrigiWear’s comfort ratings can help you pick out an insulated jacket based on the temperature ranges, but there are other issues to think about.  Rain and wind are obvious factors plus the amount of time you spend in the cold. Activity levels also factor into the equation. Are you going to be active or are you sitting in the stands watching a football game? If you are sitting still, you will need more insulation than if you are active because of blood flow and exertion.

Insulation

There are two main types of insulations used in jackets: Down and Synthetic. Down insulation is made from the undercoat of ducks and geese, not their feathers like most people think. It's nature’s best insulator. The down is great at trapping air and body heat, which allows it to provide warmth and still be super light-weight. Down is also extremely breathable, so moisture wicks away from your body. The problem with down insulation is that it will not work once it gets wet. Synthetic insulation mimics down insulation in that it traps warm air, yet it continues to do so even when wet. While synthetic insulation can be slightly heavier than down, it has strong insulating properties even when it gets wet and dries much faster.

Outershell and Lining Materials

When looking at the outershell and inner lining of a winter jacket you will likely find nylon, micro-fiber, polyester or micro-fleece. What is important is that the materials of the jacket you choose meet your requirements. You can find water-resistant (keeps out light rain or snow for short periods) or waterproof (keeps out rain or snow for extended periods of time with sealed seams). Also, most insulated jackets will tell you if they are wind-resistant (can handle mild wind) or wind-tight (stand up to higher velocity winds). 

Your activity level will affect the degree of breathability you will need in a winter jacket. You do not want to sweat and seal in the moisture while wearing a jacket because it affects your body’s ability to stay warm and can cause hypothermia. Softshell jackets are a great example of a water-resistant, breathable jacket.

The lining of your jacket will also be important. Fleece or an extra layer of other materials inside will help retain or create more warmth. On some jackets, the inner lining zips out, but on most jackets, the inner lining is a permanent part of the garment. 

Features

Aside from the insulation and material make up of an insulated jacket, you want to look at other features that can affect warmth. Look for these features found on some winter coats: 

  • A collar that can stand up and remain standing around your neck will protect you better than one that always lays flat (or keeps falling down)
  • Zipper flaps to cover zippers and seal out drafts
  • Cinch/button back bands or waist wind seals for greater draft protection as you work, ski or otherwise move about in the elements 
  • An thumbhole cuff that extends around the hand and cuff to keep sleeves from riding up and letting in cold air

When shopping for your next winter coat, look at the features and make sure they meet your requirements. Remember the 4 areas to analyze: where you are using the jacket, insulation, materials and features.