Out east, your parka is everything. Makes sense, as we would quite literally die without one in the winter. You know how they say you can tell a girl from the handbag she carries? Your parka becomes that in the winter. Let’s be frank, a good parka is a lot of money, and not everyone can afford to have one in every style and colour. Which is why it is important to choose one that represents your true fashion self and works with your lifestyle. Here’s how to choose.
Lifestyle and purpose
City lights, bunny slopes or campus life? What will this parka do for you?
The Utility Parka – If you want the ultimate parka that will keep you warm and dry in a snowstorm, last you at least a decade and half, and is an investment piece in itself – the utility parka is for you. Everybody needs to have this one faithful parka for polar vortex days when all the other jackets just can’t hack it. Some even have a temperature guarantee (my beloved Nobis one has a -30 guarantee), can’t argue with that.
The Urban Parka – If you are looking for something stylish and sleek, you are one of those die-hard fashionistas who would rather freeze than wear anything frumpy, you need to get yourself an urban parka. The quintessential “not-a-parka” parka is anything but frumpy, often with luxe fur and leather trims to give it that extra sass. Ideal for downtown living where the temperatures are not as extreme. Many even have features such as extra midway zippers on the inside made to regulate your temperature (and keep you warm, but not suffocate you) for when you duck indoors or the subway.
The Sport Parka – If bunny slopes, winter chalets and après-ski is your jam – sporty parkas are what you need to give you the added breathability and mobility for winter sports activities (even if you are just faking it for the après ski – it pays to look good). Gone are the days of the unflattering neon coloured ‘Michelin’ sports parkas. Sport parkas nowadays are the epitome of technical fabrics and boasts luxe features like fur trims and fleece lined pockets.
Down content percentage is key! The higher the percentage, the closer to God! Polyfill/synthetics are cheaper but it takes more of it to insulate, leading to a bulkier form (and we don’t want that, do we) for the same level of warmth. Also keep in mind that a winter parka is a pretty sizeable item to add to your list of daily items you schlep around – the lightweight down fill will make a huge difference.
Down is also more breathable, which means it will keep us warm, but not too warm. The breathability keeps us from getting hot and sweaty inside the jacket, and prevents us from getting sick. It’s all in the fabrics!
Waterproof – Do you live in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver? In Montreal or Toronto, it’s more snow (lots more) than rain. I find though it’s nice to have something at least water resistant, but I rarely need it to be waterproof. If you live in the west coast, you NEED it to be waterproof or risk smelling musty for days.
Added features – Today’s parkas offer all kinds of neat features to make your life easier. Hoods, fur trim, exterior pocket, interior pockets, the sky’s the limit! So it is important to keep in mind what feature is most important to you and what you can do without. I need a hood to keep my head warm, and my Nobis parka has this neat little feature where you can bend the wire in the fur trim in a way that your hood won’t get blown off by even the strongest wind! My Soia and Kyo parka has this extra removable lightweight puffy jacket underneath that I can wear as a separate jacket for when I’m indoors. Both are super handy.
A winter parka is a big investment – you want to take care of it properly so that it will last as long as possible.
Make sure that you check the cleaning instructions before you make a purchase to decide if that is what you are willing to sign up for. Most heavyweight parkas have to be dry cleaned, though there will be some (likely synthetic fill) that you can machine wash. But buyers beware – machine wash doesn’t mean you can just throw it in the washer and dryer like you do with your t shirts – you might have to lay it out to dry for days, ‘beat’ your parka or add tennis balls to the dryer to fluff up the fill. Not worth the hassle and risk of damage if you ask me.
If your parka has a fur hood – check if it is removable. Some dry cleaners don’t clean fur, so when the fur is not removable and they accept the item, you assume responsibility for it if the fur gets damaged. Same goes with leather trims – I had a parka with leather sleeves, and while the rest of the parka was dry clean friendly, I had to send my jacket to a specialty leather cleaner just for the leather trims to be cleaned, which was extra money and a hassle.
Tried and True Outerwear Brands
Shelburne, $775 CAD, Canada Goose
Canada Goose – Yes, everyone has a Canada Goose, and for good reason! It is the quintessential winter parka.
Abby, $1,095 CAD, Nobis
Nobis – The former founder of Canada Goose launched Nobis as a premium improvement on the original Goose design. Canada Goose but better? I’m sold.
Stellar Canvas Parka, $1,795 CAD Moose Knuckles
Moose Knuckles – Known for their edgy and playful designs without sacrificing warmth and practicality.
Mackage – The definition of an Urban parka. Mackage outerwear is both feminine and sophisticated.
Benedicte, $425 CAD, Soia & Kyo
Soia & Kyo – Sister brand of Mackage boasts the same clean lines and quality.
ADD Down Jacket, $537.54 CAD, ShopBop. Similar style here
ADD Down – An Italian label that boasts that their parkas are one of the most lightweight in the world – their parkas are minimal, streamlined, and oh so flattering! They are cut extremely close to the body, so make sure you size up or try it on in stores.
Joinville, $1,680 CAD, Moncler
Moncler – The crème de la crème of ski parkas, needs no introduction.
Denali, $1,095 CAD, Parajumpers
Parajumpers – The ultimate extreme sports brand inspired by rescue squadrons in Alaska, designed above all else to be functional.
Hellfire, $195 CAD, Columbia
Columbia – One of the largest ski apparel manufacturers in North America, Columbia always delivers exactly what it advertises.