How to Choose the Right Winter Jacket

Winter Coat Buying Guide

Whether you live in a climate with extreme winter weather or you’re traveling to a cold location, it’s essential that you’re ready for frigid temperatures with the right winter jacket. No matter if you’re looking for a versatile cold-weather jacket or a warm and waterproof parka, our winter jacket buying guide breaks down the different types of winter jackets, the two main types of insulation, and how your winter jacket should fit. With all this information, you’ll be ready to choose the right winter jacket for you!

Types of Winter Jackets

There are plenty of different types of winter jackets, so knowing the differences between each helps you find the right fit and protection for your climate. You’ll want to consider the following factors when selecting the type of winter jacket you should get:

  • Activity Level: If you plan on moving around a lot while wearing your winter jacket, you may not need something as heavy as if you were out running errands.
  • Location: If you live somewhere that’s very windy and cold for extended periods of time, you’ll want to consider a heavier winter jacket.

1) Puffer Jackets

a man zipping up a puffer jacket

If you’re needing a winter jacket that offers plenty of warmth without the bulk, a puffer jacket is a great option. A puffer jacket features a quilted design that creates puffy-looking sections. These quilted sections house the insulation in order to keep it in place for even warmth. The design of a puffer jacket makes them ideal for those traveling since they compress down for easy packing. Overall, puffer jackets are a great lightweight yet warm option to wear while staying active or out running errands.

✔ Packable

✔ Even warmth distribution

✔ Ideal for casual wear or when active

2) Ski & Snowboard Jackets

a man wearing a ski jacket while skiing

For those looking to stay active throughout the winter, the type of winter jacket to invest in would be one used for skiing and snowboarding. Ski jackets are designed to provide insulation and water resistance for warmth yet are made from breathable fabric or feature venting zips to dump heat when needed. Plus, ski jackets are designed to allow for maximum mobility as well as layering when the temperatures start to drop. For those who spend a lot of time on the ski slopes or staying active during the winter months, a ski jacket could be a perfect choice.

✔ Greater mobility

✔ Warm yet breathable

✔ Ideal for those who are active outdoors

3) Parkas

a woman wearing a parka while walking

Built for maximum coverage and warmth, parkas are the warmest type of winter jacket. A parka is a long winter jacket that extends to your mid-thigh, knee, or even longer and often features a hood and quality insulation. By covering you from your head to your knees, a parka traps and retains more body heat to keep you warmer for longer periods of time. Another key factor that makes parkas ideal for extreme winter weather is the durable shell material that often blocks the wind and sheds precipitation. Parkas are the perfect choice for those who live in extremely cold climates. 

✔ Extended coverage

✔ Durable, long-lasting design

✔ Ideal for extremely cold climates

4) 3-in-1 Jackets

a woman showing a three in one jacket

With this type of winter jacket, you get two jacket layers that can be worn alone or together, giving you three jacket options wrapped into one. The outer shell of a 3-in-1 jacket is made of waterproof, breathable material and typically features an attached hood. The inner jacket provides warmth and is made from insulating materials like fleece, polyester, or down. Once the cold winter weather sets in, just zip or snap these two jackets together for maximum protection and warmth. For those who live in areas when the temperature fluctuates throughout the year, a 3-in-1 jacket offers the versatility you’ll need.

✔ Versatile layering

✔ Ideal for ever-changing temperatures

Synthetic vs. Down Insulation

Down Insulation

The first type of insulation you’ll notice that’s used within winter jackets is down insulation. Down insulation comes from goose or duck plumage, the fluffy, natural midlayer between the feathers and the skin. This type of insulation is popular because it traps and retains warmth well and compresses down for easy packing. When looking at down insulated jackets, you’ll notice the insulation is measured by the “fill power” or “fill weight.” This number means how warm and lightweight the insulation is—the higher the fill number, the warmer and lighter the insulation.


  • Breathable
  • Retains heat
  • Compresses down easily


  • Costs more
  • No as effective in wet conditions

Synthetic Insulation

The second common type of insulation is synthetic. The main reason synthetic insulation is commonly used in winter jackets is because it retains heat even in wet conditions so you will always stay warm. Synthetic insulation tends to be heavier than down insulation so it’s not as easy to pack when traveling.


  • More affordable
  • Retains heat when wet


  • Heavier

How Should a Winter Jacket Fit?

A man showing the fit of a winter jacket

Once you decide which type of winter jacket is right for you, it’s important to make sure the fit is comfortable. Please note when checking the fit of your winter jacket, always zip or snap it closed for accurate results. Before you leave the store (or take the tags off), you can follow our easy steps for testing the fit:

  1. Reach your arms out in front of you to check the length of the sleeves. The sleeves of your jacket should stop near the wrist bone, touching the top of the palm. If the sleeves stop above your wrist, they are too short.
  2. To see if the length of the winter jacket is right, stretch your hands above your head. If the jacket raises above your waist or exposes skin, it is too short. 
  3. When stretching your hands overhead, pay attention to any tight spots or restricted movements. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’ll want a jacket the next size up. Remember you often wear layers underneath your winter jacket too. 

Now that you know what to look for in a winter jacket, you’ll be able to find the right one to keep you warm all season long. If you still have questions about which winter jacket is right for you, stop into your local SCHEELS to speak with an expert.