If you live in place with a cold climate like New York, Minnesota or... Antarctica, you’re going to need a winter coat. Finding one that’s warm isn’t just a matter of heading to the clearance rack at your favorite department store and calling it a day. Sure, it’s not hard to find inexpensive coats, but if winter’s a yearly thing for you, a great coat can be a worthwhile investment. Having lived in cold climates for most of my life, along with having an unfortunate knack for losing coats, I can tell you through personal experience what to look for when the temperatures dip and it’s time (hopefully not too many times) to go winter coat shopping.
When size hunting, err on the side of roomy
There can be a tough psychological tug of war at play when coat shopping because on one hand, we all want something that’s slim, sleek and flattering, but at the same time roomy enough to take layering into account. (Trust me, I’ve gone out in arctic temperatures with a just a slim designer jean jacket and looking cold is anything but stylish.) When trying on sizes, it’s safer to lean on the roomy side to ensure there’ll be enough space to fit additional warming layers underneath, like a sweater, a scarf or even another light jacket.
Opt for down (as long as you’re staying dry)
Down is basically nature’s ultimate insulation — these types of coats are usually filled with duck or goose feathers. They can end up a bit puffy sometimes, but on the whole they offer an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio. Generally, the higher the down count, the warmer the coat. They tend range from about 450 to 900 fill, representing how much air per ounce the down can trap, providing insight into a coat’s insulation capabilities. However, according to REI, just make sure to stay dry if going with down. Apparently, “it won’t insulate when damp and dries slowly.” They recommend synthetics, water-resistant down or down/synthetic hybrids if you anticipate regularly being subjected to a lot of rain or snow.
Try the coat on with different layers and move around in it
While you can find wonderfully priced coats online, this is one of those purchases where you’ll want to know how it fits before ordering it on Amazon. Ideally, when going to the store bring an extra sweater or a couple extra layers so you can test it with different outfits. Also, be sure to move around to make sure it’s comfortable in different positions. Sometimes a coat that looks and feels great while standing up suddenly folds and bends oddly when sitting down. Or when looking at a mirror head on, only when you turn does it become apparent that the collar jabs into your cheek. Not rushing through the trying-on process can save you countless hours of having to return a coat and buy a new one later. According to Outside Magazine’s Wes Siler, the key to optimal coat wearing is to make use of layers. He writes, “A big advantage of dressing in layers is that it allows you to adapt to changing conditions. On very cold nights, you can add another midlayer. On warmer days, you can shed one. When you need to look nice, you can wear a classy shell.”
Pay close attention to pockets, zippers and buttons
Some coats might look great but are just too difficult to put on. Zippers that snag on fabric and take a lot of effort to get into can be a real hassle when it’s freezing outside and time to rush out the door. Making sure your coat has enough pockets for things like gloves, hats and accessories can also be worthwhile. While in many ways heavy winter wear makes us less mobile, big coats with well-sized pockets can mean being able to carry more without needing a bag. Some coats even have special designs that store big electronic devices, tablets, phones and cameras. Get a sense of just how much can be crammed into a pocket-generous coat or jacket by taking a look at the AyeGear J25 Jacket (https://ayegear.com/products/ayegear-j25-jacket). If you often find yourself carrying a lot of stuff, being able to leave home without a heavy bag can be pretty convenient.
Remember, your coat is an extension of you
In wrapping up (pun intended), your coat becomes an extension of you. The best coat is the one you’ll be motivated to wear. With studies showing that depression can increase significantly during wintery months (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/feeling-sad-it-might-be-seasonal-affective-disorder-s-a-d-201101261250) it can be important to remember to go outside and get enough daylight. According to Harvard Health contributor Ann MacDonald, only 50 to 80 percent of people get complete relief from traditional light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, so a more natural solution is to go outside. She explains, “Exposure to natural light can also help to restore your body’s natural rhythms — and perhaps boost your mood and mental functioning as well.” So, a great coat isn’t just a valuable investment to keep us from being cold; it’s an investment to keep our moods in check by feeling warm enough to spend more time outside (especially when it’s so tempting just to hibernate with great shows online and delicious delivery just a few clicks away).