Parka vs. Jacket: Everything You Need To Know
When it comes to winter jackets, you may think that they’re all created equally – hey, if they keep you warm, they’re doing their job, right? To answer that question: yes, to an extent. While parkas and jackets are both essential pieces of outerwear for the colder months, there are actually a few key differences between the two styles of winter coats, and if you’re wondering which one you should grab before the temperatures dip, we’ve laid out all the pros and cons of parkas and jackets to help you decide which style of winter outerwear is right for you.
What Is a Parka?
A parka is a piece of outerwear that is typically worn in the winter, snow, or freezing temperatures and climates. Parkas are also usually insulated and provide a generous amount of warmth, and while you can totally layer sweaters, sweatshirts, or hoodies under a parka, generally, they’ll keep you warm with just a long sleeve base layer underneath.
What Is a Jacket?
A jacket is a piece of outerwear that typically hits at the waist, and while jackets can be insulated like parkas are, there are more varieties of jackets than there are parkas – think denim jackets, leather jackets, windbreakers, winter jackets, bombers, shirt jackets, puffer jackets, etc. However, for the sake of comparing parkas to their winter counterparts, we’ll stick to talking about coats and jackets made specifically for cold weather.
What Are the Main Differences Between a Parka and a Jacket?
There are actually a few key differences between parkas and jackets, with the main difference being the length of each garment. Parkas are jackets that hit below the waist, often hitting mid-thigh, at the knees, or even at the shins. This means that parkas trap heat better since they cover a greater surface area of the body, unlike jackets, which hit at or around the waist. Generally, parkas are your best bet for freezing cold temperatures – think Arctic-like conditions – because of their potential to keep most of your body warm.
Parkas are also typically heavier and bulkier than winter jackets because of their length. Parkas usually have a hood, sometimes fur-lined, that contributes to the bulkiness of the garment, and while winter jackets can have hoods on them, many are designed without them. It’s also important to note that if you’re doing an outdoor winter activity that’s quite physical, like backpacking, ice picking, climbing, and/or mountaineering, the bulkiness of a knee-length or shin-length parka can inhibit movements, unlike jackets, which give you a little bit more freedom when it comes to moving around.
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Who Should Buy a Parka?
As previously mentioned, if you live in a place that has freezing cold temperatures, you should definitely invest in a parka, as it’s your best bet at staying warm while you brave the great outdoors, even if you’re just running from the car into the grocery store. Moreso, if you live in a climate where you have to be outside often in Arctic-like conditions – like Wisconsin, where I went to college and had to walk a few miles a day from class to class in single-digit temps with two feet of snow on the ground – then you definitely need to make a parka a staple part of your winter wardrobe.
When looking for the perfect parka, going for a cheaper option is not necessarily the best plan – you’ll want to look for a parka from a reputable sportswear or outerwear brand, like The Northface, Canada Goose, or Patagonia. Brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Eddie Bauer are also good choices.
Try The North Face Men’s New Outerboroughs Jacket, which hits mid-thigh and won’t be too bulky, but will keep you warm and dry all day long; plus, it’s perfect for everyday use and comes in a variety of colors. The Patagonia City Storm Down Parka is also an excellent choice when it comes to heavy winter coats that’ll keep you toasty all season long.
Who Should Buy a Jacket?
Even if you live in climates that are much milder in the fall and winter, it’s still a good idea to have a universal winter coat hanging in your closet just in case the weather goes haywire. In other words, everyone should own at least one go-to winter coat that’ll keep them warm when the temperatures dip below freezing, even if it’s just a lightweight puffer jacket that gets worn a couple of times a year.
Again, when it comes to winter jackets, you should look for one from a reputable outerwear brand rather than from a fast fashion brand, so stick to brands like Columbia, Carhart, The North Face, Patagonia, Moncler, and Polo Ralph Lauren.
Check out the Columbia Men’s Wild Card Interchange Jacket, which is available in multiple color schemes and sizes S-XXL, for an all-around winter jacket that’ll last season after season. The Polo Ralph Lauren Water-Repellent Down Jacket is also an excellent option when it comes to winter coats that’ll keep you dry and warm, plus, the puffer jacket style is super on trend and looks great with other winter streetwear.
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