The down parka is the archetypal winter garment. Invented by Eddie Bauer in 1936, the feather-filled jacket rose to mainstream prevalence in the 1960s and has since sustained its position as the ideal cold-weather coat. Like most iconic products, down parkas are produced by countless brands, all offering a different spin on the puffy classic for a broad spectrum of prices.
But what are you getting for your buck? Why is a Crescent Down Works almost five times the price of a Uniqlo? Well, fear not, we’re running down the three tiers of down parka with a rough price bracket for each category. We’re focusing on full-on parkas, not liners or lightweight down jackets, and remember each of these categories is not a judgment of good or bad, just what you get for your money at each level.
Entry Level (Sub $200)
Down parkas in this category will come from high street stores and brands. They will be fundamental downs, typically constructed with a nylon or polyester outer, and produced en-masse. Entry level down parkas will either contain synthetic down/loft, or a basic fill power and fill weight, but enough to keep you warm when worn as an outer layer. Some brands will use a blend of synthetic down and real feathers to keep costs down.
Notable makers of entry level down parkas include:
Mid Level ($200-500)
At the mid level, you will start to see more down parkas from outdoor brands and makers that specialize in creating high-quality insulated outerwear, like The North Face and Patagonia. Sure, you will be shelling out more money, but the product will outweigh those at the entry level by a country-mile in terms of construction, design, and warmth.
Down parkas at this level will typically have a higher fill power and/or fill weight than those at the entry level, and feature a more specialized outer fabric, such as durable nylon, nylon/polyester blend, or polyamide. These fabrics may be finished with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating or feature Gore-Tex technology.
As mid level down parkas often come from more specialized outdoor brands, you can expect more robust details when it comes to closures, pockets, and toggles etc. Designers may also take more time to honor the aesthetic of mid-century down wear, leading to a more timeless looking down parka. You may start to see the archetypal 60/40 nylon deployed on more heritage-style down parkas.
While these jackets aren’t the best of the best, you’ll certainly be investing in a quality product that will keep you warm in frigid climes. In addition, if water-resistance is a criteria you need, then mid level down parkas typically provide better protection.
Notable makers of mid level down parkas include:
End Level ($500+)
At this level, down parkas reach their peak in terms of construction, design, and warmth. They will generally be made by brands famed for top-tier outerwear, or an artisanal maker who has used the finest materials and construction techniques to create a fully functional and handsome down jacket.
End level down parkas can be split into two pathways—the more heritage-inspired parkas that honor the archetypal pieces produced by The North Face and Eddie Bauer during the mid-century spike in outdoor gear—and the more technical parkas that utilize the latest technologies and construction techniques to create the most functional contemporary down parka possible.
Heritage-style parkas like those from Crescent Down Works or Rocky Mountain Featherbed will feature vintage elements like ripstop or 60/40 nylon, leather trims, and rugged hardware—as well as high-quality fill power and/or weight. More technical parkas from brands like Veilance and The North Face Purple Label will primarily focus on functionality through modern technical fabrics, high fill power and/or fill weight, fabric coatings, and construction techniques like baffling that eliminate ‘cold spots’ in the down fill.
Notable makers of end level down parkas include: