Can you recommend a winter jacket for use in Wisconsin winter?
October 3, 2016 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I come from California and this year will be the first winter I have to deal with in Wisconsin. I did live in Baltimore a while back, but I expect this winter to be somewhat more severe. I'm looking to purchase a warmer and better fitting jacket for this winter. While I won't be doing intense skiing/hiking outdoors, I will be walking around for 30-45min, mainly to get to work and just check out the snowy weather. More details...

I'm a fan of Patagonia; their outerwear generally fits me well, and their customer service is great to work with. I was recommended the Hi-Loft Down Sweater. It's not waterproof, but I have a rain shell I can use around it. From Columbia, I was recommended their Outdry Ex Gold Down Jacket. I saw Eddie Bauer being mentioned in a prior post, and from their site I see the Downlight StormDown Jacket.

What do you guys think from those selections? Would you recommend anything else? I know layering is important. Usually I would wear t-shirt + longsleeve shirt, and maybe on top of this I can have a fleece jacket and this on top. But going to work I'll be in jeans and t-shirt on top and this. Thanks!
posted by eliluong to Shopping (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Tres parka from Patagonia. It is a three in one and the down inner layer and the water proof outer layer are both great on their own.
posted by k8t at 9:04 PM on October 3, 2016

The previous recommendations are good, but you'll be in even colder weather. Uniqlo HeatTech as a starting layer. Layer, layer, layer. That Downlight StormDown is only good to about 20 degrees. That will be a warm day.

Jeans, unless insulated, are not going to be comfortable.
posted by blob at 9:06 PM on October 3, 2016

You'll want something warmer than a down sweater in Wisconsin. I'd look at the REI co op brand jackets, they are particularly nice this year and well priced. I'm talking the heavier ones with the mix of down and primaloft. If you want a hip length jacket Eddie Bauer is pretty good brand.

Probably the most versatile coat if you only have one is a good and warm hip length parka that is windproof and has a hood and big pockets. Waterproof is nice but not as important in the snow and cold. When it's warmer you can wear a fleece and your rainshell.
posted by fshgrl at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had my Patagonia down parka for several years and it's held up really well. Quite toasty, no problems with down coming out, and the shaping is hourglassy and feminine. Because it has a slight A-line from the knees down, it's easy to walk distances in, especially with the double zipper to unzip from the bottom. I believe the parka I have is the Downtown Parka, but mine is from several years ago and looks longer. But I would check out the longer Patagonia parkas and see which fits and catches your fancy. Looks like there's one half off at Backcountry if you happen to be a size M and like gray.
posted by ClaireBear at 9:26 PM on October 3, 2016

The only two I could find at REI are the Colpeak Down Parka, which unfortunately is no longer in my size (S), and the Stratocloud. Although the Stratocloud looks pretty similar to the Patagonia one I quoted up top.

Any insulated jeans you can recommend? Or should I just wear some sort of legging thermals and remove them indoors?
posted by eliluong at 9:46 PM on October 3, 2016

Insulated jeans are kind of a hassle, as I see it. I would just get some long underwear- silk, capilene, whatever- and wear those. I was in Madison for 3 years and never bothered. Eddie Bauer makes a nice parka.
posted by kerf at 10:21 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sorry- also, wind cuts through fleece. Either layer or one big parka.
posted by kerf at 10:23 PM on October 3, 2016

I had a Columbia 3-in-1 modular coat, like this one or this one, that cruised through several Chicago winters. It was basically a shell and fleece combo designed to fit and zip perfectly together - I liked being able to strip it down to just the shell, or just the fleece, as best fit my needs at that moment. The shell element kept out wind quite well. The only downside that I can recall was that the hood was purely a shell hood, and had no insulation or soft lining at all - but you should be carrying around a hat and scarf anyway.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:42 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went to school in WI. You want a long coat, past your butt.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:55 PM on October 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, life-long Wisconsin resident here. You want one which covers your ass, it will make a world of difference. I typically get coats at boring old Lands End - I have their silky long underwear, several fleece jackets, (say it again, LAYERS) and last year got this coat. They have temp recommendations on the coats so be sure to check those. Fashion-wise they're pretty norm-core but they definitely know their shit. ALWAYS wait for a promo on the website, they have them all the time and are frequently 30%-40% off.

Ideally, if you can swing it, you want two coats. One will be your "regular" winter coat which you'll wear 75% of the time - you want something that won't cause flop sweat if you have to wear it indoors for a bit (shopping, running errands) and isn't too ginormous/Stay Puft. Then you have your Holy-Mother-of-Jesus-My-Fucking-Snot-Just-Froze-In-My-Nose coat for the really nasty cold/windy snaps, if you're going to be outdoors for a while, etc. Think "polar vortex" weather.

Oh and yeah, skip the thermal jeans and get some silk long underwear. I think I wore mine maybe 5 times last year, and they are thin enough to wear all day under your jeans/pants. More important to focus on good gloves, scarves, socks and a balaclava.
posted by Bretley at 3:11 AM on October 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Sorry, I ran out of time editing my post ^^ before I finished making some changes - I realized after typing that up that I misread your post and you're looking for men's coats, so you can forget the below-the-ass advice on the length.
posted by Bretley at 3:18 AM on October 4, 2016

Male or female, you definitely want a longer cover-your-rear type coat in preference to a shorter jacket. Also long-johns and thermal undershirts are your friend: get several pair, silk are best. Also also, consider two or three pairs of gloves: that way you can wear one while another wet pair is drying out.

(I spent time at an Air Force base way up in Northern Greenland: everybody was issued a long winter parka --- everybody except the Security guys, that is: they all wore what could be described as padded Eisenhower jackets, because they needed to be able to access their sidearms; and each and every one of them bitched, with good reason, about how their asses were freezing..... get a coat not a jacket!)
posted by easily confused at 4:45 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I lived in Wisconsin the last two years, and moved there from California, with prior minor-league winter experience in Virginia. I got a LL Bean Maine Warden's parka, which is pretty bombproof and may actually be a bit of overkill, but if you're going to be walking around for over half an hour to get to work in the morning when it's -15 and windy you'll want something pretty substantial - certainly more than a down jacket and a t-shirt, and you're definitely going to want a shell layer. You'll want something with wrist cuffs that will work with your gloves or mittens so that there's some overlap between the two. Most of my outside time was walking my dog around the block; otherwise I was just going from house to car to work or some other heated building.

Last winter was a lot milder than the previous, but my first winter in Wisconsin I wore long underwear bottoms frequently, while I only wore them twice or so last season. I think I run a little warmer than most people, but I generally didn't have to break out the LL Bean parka unless the high was going to be under 25. I have a lighter ski jacket with a decent fleece liner for those days. 30 and above I can usually do OK with just a hoodie and no gloves. But, you're going to have highs in the negative single digits sometime in January, so get ready for that.
posted by LionIndex at 4:47 AM on October 4, 2016

I think my lighter fleece parka is actually a Columbia Bugaboo like kickingtheground mentions. Good enough quit a bit of the time, but not on the bad days.
posted by LionIndex at 4:51 AM on October 4, 2016

Long undies are a necessity.
I got the down coat that made me the hottest in the store trying it on. It was like 300 dollars and I am a cheap person, but it was totally the right decision and I will wear the coat until it falls apart. It's North Face, but yeah. Try it on and see if it's way too hot. That's your coat.
Also: your feet. Your feet will be cold. Snow boots?
posted by sacchan at 5:14 AM on October 4, 2016

Agreed with everyone upthread. When I lived in Wisconsin I helped a friend from California with a coat. She ended up with a huge coat that went down to mid-calf, with a fuzzy hood, and was very happy in it.

Some things I'd note:
1) Waterproof won't make much of a difference in a serious winter coat, because any water coming from above will be frozen. I actually prefer a coat with some breathability. Early and late in the season there might be some slush on the ground, so you will want good quality waterproof boots.
2) Long johns for sure. WinterSilks used to have shop in Madison, not sure if that's still the case, but their long underwear are excellent.
3) Personally, I don't find my coat to be as important as my hat/face protection. There will be a few weeks in most Wisconsin winters that will just take your breath away as soon as you go outside. Try on a bunch of hats and find one that is pretty close around the face and ears, with multiple layers or a tight weave to block as much wind as possible.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2016

Jeans are fine if they're loose, like a size or two bigger than you normally wear, and you wear them over really good long underwear.

Boots are critical. Wool socks. And mittens instead of gloves. I have no recommendations for anything specific, haven't lived in frigid climates for a while.
posted by mareli at 6:11 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

So much of being comfortable in winter is about your own personal thermostat that I'll offer a counter-recommendation:

If you still have the stuff you wore in Baltimore, and you found it adequate, just wear that. If you find that you're uncomfortably cold, you can buy a coat then. If you don't find that you're cold, you just saved a couple hundred dollars. For me, the woolrich jacket that I picked up for the occasional cold day in D/FW serves me fine in Buffalo as long as I wear a sweatshirt/sweater under it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:34 AM on October 4, 2016


Unless your domicile is kept really warm, pick up a heated mattress pad. It's... heavenly. It's like so good that it feels immoral. Disclaimer: We keep our house at about 60-62 in winter.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Last year I purchased the Arc'Teryx CERIUM LT HOODY MEN'S to wear underneath the Arc'Teryx BETA AR JACKET MEN'S. These two jackets are expensive; but In the summer they were half the price listed on the linked website.

I have never been so comfortable and warm over a winter (34th Canadian prairie winter).
posted by axismundi at 7:40 AM on October 4, 2016

I live in Wisconsin. What you want is to be prepared for the 1-2 weeks of iron cold, often accompanied by with stiff winds, that every winter brings in January and/or February. I use a down parka much like LionIndex links to, with detachable hood, plus flannel-lined jeans (LL Bean and Carhartt are good.)

For layering, I'll sometimes wear a flannel-lined canvas shirt, long johns and two pairs of socks. Thick leather boots are good. Insulated ski gloves are good.

Again, it's not that you're going to be wearing all of this stuff all the time, but for bitterly cold weather having this equipment makes a big difference to outdoor comfort.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2016

I live in Connecticut (which does not get as cold as Wisconsin). I have a LL Bean parka. I think it's a Baxter State, but it looks like the designs have changed since I got mine. I concur with LionIndex about winter coats.

I find that for a lot of the winter, I need the heavy coat mostly for the two miles from when I leave the house until the car heater starts to work. For those times, a long coat is not actually vital. But if you are going to have to walk somewhere, the long coat is the thing. I also like having coat with a hood so if I"m caught out with out a winter hat, I have backup.

You are also going to need gloves and suitable footwear.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2016

+1 for the suggestions made by k8t, kickingtheground, and LionIndex because the 2 medium-weight layers are going to warmer than a heavy layer. In addition, you're getting three jackets for the price of one. The 3-in-1 will be appropriate for fall, winter and spring. Just make sure you like it because you're wearing a lot throughout the year. The price of a 3-in-1 is worth it, especially if one or both of the layers has Gore-tex.
posted by dlwr300 at 9:03 AM on October 4, 2016

When I moved from Seattle to Chicago I bought an Expedition Down Parka. I am a guy but I know women who have both the women's version and the men's and they love it too.
posted by rossination at 10:01 AM on October 4, 2016

I do not live in a cold-weather zone, but I frequently see Canada Goose recommended when somebody asks one of the clothing & fashion subreddits what they should buy for moving to a snowy place. Their coats are expensive, but they're reasonably stylish as well as apparently really long-lasting and warm as hell. Something to look into if you decide not to go Patagonia and want to make a serious investment in coziness.
posted by waffleriot at 10:28 AM on October 4, 2016

Just as another datapoint, I live in Atlanta, and the 3 in 1 Columbia Bugaboo is my winter coat here (lows in the 20s at times Dec-Feb but highs are pretty much always above freezing). When I went to the deep freeze of DC last year, when it didn't get above freezing for a month and everything was completely snowed in, I was simply not warm enough. As a non-native of Wisconsin, I wonder if you would be warm enough in just fleece + goretex or if you need something more substantial.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2016

When I moved to Wisconsin from California, I bought an Eddie Bauer down coat rated to -20. They have a sale on outerwear every fall; wait for that.

That coat is uncomfortably warm when the weather is above 20, and not really necessary for short stints outside. I sometimes felt overdressed compared to the Wisconsinites around me, but most of them had not chosen forty-minute walking commutes.

I also wore long underwear and dedicated snow boots, and kept work shoes at my office.
posted by yarntheory at 7:34 PM on October 4, 2016

I grew up in MN. Get a heavy parka rated below temperatures that you would be willing to go out in. :7) Wear a wool shirt under your parka.

I bought an LLBean Rugged Ridge Parka last year and I like it, but in Wisconsin winter weather I would put a wool sweater under it.

An axiom about winter dressing: wool, wool, wool, because a naked sheep in springtime is a happy human in winter. Another: ugly+warm always beats stylish+miserable.

Jeans are for suckers: their cotton fibers will kill you when wet in real cold.

Buy good boots so that you have a nice layer of insulation between your tootsies and the frigid earth. Last year I fulfilled a dream and bought a pair of Steger Mukluks, but you should be good with a pair of Sorel "Pac" boots: ugly, clunky, and warm.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with tchemgrrl . Buy several of the gossamer-light silk long underwear shirts from Wintersilks and wear them every day for six months. You will be tired of them, and they look too insubstantial to help, but they really do keep you warmer. My wife has wimpy, thin East Coast blood, and she wears one of these shirts all fall, winter, and into spring. They look pretty bad by March but they do the job.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:28 AM on October 5, 2016

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