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The 5 best-designed jackets to get you through winter 2021

Each has been rigorously tested and subjected to the elements.

The 5 best-designed jackets to get you through winter 2021
[Photos: American Giant, Lululemon, Canada Goose]

We’re heading into our second pandemic winter. And if last year was any guide, we’re going to want to spend as much time as possible outdoors, even during the colder months.

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If you’re looking for a new jacket to protect you against the elements as you take long walks or meet friends for a drink outside, we have you covered. We scoured the market for the most interesting and innovative outerwear from a wide range of brands, tested it, and selected those that performed best. This year, brands tended to focus on casual styles, in keeping with our relaxed, comfy pandemic aesthetic. And given the fragile state of the planet, many also focused on sustainable manufacturing.

This list features options for every type of weather, from jackets that will keep you dry in the midst of torrential downpours to puffers that will keep you toasty even if temperatures drop to 25 degrees below zero.

[Photo: American Giant]

American Giant

On the surface, this looks like just another cozy jacket to keep you warm and dry. But making the Blizzard was a minor miracle. The vast majority of outerwear is no longer made in the U.S. because it requires extensive needlework, a skill that is both expensive and hard to come by. American Giant is committed to bringing back domestic manufacturing, so it set out to create a supply chain in Chicago. It takes about 23 people to manufacture each Blizzard from start to finish, from patternmakers to 10 different sewers, who sew each jacket by hand. This local supply chain results in a lower carbon footprint while creating jobs for American workers.

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[Photo: American Giant]
It also results in a durable jacket that will help you survive the elements. The shell is both water repellent and windproof, and it’s filled with insulation that promises to keep you warm even while walking in temperatures down to 4 degrees below zero. The inside is lined with a soft brushed fabric that keeps your hands and head cozy. Given how much warmth it provides, it’s remarkably slim.

[Photo: Canada Goose]

Canada Goose

This season, Canada Goose released these down puffers, which are extremely lightweight and packable, but also keep you warm in extremely low temps (25 degrees below zero!). When you’re wearing the jacket, it expands to be very fluffy. It’s made from soft material that feels comfortable against the skin, but it can be compressed and shrunk down when you take it off. This jacket is made from recycled nylon that’s treated with a water-repellent, tear-resistant finish, and the insulation comes from duck down.

[Photo: Canada Goose]
While the jacket was designed to keep you warm when the mercury drops, it also has many features that let you adjust to different conditions, including vents that let in air, and backpack straps so you can remove it completely when you’re hot. It packs into the left pocket when you’re not wearing it, which comes in handy when you’re traveling.

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[Photo: Maloja]

Maloja

If you love nature and care about the planet, you need to know about the German brand Maloja, which is newly available in the United States. The brand focuses on eco-friendly, performance-based outerwear for hiking, cycling, running, and yoga. But it also specializes in creating prints that capture the beauty of nature, with decorative stitching that adds an aesthetic flourish. Jackets are often lined with fabric featuring patterns of falling leaves or flowers. Maloja also tries to use eco-friendly fabrics when possible, like hemp fleece and recycled nylon.

[Photo: Maloja]
Besides the usual parkas, jackets, and base layers, Maloja has also created interesting silhouettes that are useful for the outdoors. The women’s Kieferm dress, for instance, works like a sleeveless, insulated vest. (There’s a men’s vest called the Weidelgrasm.) Both feature high collars that keep your neck warm, and they’re insulated with PrimaLoft microfibers made from recycled materials that are designed to trap heat and keep your body warm.

[Photo: Cotopaxi]

Cotopaxi

If you’re in a warmer part of the country and looking for a lightweight jacket to wear year-round—or you just want a layer for fall and spring adventures—this Cotopaxi jacket made in collaboration with Teva is a great choice. The jacket is fully reversible, giving you two distinct looks. One side features Cotopaxi’s iconic color-block aesthetic in a retro color palette; the other features an abstract print that looks like splattered paint. Whatever side you choose to wear, there are warm pockets and elastic binding on the cuffs and hood to keep out the wind.

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[Photo: Cotopaxi]
As a B Corporation, Cotopaxi is legally obligated to balance profit with social and environmental good, so the brand is particularly well known for its sustainable manufacturing practices. This jacket is made from leftover, repurposed fabric, and its insulation is made from recycled polyester. The company is climate neutral and offers both resale and repairs to extend the life of the product.

[Photo: Lululemon]

Lululemon

If you’re in a rainy part of the country, Lululemon has your back. While most rain jackets tend to feel stiff, Lululemon has developed a new waterproof material that’s soft and stretchy, making it more comfortable and protective in the rain. This new fabric, StretchSeal, is made of three layers—a waterproof outer skin, a layer of fabric, and a cozy jersey liner. All three layers are made using Lululemon’s hallmark stretchy material, so the jacket moves with you. It’s also extremely thin, so it acts like a membrane protecting you from the rain.

[Photo: Lululemon]
The jacket has a minimalist aesthetic that would suit an office commute or a hiking trail. The wide hood covers your head and face completely, along with a high collar that prevents rain from entering through the neckline. There are vents strategically placed in the back, so you don’t get too hot. And it has plenty of pockets to stow your phone and wallet, keeping them dry as you go about your day. 

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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