‘Tis the season, as they say. Yes, to be jolly – but also to be cold, to be wet, to be beaten by the wind, and to be considerably less jolly because of all that. (Or, at least, in most of the Northern Hemisphere.)
Sure, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of the sun on your skin and a warm breeze gently gliding through your hair, but – hey – there’s comfort in cosying up and taking a brisk walk in the elements, too. That’s what we’re telling ourselves, anyway.
And it’s with that faint sense of delusion in mind that we’ve put together this list: a round-up of technical, hard-working outerwear – from puffer jackets to full-on, expedition-style parkas – balancing high-performance technology with the use of Earth-friendlier materials.
From recycled marine plastic to warming wildflower padding, upcycled garments to corn-derived insulation, these outerwear pieces all go the extra mile in terms of planet-forward innovation and protection from the elements. Like it or not, it’s time to wrap up.
Finisterre, “Borealis” Waterproof Jacket
Based in Cornwall and created solely for the purpose of defying the elements in England’s rugged Southwest, Finisterre may “technically” be a cold-water surfing label, but – more than anything else – it’s a brand built on the art and the science of staying warm and staying dry.
It’s also a brand for people who don’t consider just staying inside or even just staying out of the water to be an option – even in the British winter. A love of nature is implicit in all Finisterre designs, and the material choices reflect that as often as possible.
The “Borealis” jacket, then, is the label’s most recent foray into beating the seasons and does a good job of proving that technical specs don’t have to come at the planet’s expense. With an outer made from recycled polyester and recycled, synthetic insulation, the “Borealis” has a 10,000mm hydrostatic head rating, a 10,000gm2 breathability rating, and the aforementioned synthetic filling stays warmer when it’s wet than animal-derived down.
Oh, and the packaging is water soluble too. Because, in the end, it’s not really about beating the elements so much as working with them.
Patagonia “Stormshadow” Parka
A new product on the market from the California-based brand, the “Stormshadow” parka is the label’s warmest outerwear offering to-date. Created in collaboration with all-weather stalwarts GORE-TEX and the Pharrell-helmed material engineering company Bionic, the coat is made from 100% recycled GORE-TEX fabric, using 50% fibers from Bionic’s Costa Rica-based facilities. It does, however, contain down – recycled, it’s worth mentioning, but nevertheless an understandable barrier to entry for the vegan crowd.
Equipped with plenty of adjustable elements and a wealth of zips and pockets, it’s a hard-wearing, high-functioning bit of kit, not really designed for a blustery fall day so much as for the wildest and wettest depths of winter. But who are we to tell you where and when to wear your clothes.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what a company out of Ventura, California, knows about keeping warm – well, fair question. But it’s also fair to say that Patagonia, like its home state and its namesake region, contains multitudes.
RRP: $899 USD, from Patagonia.
PANGAIA “Flower-Warmth” Recycled Nylon Puffer
PANGAIA’s FLWRDWN™ technology replaces traditional animal-derived feather and down fillings with a bio-based alternative, innovatively mixing wildflowers, a biopolymer, and an aerogel to create an insulating material that’s designed to be fully biodegradable. Not only does it get full marks on avoiding animal cruelty, but also circumvents the need for an environmentally-undesirable plastic-based replacement.
The “Flower-Warmth” Recycled Nylon Puffer itself is very much a what you see is what you get product: the outer shell is made from 100% recycled, landfill-diverted post-consumer nylon, the lining is made from 100% recycled polyamide, and the filling is – as you might have guessed – FLWRDWN™ (45% Lyocell, 30% Cellulosic Fiber, 25% Polylactide). No nasty surprises here.
A firm favorite amongst not only fans of the brand, but also amongst those who are simply fans of keeping warm in a way that’s a little friendlier to the Earth and to its many well-insulated creatures. With a boxy, slightly oversized silhouette, this jacket also has the added benefit of looking good – which, you know, we’ve heard is important to some people.
RRP: $495 USD, from PANGAIA.
Goldwin “3-Way Act” Middle Jacket
Goldwin has been working hard recently on the Earth-friendlier front, linking with material innovation companies like Spiber to push forward with circular solutions in fashion. This jacket may not be on the level of the Japanese innovator’s brewed protein material, but it’s still a quality piece of technical outerwear, manufactured with the planet firmly in mind.
With an outer crafted from recycled nylon micro ripstop, the jacket’s insulation also measures up to more eco-thoughtful standards, made from 100% recycled marine polyester – a material choice that guarantees warmth, even when wet. And, with an inner that can be worn separately, as well as boasting multiple other adjustable options, the jacket’s modular approach to outerwear not only makes it fit for varying weather scenarios but also has the benefit of encouraging a more thoughtful mode of consumption.
RRP: $840 USD, from Goldwin.
Wuxly “Sabertooth II” Parka
Not unlike the Patagonia jacket, this is a heavy-duty piece of outerwear. It doesn’t have the same level of aesthetic form or finesse that some others on this list do – it’s a big bit of equipment, designed to work hard. That’s not to say it’s ugly – it isn’t. But function is the focus here – more arctic expedition than a frosty evening out – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
And boy does it function. Made in Canada – and, it’s fair to say, crafted with a distinctly Canadian mindset – the “Sabretooth II” parka comes with such weather-repelling features as interior pockets and a powder skirt, designed to prevent snow incursion, as well as adjustable elbow drawcords and a wire-brim hood thrown into the mix for the same reason. There’s a chest pocket for ID, velcro and zip pockets with fleece (or anti-viral) linings, reflective piping for visibility, and even interior straps to carry the parka when it’s not being worn. Safe to say, then, that this coat is kitted out.
With a high-performance shell constructed from 100% recycled polyester made from post-consumer plastic bottles, a lining 100% crafted from recycled nylon from discarded fishing nets, and a plant-based insulation made from the corn-derived material Sorona®, it’s also pretty clear that Wuxly is as dedicated to Earth-friendlier material choices as it is to keeping its harsher elements at bay.
RRP: $1400 USD, from Wuxly.
Norse Projects “Otto” Light Pertex Jacket
Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, the folks at Norse Projects know a thing or two about cold weather. Which, of course, also means they know a thing or two about how to keep it at bay. Lucky for us, they’re not greedy with that knowledge.
Less bulky than some of the other pieces on this list, the “Otto” jacket can function as a liner or as full-on outerwear depending on the season and the situation. Light, streamlined, and aesthetically minimal, “Otto” still packs plenty of Norse Projects’ trademark thermal punch.
The jacket’s outer is 50% recycled polyester, which isn’t as high as some of the others on this list, meaning we’d like to see that number improved. It’s the addition of a Thermore® Ecodown® filling that makes this worthy of a place, however – a “high performance lightweight insulation containing 100% recycled fibres from PET bottles,” with every jacket insulated using Ecodown® allowing for the recycling of up to 10 PET bottles.
RÆBURN RÆMADE “FOUL-WEATHER” Anorak
As terminology goes, “foul” weather is one of those phrases that does a lot of heavy lifting. It may not be in common usage outside of the British Isles, but – wherever you are – it’s pretty clear what it describes. (Foul, adj. offensive to the senses, especially through having a disgusting smell or taste or being dirty.)
And, with that in mind, you can expect the “FOUL-WEATHER” anorak – part of the RÆBURN RÆMADE collection by London-based designer Christopher Raeburn – to do an equal amount of work in measuring up to that imagery. Double-lined and double-shelled, the anorak’s outer is crafted from a combination of upcycled RAF Issue Coveralls and upcycled bivouac sacks, while the lining is a mix of the same coverall material and 100% recycled polyester.
This jacket isn’t filled, so it isn’t designed for the same kinds of sub-zero temperatures that others on this list can tolerate, but it is decked out with the kinds of storm flaps, pockets, and adjustable straps that keep the wind and rain away. No matter how foul.
RRP: $1600 USD, from RÆBURN.
FUTUREFEAR “FUTUREPUFFER” Signature Jacket
Founded this year by former PUMA designer Hyon Park and his husband Mark Petrie, FUTUREFEAR is – at the time of writing – so new that, not only have we not had the chance to report on it before in any form, but the jacket in question – FUTUREFEAR’s debut piece – is still only available for pre-order. That’s about as fresh as it gets.
Still, while FUTUREFEAR may be in its infancy in some ways, in others – like vision, intention, and material design – it’s way ahead of brands that have been around for much, much longer. Created with a vegan ethos at its core, the “FUTUREPUFFER” jacket doesn’t just use the cover of being free from animal-derived materials to push virgin plastics in the way that so many younger, aesthetically-focused brands do. Instead, Park opts for Hyosung’s MIPAN® regen as a base for the jacket, as well as for its inner lining, and for 3M™ Thinsulate™ Insulation 100% Recycled Featherless as insulation.
Straddling Berlin and Seoul and coming with the benefit of Hyon Park’s time at PUMA, the FUTUREFEAR “FUTUREPUFFER,” perhaps more than any other item on this list, has the good looks to back-up its good intentions.
The North Face NSE “Kembar” Insulated Parka
And, of course, what kind of cold-weather outerwear list would be complete without an appearance by The North Face? Granted, the Colorado-headquartered brand doesn’t always deliver on Earth-friendlier materials, even when it feels like it might have been an option, but recent efforts in terms of repair programs and more thoughtful material choices have seen the label’s eco stock rise. Even if just a little.
Which is how we come to the “Kembar” parka – part of North Face’s NSE collection, dedicated to more adventurous exploits. Insulated with 100% recycled polyester and constructed in all other aspects from recycled nylon, there is a sense that a brand like The North Face could have made more adventurous choices here itself. Nonetheless, the coat is free form virgin plastics and – as you’d expect – fully-geared toward the job at hand.
Coated with non-PFC durable water-repellent, the “Kembar” parka is waterproof, windproof, and highly-breathable, making for exactly the kind of resolutely functional outerwear you’d expect from a brand with a tagline like “Never Stop Exploring.” Complete with a detachable (and insulated) hood, the mid-length design should keep your body warm in most hostile climes. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a step up.