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What are the best coats for Chicago winter?
If you’re on the hunt for the best coat for Chicago winter, then you’re in the right place! In this post, I will be sharing some of my best tips on finding the warmest, packable, breathable, and overall best winter coat/ jacket for your time in chilly Chicago.
With an average temperature between 38- 22 degrees Fahrenheit in January (the coldest month), the truth is that the temperature feels even lower with windchill included, so make sure to bundle up with the right jacket, and winter accessories!
The North Face Metropolis Parka
My top recommendation For the warmest winter coat for Chicago winter is The North Face Metropolis Parka.
To combat the Chicago cold, this jacket is a winner for its warmth, breathability, comfort, and style.
The length and down are great to keep you warm but not suffocatingly hot.
Not to mention, it’s figure-flattering and can be dressed up or down no matter the occasion.
What to look for in a winter coat or jacket for extreme Chicago cold
When it comes to finding the best coats for your trip to Chicago in the winter, these are a few things that you should keep in mind, so let’s dive in to see what they are and why they matter.
Check out the insulation
When you’re looking for a jacket in general, be sure to look at the insulation, AKA the material of the warmth of the coat. Look for keywords like down, fleece, and other materials, as this is what determines if the jacket or coat is worth getting, and whether or not it is warm enough for your activities in Chicago.
Which material is the warmest and how to find out if your winter jacket/coat is warm enough
The warmest insulation material is down and it will guarantee the most warmth, so keep that in mind! Look for keywords like “fill power” which indicates how warm a jacket is.
When you’re shopping online, some brands will include in the description things like “temperature rating” which is a specific guide meant to help shoppers with a warmth ranking to pick the jacket/coat based on the warmth they are looking for.
To layer jackets or not to layer jackets?
Ask yourself how are you planning on keeping warm during your trip to Chicago in the winter.
Do you want one coat that covers everything on its own, or do you prefer to have layers in case you get warm and want to remove some layers?
If you don’t like feeling too bulky, or you like variety in your winter outfits, layering a thin jacket might be the option for you to wear under a bigger, and lightweight coat.
Does a heavier jacket/coat mean that it’s warmer?
Speaking of weight, some people may think that the heavier the jacket, the warmer it must be, which is not always the case.
Contrary to what some may think, the weight of the jacket/coat doesn’t really influence the warmth. In that case, I would recommend looking at the insulation material, and the brand’s temperature rating over how heavy or light the jacket/coat is.
Sometimes the lightest jackets keep you the warmest, and that is due to the lightweight down insulation inside the jacket.
So, it’s not the weight of the jacket to look at, but more so the down fill and/or material of the jacket/coat.
Who the heck am I to give you coat recommendations?
Ok, before we jump into all the winter coat and jacket information, let me share a bit of who I am to give you this advice.
I’ve been living in Illinois for the past 23 years, and have thus, experienced 23 winters in this great state.
As a California native, and as someone who is pretty sensitive to cold, I’ve tried my fair share of jackets and coats, from brands, fits, styles, insulation, warmth, etc. to find which ones worked for me.
In this post, I want to share with you my best suggestions for different jackets and coats for Chicago winter that I know will help you in order to make the best purchase/investment into a jacket that will keep you warm, and prevent bone-chilling cold, or worse, an actual cold.
So, let’s get to it!
My top pick of the best type of winter coats of 2023 (as a cold-sensitive Illinoian)
The Best Parkas – longer length, thicker material, and provides maximum heat in the cold Chicago winter
- The Women’s Metropolis Parka from The North Face: I own this jacket, and it has been keeping me warm in Chicago winters for 3-4 years perfectly! I love the length of the jacket, it comes to my knees (I’m 5′ 2″ for reference), and the slim fit, which personally makes me feel cozy and warm. Plus it has 550 fill down, so it’s pretty warm!
- Women’s Winter Parka from Askov Finlayson: If you’re looking for a sustainable way to keep warm in Chicago winters, consider the women’s winter parka from the brand Askov Finlayson, offering feather-less insulation, proven to be able to keep you comfortably warm in -20 F weather.
- The Patagonia Women’s Down With It Parka: Made with a whopping 600 fill down, 100% recycled polyester, and recycled feathers from other products, Patagonia down with it parka is a great option for a Chicago winter coat!
- Women’s Little Si Omni-Heat Infinity Infused Parka by Colombia: This Colombia parka jacket offers both heat and breathability – which as we know are both important! With reflectors and a removable fur piece on the hood, this parka is a perfect contender to consider when planning your trip to Chicago in the winter.
The Best Puffer Coats – shorter, easier to move around in, especially for outdoor activities while equally still very warm
- The Superdry Short Puffer: Stay cozy and warm in what feels like a decent excuse for a short sleeping bag! The luxurious material from Superdry offers a great puffy and cozy feel, especially great for layering with a heated base layer.
- The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket: I may be biased, but this puffer jacket is IT! I have it, and recently took it with me on my trip to Paris and London in the winter, and let me tell you, it’s both super warm (it’s a 700 feather down, meaning it’s the warmest jacket that the North Face has), and it’s super breathable and compact. For a puffer jacket, it’s super packable, it literally fits inside the right-hand pocket, making it perfect for traveling. I have it, love it, and cannot recommend it enough for maximum warmth in Chicago in the winter.
- Mila Reversible Puffer for Reformation by Canada Goose: This jacket is basically a two-for-one deal, with a reversible style to help maximize your outfits while visiting chilly Chicago. This jacket has adjustable waist straps and is built for maximum cold, while the jacket itself is very light. With multiple pocket options on the inside and outside, this jacket is a true winner if you’re looking for something that will definitely stand the test of below-freezing temperatures.
Best Wool Coats – for those days that you want to step out of the winter jacket for something a bit classic
- Women’s Manteco Wool Sideline 2-in-1-coat: Another 2-in-1 jacket, this time a camel-colored wool outer coat with interior parka material – you’ll surely stay warm in this jacket’s duo warmth power!
- Odette Coat Black by Saint + Sofia: You can’t go wrong with a black wool, long coat, and this one by Saint + Sofia cannot be beaten. Made with soft Italian wool, a waist tie, and perfectly form-fitting not just for style, but for warmth, this is the perfect world coat classic to keep you warm in Chicago!
- New Cocoon Coat in Italian-Stadium Cloth: I actually own a very similar jacket from J. Crew that I bought years ago, and to this day, is one of the warmest coats in my closet. I cannot recommend this coat enough, as it’s also made with Italian wool (very warm), and is a beautiful cut and length, that is sure to be easily adaptable to any of your outfits.
Best Faux Fur Coats – for a casual yet put-together and warm look
- Oversized Faux Fur Trench Coat: Stylish, cozy, and oversized, the Alo oversized faux fur trench coat has zippered pockets, and zipper closure on the front, and is considered on the medium rank on their warm scale. Whether you style it up or down, this faux fur will definitely put together any outfit!
- Apparis Anouck Faux Shearling Coat: Animal friendly with all the warmth, this fake shearling coat has many pockets, as well as a fitted style, in which you can still layer a few pieces underneath for extra warmth.
- Kianna Faux Fur Jacket by UGG: Like snuggling inside a very warm blanket, feel all the warm and cozy vibes inside this beautiful, warm jacket by UGG, guaranteed to not only keep you cozy but have you looking stylish all day!
Some helpful tips to know for when you’re shopping for a winter jacket for Chicago winter
How do I find out what I should look for in a winter jacket?
I know, I just dropped a whole lot of information, but trust that it’s all helpful.
When it comes to choosing which winter jacket to get, or what to even start looking for based on what I just shared, depends mainly on what your activities in Chicago will be.
- Will you be walking down Michigan Avenue, going to the Bean, and stopping by Navy Pier? You’ll want a warm enough jacket to help you withstand the outdoor cold and wind chill that comes from the lake. Look at the insulation, and temperature rating.
- If you’re going to be indoors, but get cold easily, maybe you’ll want layers. Look into getting a light jacket to wear underneath a bigger coat.
- Are you planning a winter hike? If that’s the case, you need a weather-proof jacket! Something with all the bells and whistles, from wind protection to weatherproof, breathable, and lightweight.
What’s the difference between a jacket and a coat?
Do you know if you want a jacket or a coat?
These are different, a coat is usually a warmer outerwear garment piece, while a jacket is more of a lighter, almost layering piece to help keep you warm.
Some brands use these words interchangeably, but it’s good to know that both these words can mean different things, especially when looking for maximum warmth, or if you’re looking to find a jacket for layering for instance.
How cold does it get in Chicago in winter?
Winter in Chicago officially starts on December 21st and ends on March 20th. However, by late October it’s already starting to feel cold.
The average temperature in Chicago in winter can go well below the 30s, and with the wind chill included, that temperature can drop extremely low.
The highs can reach up to the 50s in some cases, but again, when you’re looking ahead at the weather in Chicago, you want to look at the wind chill, or what the sensation is rather than just taking the temperature number at “sticker price”.
Chicago winters are brutal, in simple terms.
Though technically winter lasts 3 months, in actuality, it feels like it’s longer because:
1. Winters are super harsh
2. It starts feeling cold way before December, and even after March. It has even snowed when it wasn’t technically winter.
What is the coldest month in Chicago?
It’s definitely a toss-up between January and February.
It’s the dead of winter, so if you want to experience winter in Chicago, these are the months to do it!
Also, the most likelihood of catching a magical snowfall in the city is during these months!
Now, I don’t mean to scare off sun worshippers and or people who haven’t experienced a real winter before, there definitely is something to be said about enjoying the city during the winter.
Many people (including myself when I first moved here) always ask about the snow and are always curious to see the city during these months, so these months are a great time to visit to have an increased chance to see a magical snowfall in Chicago.
It’s worth a trip!
Do I need a water-resistant or waterproof jacket?
Depending on which winter month you’re visiting Chicago, you might find it snows one day, and then it may just rain – regardless, if your jacket says that it’s water resistant or waterproof, that’s a good thing because the last thing you want is to feel wet and cold.
Let’s talk about water resistance and why it’s not the same thing as a waterproof jacket.
Though the wording can be a bit tricky, waterproof material essentially means that a jacket can withstand water for long periods of time without you feeling the water seep inside.
Water-resistant has a bit less water resistance (ironically) compared to waterproof, so if you buy a water-resistant jacket, it means that it can withstand some rain, but not for too long, so it’s lower protection against the rain.
So, do you need a water-resistant or waterproof jacket in Chicago in the winter?
I’d say it’s not necessary to bring an extra raincoat as it snows more than rain in Chicago in the winter. Instead, look for a winter jacket that is waterproof or water-resistant.
Do you need a windproof jacket? Does the Windy City demand protection from the wind?
Let’s move on to looking at protection from the wind, which if you don’t know is so important because wind chill will make a sunny 35-degree day in winter Chicago feel like 10 degrees because of the strong, cold wind.
Especially downtown as Lake Michigan influences temperature and weather a lot.
If a jacket says “wind protection” it means that the outer shell of the jacket has a sturdy, strong, and insulated barrier to help protect against the harsh winds, which in Chicago, is a necessity!
Now, when it’s extremely windy, the hood of your jacket won’t make that much of a difference because the wind will blow it away, or still manage to make your head cold. In that case, I recommend you find a good hat to keep your head warm!
Are there stylish jackets?
Yes! There definitely are jackets that come in different styles meant to be used for different occasions.
If you are going to be attending an event, you might not want to pop in with a pink and black puffer, but maybe with a wool coat, which will provide warmth and style.
Another thing to consider is fit. Do you want a slimmer fit, something that is tighter to your body, or do you prefer something that is looser?
Personally, I have always opted for slimmer fit jackets/coats like The North Face Metropolis Parka, just because they’ve always provided the most warmth, and the heat doesn’t escape as easily as a roomier jacket/coat.
However, as I said before, it really just depends on the insulation material and temperature rating, so if you prefer a roomier jacket to a tighter one, that’s fine!
Recommendations on winter jackets and winter coats based on different activities
Figure-flattering winter jacket -the best cinched-waist winter coat for women
I get it! When it’s so cold out that warm sweatpants and a long jacket become the standard uniform, but you don’t want to necessarily lose style or hide in a puffy jacket.
That’s where you may want to consider buying a jacket with a belt to help highlight your waist for a more feminine look.
The Marlow Parka by Canada Goose is a great option if you’re ready to invest in a good quality jacket that will give you a defined waist, this is the one. Plus their colors are so unique (in a good way!).
For a shorter jacket than The Marlow, consider the Women’s GORE-TEX INFINIUM jacket by Woolrich, which sits right a little below the hips, and cinches you at the waist with a clasped belt.
A good choice that is both inexpensive and quality made is the Frozen Lake Coat by Jack Wolfskin, which is waterproof and built for extremely windy conditions. Not to mention, it has a figure-flattering look thanks to the stylish belt.
Best women’s winter coat for running around sightseeing and other activities
If you’re planning on spending lots of time outdoors, and if you’re someone who gets cold easily, I would recommend looking for a jacket/coat that has waterproof and windproof capabilities.
Patagonia, as well as The North Face, have some really good contenders for jackets that not only look good, but provide warmth, breathability, and practicality for the purpose of for example hiking in one of the many state parks in Illinois, or even running around the city.
Consider the Patagonia Women’s Downdrift Jacket designed for low temperatures or the Women’s 71 Sierra Down Short Jacket from The North Face, which is breathable, warm with a 600 down fill, has a relaxed fit but also has drawstrings to adjust it to your liking.
I have to say that Lululemon has some pretty good options that are warm, stylish, and of course, built for an activity for example, their Wunder Puff Jacket is created to be water-repellent, keeps you dry, and has narrow cuffs to help keep the warm in.
Going to a fancy event? Consider these luxury winter jacket brands
If you know that you’ll be going to a fancier affair while on your trip to Chicago, consider looking for a warm wool coat, or peacoat jacket such as the Cole Haan Slick-Wrap Coat that has a waist belt, as well as a large shawl collar.
Another good option with a more classic cut is the REISS Harlow Crombie Coat in a camel tone, which is always a staple color coat to have in your closet, especially if you live in frigid temperatures.
Pro tip: If you’re thinking that you may still be cold, something I like to do is size up in my peacoat so I can wear a thinner, ultra-light jacket with down fill, for example, the Women’s ThermoBall Eco Jacket by the North Face.
Stay cozy (almost) head to toe with the best extra-long women’s winter coat
For those that are looking for extra warmth, and if it were up to you, you’d go around walking in a warm sleeping bag, consider buying a floor-length winter.
When I first moved to Illinois, I literally thought people were walking around with makeshift sleeping bags during the winter because I had never seen such a cozy, sleeping bag-looking jacket on anyone.
Mind you I was 10.
But if this is you, and you want to keep warm from your feet and up, consider a jacket like the Women’s Long Ultra Warm Coat by L.L. Bean, made to keep you the warmest possible while you explore Chicago, and keep you dry simultaneously. This one hits right around midcalf, meaning that if you’re petite, it will definitely be floor-length. Make sure to check out their sizing, as they have sizes for petite, regular, and plus.
Another great option is the Acr’teryx Patera Long Down Parka which is both windproof and waterproof and has a 750 down fill (which is very warm!).
For a little bit of style, check out the fur-lined hood on the long ELSIE Woman’s Down Puffer.
Score a deal with the best inexpensive women’s cold-weather coat
You don’t have to spend a fortune to find a good winter jacket, there are so many brands that have been making winter jackets for a long time, and are still making them today even with so many new companies popping out with trendy styles (and may not even be as warm as they claim them to be.
Some of those longstanding brands to check out are Columbia, L.L. Bean, and even The North Face.
Consider Columbia’s Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket, featuring water and windproof capabilities, as well as a fleece lining interior.
L.L. Bean’s Ultrawarm Jacket is both water-repellent and stain-resistant, which when you’re traveling can be super helpful with all the places you’re visiting and sitting at. The jacket has a 650 down fill and hits right at the hip. A standard, but good kind of jacket to have.
Lastly, I love it when a jacket is both very warm and is packable for travel – for travel, it’s very important!
The North Face has a few options that don’t break the bank and offer warmth and quality for the price. They’re honestly a steal! I recommend the Women’s Aconcagua Jacket and the Belleview Stretch Down Jacket. Both are windproof, very warm, and lightweight!
What kind of coat do you need for Chicago winter?
If you have a store near you, I would recommend going to try on jackets for yourself to see which ones feel the most comfortable, and warm, and which fit your style.
As you can see from this list, there are many different types of jackets and coats that you can go with, so now it’s up to you to pick out of these options.
Do you want to feel warm, but not feel super bundled up? Go with a puffer like the 1996 Nuptse by the North Face.
Do you want to feel all the warmth you can get? Go with a longer parka or a floor-length jacket.
Double check the weather when you’ll be in town, and see how low the temperatures are going to drop, as well as if there will be sun or not.
All things influence how cold it will be, so take note and go up in warmth depending on these factors.
>> Read More: What to do in Chicago during the Holidays
What is the warmest coat for winter?
My golden rule of thumb when it comes to picking out jackets for Chicago winters is to go with tried and true brands that only stick to making what they make best – winter coats.
Whether you go with a fancy Canada Goose Puffer or a North Face Parka, or you go for a Colombia jacket – it doesn’t really matter, but just go with a brand and jacket with good reviews if you’ve never purchased one yourself.
If the reviews come from someone that is either from a cold place or used it on their cold vacation destination, then that’s a good place to start.
I would just refrain from buying a coat from brands that don’t specialize in making winter jackets and coats, for example, ASOS, Zara, or Mango.
Love their stuff, but they’re not experts in cold, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them.
How to keep warm and dry while visiting Chicago in the winter – bonus winter accessories to consider packing
Base layers are a great clothing piece to add to your Chicago winter packing list to put on under your clothes, and add another layer of warmth.
Whether you’re going to be watching a game in the freezing cold, you’re headed to an outdoor parade, or you’re simply going to be walking outdoors for a while, then a good pair of wool socks will ensure that your feet keep warm, which is a part of the body that not many people think of buying warm clothing for, but here’s your reminder!
Warm hat and scarf (especially a blanket scarf), like the Lululemon Wool Blend Blanket Scarf, which is made from a thick wool blend material, and perfectly designed to also be sweat-wicking at the same time. for those times you’re running from gate to gate at the airport.
When it comes to hats, I personally love The North Face beanies, but honestly, just one that feels thick and warm will definitely do regardless of the brand.
>> Read More: The Ultimate Winter Packing List: Chicago Edition
The Wrap-Up: The best winter coats of 2023 for Chicago
Have you been to Chicago in the winter before? What are some of your essentials that I didn’t mention?
To recap, here are some of the key things to look for in a winter jacket/ coat for a Chicago winter escapade:
- Down fill number
- Material makeup (is it warm yet breathable?)
- Fit and length
- Your activities in Chicago
- Water-proof/ water-resistant and windproof capabilities
From the best parkas to the best puffers, wool coats for a fancier affair, and more, I hope that this post with the best coats for Chicago winter was helpful for you!
To more travel moments like these,