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The Three Best Big Warm Jackets for Unprecedented Warmth This Winter

Think the ultralight trend is silly and just want a big jacket that makes you feel cozy, cuddled, and safe this winter? We have you covered like a weighted blanket, baby.

We are truly living in the golden age of ultralight jackets. Head to any REI and you’ll find cloudy puffies, airy demi-fleeces, and whisperweight windbreakers, all designed to feel barely there as you bomb through pow, charge down trails, and summit great heights. 

And I hate it.

To clarify: When I’m aiming to really break a sweat on my nordic skis, I always reach for my svelte Daehlie Jacket Premium soft shell. A Brooks rib-fleece thermal is always stowed in my hiking pack and has saved me from getting chilled on numerous gusty high points. And when it’s blustering on my hill sprints day, I am always grateful for my Janji Rainrunner. All are exceptionally light and breathable when my output is at its highest.

But lately it’s not shredding, speeding, or cranking that draws me outdoors. It’s the ambling between trees where my phone has zero bars to load the New York Times homepage. The bird watching to forget the hundreds of unread emails. The stroll that aims to find quiet burbling water to stand next to because it drowns out the inner monologue. And on those occasions, I want a big ol’ hefty jacket. Something that will cocoon and anchor me to Earth. 

This yearning makes a lot of sense: the Sleep Foundation suggests that weighted blankets help calm the fight-or-flight response. And in case you need proof that spending gentle time in the outdoors is good for the body, a study in the journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine showed that forest bathing “promotes lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity.”

Thankfully, outdoor companies do heavy every bit as well as they do ultralight—especially when they look to their archives for heritage materials and timeless silhouettes that provide time-proven performance and will serve you well for decades. Here are my three favorites for wandering the woods. (Bonus: They’re each available in women’s and men’s tailoring.)

Fjällräven Expedition Down Lite $550

This deliciously plump puffy is the descendant of Fjällräven’s polar-ready Expedition Down jacket, a true behemoth that will house you in a pillowy sauna. (For real. The Swedes designed it in 1974 for Arctic exploration.) The Lite is for those of us who live and play outside polar weather zones, but don’t let the name fool you: this jacket weighs in at 2.75 pounds for a men’s medium and 2.33 pounds for a women’s small. That’s because its interior and exterior fabric is burly polyamide—think a heftier, matter version of the usual ripstop nylon—treated with PFC-free DWR. Inside the baffles is 700-fill traceable and ethical down, paired with polyester insulation in the shoulders to help resist precipitation moisture. The hardware is chunky, too, with an oversize YKK double zipper, dime-size snaps, and leather drawstring toggles, all built for easy manipulation with big gloves on. Up top, the hood is an architectural masterpiece, with a thick interior baffle up front that hugs the forehead and prevents noisy slipping, and a snap at the occipital bone to keep things in place when it’s in the down position. For those who like to carry mini binoculars and a field guide or two, there’s a pair of flap and hand pockets on the front, plus two large elastic-topped stash pockets inside the front and an interior chest pocket for keys and wallet. I find the cut to be true to size yet the pillowy baffles make it fungible—I can pair it with anything from a cropped tee to a base layer and thick sweater without it dumping heat or becoming claustrophobic. In short, it swallows your goods and your body in warmth that’s perfect for temps from near freezing down to the low minuses. If you live and breathe hygge, this jacket is for you.



Filson Mackinaw Wool Cruiser $595 women’s and $495 men’s

Filson was born of the interminable wet of the Pacific Northwest, first outfitting Gold Rush fortune hunters and later servicing loggers and Forest Service rangers. It honed its craft so well that the Mackinaw Cruiser, patented in 1914, has changed little. Today’s version is cut from 24-ounce virgin wool that’s rain-resistant and just the right amount of itchy, and it hangs so heavy you could do a long set of biceps curls with it (Filson doesn’t provide the exact weights for the men’s and women’s Mackinaw Cruisers , however.) The women’s version is lined with eight-ounce flannel in the body and polyester twill in the sleeves, which explains why it’s $100 more than the men’s. The hardware is fairly standard, with plastic buttons down the front and snaps on the pockets and sleeves, which lets the styling of the pockets be the star of the show. The ones on the front are classic—two hand warmers with flap pockets at the waist and two flap pockets on the chest—and the back features a spacious compartment originally designed to stow maps and is perfectly suited to stashing a notebook and pencil case. I went up a size to accommodate a sweater on days that hover near freezing, and I love the relaxed fit—it’s one of my all-time favorite jackets to wear in the car on the way to the trailhead, with plenty of arm and shoulder mobility to grab my water bottle from the back seat. And, when I’m ready to return from the wilds and meet a friend for dinner, the Mackinaw Cruiser is equally at home at a brew pub or a fine restaurant. If your closet has been lacking a burly and versatile classic that will last you a lifetime, consider this your sign. 



Patagonia Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Ranch Jacket women’s $139, men’s $189

Ranch jackets are the canvas kin of the Mackinaw, beloved by outdoor working folk for their ability to cut wind, shield from the sun, and thwart abrasion. These days they’re somewhat ubiquitous, but Patagonia’s version is a compelling entry from a brand that’s newish to workwear but has long prioritized performance and eco-friendliness. The main attraction is its gorgeous 12.9-ounce Iron Forge fabric, which blends hemp, recycled polyester, and organic cotton. It’s surprisingly soft and enjoyably weighty, with a women’s size medium clocking in at 1.8 pounds and a men’s medium at 3.2 pounds. (The men’s version is lined and insulated, which is annoying—women get chilly while bushwhacking, too, Patagonia. There are also a handful of aesthetic differences, like pocket and cuff styling.) I find that the sizing is true to the brand and runs smaller than workwear offerings from other companies, and there’s zero stretch to the fabric. If possible, try this one on in store to make sure you get the size that accommodates your layering preferences. That said, the tailoring is on point. Pleats at the shoulders extend the range of motion when you want to reach down for a cool looking rock or leaf. And the sleeves are nicely long—I have an above-average wingspan and find that I prefer mine folded up at the cuffs. Best of all, the canvas does a brilliant job of blocking sun and wind without overheating. This is the jacket you reach for when it’s T-shirt weather, the sky is blooming with glorious clouds, and you want to throw on something non-sweltering to help pull your shoulders down from your ears. 



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