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Re: Suggestions for warm winter jackets in very cold locations

I bought my husband the REI Stormhenge 850 down jacket.  I realize now that it's not warm enough for very cold Minnesota winters.  Could you provide me some alternative suggestions?  Thanks!

6 Replies

@RPLI have to tell you, and I've commented on this before, trying to select a down jacket/coat for a certain temp you have in mind is very very hard.

For example, I filtered on REI down jackets (mountaineering and snowsports) and got both a heavy duty and a very lightweight jacket model. Someone's going to say, well in those sports you're sweating and don't need so much down, so that's not exactly correct, because when you're just walking around and it's zero you need a good down coat.  Or climbing on Everest, but I digress.

One option is taking it back and looking for something warmer.  I don't know what temps you have in mind.

I googled 'warmest down jackets' and got the results I was expecting.

That said, the model you bought is not bad, and IF you didn't buy it tight fitting, I highly recommend LAYERING under it!

A nice thick sweater, a scarf and a great warm hat and gloves would make that coat work wonders between zero and freezing.

In super cold temps it's not just the coat, it's the system.

When I hike in the winter, the hiking is easy and warmest, the hard part is at camp, when you're just standing around trying not to freeze.

But here's the deal, I don't even take a huge overcoat.

My layers are, thick winter thermal long underwear, really thick NF Denali sweater/jacket (discontinued), a MontBell down jacket (they change models every couple of years), and a waterproof shell to protect the down from wind and rain.  Also good hat/gloves.

And I always buy my clothes with LAYERING in mind (my wife hates this because you have to buy larger sizes and she says I look goofy, buy she's not trying to layer out in the snow, lol)

good luck

REI Member Since 1979

@RPL Thanks for reaching out!

@Philreedshikes provided some really solid insight in his response, and we're going to tag some of your fellow Minnesotans who may be able to provide some insight for you as well. @TomV @ruthsbluemarble @ojlenaghan @bayleemiller @DougSC @Austin @waterstrider @NicoleNJohnson any thoughts or suggestions here?

I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for six years and similarly to Phil's suggestion, I found that layering was the key to staying warm in extremely cold conditions. I used a down jacket similar to the Stormhenge, however, I used a base layer, light fleece layer, and a mid layer jacket underneath the down jacket in order to handle temperatures well below zero. I found that I was able to stay warm while standing outside and waiting for the finish of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race in temperatures around -20° F. I do tend to run warm, however, so that is a consideration.

A couple of other things to think about: being able to seal off areas where heat can escape is a critical step to staying warm. Whatever jacket you go with, make sure you can cinch the bottom around your waist and close the cuffs at your wrist. I also really appreciated that the down jacket I use had a baffle at the neck to help keep warm air from escaping upwards. Lastly, the REI Stormhenge 850 Down Jacket uses 850 fill down, which means that it is warmer for its weight than a lot of other jackets. While it may not feel as 'thick' or as 'puffy' as other down jackets, the 850 down means that it will be more insulating than a 'puffier' jacket that uses 600 fill down. 

All of that being said, there are some great heavy-duty jackets out there that you can check out if you'd like. These are some of the jackets that were customer favorites in Fairbanks, AK:

Hopefully this helps, please let us know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

RPL, I'd agree with both @Philreedshikes and @REI-JohnJ regarding your question. Unless you are purchasing an Expedition style parka (which truthfully I'd overheat in quickly walking down the street), layering is your best way to stay warm. My winter set up is very similar, though extremely budget conscious.

Base layer: REI mid-weight base layer (wool), Smartwool 150 weight base layer or Kari Traa base layer. NO cotton.

Mid/Insulating layer: A wool or fleece layer. Think sweaters, turtle necks, half-zip tops. I will occasionally use my REI or Patagonia down sweater (most see this a jacket) alone or with one of the previously mentioned from the list. NO Cotton. This layer is a size bigger than my base layer in most cases so I get a bit of air trapped between it and my base layer.

Top/Wind and Water Resistant Layer: Most often this is not the cheapest, but close to it, rain jacket and pants. It's best if you can afford Gortex lined as it will breathe while keeping you dry.

Feet: A pair of thin synthetic socks (wicking) layered with wool socks does the trick for me. Those thinner socks can even be old dress socks. Over those I put a pair of insulated boots (I have a pair of Vasque backpacking boots or Oboz Bridger B-Dry depending on how cold).

A few other things I've done that fly in the face of fashion, but work is to layer my REI 650 down sweater over my Patagonia 850 down for a double warmth. The key is that they aren't tight over my clothes.

And don't forget a good hat. That helps hold the heat in from the single most place of heat loss on your body.


Same as others, layers and keep away from cotton. Something even I'm only really starting to properly outfit my wardrobe with, because sadly, building up a good selection of quality pieces does add up in cash.

But perhaps more importantly, you're just going to have to experiment with what works for you and your husband, and the activities you do outside. My body creates so much of its own heat I run extremely warm and think that if I wore as many layers as a lot of people do I'd just be burning up and sweating. Even at night I have only one summer duvet for a blanket while my wife piles up 3 thick layers on herself, we have such wildly different warmth needs. It's probably why I've been able to get away without having proper layers myself for so long...

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Hey @TomV , some great points.

Same situation between me and my significant other, I'm hot she's cold.

Anyway, something interesting has happened a few times to me in the last 4 months.

When I first get into my tent after nightfall or whenever, I'm ok and am able to heat up my quilt.

But...I've been deliberately camping places I can see the horizon to take night photos, and after about 45min to 1hrs, I've gotten cold again, and when I get back in the tent and under the quilt, I have the darnedest time warming up again, like it's time to pull out the hand-warmers or heat up some water for the bottle.

So I find layers don't necessarily work if I'm not generating any heat. I know, my problem.

But who wants to do jumping jacks or pushups at 1am? (lol)

oops, should mention temps were in the 35-45f range, and I'm just sitting in my camp chair taking photos with the camera on the tripod next to me.


REI Member Since 1979

I grew up on the Canadian Prairies (Ahhh, Winnipeg, a great place to be from) where it can hit -40 before the wind chill! (did I mention it's a great place to be from?)

In addition to the great information from @Philreedshikes , I'd also recommend layering when it comes to your hands and feet, too. Catch a chill at your extremities and you'll feel it through your entire body, regardless of how warm your jacket is. A pair of glove liners (non-cotton, of course) can be a game changer (as can sock liners).

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.