What sort of winter coat(s) should I buy? And where?

old winter coats

The world have never seen a dorkier coat than that parka. But it did the job.

A question from AOA Greg. Let us now self-blockquote:

It is time to bid farewell to my winter coats. My beloved 3/4 length corduroy coat is frayed and falling apart (fail wale). And my LL Bean parka -- which has protected me against many a winter, much lake effect snow, and frequent blustery dog walks -- has finally succumbed to catastrophic zipper failure and other indignities of old age. Also: it makes me look like (even more of) an enormous dork.
So I'm looking for a new coat. Or coats. I'd like to get away with just buying one. But I suspect I should probably replace both types. I need a coat for work around town, but also long walks with the dog and other winter outside activities (I don't ski).
If you have suggestions of where I should shop for a coat, great. But I'm also looking for suggestions of what type or brand of coats. Do you have a favorite winter coat type? What about brand? Should I re-submit myself to the warm, reliable dorkiness of another LL Bean model? Or is there something better? (Please say there is.)

So, got a suggestion? Please share. Greg will think warm thoughts about you this winter.


Here are the coats I ended up with:

greg new winter coats

The dork-wrap replacement coat is a North Face 3-in-1. It's a lot lighter than my old coat, and seems just as warm (though it's a bit shorter).

The "nice" coat replacement is one of the standard-issue charcoal wool coats that everyone wears. I got it off the discount rack at Burlington Coat factory. It does the job and it's surprisingly warm when paired with a wool scarf.


Off the top of my head Outlier, Nau, Aether Apparel.

Also, I tend to layer. I like that I can use the same lighter coat for fall/spring as winter with the addition of a fleece mid-layer. Or two, as the case may be.

A lot of it depends on your style, obviously. My coat-of-choice is a 3-in-1 Northface jacket (link below). On the outside you have an outer-shell that protects you from the elements (wind/rain/snow/etc) (w/hood + plethora of pockets). On the inside you have a thermal layer that is soft and provides great insulation. You can separate the two out to make: 1) a great light-weight, vented, weather-proof jacket's perfect for wearing around town and 2) a soft, warm fleece that's great when you need a little extra warmth in the Fall / Spring. Put the two back together and you're SET for those cold dog-walks in mid February. They also now offer some lower-key colors so it no longer looks exclusively like a ski-jacket.


My daily winter coat for regular activities and dog walking is a Filson and 100% wool. It's a couple of layers so it keeps the warmth in and the wool can take a light snowfall and wick away the water extremely well. I live in this coat for much of winter
For more athletic activities or when raining I have a shell from EMS that I pair with fleece.
I have owned both for several years and I am still pleased with them.
Hope that helps.

P.S. no coat alone can protect you from a Albany winter. Quality base layers are key. I use a 100% wool base later throughout much of winter. I find no synthetic fabric that can match wool in warmth, comfort and wicking.

1) If the zipper failed, take it back to LL Bean for a new coat (unconditional, lifetime guarantee), and choose a slimmer model using different insulation, or use the credit to set up a layering system (see #3), which could be the best of all worlds as you're not a skier.

2) Try Jos. A Banks (or Macy's, etc) for a an overcoat. They're great for long-walks, and have a little more style than a typical parka.

3) Have you thought about layering? Our winters seem to be milder, and a good waterproof/windproof shell (I love the Marmot PreCip) with a fleece/sweater is easy to take on and off and stow away as you move about the city on Friday or Saturday evening.


was just talking about this with another friend. Lifetime guarantee is legit. You should be able to bring it to the store in Colonie and they will fix it or provide a new one.

My serious winter jacket is from Lands End. I don't know what it's called or if it's sold anymore, but it's insanely warm. But here's the thing: I bought it in the summer when it was marked down to $40, instead the listed $150 range. I really only use it on the coldest winter days.

I'm also a big fan of layering with a nice pea coat top layer.

I am of the camp that loves the look and feel of wool. Working for an architectural firm, I find the wool coats give you the warmth, while cutting a very professional look..... if someone shows up in fleece, it just screams "not professional" to me. I imagine you have quite a few instances where you need to look more professional. So that is why I am rooting for a wool coat for work. I find that Eddie Bauer has very nice, high quality ones at a reasonable price. Keep the fleeces for the dog walks.

I am a huge fan of LL Bean and really like their Canvas style winter coats. I don't like the nylon coats that make me look like a skier unless I really am a skier. But they have many types there and we have a real live store, so go take a look. They are all great quality and you sound like the kind of person that will get thtier moneys worth out of a quality coat by wearing it forever. I also like the overcoat idea and Filson in particular.

I really disagree with the above comments that you should return your worn out llbean coat to get credit toward a new one. The lifetime guarantee is not designed so that you can wear your coat for years until it is worn out and then get your money back. Yes, they will allow it, but shame on you people. Your taking advantage of the system will eventually result in them cancelling it, just like REI changed theirs.

LL Bean and Eddie Bauer make great coats w/lots of pockets for a phone, poop bags, keys, treats, etc. I'd pick out what you want and sit tight until Black Friday and buy it online. Drew has a great Bean coat that's perfect for ultra cold temps but is way thinner than older jackets.

Also, get a Buff if you don't already have one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0035N09CS/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1383699808&sr=8-1&pi=SX200

Bring that coat right back to LLBean. I'm kind of in love with them, and their return policy. I don't blink at spending $200 for a 3-in-1 parka: I know I'm never going to need to buy a new coat again.

In terms of menswear, they sell two really nice wool coats - a peacoat and a duffle with Paddington Bear toggle buttons.

My favorite has always been London Fog biege trench.
They have zip out linnings, and look classy, and sexy!

What's bad about dorkiness? :D Just buy whatever keeps you warm and cozy, that's what I do. Whenever I buy winter footwear I choose uggs over heels. I think it should work the same way with coats. I love the fall season by the way, it reminds me this Sinatra song - http://mp3balance.com/mp3-search/september-song-mp3.html. But honestly, I can't wait for winter and snow, cause rains are a B word...

I've had really good luck with winter coats at the Goodwill. I'm currently in love with my almost new LL Bean coat I picked up last season. On a recent trip to GW there were 3-4 racks of mens winter coats. The advantage of used items is you can afford a couple of options!

Also, zippers are easily repaired at Dixon's Shoe Repair on New Scotland. There is nothing that guy can't repair!

This coat from LL Bean offers warmth and style. Perfect for walking about town and dog walking. :)


FWIW, LL Bean will FIX your zipper, not necessarily replace your whole coat. But you have to send it away for a few weeks - which isn't exactly convenient.

As for the issue of bulkiness, I'll stick with ugly winter coats that are sensible every time. Winters are so long and dark, no one will notice. :-) I finally caved and got a knee-length down coat on sale at the end of the season last year and couldn't be happier. It's an ugly style, it's an uglier color but it has a number of fleece lined pockets and a faux furry hood. Cozy!

Here's a little side question that maybe someone here can answer - do they make a reflective adhesive you can put on your coat? Drew's Bean coat has reflective stripes on the arms, but my coat does not - short of wearing a massive reflective vest - I'm wondering if there's a better way to make myself more visible from the front and back.

My stop for fashionable, comfortable, high quality clothes for the past few years has been Horny Toad. They are a nice quality focused slightly above casual style company. I have a jacket that I got from them at the end of a season, and it was about half price. I think they use mostly natural fabrics, or sustainable/recycled fabrics. Also, did I mention their clothes are super comfortable? =D


I've always been a fan of the classic woolen overcoat. In the past thirty years, I've bought three. Until I moved to NYS three years ago, I wore them constantly in winter months.

After moving here, though, I realized I needed to layer and my overcoat doesn't really allow for that. So for casual wearing around town, I bought a Nautica rain jacket that's roomy enough for me to wear a fleece under it, which I do when it gets very cold. Having a good neckwarmer/muffler and my woolen Paddington Bear style hat with that jacket keep me good to go when walking back and forth to work in winter weather.

I usually buy my coats at Burlington; you can find decent stuff there for a reasonable price. Woolen coats have lasted as stated above, and the jackets I've gotten there have as well (the last one was a Kenneth Cole short black trench rainjacket that I had for about 8 years). It's not going to be as high-quality as something from Bean or Bauer, and you're not going to have any guarantees, but there's always a tradeoff. If you take the time to search the racks, you'll find something good.

Yes, reflective adhesive tape, bands, and sew-on is all available. You can find it at places like REI, and at places like Michael's.

@AlbanyLandLord: He's not returning it because he doesn't like it any more, he's returning it because the coat is failing. LL Bean's policy is exactly for instances like this. I had returned a rolling suitcase years after I bought it because the wheels broke, and the lady at LL Bean said "wow, that should not have happened. Would you like a new one or credit?"

@Valerae: I've seen reflective tape at running gear websites. Check Fleet Feet in Colonie or Dick's sporting good, I bet you that have something.

Thank you to everyone for all the good suggestions so far!

Re: The zipper issue. I know there's a chance LL Bean might do something about the zipper -- but the issues with the coat extend beyond zipping. It's just plain worn down after a bunch of winters. I had a good run with it, got my money's worth, and am willing to re-up for something new.

@ethan, ajw93: I agree -- it's all about the layering.

@Sean: I've sort of been 3-in-1'ing it (unofficially?) the last few years, wearing a thin fleece or zip up another longer coat for some dog walks. It's been warm, if not stylish. It made be time to just make it official.

@MikeGuidice: I wasn't aware of Filson. Thanks! And I'm all about the base layer. (It sounds like I need to look in to going all wool with that layer.)

@Ryan: Yeah, I'm kind of resigned to buying at the wrong time. I told myself I'd look at the end of last season and, uh, just never got around to it. (My beloved corduroy coat was scored on a huge discount at J Crew at the end of a season.)

@Lilly: I agree -- wool looks good.

@albanylandlord: Yeah, I don't really have a problem spending some money on this coat (or coats) -- it will get worn for a long time. I'm definitely a buy and hold person.

@Valerae: That's a good idea about waiting for the sales. And the Buff is new to me. Thanks! (Also, about being seen at night: We got Otto this little flashing red light from EMS -- we connect it to his collar with a little carabiner. It makes us a lot harder to miss while out walking at night. )

@abby, Hollie: I've made use of the Bean's replacement policy for a backpack with a strap that broke a bit too easily -- they sent me a new one, no problem. It was great. (And the replacement has lasted many years.)

@mg: Heh. Don Draper I am not.

@Jinnie: Nothing too wrong with dorkiness, especially if it keeps you warm! It's just that I don't want to be Ugly Parka Guy.

@Elissa: Thanks for those two tips!

@J: Thanks for the suggestion!

@Andy: I wasn't familiar with that place. Thanks!

Hi Everyone,

Technically speaking the policy is not a life time guarantee. We offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If the product has not lived up to YOUR expectations of wear and tear we take the items on back and do our best to exchange or repair the item for you.

There was a great planet money story on REI's change in policy and LL Bean's policy: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/09/25/223787129/what-happens-when-a-store-lets-customers-return-whatever-they-want

Yeah, the only down side is they're not local Greg ;) Also, LAYERS!

I always go with a classy wool peacoat (check the label before you buy!)

Or if you want a zipper, there are wool car coats.

I have a winter "activity" coat from LLBean that is super warm (they and Eddie Bauer provide temperature ratings for their coats)

I have a wool peacoat from Eddie Bauer that I like a lot (and its almost 10 years old! I bought it in late 2004).

LL Bean has better models than that one, these days. And remember, they have a lifetime guarantee. If you bring your old coat back they will give you credit for its full purchase price. I've done it with coats, pants, and a 20 year-old backpack.

I'm just gonna say good luck with that. I spent almost a year and a half trying to replace my old North Face ski coat with a new coat that had precisely the same features, and I had a really hard time. This coat had double-zippers, but didn't have good cuff velcro. This one was fantastic but didn't have a removable lining. None of them had small fold-away hoods anymore, one of my favorite things about the coat. I got to where I would happily have parted with $300 if that got me what I wanted, but it never did. I finally had to settle for something that was about 89% of what I wanted, but it was supremely frustrating. In the end I did end up with a North Face again.

I found some great deals on winter coats at Burlington Coat Factory. I ended up buying my new jacket from them because I was able to find a style I loved and I got a really good price on it.

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