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How warm is my winter coat?

Warm clothing advice from Free Country

This is a question we get asked over and over — and not an easy one to answer.

We understand that shopping for winter clothes for cold weather can be a challenge, and we want to help you pick warm jackets for you and your family. Here at Free Country, we don't give our garments a warmth rating for temperature conditions because we know just how subjective comfort can be. A winter coat that's perfect for you might be too toasty or cold for someone else in the very same weather conditions.

That said, we can offer a few pointers. Here are some factors for you to take into consideration when choosing a warm winter jacket for winter-weather activities.

  • Choose a garment with a removable inner jacket such as our 3-in-1 Systems Jackets for maximum warmth and versatility. The inner jacket can be worn separately on warmer days. 
  • Down and Insulated jackets provide excellent warmth without the bulk.
  • Most Midweight garments are fleece or quilt lined and not insulated. These jackets are plenty warm for most conditions, but for extreme weather, add a layer underneath.
  • Be sure to select a size that will allow a comfortable amount of space for proper base layering.
  • Fleece, Softshell and Puffer jackets can be used as a base layer under another jacket for added warmth or worn on their own in spring and fall.

What is Coat Weather?

Well, what is coat weather? Really, this is a subjective question. It’s like trying to define “cold.” Someone from Florida may pull out a jacket at 65 degrees while the Minnesotan calls 40 degrees shorts and t-shirt weather. While cold, as a feeling, is relative, there are certain factors to take into consideration when heading out into cold weather adventures.

Activity Level

When you’re hiking, cross country skiing or otherwise exerting yourself, your body temperature is elevated. You’re of course going to wear lighter gear, but that doesn’t mean you should leave the winter coat at home. You can lose heat quickly when no longer active, especially if you’ve worked up a sweat. We’re not saying wear a parka on your next hike but bring adequate layers. Even if you don’t need them, it’s always good to have them with you.


A humid cold can chill you to the bone in a way that a dry cold doesn’t. Interestingly enough, clothing insulation is less effective on humid days than on dry ones. While high-quality pieces will be better, all types of clothing are better at insulation on dry, cold days. Therefore, if it’s a humid day, you’ll want to layer up a bit more to compensate.


Wind chill is no joke. A strong windchill can make an otherwise comfortably cold day feel frigid. A good windproof layer is a must to have on hand to up the overall warmth factor of your clothing and gear. It’s packable, doesn’t take up much space and weighs next to nothing. Get in the habit of always having a wind layer with you and you’ll quickly up your comfort year-round. 

While we can’t objectively define what is coat weather (and what isn’t), a quick peek at the humidity and wind forecasts will help you properly prepare for differences between the temperature and the real feel as you head out on your next adventure.