The perfect jacket for Polar Vortex weather (or just Chicago Winter), and the Hood Rule

Someone stole my beautiful JCrew peacoat with Thinsulate from a bar at the coldest part of the year. Fortunately I didn’t wear it too often because it’s not quite as stylish as a topcoat and it’s not waterproof and weather resistant like a ski jacket. It was my warmest coat that didn’t look like it should be confined to the slopes, and I missed the warmth in the coldest days. I wanted to replace it with a true Chicago winter-ready jacket, and found an awesome jacket at Patagonia. Meet the Patagonia Doubledown:

The description of this jacket matches perfectly with what I was looking for — a trusted outdoor brand’s technical features to stay warm and dry, with a style meant for city streets:

“This burly coat borrows technical features from our alpine parkas, but has style suited for a cold-weather commute.”

The Doubledown has goose-down lining (600 fill) and a waterproof barrier, which makes it warm even on the days where the snow keeps falling. (Note: the Patagonia store employees mentioned that the company was surprised by suppliers who continued to force-feed geese, despite the company’s ban on the practice, and now moving to new suppliers.) Don’t overlook the importance of waterproof winter coats. Most down is susceptible precipitation, and becomes basically useless. Down makes a great liner when combined with waterproof shell, and if you want it all in one, check out a jacket like this.

The style is great, and looks good with athletic gear on the way to the gym, with khakis and a button down, or even over a suite if it’s too cold for the topcoat.

Hip pockets are in the right spot to keep hands warm and are deep enough to safely store gloves (especially because they zip up), plus inside and outside chest pockets safely store hats, cellphones, and more. The only improvement I hope to see is the addition of exterior pouch pockets in addition to hand-warmer pockets to add more storage room for big gloves and hats. A lot of other parka-style jackets have these, and the Doubledown could use them.

Buying the Doubledown taught me an important lesson: Always have a hood (AHAH). In the coldest days, your hood (hopefully lined or insulated, like in the Down), goes over your hat to add warmth and block the wind. On medium cold days it substitutes nicely for a hat, and is more convenient since it’s built in and easy to put on or take off. And on rainy days, it makes all the difference against the weather. Always have a hood.

There wasn’t much to compare the Doubledown to because most stores had only a few winter coats left in the beginning of January, despite the temperatures. Northface has some great looking parkas, but nothing in my size. They’re probably the most popular jacket seen on the street, and do offer fur-lined hoods (which look pretty stylish and warm, but actually turned out to be really annoying on my face). Marmot makes two appealing parka-style jackets, but one is missing a hood, and the other is simply too much coat. It’s warm and well-designed, but I simply can’t imagine walking inside wearing it. Something to consider if you work outside, but too extreme for most.

The season is almost over (or already over if you ask most retailers), but the Michigan Avenue store in Chicago had a number of the Doubledown jackets still in stock. The web is out of XS, S, and M. Stylish, comfortable, functional, and most importantly warm and waterproof — with a hood — makes the Doubledown a special jacket. Stay warm.