strategist investigates

The Best Canadian Winter Coats (That Aren’t Canada Goose)

Photo-Illustration: retailers

As someone who married one, I can tell you that Canadians are very proud of two things: their maple syrup and their ability to withstand truly cold winters. Actually, make that enjoy truly cold winters. After recently moving to Montreal, I learned that frosty outdoor activities are built into Canadian culture and infrastructure; the park near my apartment, for instance, has designated paths for cross-country skiing, and people skate on the pond the minute it freezes over. With the pandemic now forcing people the world over to pursue frosty outdoor activities if they want to socialize safely, Canadians’ seemingly innate ability to do so got me thinking: What coats do they depend on to keep them warm in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees? (Yes, that’s Fahrenheit.)

One brand with a country-plus-animal name might immediately spring to mind, but, reader, the words Canada Goose actually do not appear next to any of the coats on this list. Having spent each of my socially distanced walks through Montreal eyeing the logo of every jacket I pass, the brand doesn’t appear to be a top seller in its namesake land — or at least the parts of it I’ve been to. This hunch was confirmed by Gabrielle, a customer-service specialist at Montreal-based retailer Altitude Sports (who asked that I not use her last name so she could speak freely about various brands her store sells). “Since it has the Canada in the name, it’s an easy reference for anyone looking for their first winter coat,” says Gabrielle, explaining the brand’s popularity with coat-buyers outside of Canada. “But I’d say that people tend to wear them more for their fashion than practicality. It’s not a great performance brand for outdoor activities.”

With that out of the way, you might be wondering, What makes a Canadian-made (or -designed) coat different from an American one? “I’d say that Canadian brands, as compared to American brands, take the constant cold of our winter into consideration,” explains Gabrielle. “While American brands design for varying winter climates, Canada has pretty much the same cold temperatures all winter across all territories, so our designs reflect that.” Stephanie Renaud, who specializes in outerwear and cycling-apparel sales at Vancouver-based retailer MEC (or Mountain Equipment Co-op, which is basically a Canadian REI), agrees. “Canadian coats are different because they’re designed with coldest-of-the-cold winters in mind. Our winter jackets are robust, weatherproof, and have extra puff where you need it in the shoulders, sleeves, and cuffs. They’re built for warmth.” (It’s worth noting that Canada Goose coats are also built for warmth — the folks I talked to say they just aren’t purchased as much as the other brands on this list.)

Speaking of this list, here’s how I compiled it: After noting the logos and brands I saw on my aforementioned regular walks through Montreal, I reached out to winter-apparel experts like Gabrielle and Renaud about the coats they say are most popular among their Canadian clientele. The selection below reflects the overlap in the brands I saw most often and the ones the experts mentioned as their top sellers. (In some cases, I’ve included a few coats from a single brand for folks who like to shop around.) While many of the coats that follow are less expensive than comparable Canada Goose jackets, none of them are what you’d call cheap. But in addition to being built for warmth, many are built to last, with several coming with lifetime warranties (where applicable, I’ve noted which brands offer such guarantees). Of course, the fact that some of the brands are lesser known is in part due to them being less available in the U.S. But any coats on this list that aren’t sold by American retailers will still ship to the United States — just be sure to check any foreign retailers’ international shipping information for more details on how that works.

The sporty (second-best-known) brand: Arc’teryx