I live in Indiana and it gets pretty cold around here this time of year. But with an active family, we need winter clothing that will allow us to continue to be out and about and still keep warm.
When shopping for a coat for my son (he’s almost 8) the challenge is finding something that has all the features, quality and warmth I need him to have, balanced with the look he wants it to have. He’s a growing, extremely active kid with a snowboard he’s just itching to put to good use.
So I was issued an interesting challenge.
I was asked to take a look at 4 coats from 4 different name brand companies and determine which coat is the best quality by examining a variety of features. What makes it even more interesting is that one of the brands is the actual sponsor of this challenge but I wasn’t told which brand that was! So it’s sort of like a blind quality test.
BRING. IT. ON.
J. Crew boys’ parka
- Fit / size: We received a size 8 which is his normal size. The coat fit well, slightly roomy but I’m all for leaving room to grow so long as it fits correctly in the important places like at the neck, and the length of the sleeves. I thought it was a good fit and he seemed to like it.
- Warmth: He said it was very warm except at the sleeves.
- Hood: The hood fit him great, tight enough at the neck where it wasn’t going to fall off but roomy enough so it wasn’t uncomfortable. We also liked the fur on this one, it was tighter and less fluffy than the others. I also liked that you could extend the length of the hood by unsnapping it to make it cover more of his head.
- Sleeves/wrists: He did not like the wrists on this coat. They were simply a narrow band of elastic that let the cold air into the sleeves rather easily.
- Reflectivity: I did not notice any reflective features on this coat.
- Pockets: Not enough. It had a handwarmer pocket on each side and then an exterior pocket on each side, that’s it.
- Details (buttons, zippers, snaps etc): I like the looks of the buttons but my son hates buttons. I have to bribe him to wear jeans that don’t have snaps. The zipper worked well and had a fabric pull which is essential on a winter coat, especially if you are wearing gloves – easier to get a grip. We both also liked that this coat had a little flap on the top of the zipper to keep him from pinching himself with it, and for comfort when the zipper is all the way up. Except he actually did manage to pinch himself, so I think the intention was there but the fabric flap wasn’t big enough.
- Extras: This coat really didn’t have any extra features to speak of.
- Overall: This was my favorite coat for feel and appearance. I thought it was soft and warm and the style looked the best on him. He liked it but it came in second as his favorite coat. It came in third for me in overall quality ranking based on all of the features.
L.L. Bean boys’ parka
- Fit / size: This coat was a size 8 and for fit alone (not counting style) was the best. A little roomy to accommodate growth and bigger shirts, but fitted in all the right places like around the neck and the wrists. It’s a good looking coat.
- Warmth: When I asked my son which coat was the warmest, this was the one he chose and he credited the sleeves for that fact. With the inner fabric and the adjustable outer sleeve, no air got inside.
- Hood: The hood was a good fit on him. I personally thought the fur was a bit much but he didn’t. It was tight enough to keep his ears warm and keep the wind from blowing the hood off but not too tight.
- Sleeves/wrists: Hands down this was his favorite coat for the wrist area. It has a tighter fabric piece inside with an adjustable outer sleeve. He was extremely specific about the comfort and warm of this feature.
- Reflectivity: This coat had a triangular reflective emblem on the lower back of the coat.
- Pockets: This coat had a decent number of pockets. Not my overall favorite in this category, but it does have one zippered pocket and an interior pocket. My kid needs pockets. It has handwarmer pockets which he sees as essential in a coat.
- Details (buttons, zippers, snaps etc): The zippers and snaps were not a problem for him and the zipper had a fabric pull which I like. This coat also had a piece of fabric at the top of the zipper and it did a great job of keeping him from pinching himself.
- Extras: This coat has an interior cinching cord to make it more form fitting, the adjustable sleeves, an interior pocket and the hood zips off. It also has an extra elastic flap inside the hood helping to ensure that it stays on his head and a flap on top of the zipper to protect his chin.
- Overall: Overall this was his favorite coat. I asked him to pick just one and this was it. No matter how many times I told him that the J. Crew coat looked really fantastic on him, he insisted that this was his favorite. I think when you look at fit and features, it clearly is the best of the bunch for us.
Gap boys’ parka
- Fit / size: We received a size 8 in this coat and it was a bit large for the size. The length of the sleeves weren’t bothersome because they have a fabric cuff inside that keeps them from sliding down his hand, but it was a bit too big around the neck and let lot of air into the hood.
- Warmth: He was happy with the warmth on this coat and it seemed well insulated. He said that the fleece fabric at the neck and inside the hood felt warmer than the others.
- Hood: I liked the hood on this coat feature-wise. It has velcro that attaches to the area next to the top of the zipper to help keep it in place. I also thought the hood looked good on him and the fake fur was attractive and not too crazy. I do think that the fleece inside this hood would keep it from sliding off but it all might promote static electricity.
- Sleeves/wrists: The inner fabric at the wrist helped keep the longer sleeves from falling down his hands, which was good and he said it helped the coat feel warm. He wasn’t happy about the loose outer fabric of the sleeve, however.
- Reflectivity: This coat does not appear to have any reflective features.
- Pockets: This coat has a good amount of pockets, but was lacking in handwarmer pockets which my son considers a must for his winter coat. I liked that it has an interior pocket.
- Details (buttons, zippers, snaps etc): This coat did not have an extended pull on the zipper which he complained about, and all the pockets had snaps except for the interior pocket which had a small velcro closure. The snaps were overall not a problem. This coat also had the flap on the top of the zipper that we like.
- Extras: There were not really any extras on this coat to speak of.
- Overall: When first saw all 4 coats before really looking at the features and details, I liked the looks of this coat the best, and I thought it looked pretty good on him, though a bit big. I also like the more neutral color. I think overall this coat fell into 4th place because it just didn’t match the fit or features of the others.
Lands’ End boys’ parka
- Fit / size: We received this coat in a size 7 so I had to keep that in mine when reviewing it. The body of it fit but the neck and hood were much too tight. A size 8 might have fit perfectly.
- Warmth: He said the coat was warm but not as warm as the L.L. Bean coat.
- Hood: The hood on this coat was rather snug and I thought the fur made it really hard for him to see anything and would possibly begin to bother him after awhile. Again, I believe the size 8 would correct that problem. This hood doesn’t loosen at the sides to make it hang better when not being worn. This means it sticks out a bit more in the back.
- Sleeves/wrists: He liked the sleeves on this coat in theory. He liked the idea of the built-in wrist gloves and he said they felt warm. He wasn’t overly comfortable in the sleeves, however when he didn’t want to wear the gloves part.
- Reflectivity: This coat had a small reflective logo on the lower bottom of the back of it.
- Pockets: This was my favorite coats for pockets. It has them everywhere in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
- Details (buttons, zippers, snaps etc): This coat is missing the protective flap on top of the zipper but it does have fabric zipper pulls and the snaps weren’t a problem for him.
- Extras: This coat has a cinching cord at the waist, 2 interior pockets, and an amazing feature in the sleeves that allow you to lengthen the arms as they grow by cutting a thread out of the inside that releases the extra fabric.
- Overall: Despite it’s lacking the zipper flap on top and the fit of the hood (which I think was a nature of the size), this coat ranked number 2 for me and 3rd for him. I think if the hood had fit him better, he may have been more apt to rank it higher.
The coats all had removable fur and were machine washable. The insulation on all the coats seemed evenly distributed and there was no bunching or unevenness. I thought all of the coats fell into the “high quality” category from a simply “craftsmanship and durability” rating. What set them apart were the small details that can make a huge difference in determining overall quality.