The Best Winter Outerwear, According To Someone In Antarctica

Whenever we complain that it's fah-reezing outside, we find ourselves thinking of all the people in the world living in even colder climates, like Alaska and Antarctica. They know cold in the truest sense of the word and could probably school us fashion folk in dressing for it properly.
As it happens, we recently had the opportunity to talk with a woman who's lived in both of those locations. After graduating from Brown University last May, Alaska native Rachel Kaplan accepted a grant to work with the United States Antarctic Program on the Antarctic Peninsula. There, Kaplan is a field technician on an oceanographic study at Palmer Station.
"I'm from Fairbanks, Alaska, located at 64.8 degrees north latitude," Kaplan says, "which is cool because Palmer is located at 64.8 degrees south latitude. They're two cold places, but cold in quite different ways and requiring different types of outerwear." The key to frigid-weather dressing, according to Kaplan, is layers. "They trap body heat between them, creating extra insulation, and can be adjusted if you get too hot." This logic isn't necessarily new, but it does serve as a great reminder to those of us who sometimes favor fashion over function.
If you are dealing with polar-vortex-worthy conditions, says Kaplan, "what's really central to staying warm is staying dry or, if that's not possible, wearing layers that will stay warm when wet." And, faux fillers are just fine: "Although synthetic-down jackets aren't as warm in my experience as real down, they're great for cold weather coupled with rain or wet snow (like Chicago, Boston, Portland, New York). There are a lot of great, updated options every year, like The North Face Thermoball or the Patagonia Nano Puff." Synthetic, down, and then some, coat options for women are improving every year, says Kaplan, and the "marshmallow" look isn't as prevalent anymore. "It's actually possible to be both fashionable and warm."
Ahead, we talk more coats with Kaplan — because we're inclined to trust whatever she deems warm and durable — and offer a few weather-resistant toppers to keep toasty in this winter.

More from Shopping

R29 Original Series