Last year, we moved a bit farther south on the Eastern Seaboard, and this has brought us a bit of a change in the weather. Oh, we have had our snow and single-digit temperatures this winter, but that is not normal for the area. Usually, if it’s cold enough to snow, then it will be dry and sunny. If it’s wet enough to snow, then it will warm up to just above freezing, so you are treated to a cold, bone-numbing rain. This is not the ideal environment for down coats; no, what is called for is a water-resistant shell with some good insulation, and preferably a hood.
Say, I already have one of those! Let’s take a look at the Land’s End Insulated Squall Parka, circa 2000.
Best feature: The zip pocket hidden under the placket, accessible without opening the coat – a big deal when you’re trying to conserve body heat!
Worst feature: Velcro. I hate Velcro. Removed it. Sewed on snaps.
Overall: This parka did great in Moscow’s winter with temperatures ranging down into the negative digits, sometimes with a brutal wind chill. With three roomy inside pockets, two chest-level hand warmer pockets, dual-entry cargo pockets, and an additional zip pocket under the placket, I never needed to carry a purse. The fit is relaxed enough to wear a thick sweater underneath, essential for staying warm in bitter temperatures. The hood is roomy and has a built-in visor shape that keeps the rain off your face. If the Apocalypse hits and I have to run out of the house with just one coat for sheer survival and utility, this is the one; but sadly, it’s showing its age and not the best thing to wear around town, unless I want sympathetic bystanders to give me their spare change.
So I needed a replacement. Why didn’t I just get the current version of the Squall Parka? Because it’s not the same. While there are still a lot of exterior pockets on the newer Squall Parka, the inside pockets have been decimated down to one small zip pocket, and the best security pocket of all time – the one under the placket – is gone! But the deal-breaker for me is the fit: the new Squall Parka has fallen victim to the mysterious epidemic of tiny arms and shoulders that have plagued so many women’s clothing lines in recent years. This is not a good feature for winter warmth! For the past several years, I have hoped that the “old” Squall Parka might return next season, or the next, but it never did. I had to look elsewhere for my replacement.
In the end, after quite a bit of shopping around, I turned to LL Bean. I had been checking out their Winter Warmer Coat online, and finally decided: eh, with free shipping, what’s to lose? Being a cheapskate in the venerable tradition of my Dad, I waited for a sale and ordered one of their clearance colors, got a great deal, and yesterday, finally, the weather was in favor of an Outerwear Test: cold, rainy, sleety, just barely above freezing. It was as cold and wet and miserable as it could get. Any colder, and we’d just have more snow. Perfect!
I put on my old Squall Parka, went for a slow, lingering, wet stroll through the woods, and confirmed that it’s my most useful coat of all time. Then I put on LL Bean’s Winter Warmer Coat and repeated the stroll for comparison. I was pleased! Here’s the report:
Best feature: The overall length. It’s a bit longer than my Squall Parka. I could have opted for the shorter version, but I’m getting this specifically with cold, wet weather in mind, so I want that extra coverage. I also like the snaps on the placket, with no Velcro to be found.
Worst feature: The relative lack of pockets, with just two generous hand / cargo pockets outside, and one interior security pocket. The hood is also a little skimpy and didn’t keep the rain off my face as well as my old parka does.
Overall: The wind, sleet, and rain did not cut through this coat, which is exactly what I wanted. The cut is roomy even in the shoulders and arms, which is absolutely essential for adding a sweater and trapping body heat; it makes for a bulkier, less flattering fit than some other coats, but I’m not into freezing my butt off just to look good. I do wish it had more pockets, but maybe I’m just being greedy; it has enough storage for the essentials: wallet, phone, keys, and gloves. The two outside pockets are larger and much deeper than those on the old parka.
It’s not my Apocalypse coat yet, but I’d be comfortable taking the LL Bean Winter Warmer to Moscow. It will do just fine – better than fine – in my newly adopted cold, wet winter climate.