Two people wearing warm winter jackets

MEC winter jacket guide: warm, waterproof, do-it-all

If there’s one thing the MEC Label design team knows, it’s Canadian winter. Knee-deep snowdrifts, face-numbing wind, and west coast downpours – they’ve seen it all.

To get you ready for whatever weather is blasting your way, we spoke to MEC Label designers James and Nicole for the inside scoop. Here are their top picks for the warmest, most waterproof, easiest to pack and best to layer up.

Our warmest winter coat

Snowfall Down Puffer
MEC Snowfall Down Puffer

MEC Snowfall Down Puffer: turns into a pillow for travel, and is filled with ethical down that can be traced to ensure the birds are responsibly raised and cared for.

The Snowfall Down Puffer is for you if

  • You live in a place with icy winters – we’re talking double-digit negative temps
  • You spend a lot of time in chilly weather (e.g., walking your dog or waiting for the streetcar)
  • You need a toasty warm jacket that doesn’t take up tons of room in your luggage for travel

Why it’s great

The Snowfall is all about warmth and comfort. It’s designed to shut out the weather for as much of your body as possible. From the generous length to the sheer volume of down, it’ll comfortably get you from point A to point B in harsh, cold environments. Bonus: It transforms into a neck pillow so you can easily bring it travelling.

The downproof fabric is super comfortable and soft – it feels like you’re wearing a sleeping bag. – Nicole, MEC Label designer

Our most versatile jacket

Transference 3-in-1 Down Parka
MEC Transference 3 in 1 jacket

MEC Transference 3-in-1 Down Parka: a warm jacket that’s secretly also a raincoat and light down layer.

The Transference 3-in-1 Down Parka is for you if

  • You do a lot of travelling or deal with unpredictable weather
  • You live in a wet, mild climate (like Vancouver) and want a single jacket that does it all, all year round
  • You want a trusty jacket to keep you dry and warm for shoulder seasons and the edges of winter across much of Canada

Why it’s great

Waterproof-breathable fabric keeps showers and storms out, ultra-warm down keeps you toasty, and plenty of pockets keeps your gloves handy. The first layer is a down liner that keeps you comfortable on dry chilly days around the city. The second layer is a shell that you can wear on its own on rainy days, or snap to the insulator for warmth and waterproofness combined.

MEC Transference 3 in 1 jacket

MEC Transference 3-in-1: one parka, three ways to wear it. The puffy layer uses responsibly sourced down.

In backcountry design, we always talk about clothing systems. The Transference 3-in-1 builds off that idea to give you an all-in-one system for everyday life: a shell jacket and an insulator that connect perfectly together. – James, MEC Label design manager

Our most durable waterproof shell

Synergy GORE-TEX Jacket
MEC Synergy Jacket

MEC Synergy GORE-TEX Jacket: for getting outside in all kinds of conditions.

The Synergy jacket is for you if

  • You ski or snowboard, and want a jacket you can depend on season after season
  • You like being out in the rain (but you don’t like getting wet)
  • You have an insulated layer you can wear underneath when the temperature drops, or you run hot and don’t need insulation

Why it’s great

It’s our most durable feature-rich mountain shell. The Synergy Jacket has been part of our roster for many years, and is ready for howling, snowy or sideways-rain conditions – the GORE-TEX®, 3-layer waterproof-breathable shell feels light and supple, and it has lots of alpine-specific features.

MEC Synergy Jacket

MEC Synergy GORE-TEX Jacket: solid for skiing and great for hiking too.

The Synergy is designed to last as long as we can make it last for you. It’s our pinnacle performance shell – if I’m going into serious weather, this is what I bring. – James, MEC Label design manager

Yuki and Nick, MEC Ambassadors, in the Synergy Jacket

MEC Ambassador Yuki Tsubota hitting the PNW backcountry and Ambassador Nick Elson on a soggy Squamish climb, both wearing the Synergy Jacket.

Our most versatile down insulator

Boundary Light Down Jacket
Boundary Light Down Jacket

MEC Boundary Light Jacket: filled with cushy 700 fill-power duck down.

The Boundary Light Down Jacket is for you if

  • You camp, hike, ski or snowshoe in cold weather and want a insulating layer to stay warm
  • You’re looking for something to keep you comfy in fall or spring around town, too
  • You have a rain shell that needs a little extra warmth underneath

Why it’s great

You get amazing value for the quality of down in this jacket (and like all MEC Label down, it’s ethically sourced and traceable to ensure the birds are responsibly raised and cared for). This is an excellent crossover piece you can use for skiing or snowshoeing as a midlayer, and you’ll reach for it again and again on cold, dry days in the city too. Plus the colour-blocking looks great in your hiking pics. Also comes in vest versions.

Climber in a down jacket

“This is how you make a down jacket. Enough space for layers, durable enough to bushwhack without ripping. Plus, the colours are sweet.” – Tosh Sherkat, MEC Ambassador

I love this jacket. The fit is designed with movement and activity in mind, and it packs down small so you can always bring it along. The 700-fill down gives it a high warmth-to-weight ratio too. – Nicole, MEC Label designer

Our most active insulator

Airstream Hoodie
Nick Elson walking in the mountains in the MEC Airstream hoodie

“MEC’s best synthetic jacket yet. Fits great, breathes well and it’s super-versatile. I wear it under a shell, or over layers when the wind picks up. Works great in pretty much all conditions.” – MEC Ambassador Nick Elson

The Airstream Hoodie is for you if

  • You’re active and want a jacket you can wear all day as you heat up and cool down
  • You spend time in the backcountry and need an insulating layer that keeps you warm whether you’re moving or stopped
  • You want a puffy that’s easy to layer under a shell, and looks good enough to wear solo on cool days in town

Why it’s great

The Airstream keeps you comfortable when you’re moving, all the way from a 4:30am start to the headlamp-lit return to the trailhead. Don’t be fooled by the streamlined fit – it’s warmer and more technical than it looks. The whole package (face fabric, insulation, liner) is breathable to manage moisture when you’re working hard. When you stop to check your map or eat a snack, the synthetic insulation kicks in to keep you warm, even when wet.

Climber Anna Zhang wearing the Airstream jacket

“My favourite piece of clothing on my 2-month bike tour in Norway. I wore it climbing and around campsites and it’s held up amazingly.” – Anna Zhang, MEC Ambassador

It’s a quintessential MEC piece. If you’re doing stuff in the mountains, it’s amazing. I’m going to take it backcountry touring this year for sure. – James, MEC Label design manager

 

Our most packable waterproof jacket

Flash Cloud Jacket
Flash Cloud: packs up small, blocks out rain.

Flash Cloud: packs up small, blocks out rain.

The Flash Cloud Jacket is for you if

  • You want a waterproof-breathable jacket that you can whip out of your pack at a moment’s notice (west coast: we’re looking at you)
  • You need to stay dry when clouds roll in, but not get overheated when you’re slogging uphill
  • You don’t want your jacket to take up a ton of room in your backpack when you’re travelling, hiking or around town

Why it’s great

The fabric is a big winner. The Flash Cloud uses GORE-TEX Paclite Plus, which makes the jacket lightweight and extremely compressible. It’s waterproof-breathable with fully sealed seams to block out showers, and has underarm zippers in case you need to let off some steam. It’s also comfortable against your skin; you don’t get that clingy plastic feel of some other 2-layer jackets.

Anna Zhang on a windy rainy Norway beach in the Flash Cloud jacket

“I did a two-month bike tour of Norway in this jacket – it never let me down once, no matter how massive the downpour.” – Anna Zhang, MEC Ambassador

On a recent trip to visit factories, I took the Flash Cloud as a “just in case” rain jacket since it packs down so small. I’m glad I did – it poured the entire time we were in Vietnam. – James, MEC Label design manager

About MEC Label

Forty-eight years of wilderness experience informs everything we make. We have decades of experience creating clothing and gear with sustainability in mind, and publish a full factory list so you know exactly where your MEC Label gear is made.

Group of people on a snowy mountain
MEC Label designers

Sustainability, quality and value are behind all we create. When we’re not obsessing over details, we’re outside on trails, rock and snow.