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It always seems that before you know it, a new winter coat is needed. It is always a tough purchase. Do you buy for the mostly mild winter or do you plan for the below zero weather that comes after The Stock Show in January? Regardless, you want to avoid the coat that feels bulky and heavy. A good winter coat should keep you toasty and dry without making you look like a marshmallow. Like anything, before you buy, you want to consider what your needs are:  activities, style, price and comfort. According to The Good Housekeeping Institute, here’s what you should consider before you get shopping:

What is the warmest winter coat?

Down (which comes from ducks or geese) is the best insulator for winter coats because the clusters trap heat. For less expensive picks, look for down and feather blends or down alternative(which is made of synthetic fibers, so it’s not as lofty or warm).

When shopping, you’ll want to check the fill power of the down: The higher the number, the more space the down takes up and the warmer it will be. We recommend shopping for winter jackets that have a fill power of 550 or higher. Many brands also now use responsibly-sourced down to ensure the birds are not force-fed or live-plucked. If you want a guarantee, look for certifications, such as the Responsible Down Standard.

These coats are for very cold weather.

What is the most stylish winter coat?

For a sleek and stylish look, consider a wool jacket. 100% wool will be warmest, but one with at least 60% wool will also keep you cozy. Look for nylon in the blends — they’re strong and will help with the coats last for years — but avoid coats with fabric that has over three fibers blended together. The more fibers in the blend, the more prone the fabric is to pilling.

If you’re looking for extra warmth, pay attention to the design: double-breasted and longer styles that button up all the way to the neck are ideal. One more thing to note: You’ll have to dry clean these styles, as most wool coats are not machine washable.

What is the best performance winter coat?

If you’re hiking, sledding, or skiing this winter, you’ll need an active coat for your outdoor adventures. Construction is crucial — these coats are subjected to extreme weather and wear and tear. Nylon is often the most durable, but you can find good quality jackets made of polyester as well.

Look for styles that are lightweight, breathable, and not too long if you plan to be moving around a lot, and consider coats that have added insulation if you think you’ll need one that’s super warm. The coat should also have flat, sealed seams to keep water out and design details that block cold air, such as drawstrings to cinch or a flap over the zipper.

What about medium weight coats?

These are perfect for Denver winters- not too heavy, not too light. I saw these on some of my travels. What do you like best?

What about sweater coats?

These are my go-to when the weather is mild.

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