Eddie Bauer has a different best parka for men and women. They are both similar in function but very different in style. For men, there is the Men’s Vinson Down Parka and for Women there is the Women’s Superior Esla Down Parka. The women’s line has several Superior Parkas. One other, that is worth a mention, is the Superior Down Stadium Parka. The company rates it as slightly warmer than the Esla. I didn’t choose it because I think the Esla is more attractive and it’s very nearly the same in function.
As with all articles in this series, I want to refer you to a companion article called Why Everyone Needs A Survival Parka and What You Should Look For. This article explains, in detail, what I’m looking for in each design element of a survival parka. I also talk about my experience with cold, parkas, and why all of this is so very important.
I was not able to get any pictures of the parka that are unencumbered by copyright. This is due to there not being a manufacture site for this brand. The store site, linked to at the top of this article has pictures.
I decided to try out numerical scoring to keep track of which parkas are the best and why. I took the elements that I talked about in the companion article mentioned at the top of this piece and gave a score for each category based on how well the parka achieves top function in each category.
The shell of both parkas are made of of Eddie Bauer proprietary Weatheredge technology. This is one of the Gore-Tex Competitors I talked about in the other article. It is both waterproof and breathable. It’s only waterproof up to a certain number of unidentified hours in the rain but this coat will not be in the rain for hours, so I’m not so concerned about that. If it’s raining for hours, you probably don’t need a coat this warm.
Most importantly for us, it is wind proof. Both parkas earned a 10 here because they achieved the function of the shell that we are looking for in this type of parka.
One additional thing to say about the men’s Vinson shell is that it also contains Cordura nylon in places where it my experience more wear and tear. It’s on the fore arms because you may lean in stuff. It’s on the shoulders so you can carry stuff on your shoulders if working outside, and not damage the material as easily as other materials.
Cordura is a very tough and rugged weave of nylon. It’s the kind of material you might see on the side of a pear of boots. Some tough bags are made out of it too. The image to the left is a close up view of this tough fabric. You can see that the weave is course and tough, like the handles on bags.
Each of the parkas has a draw cord in one location. The men’s Vinson has one in the hem, at the bottom but it lacks on at the waste. The women’s Esla has two at the waist but none in the bottom hem. For women, having one at the waist is important for style and function. Women’s shape means they need to draw in on the waist more than men do. Doing this also gives the coat a feminine hourglass shape that is pleasing to the eye. If you don’t draw it in, you won’t have this shape. In addition to the waist draw cord, the Esla has some straps with snaps on the back that can help draw it in.
The men’s Vinson earned an 8 for having a cord in the bottom hem and the Esla earned a 7 for having them at the waist. Having it only at the waist means some wind may be able to get under the bottom hem an cool the lower body of women who wear this parka Having one at the bottom but not at the waist means the men’s Vinson is protected better against wind but not the pumping action that a loose coat can have, when you move about. The shape of men makes this a bit less important than with women. A man with a fat belly won’t have this problem at all. He will fill out the coat. All but the most athletic men will most likely be fine here.
Both coats have cuffs designed to keep wind out of your sleeves. The men’s has Velcro you can tighten down. The women’s has an elastic band inside the cuff. It also has a strange folding adjustment that I can’t see serves a truly functional purpose. The cut extends on over the top of the hand a bit. Yet, it’s not tight there and I don’t thin that material would fit in your glove. Both coats would need the wearer to have a pair of gauntlets to protect the wrists from wind and snow contact. There is no elastic cuff that can go into your cloves. For that, each parka earned an 8 on cuffs. Snowy wrists are a miserable experience.
Zipper / Closing the Coat
I’m not going to dwell on this. All the coats did well. They zip from the top to the bottom and have a wind flap that covers the zipper and is held down by buttons / snaps / Velcro. This is pretty standard in good coats but not every coat has this, so a brief mention is needed. Both coats earned 9s because the zippers could be a bit more tough.
Insulation and Insulation Coverage.
Both of these coats have 650 fill down insulation. This is exactly what you want in a survival parka. The insulation goes pretty close to the zipper, not leaving large a gap, uncovered. 10s all around. The Hood and neck are insulated too. More on that below.
Hood and Neck Design
Both parkas earned an 8 in hood design and neck design. This means they met sufficient specifications to be survival parkas but are missing something.
They both have insulated hoods and necks. The neck zips closed completely blocking any wind from hitting your neck. Not having these features would have disqualified the parkas from being considered as survival parkas in the first place. Every serious parka cold weather parka worth its salt has this.
Here is where both Women’s Superior Elsa an the men’s Vinson fail to meat the standard of the best parka. The Hood / Neck does not have design elements so that they cover as much of the face as possible. I’ve said this in the companion article and I’m going to stress it here. In my experience, 50% of the warmth in a parka comes from the hood and neck. 50%. There is no scarf, mask, hat, or anything else on the market that can do what a well designed hood and neck on your parka can do. So the more of you it that it covers, the better the results.
Go look at the companion article and the picture of me wearing my hood. Look how little of my face isn’t covered. With a pair of goggles no part of my body would be exposed–except there is one flaw in it, that I pointed out.
In my experience, 50% of the warmth in a parka comes from the hood and neck. 50%. There is no scarf, mask, hat, or anything else on the market that can do what a well designed hood and neck on your parka can do. So the more of you it that it covers, the better the results.
Aesthetics are the reason I chose the Women’s Superior Esla Down Parka over the Women’s Superior Down Stadium Parka. If you like the looks of the Stadium parka, you should buy that over the Esla. It has everything the Esla has and a bit more. It’s longer and the neck looks taller too.
If you think the Esla coat is prettier than the Stadium parka, you should buy the prettier parka. I will refer you to the companion article for why a prettier coat can save your life when an uglier coat might not.
In order to get the most attractive look and the most function out of the Esla parka and the Stadium one too; you need to draw in the waist. Most women have waists that are smaller than their hips and bust. The Parkas are made kind of straight down the body. These draw cords can be used to give them an hourglass shape; a female shape.
You can see this in the pictures on the Eddie Bauer Website. In the picture with the model, they didn’t draw the coat in. It just looks horrible on her. In the picture of the coat by itself, they did draw it in. It has the hourglass shape that is pleasing to the eye.
Oh and before I go. I don’t like that the hood fur is the same color as the coat. Also, everything on this coat is the same color. At least that color is black, which is probably the best color if you are going to have the color be uniform.
I like that the parka is not all the same color and it mixes fabric textures. The cordura parts are black accents for the coat. The inside of the coat is also black, so if it is not closed, you get to see that. The hood ruff is the color of natural fur which ads a bit.
I don’t like that the parka is only available in medium grey. It would look good in red or bold blue. I don’t think it would look good in tan though, because the cordura parts would have to be brown. That would be too much brown to tan for a good ratio. The site has a color selector box. It’s possible that as winter draws closer, more colors will become available.
There are a limited number of reviews the women’s coat, and to a lesser degree the men’s. I like to be able to study and analyze the reviews. If there are a lot of them, there is data in there that you cannot get from a single usage experience. This is particularly important when evaluating quality. I’m not really able to do that with these coats. Still, the reviews that are there are generally positive. The only negative ones are with regards to fit.
I like both of these parkas. I think I like the Esla for women because it’s a great looking coat. The men’s appearance is growing on me too. Both coats will save your life, limb, and dignity if worn in cold conditions, with the right gear to go with them. Sometimes they will, even without the right gear, as I demonstrated in the companion article when I talked about my -20 degree car ride without snow pants or boots. Both are build to last a long time.