I love that L.L. Bean has the same top cold weather parka available for both men and women. That top parka is the Baxter State Parka. If you are shopping for men, you can see the Men’s Baxter State Parka here. If you are shopping for women, you can see the Women’s Baxter State Parka here.
How I Learned About Parkas And What to Look For
I wrote an entire article on this topic. It’s the companion article, that is linked to all of the parka reviews in this series. It is called Why Everyone Needs A Survival Parka and What You Should Look For. There I talk about how I came to be passionate about a good quality parka and what a learned from my experience. From it, you can tell why certain features are important and what the best designs are for each of them. I will repeat some of the content here, as it applies to this particular parka but it’s good to check that article out, if you have any questions.
Reviewing products that are sold under a store brand makes for a real challenge in getting photos without copyright entanglements. Normally, I can get them from manufacturer’s but in these cases, we don’t know who the manufacture is. Photos can be seen on the North face website, linked to at the top of the article.
I rated each of the parkas, in this series, based on how their design matches the best features to keep people warm, dry, and alive. I also threw one in for aesthetics. At first this may seem like it’s just for looks but there is more there than that. In the companion article, I talk about how even aesthetics can help with survival. The scores are all out of ten, but I gave a bonus to the women’s parka, in one category. It was for it’s one of a kind feature that should not be one of a kind.
L.L. Bean has their own proprietary shell material that is designed to fill the function of Gore-Tex. That is is is windproof, waterproof, and breathable. The shell is a separate layer from the quilted down layer. The shell gets a 10 for being what it is supposed to be. Every parka, in this series got a 10, except for the Mountain Hardware Shell.
The Baxter State Parka has both a hem cord and an waist cord. Both cords are set-it-and-forget-it in nature. Both cords are elastic. The waist cord is hidden in the upper pockets on the outside of the parka. The hem cord keeps the wind out. The waist cord keeps the coat from breathing air in and out, like a lung. This is especially important for men with thing waists and for women. It also ads shape for people with hourglass figures. The parka earns a 10 for having both cords with all the right features to go with it.
The Baxter State Parka has both Velcro cuffs and and internal elastic cuff. This is great for keeping out wind. Unlike some of the better designes, the internal cuff does not come down far enough to go inside a regular glove. Gauntlets would be needed to keep your wrists secure from the wind and snow. L.L. Bean even sells Baxter State Gloves, which are gauntlets. Interestingly, they have down insulation, which is unusual for a glove. If you want to see the best design; the best cuff is on the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The Baxter earned a 9 for being good cuffs but not the best.
Zipper / Closing the Coat
I’ve seen a few people complain about the Baxter zipper not being rugged enough. It takes a hit for that. It goes down the full length of the coat. It does have a sufficient wind flap. The flap has snaps on it, instead of Velcro. Remember, we like this because the cuffs have Velcro. The cuffs won’t stick to the zipper flap if the parka is worn open and you reach your hand near it. The Baxter State Parka scored an 8 for zipper.
The Baxter State Parka has a 650 fill down insulation. It is less than some parkas in this series but it is the same as the Canada Goose parka, made for trips to Antarctica. This earns it a 10 for insulation.
The parka is not as long as the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. For this, it takes a little bit of a hit on Insulation Coverage. By not being as long, the parka does not cover the groin in a sufficient way to prevent heat loss from that high blood flow part of the body. It earned it a point in aesthetics for this, though. The Baxter earned a 9 for insulation coverage.
The work around here would be to have a nice set of bibs available. You can store them in your car with bibs, your lower body is fully covered and they were overlap the parka better than pants, so there are no gaps in coverage, when you bend.
See also. the hood and neck design for more on this. The parka takes another hit there for coverage.
Hood and Neck Design
The Baxter State Parka has a neck that goes all the way up to your chin but it doesn’t really cover your face at all. The hood also doesn’t have a face flap. This means you will be completely dependent on your neoprene mask for face coverage. take a look at the companion article and the picture of me wearing my hood. See how my face is mostly covered? The Baxter doesn’t offer this.
The hood and neck are down insulated, which is a requirement to even be in this series. It comes with a set-it-and-forget it draw cord for drawing it down over your face. To get it out of your eyes, it has a Velcro strap on the back. The synthetic fur ruffle is removable. This ruff is shapeable, which gives it bonus points. The only other parka to offer this is the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. The more shapeable and the hood and ruff are, the more you can draw down the hood, to cover your face and keep wind out. Without this feature, the hood would have earned an 8, like the Eddie Bauer Hoods did. The Baster State Parka earns a 9 for hood and neck design.
A work around for the hood design would be to wear two neoprene masks, when in the worst of conditions. They are thin enough to not interfere with your hood and having two over your face would help. I’ve worn two hats under a hood before and it works.
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.
I’m a bit on the fence for Aesthetics. Because the coat is less huge and bulky, it gets bonus points in aesthetics. It looks like a coat, you’d want to wear grocery shopping. It becomes a coat you will have on your more often and therefore it will be more likely to save your life. This is the importance of aesthetics. If you own the warmest coat on earth but it’s in your closet when you are stranded, it doesn’t help you.
What I don’t like are the look of the shell material and that the coat is all one color. It just kind of looks drab, though the hood ruff helps a bit. I don’t see any evidence that the coat picks up an hourglass shape for women, though it does have that waist cord, so maybe if drawn in right, it would. The Baxter earns a 9 for aesthetics.
The parka has sufficient features to save your life in a situation where you get stranded. It’s not the warmest parka in this series, because of some design elements but it is a parka you are more likely to have with you than some of the others. You may even get more use out of it, because it is less huge and bulky. It earns 9.25 overall.