I Tried to Hate the Amazon Parka, But It Won Me Over
It's bad for the world but oh-so-cozy
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
I wanted to hate it. I wanted it to arrive already bursting a seam from shoddy craftsmanship. I wanted it to smell like noxious plastic or fire retardant or cigarette smoke. I wanted some last desperate sign from the universe that cheap fashion is bad and I should take my money to a local business instead. But when the Orolay Thickened Down Parka—commonly known as the Amazon coat—arrived, I couldn’t help but admire its heft. I put my hands on its folded plumpness and let the down deflate under my fingers like a pillowy stress toy. When I slipped it on, its chonky plushness enveloped me. And I felt happy.
The Amazon coat rose to internet notoriety in March 2018, when the Strategist wrote about its fashion-forward styling and affordable price point (then $100, since raised to $140). I pined for it immediately. Whenever the mercury took a sharp plunge, I found myself flipping through the Instagram account dedicated to its cult and admiring its slouchy sleeping bag silhouette. Whenever the office AC was particularly aggressive, I daydreamed about zipping into its embrace and nuzzling my face in its generous fleece-lined hood. Whenever I was camping and had to pee in the freezing night, I thought of its full-bum envelopment.
Objectively, I see the Amazon coat for what it is: an unethically and unsustainably made fad, part of the fast-fashion problem that’s killing the planet just as quickly as plastic straws and takeout containers. But emotionally speaking, it became a symbol of everything I want: to be impervious to cold, to feel warm and held, to be confident and Instagrammably stylish outside, to no longer feel like a burned-out millennial. And so, on November 13, 2019, in the middle of my 12th straight crushingly brutal workweek, feeling the chill of autumn in my bones as I ate lunch at my desk, I finally succumbed to the siren song and clicked Buy Now.
I’ve been wearing it for a month and have some practical observations. Unsurprising for a garment designed and produced in China, the sizing is a bit weird. On my five-foot-nine curvy-athletic frame, an extra large fits my arms and shoulders quite well, but the body is perhaps too boxy-baggy, passing beyond slouchy into the realm of ill-fitting. Consequently, on cold days I do not feel as warmly coddled as I thought I would, because heat dumps out the cinchless bottom as I stroll. I’ve also come to resent the mid-thigh length. On snowy, windy jaunts, my quads are lashed with cold and wet while my torso subtly overheats as I hustle to get back inside as quickly as possible. When temps are in the twenties, I notice cold patches on the tops of my shoulders, where the “90 white duck down” fill is a little too thin for comfort.
Where the Amazon coat functions best is on frosty bluebird days, preferably directly after the storm has passed, when ice and snow abound but are not actively hurling at one’s body. In these conditions, the coat functions as the outerwear equivalent of a sweatshirt, a relaxed and nontechnical garment that’s well suited to leisurely tromps for coffee or detours through the park to admire the sparkling trees. If it happens to gently drizzle or snow, the water-repellent coating beads precipitation nicely, though I wouldn’t trust it in a downpour. I also appreciate that its four large, padded zip pockets conceal sundries like snacks, a flask, a notebook, and a reusable shopping bag, approximating the storage capacity of a small daypack. Overall, I’ve found that this coat is actually sort of perfect for spending time outside, so long as the outside in question is moderately comfortable to begin with.
But: I can’t stop thinking about the poor ethical choice I made in buying the thing. As a member of the outdoor industry, I know that down is fraught, and certification programs like Responsible Down Standard and Traceable Down Standard exist to combat the gruesome practice of live plucking. I’m also well aware of the continued efforts that many outdoor companies are making to provide workers with fair wages and safe factory conditions. Orolay’s website has no transparency on these issues, and so it’s fair to assume that this coat contains the blood and tears of birds and humans.
So it’s just as well that the Amazon coat’s spotlight is waning. In the spirit of superior sustainability, I’d like to nominate these four parkas for your consideration.
The Mountain Town Remix: REI Norseland Insulated ($199)
If the Amazon coat left New York for Colorado, it would become the Norseland. It loses the fashiony zippers but keeps the white-fleece-lined hood, knit cuffs, side hem zips, and drop-tail cut. It’s also a touch longer, measuring in at 36 inches to the Amazon coat’s 32. More important, it’s lined with Bluesign-approved recycled polyester and stuffed with Responsible Down Standard–certified 650-fill down.
The Steal: Everlane ReNew Long Puffer ($175)
A point in the Amazon coat’s favor is its price, but Everlane’s nicely slouchy ReNew Long is only $26 more. For that, you get 100 percent recycled fabric and 100 percent recycled PrimaLoft synthetic insulation. The face fabric is Bluesign approved and treated with a fluorine-free water repellent. In a sea of green and black parkas, the cobalt color stands out.
The Sleeper: The North Face Down Sierra Parka ($329)
If you’re here for something you can curl up and nap in, you want the Sierra. It’s roomy like the Amazon coat, but at 38 inches, it’s long enough to graze my knees. And the eco specs are solid: the exterior is recycled polyester blended with cotton and treated with non-PFC DWR, and the insulation is 600-fill recycled waterfowl down that meets the Global Recycled Standard by Textile Exchange.
The Hot Canadian: Wuxly Movement Yonge Parka ($695)
Who needs down when you’ve got 200-gram PrimaLoft Gold made from 55 percent recycled polyester? The Yonge has svelte, minimalist styling that feels more urban than the other parkas here, but it’s hardly a city slicker. It’s built in Canada, and because Canucks don’t mess around with cold weather, the Yonge should keep you comfy down to negative 22 degrees—take that, polar vortex. The $695 price tag is pretty hefty, but it’s backed by a five-year warranty, and the company offers free carbon-neutral shipping.