Which cosy coat REALLY keeps out the cold? Jackets are put to the test

Which cosy coat REALLY keeps out the cold? Winter jackets are put to the test at -12C as we face months of socialising outdoors

With the clocks changing tonight, the nights are about to get darker — and much colder.

Yet with so many of us facing bans on indoor gatherings due to Covid restrictions, you’ll need a warm coat if you want to meet friends and family alfresco. But how warm is warm? BETH HALE put a selection of High Street coats to the ultimate test by wearing them in the freezer at ice-sculpting experts Icebox, where the temperature dips to minus 12c.

We then used thermal imaging technology from Bullitt Group and its Cat S62 Pro smartphone to see how toasty the coats are. Cooler zones — which show where heat is being retained — are displayed in shades of purple, while the patches of red, orange, yellow and lastly white reveal where heat is escaping most freely.

CHIC FULL-LENGTH WOOL CLASSIC

Hobbs, reduced to £279.20

If ever a coat could chase the blues away it’s one with a flowing swathe of red wool.

Wool is breathable, meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin and is lovely and snug too. But fabric density is just as important as fibre and this feels worryingly thin.

The freeze test: Within seconds of setting foot in the freezer, icy air blankets me from head to toe. The beautiful flow of the skirt lets the heat seep from my legs and the deep V-neck means my upper body doesn’t fare much better.

Our thermal images show heat leaching from my upper body, particularly my arms and chest and along the seams.

VERDICT: Best kept for chic day wear. 2/10


If ever a coat could chase the blues away it’s one with a flowing swathe of red wool. Wool is breathable, meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin and is lovely and snug too. But fabric density is just as important as fibre and this feels worryingly thin

MARSHMALLOW SOFT PUFFER

Uniqlo, reduced to £69.90

Uniqlo has an array of puffer jackets. This one is ‘made from carefully selected fabric for extra protection against the cold’ and is marshmallow soft. But it’s so short I fear I will need a hot chocolate too.

The freeze test: All that padding does the trick and my upper body is snug. But I’m an ice block from waist down.

Thermal imaging shows it is doing a good job overall, but some seams let heat escape.

VERDICT: Perfect if you want a bracing walk. 8/10


Uniqlo has an array of puffer jackets. This one is ‘made from carefully selected fabric for extra protection against the cold’ and is marshmallow soft. But it’s so short I fear I will need a hot chocolate too

FABULOUS FAUX FUR FOR WINTER

New Look, reduced to £44.79

This faux fur coat feels like the very softest of cuddly toys.

The freeze test: Made from 100 per cent polyester, with no padding I don’t have high hopes for this. However, it is surprisingly warm — that’s if I ignore the chill creeping up the wide arms and V-neck.

The thermal image shows less heat is escaping from my arms than feared, but it is pouring from under my arms where there are seams and the coat fits more loosely.

VERDICT: Fake, fun and perfectly good for outdoor lockdown celebrations. 6/10


This faux fur coat feels like the very softest of cuddly toys. The freeze test: Made from 100 per cent polyester, with no padding I don’t have high hopes for this. However, it is surprisingly warm — that’s if I ignore the chill creeping up the wide arms and V-neck

DOWN-FILLED FOR ARCTIC DAYS

Canada Goose, £1,095

A coat that feels more substantial than my duvet — stuffed with duck down and field-tested to provide warmth below -30c — this comes to mid-calf and has a fur-trimmed hood. It screams heat and has a flap under the two-way zip to stop warmth vanishing.

The freeze test: Well, if the temperature dips to -12c I can attest that this coat is very snug. It’s like being wrapped up in bed, though I’m not sure it’s as far ahead of its High-Street rivals as the price tag suggests.

The thermal images confirm that this coat does its job, with only a little heat escaping along the zip.

VERDICT: Maximum warmth, should Arctic conditions happen to blow in. 10/10


A coat that feels more substantial than my duvet — stuffed with duck down and field-tested to provide warmth below -30c — this comes to mid-calf and has a fur-trimmed hood. It screams heat and has a flap under the two-way zip to stop warmth vanishing

CUDDLE UP IN A TEDDY COAT

M&S, £89

This teddy coat will keep me ‘wonderfully snug’, says M&S, and it certainly looks the part. It’s 100 per cent polyester, not a breathable fabric, so is often used for heat retention in outdoor gear such as fleeces.

With the collar pulled up I feel as cosy as a bear bedding down for winter.

The freeze test: The teddy bear layer felt snug, but the thermal image tells a different story. The V-neck just doesn’t contain heat and it has poured away from my shoulders and upper arms.

A double layer of fabric at the lapel, though, is super insulating.

VERDICT: You’ll need to stay under a heater. 4/10

A FUNCTIONAL PARKA

French Connection, £185

As parkas go, this seems a little lightweight, but it does have a faux-fur trim to the hood for extra snuggle. The slim, padded layer is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester.

The freeze test: I step into the freezer with trepidation; this coat feels insubstantial. But it is warmer than anticipated, and the flap covering the zip does a good job of preventing body heat from escaping from this vulnerable area. The seams where the arms attach to the body of the coat are a weak spot, however, as is the area around the front pockets.

VERDICT: Not one for snow, but good for a countryside stroll with friends. 6/10


As parkas go, this seems a little lightweight, but it does have a faux-fur trim to the hood for extra snuggle. The slim, padded layer is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester

PERFECT PADDING AND A SNUG FIT

M&S, £125

A ‘comfort stretch padded coat’ doesn’t sound glamorous, but this trusty M&S number deploying the brand’s water-repellent Stormwear technology looks surprisingly nice.

It also feels very snug, which is all-important in heat retention. However polyamide (or nylon) isn’t renowned for its insulating qualities, which is where the 100 per cent polyester filling comes in.

The freeze test: On paper this coat doesn’t have the heat-retaining power of down, but it feels pretty snuggly and the inner cuffs that loop over my hands keep my wrists warm. But there is a chill along the zip line.

The thermal image may look as if I have a six-pack, but in fact shows that the ‘weak’ spot in this coat is indeed along the zip and along the seams that create the garment’s quilted effect.

Heat is also escaping through the under-arm seams. But my lower body is well-insulated thanks to the snug fit, as is the bulk of my abdomen and my lower arms.

VERDICT: A snug fit but make sure you keep moving. 4/10


A ‘comfort stretch padded coat’ doesn’t sound glamorous, but this trusty M&S number deploying the brand’s water-repellent Stormwear technology looks surprisingly nice

  • For more information, visit theicebox.com and catphones.com 

Now winter is on its way, the item on everyone’s wishlists is hot property. After doing up our houses in lockdown, we have turned our attention to outdoor space. John Lewis has seen demand soar for patio heaters, up a staggering 1,625 per cent compared with the same week last year. But with prices starting at under £100, and a huge variety of models to choose from, which ones should be warming your evenings outdoors? JENNY WOOD takes a look . . .

FIRE IT UP

La Fiesta cast-iron, rust-finish fire bowl, £69.99, primrose.co.uk

Pile wood or charcoal into this traditionally shaped fire pit and enjoy good flames. Made of cast iron with an attractive rusty finish and sturdy legs, it has a rainwater drainage hole in the bottom and two handles. It is perfect for toasting marshmallows. 4/5

Pile wood or charcoal into this traditionally shaped fire pit and enjoy good flames. Made of cast iron with an attractive rusty finish and sturdy legs, it has a rainwater drainage hole in the bottom and two handles. It is perfect for toasting marshmallows

LIGHT FANTASTIC

Kettler plush ceiling electric heater, £179, kettler.co.uk

This heater and garden light with fabric shade can be hung by a chain from a pergola, gazebo or conservatory to warm guests below. The only downside? You will need an outdoor extension cord as the 1.8-metre cable isn’t long. 3/5

This heater and garden light with fabric shade can be hung by a chain from a pergola, gazebo or conservatory to warm guests below. The only downside? You will need an outdoor extension cord as the 1.8-metre cable isn’t long

CHIMNEY SWEET

Saunderson chiminea, £186.99, wayfair.co.uk

Fill the bowl with wood or charcoal and light.Gives a surprising amount of heat. The smoke is channelled through the funnel at the top. A handy log store. 3/5

Fill the bowl with wood or charcoal and light.Gives a surprising amount of heat. The smoke is channelled through the funnel at the top. A handy log store

WIDE WARMTH

Colorado 2500R heater and stand combination, £449, herschel-infrared.co.uk

This versatile black heater might not be as pretty as others but it’s easy to use and the flat, wide head gives off an impressive amount of heat within seconds. Waterproof, it can be wall- or ceiling-mounted, or used with a height-adjustable stand. Optional remote control. 4/5

This versatile black heater might not be as pretty as others but it’s easy to use and the flat, wide head gives off an impressive amount of heat within seconds. Waterproof, it can be wall- or ceiling-mounted, or used with a height-adjustable stand. Optional remote control

TOWERING INFERNO

BU-KO outdoor patio gas heater, £249, amazon. co.uk

This metal pyramid conceals a propane gas canister (which you need to buy separately). A flame dances up a glass tube inside, providing decent heat. There’s a built-in safety valve and it is waterproof. 2/5

This metal pyramid conceals a propane gas canister (which you need to buy separately). A flame dances up a glass tube inside, providing decent heat. There’s a built-in safety valve and it is waterproof

TALL ORDER

Florida 2,000W heater, £299, herschel-infrared.co.uk

Looking more like a floor lamp than a patio heater, this extra-tall model plugs into an outdoor power socket and the infrared lamp warms up immediately. The stainless steel pole can be inserted through a garden table for all-round heat. The base is heavy but fairly easy to manoeuvre. The downside is that it is only splash-proof, so you will need to store it in your shed when it rains. 3/5

Looking more like a floor lamp than a patio heater, this extra-tall model plugs into an outdoor power socket and the infrared lamp warms up immediately. The stainless steel pole can be inserted through a garden table for all-round heat. The base is heavy but fairly easy to manoeuvre. The downside is that it is only splash-proof, so you will need to store it in your shed when it rains

STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

California 2,000W rose-gold heater, £299, herschel-infrared.co.uk

The most stylish model I tried; this lozenge-shaped infrared heater looks reassuringly expensive when mounted on the wall but can also be used with a stand. Giving off a gentle glow, it’s waterproof, has a remote control and can be timer-controlled for up to nine hours. 4/5

The most stylish model I tried; this lozenge-shaped infrared heater looks reassuringly expensive when mounted on the wall but can also be used with a stand. Giving off a gentle glow, it’s waterproof, has a remote control and can be timer-controlled for up to nine hours

BEST ALL-ROUNDER

Empire 3kW carbon infrared patio heater, £510, heat-outdoors.co.uk

Of all the heaters I tried, this kept me the toastiest. Sturdy and idiot-proof, with a choice of settings, the vertical tubes give out an impressive amount of top-to-toe warmth. Safety features include flocked bars to prevent burns and an optional motion sensor that switches the heater on and off if guests leave the area. It’s also waterproof. 5/5

Of all the heaters I tried, this kept me the toastiest. Sturdy and idiot-proof, with a choice of settings, the vertical tubes give out an impressive amount of top-to-toe warmth. Safety features include flocked bars to prevent burns and an optional motion sensor that switches the heater on and off if guests leave the area. It’s also waterproof

BEAT THE BRITISH WEATHER

The must-have finishing touch to any rule of six garden party? A gazebo to keep the rain off. Many retailers have sold out, but we tested the 2.8m pergola from the Raj Tent Company (Rajtentclub.com) which is tall enough to use with patio heaters. 

At £1,400 to buy or £660 to rent for three days, it’s more expensive than high street versions, but comes in a range of colours, with optional floor mats, drapes, ceiling lantern light and even a socially-distant styling service.

The must-have finishing touch to any rule of six garden party? A gazebo to keep the rain off. Many retailers have sold out, but we tested the 2.8m pergola from the Raj Tent Company (Rajtentclub.com) which is tall enough to use with patio heaters

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