A ‘one winter guarantee’ lets a customer wear Askov Finlayson’s parka through months of cold and judge for themselves its worthiness against nature’s worst.
Eric Dayton set out a year ago to build a new kind of winter coat. In the process, he rebooted a company founded nearly a decade ago.
Minneapolis-based Askov Finlayson launched in 2011 as a retail store. It soon developed its own products with a hybrid theme of quality design made for the outdoors, as well as clothing and accessories for active city life.
But Dayton, a lifelong winter-lover and friend of explorer Will Steger, wanted to focus the brand and build something new. He saw a hole in the marketplace for a parka that was warm, good-looking, and functional for city life and the outdoors.
The Winter Parka is indeed different from anything on the market. Its influence is “the North,” as Dayton calls his home state of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest lands adjacent to the Great Lakes and Canada. As the parka was coming to life, he hired a veteran outerwear designer, John Ly, and went to Ely, Minnesota, at the edge of BWCA to meet with Steger.
The result, after more than a year in development, is a product that checks boxes on form, function, sustainability, and warmth. Dayton is so confident customers will love it that the company offers a “one winter guarantee,” including free shipping and free returns.
Askov Finlayson Winter Parka Review
I tested the parka out this winter starting as snow pounded in an early-December storm. Its quality and attention to detail were apparent from the moment I zipped up.
Velcro cuffs seal out cold at the wrists. An insulated collar surrounds the neck. The hood, a “scuba design,” kills some peripheral vision but is among the coziest you’ll ever wear.
The Winter Parka launched last month for $495. It is available online as well as at the company’s Minneapolis retail store.
Its price tag may strike as high. But Dayton and his team are not looking to offer a budget buy. They pitch the Winter Parka as a high-performing piece with materials and construction built to last.
A competitive analysis might yield brand comparisons like Fjallraven and Canada Goose, the latter of which has parkas that cost over $1,000. The North Face, Helly Hansen, Columbia, and others sell parkas in the $500-plus price range.
I asked Dayton, “Who is the target customer for this parka?” He replied, “Versatility was a goal. We never micro-targeted a demographic, but the value proposition is about the quality you get for the price.”
Parka Built for ‘The North’
Rated to -20 degrees F, the parka employs a just-launched synthetic down from 3M. Thinsulate Recycled Featherless Insulation lofts like real feathers but is made of post-consumer recycled polyester. 3M touts it’s equivalent to 700-fill-power goose down in spec.
On the jacket, deep baffles of the 3M fluff and a giant hood ensconce a wearer in warmth. It comes in men’s and women’s cuts and in three colors, including the tan parka I tested as well as dark-blue and forest-green options.
Water beads and runs off the face fabric, a recycled polyester, thanks to a DWR treatment. Though the parka isn’t seam-taped like a technical shell, there’s a waterproof-breathable membrane in the fabric for protection against the elements.
But this isn’t your common performance coat. The baffles and puff, the snaps, cuffs, collar, mesh, and the closures create a complex but smart design. There’s even a metal-mesh pouch made for a phone; it blocks cell signals to let a wearer truly unplug.
The end product is a parka that weighs over 3 pounds and fits like a wearable hug. You feel warm and protected in the Winter Parka. Despite its long feature set, a clean aesthetic with stealth branding makes it wearable in daily life or the outdoors.
Explorer Will Steger’s Influence
In the making of Askov Finlayson’s Winter Parka, Dayton did not assemble a focus group. The initial sketches came from his experience living in Minnesota, as well as trips to the mountains and myriad frozen places over the years.
In 2004, fresh out of college, Dayton jumped on a dogsled expedition with Steger. He cut his teeth living on snow and ice for 6 months and 2,000 miles across the Arctic.
So it was Steger that the brand turned to when initializing the project. During a trip to his home in Ely, Dayton and John Ly were allowed to go through Steger’s “gear archives” and look at every piece. They discussed features and materials, fit, and what excelled — and what failed — in real Arctic situations.
Dayton and Ly returned with a pile of notes and the inspiration to make something new. Steger’s parkas offered different ways to look at sealing out wind, moisture, and snow in the worst conditions.
Protection was balanced by a need for mobility and functionality, with each pocket, closure, flap, and seam considered in designs that attempt to stay as minimal as possible given the parka’s polar tasks.
Ly said he was inspired by the gear and Steger himself. “His relentless pursuit of getting people out to enjoying the outdoors is contagious,” Ly said. “I still have visions of the ice harvest ingrained in my mind,” he added, referring to an activity on a frozen lake during the Ely retreat.
I asked Ly, who has created iconic jackets for The North Face and holds multiple patents on outerwear design, how he would sum up the Askov Finlayson parka in a few words. “Built authentically for the North,” he said.
A First? ‘Climate-Positive’ Parka
It’s also built for the planet. Askov Finlayson is working to be a leader in sustainability. The company gives 110 percent of its carbon impact each year to climate solutions in the form of grants. Because of that commitment, the brand touts the world’s first “climate-positive” winter parka.
The parka has no fur ruff, and no goose down. It’s made of recycled fabrics and with the new recycled 3M insulation in a Vietnam factory Askov Finlayson said has a “roster of clients, among many leaders in sustainability.”
I asked about PFCs of environmental concern in this jacket. The company stated, “We are using a C6 fluorinated water repellent that does not contain long-chain perfluorinated compounds including PFOS and PFOA.”
Finally, the Winter Parka is warrantied for life. “To be as sustainable as possible,” the company notes, “we believe gear should last for many winters to come.”
Winter Parka Review
After 3 weeks with the Parka, in temps between -5 and 30 degrees F, I am mostly sold on the design. Overall, Askov Finlayson has accomplished something different here, with the theme of “the North” truly coming through. As a lifelong Minnesotan, this parka feels made for the woods and wilderness I grew up exploring as winter snow piled deep.
To be sure, the Winter Parka is bulky and stocked with more features than I usually like. Most of its eight pockets remain empty for daily use. But on a hike across a frozen lake, I can carry extra gloves and even snacks and a small water bottle in the generous interior mesh stashes.
The hood is very cozy but is large and lacks adjustments. You cannot cinch it tight or dial in the fit. It feels too big unless you’re wearing a hat underneath. And, despite the parka’s insulated collar, I needed to wear a BUFF around my neck on colder days to seal out the chill.
For the most part, I would not choose this jacket for long hikes or anything too active outdoors, except for on the coldest days of the year. It’s too warm once your heart rate gets moving in temps above 20 degrees, and it’s thicker than most down puffy jackets I own.
If you take it off, the parka does not easily pack down like a down puffy can. There are performance-oriented options in my closet that fit closer, adjust in the hem and the hood, and better accommodate a backpack.
But Aksov Finalyson has a place in my winter quiver. The parka, as noted, balances form with function better than most jackets can manage. I asked John Ly who the Winter Parka was made for. “On one end of the spectrum you have Will Steger, and on the other end you have the ‘Minnesota person’ that simply loves to get out in the wintertime and enjoy a walk,” he said.
It’s this spectrum that Askov Finlayson hopes to bridge with the parka. The company has plans to expand and design a larger outerwear line in the years to come. As a first offering, the Winter Parka is a win; the company created something new in a category stocked with sameness.
Update: It’s been about a week since we published my initial review. Since then, the temps in Minnesota (my home state) have dredged into below-zero for multiple days, and I’ve had a chance to further test the Winter Parka. I have a few updates.
Overall, the parka continues to perform. It is uber-warm; I have not once wanted more insulation than this coat gives. It’s easy to layer underneath this parka, and as per the temp I have done just such: Below zero I wear a base layer and one or two additional tops. Above about 10 degrees, I can wear a long-sleeve top alone and be fine. So far, it’s been a “just right” amount of warmth for use in temps from about 10-below to 30 degrees F.
With the hood up, the parka is in its natural state. It is comfortable to wear, though as noted above in the first part of this review, it’s too roomy inside the hood unless you are also wearing a hat. The best choice is to wear a Buff or a skullcap-type winter beanie. A hat with a pom-pom, like Askov Finlayson’s popular “North” hat, is less optimal, as the spherical flare on top causes the hood to bump out unnecessarily.
Put the hood down and here you need to be careful. Mind the chin. There is an internal collar and material around the closure. But the top of the zipper is somewhat exposed. Depending on your head shape and the fit of the parka, the zipper will interface with skin under the chin, possibly to an uncomfortable effect.
The solution is simple: Unzip the parka an inch or two. Then there is no contact. Or, put your hands in the cozy coat pockets; the slight downward tug alleviates any zipper-to-chin connection.
But the default mode should be better. I would encourage Askov Finlayson to add a fabric “garage” to the top of the zipper on version 2.0 of the Winter Parka.
Finally, a comment on the sleeve length. I have long arms. In normal circumstances — walking around the city, on a hike with mitts on — the parka fits fine in the sleeves. But when I reach for something up high, my wrists are exposed. I found myself wishing for another inch of sleeve length on a few occasions, especially if I was wearing the parka without larger winter mitts that fit up past my wrists.
It’s December 15, and we have a lot of winter left. I will update this article as the months of snow and ice continue, and this parka stays on to keep me protected and warm.