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Rain Jacket vs Parka – Differences? Similarities?

Woman in red rain jacket enjoying spring time rain shower.

There are many similarities between rain jackets and parkas, and it can be hard to decide some days which is the best one to put on. They are both long coats to protect themselves from environmental elements, and they are also both weather-resistant and water-resistant. The key difference between the two coats is that one is typically longer, and also heavier, and there the parka is the winner.

Still, a rain jacket is ideal for those days when you just don’t know where or when the weather will turn. Use this guide when you are looking for a new coat and not sure where to start.

What is a rain jacket?

Jogging girl with earbuds and rain jacket.

A rain jacket is a coat that is shorter in length than a parka and is typically waterproof so that it can do its job, and protect the wearer from rain and cold. It can be a thin coat for summer, but it can also be insulated and thicker if you want a rain jacket for winter. Many rain jackets will come with insulation.

What is a parka?

Smiling woman wearing a parka on a blurred background.

A parka is a longer jacket that is worn in colder conditions but for the same reason. It is worn to protect from inclement or extremely cold weather. Parkas are typically reserved for the winter season but can come out in the fall and early spring in some climates.

In most cases, the parka is warmer, but it will boil down to the construction and material for each one.

Features – Rain Jacket vs. Parka

Rain water droplets in a rain jacket.

The key feature that distinguishes a rain jacket from a parka is the length of the coat with parkas being the longer coat here. Parkas have traditionally been reserved for colder weather, and feature additional design and materials to ensure they keep you warm. They will come with hoods, sometimes fur-lined, and they are made of heavier materials to accommodate for warmth and weather resistance.

In some cases, the warmth from the coat is the protection from the elements. Some jackets are designed for extreme cold as well, but with rain jackets, the emphasis is on weather-resistant or waterproof. This is a lighter garment, often made of a shell material that will repel water or weather from the jacket easily.

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Rain jackets are also shorter, as rainy climates and environments tend to be warmer. As temperatures rise and the precipitation falls as rain, a lighter coat is needed. What is necessary for a rain jacket is either waterproof or water resistant.

It also may require a lining or even some insulation as some climates can offer a very cool rain.

Materials

When you are looking for a rain jacket or parka, waterproof, windproof, and insulation materials are the materials you are looking for. Exterior coatings on both styles of coats should also be considered, as should the construction quality. For both rain jackets and parkas, you want to look for construction that is seam-sealed and comes with a DWR coating which is a durable water-repellant coating.

You also want to make sure that the zippers and features of the coat or parka are waterproof as well. These are coats that will be designed for heavy precipitation or cold weather. Having a zipper snap in the cold or wet ruins the parka or jacket, and defeats its purpose.

Rain jackets are made of waterproof or water-resistant material such as nylon or polyester with outer shells, sometimes in vinyl or treated to make waterproof. The outer shell of a parka will be very similar and made from a synthetic material that will also repel water or inclement weather. Parkas will also be filled with material such as down or other insulation to create additional layers of warmth.

Design Features

Woman in parka pushing a grocery cart.

The design features of raincoats are for both style and function. The key difference between the two are length, and that is so that parkas can offer more warmth, as that is their primary purpose. A traditional rain jacket that is not a trench coat or raincoat will fall just around or below the hips, while the parka’s length can run past the knee, or at the mid-thigh point.

Most parkas will be distinguished by a hood as well. A common design feature of parkas here is the fur-lined element of the parka hood. There are some rain jackets that may have a hood today.

Many people wearing rain jackets will use umbrellas, or there may be an interior pocket with a nylon hood in raincoats that some people could wear when it rains. In some cases, the rain jacket is going to have a detachable hood. Both styles of coats will have pockets, with parkas often having more pockets than the average rain jacket.

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Parkas commonly have dual access pockets at or around the hips, and sometimes inside the lining to hold items that you would want to be protected from the rain. A key design difference between rain jackets and parkas is breathability. Both coats are meant to keep you warm, but parkas are going to offer less wiggle room here.

That is because they are designed to keep air out, whereas some rain jackets need to let air in. You want to see seam-sealed construction in both types of coats. That helps in both durability and in water resistance.

Other features to look for in both rain jackets and parkas are drawcords for the waist so that you can tighten the coat or parka closer to you when it gets cold or wet. Adjustable cuffs and easy to use Velcro fasteners on the cuffs, and zipper overlay are also very common features on both rain jackets and parkas.

Cost Differences

There are always going to be cost differences for any garment, as garments can be sold in bargain stores, or in high-end designer boutiques. The same applies to rain jackets and parkas. You will see with this item of clothing that quality will go up with the price and with the label on the item.

For either item, you can expect to start to pay approximately $50 for a starter rain jacket or parka. This will get you a good parka or raincoat, but you aren’t going to be seeing the finest materials or construction. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad coat, but it could mean you won’t have it for more than one season.

For rain jackets, while there is less material, the water-resistant nature of this jacket specifically is going to increase in price with brand and label. Where parkas will see higher costs due to down insulation, rain jackets are going to rise in prices with a water-resistant coating. That coating is as important to the rain jacket as the insulation is to a parka.

Both jackets can be as high as several hundred dollars depending on where you get them, and some even could be more than $1,000.

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Benefits of Rain Jackets and Parkas

The benefits of rain jackets and parkas are similar. They both offer durability and resistance to weather. They differ in what kind of weather they deal with.

Rain jackets offer resistance to rain, while parkas offer resistance to extreme cold, and also precipitation. They both have their benefits in their own unique climates. Either jacket would be inappropriate in the climate the other is intended for.

A parka when it rains is going to be too warm, while a rain jacket when it is snowing is not going to be enough coverage or weather resistance. The length of parkas will help for warmth in colder temperatures, and that is why they are longer. If you have rain in a cooler climate, you may want to go with a parka over a rain jacket, as your back and your legs will feel colder in that weather with a rain jacket over a parka.

Brief History of Rain Jackets and Parkas

The parka was first invented by Canadians and Alaskans when they needed a longer coat to withstand extreme temperatures. These people were also the first to put fur around the hoods as a means of protecting faces from snow and wind. Some of the earliest parkas had baby pouches and were used to carry babies in bad weather.

It was the 1950s when parkas began to come into the mainstream as a wardrobe staple in colder climates. Rain jackets go back a long way as well, with the first real rain jacket coming into the light in 1824 when a Scottish man by the name of Charles Macintosh used a tarpaulin to create a coat to stay dry through cold Scottish rains. Today, the designs have evolved to be just as rain resistant and warm, but more stylish with more practical materials.

Parkas Are My Go-To

When it comes to choosing between rain jackets vs parkas, I love a good parka. Most of my coats are longer in length, and I live in a cooler climate, and it just makes more sense to me. Also, more pockets.

That’s all I need to know. The fur-lined hoods aren’t just for looks either, although they can be so pretty. They work for the cold and rain as well!