Look for these qualities in a coat to help you get through a Maine winter.

Whether you’re new to Maine or just dreading cold winters, choosing a winter coat when the weather starts to get cold can be an anxiety-provoking experience. Winter clothes can get expensive, but having the wrong coat can make even the shortest walks in town feel like treks across the Arctic.

Choosing a coat that will meet all of your winter needs doesn’t need to burn a hole in your wallet or make you want extra warmth. A few simple buying tips will guide even the most winter-hostile coat seeker to the perfect fluffy match.

First, check out your local thrift stores, which often have a large selection of coats in all shapes, sizes, and colors at significantly discounted prices.

Cindy Johnson, president of The Cubby Thrift Stores in Presque Isle, said she recommends her customers ask themselves, “What are you looking for in a coat? “

“Fashion, work outdoors, sport or the entry and exit races – when everything has to be hot, length and material come into play,” Johnson said. “Depending on the shopper, insulated denim or leather coats are a good entry and exit option, while a fashionista may want a lined mid-thigh coat that stands out.”

If you are planning to do outdoor winter sports, you might have different criteria.

“Quilted coats are a bit unnecessary when wet,” said Heather Steeves, communications manager at Goodwill Northern New England. “They are losing their pockets. If you really need a durable situation I would consider a hard shell and maybe an inflated vest.

Also keep an eye out for quality brands. LL Bean, North Face, and Patagonia are staples in many Maine closets, but if you’re unfamiliar with brands like Woolrich and Carhartt, they also make warm, durable winter clothing. Steeves said you might have to compromise on color for quality, however.

“Be prepared to buy them in olive green or brown,” Steeves said. “Sometimes if you can be flexible on what color you get, you can get a quote from a high quality brand that will last a few years.”

Thrift stores near outdoor retailers are also more likely to carry quality winter coats.

“A Goodwill store next to a large outfitter is more likely to donate this kind of brand because the donations stay local,” Steeves said.

Be sure to check the coats for a liner, as sometimes the coats given will have the warm inner liner removed, Johnson said.

For more casual winter wear, puffy coats have their place, Steeves said – just make sure they’re actually puffy.

“That’s how it works – it traps the air,” Steeves said. “If you get a down or an alternative down coat, make sure it’s really poofy.”

Even if it is a beanbag, make sure the coat fits you well. Stick to one or two sizes of your actual size to leave room for layering, but not enough for the wind to get through. Also make sure the coat is not too tight.

“You want to make sure you’re retaining your body’s natural heat and if you’re compressing your body, it won’t,” Steeves said.

Stay away from certain fabrics that will not provide warmth, such as vinyl or cotton.

“Cotton kills because once you sweat it keeps it going and people think they won’t sweat in the winter, but you do,” Steeves said.

Don’t be afraid to look beyond your usual mediums either.

“Women can often find a gender neutral coat on the men’s rack and vice versa,” Johnson said. “The cold does not discriminate.

Thrift stores will check that the coats have working zippers, but if you find a quality piece that has a little flaw, don’t be afraid to buy it and fix it at home.

“Coats that are stained on the cuffs, are missing a button, or have torn pockets do not affect the quality of the coat,” Johnson said. “Second hand stores don’t have the resources to wash or repair items. Consider repairing at home.

Even if you have a warm winter coat, Steeves said to remember that a good layering is just as important for dressing warm in winter.

“Make sure you have a nice wool or synthetic base layer, a good fleece or a wool sweater,” Steeves said. “You can save all of these things. Layer in a way that makes sense.


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