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PAKA Apu Parka Review: Is Alpaca Wool-Based Insulation The Next Big Thing In Outdoor Apparel?

I've been testing out the exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio of PAKA's ethical Alpaca wool, and I'm sold on it.

Alpaca apparel brand PAKA launched their men’s and women’s Apu Parka range in 2023 to great fanfare: it’s one of their first products to be made with PAKA’s award-winning, patent-pending Alpaca wool-based insulation, PAKAFILL.

PAKA calls PAKAFILL ‘the warmest ethical insulation in the world’ on account of its ethical credentials and exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio compared to down and synthetic options.

I’ll explain more on PAKAFILL in this PAKA Apu Parka review, as well as this cold-weather jacket’s key features, pros, cons, options and my experience wearing it.

About PAKA Apparel

Before we dive into my PAKA Apu Parka review, if you’re not familiar with PAKA it’s worth knowing a bit of background on the brand because they’re so different to many other companies.

PAKA specializes in technical outdoor-ready apparel made from Alpaca wool. Most, if not all of their apparel is made in Peru by their team of weavers, using fully traceable Alpaca wool from herds raised in the country.

Their products include hoodies, socks and baselayers made with Alpaca wool – learn more about some of these products in our PAKA socks review and PAKA baselayer review.

Also, check out Paka’s website where they provide more information on their wool and manufacturing processes.

The key specifications of the PAKA Apu Parka

PAKA Apu Parka review
  • Price: $349 from pakaapparel.com
  • Sizing and fit: True to size. The Men’s parka is available in S to XXL, the Women’s is available in XS to XXL.
  • Insulation: PAKAFILL alpaca wool-based insulation with a higher warmth-to-weight ratio and better hydrophobic qualities compared to down
  • Inner material: polyester – bluesign certified
  • Outer material: nylon, coated with an eco durable water repellent (DWR) coating (PFAS Free)
  • Pockets: Two hand zippered pockets, two interior ‘goggle’ pockets for goggles or hats, gloves, etc, and an interior zippered pocket for smaller items
  • Designed for: any outdoor adventure, including snowsports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing and snowshoeing as well as general wear in cold weather

In case you’re wondering what ‘Apu’ means, in Peru, Apu is the spirit of the mountains and the protector of the local people. What a great name for a jacket designed to protect you from the elements everywhere, including the mountains?!


3 outstanding features of the PAKA Apu Parka

1. The exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio is warmer than down and synthetic alternatives

PAKA Apu Parka has two large pockets on the inside for things like ski goggles and wallet

The insulation used in this jacket has half the volume of down for the same level of insulation. It’s been proven as the warmest insulation available for outerwear – warmer than goose down, warmer than synthetics.

For the ethically-conscious, Alpaca wool is sourced from free-roaming alpacas in the Andes, making it a preferable alternative to goose down and non-recycled synthetics. It’s also fully traceable, you can trace via PAKA’s website, all the way back to the farm it was sourced from.

More of Alpaca wool’s benefits include, like Merino wool (and unlike down) it:

  • keeps you warm when wet (it has a low water retention rate)
  • has thermoregulation properties to help you keep to a comfortable temperature when moving in the mountains and other cold conditions.

2. The overall fit and feel of the jacket

PAKA Apu Parka large hood easiliy fits a ski helmet in it
The helmet-compatible hood

On unboxing, I was struck by how lightweight the parka is, but also how soft the material is on the outside – and inside, for that matter.

As a reviewer of outdoor gear, most outerwear I come across has that rugged, waterproof, ‘rustly’ feel and sound to it when you touch or move it, usually because of the choice of material and waterproofing coating that has been applied to it.

The sensory experience of picking up the Apu Parka is more, well, LUXE in that it feels almost too nice to be capable of tackling elements including snow, wind and rain, with the soft outer, and quilted inner lining. But that’s just how it feels, not how it actually functions.

It’s also stretchy, with 4-way stretch, so it’s very comfortable to wear doing something active in, such as a winter hike, or snowsports, where you’re moving around a lot.

3. The extra touches such as the adjustable hood and pit zips

PAKA Apu Parka ventilation zips under the arms
Pit zips on the Apu Parka provide additional ventilation

The hood provides full head coverage and is helmet-compatible. Once the jacket is zipped up over your chin you have a lot of protection from the elements across the lower part of your face, too.

The cuffs have soft, stretchy inner cuffs with thumb holes, that cover the back of your hands. These can also be worn under gloves which is important for time spent outdoors, in extremely cold temperatures.

For added ventilation during sweaty endeavors, PAKA has included pit zips that can be unzipped to let air in under the arms and around the back.

The jacket is quite understated in its branding, which many people will like – myself included.

For example, the subtle branding includes a woven signature on the left cuff, that serves as a reminder that when you purchase a Paka product, you are supporting 150+ women artisans in Peru, and the company is really investing in the communities they source materials from.

Features I feel could be improved for the next version

1. I’d love to see adjustable cuffs on the next version

PAKA Apu Parka has classic PAKA Apparel details on one of the cuffs
Woven detail on the PAKA Apu Parka speaks to PAKA’s Peruvian connection

The neck, hood and bottom of the parka are adjustable to help with the fit and keeping the elements out.

However, the main cuffs on the parka are not adjustable. They’re loose and slide down over your hands (which are already snugly ensconced in the fleecy interior cuffs with thumb holes).

That’s super nice when you want as much hand coverage as possible, but having the ability to cinch the cuffs down is desirable especially when you’re wearing gloves and want to close the gap between glove and cuff.

2. The zipper gets stuck on a seam at the neck

The zipper on my particular parka gets stuck at the seam where the body meets the hood.

This makes it difficult to easily do the jacket all the way up over my throat and chin, which is not ideal. Time will tell if it gets smoother and catches less often with wear.

PAKA Apu Parka front adjustment for the hood

This issue may just be occuring on my particular jacket and not all Apu Parkas. In any case, hopefully it’s not an issue for any future versions, as it seems an easy fix to make and not something you should have to deal with on a premium jacket like this.

3. Limited color options

Black, grey and light color jackets are often most popular colorways for winter jacket buyers, and I like that the PAKA Apu Parka color options include these sophisticated colors.

However, for certain sports, and for certain individual preferences, bright colors are more desirable. For example, if you plan to wear yours skiing or snowboarding, you may prefer a bright color to help you be seen in poor visibility or if someone is searching for you.

So I’d love to see this jacket available in at least one nice bright colorway in future.

Is the Apu Parka worth the money?

There’s no doubt this is an excellent winter parka, and you’d expect so, with a retail price of $349.

If you are spending time somewhere that gets very cold in winter, then it’s worth investing in a super warm, well-insulated jacket that will protect you from the elements and keep your body temperature in a comfortable zone.

If you’re into the more understated jackets that have premium features (such as the incredibly warm lightweight Alpaca-wool insulation) but don’t scream ‘I’m outdoorsy and I want everyone to know it’, the PAKA Apu Parka is definitely going to appeal to you.

If you’re looking for more of a shell that can be layered with varying weights of baselayers, midlayers and puffy insulated jackets underneath, then this parka may not be the best choice as I expect, like me in testing, you’ll get overly warm wearing too many other layers underneath it.

Where to buy the Apu Parka

This jacket is currently available in men’s and women’s styles for $349 at pakaapparel.com:

PAKA Apu Parka review by Helen from Trail and Kale
PAKA Apu Parka Review
PROS
Exceptional warmth from lightweight Alpaca-wool insulation
Ethically sourced and manufactured
Numerous thoughtful design features make this a versatile do-everything winter jacket
CONS
Zipper catching is an annoyance you should have on a jacket of this price
Limited color options
8.6
Overall Score

Image Gallery

Helen
Helenhttps://www.trailandkale.com/
One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, Mom to Seb and guardian of our resident adventure dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.

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