In the market for a new parka? In this article, we’ll review the Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Fit Parka.
If you’re a short guy, especially on the slimmer side, it can be difficult to find a winter coat off the rack that fits you well. The Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Fit Parka is one of the best options out there for a warm parka that flatters a smaller guy’s physique.
While parkas are more about function than style, it’s hard to be taken seriously when you look like the Michelin Man (even if it is freezing outside).
Most parkas are oversized, which isn’t going to be a big deal if you’re 6’4” and 260 pounds. However, giant, marshmallow parkas make a smaller guy look ridiculous.
The problem is, parka options for short, svelte men are extremely limited.
The Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Fit Parka is perhaps the best choice out there.
For reference, I am 5’6″ (without shoes) and 140 pounds. I wear size XS or S tops (depending on the brand).
My off-the-rack suit jacket size is typically 36S and my ideal pants size is 27×30.
History of the N-3B Parka
According to Alpha Industries, the company began producing the N-3B parka in 1959.
Modern-day parkas are a riff off of traditional Inuit fur coats, called amauti.
Originally, the N-3B had a silk shell. Today, a nylon/cotton blend is used for the shell, with synthetic insulation.
Starting in the 60s, the N-3B began to be available to civilians in military surplus stores and was soon adopted by men and women alike.
More recently, Alpha Industries began selling a more stylish, slim version of their classic N-3B parka design.
Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka Fit/Sizing
The Modest Man founder, Brock McGoff, is 5’6” in boots and 125 pounds and he also wears an XS Alpha Industries parka. After hearing his recommendation in this video, I bought an AI Slim N-3B two years ago.
I am 5’6” and 138 pounds and I wear also wear size XS. For me, the parka fits slim in the arms and body, but I can still comfortably wear several layers of clothing underneath. The sleeves are the perfect length and the body of the jacket ends mid-thigh.
I estimate that a guy that’s 5’7” and 150 pounds should go with a size small — for anyone smaller than that, XS will probably fit well.
How to Choose the Color of Your Parka?
The AI N-3B Slim Parka is available in Sage, Slate Blue, Black, and Replica Blue (which is pretty much navy). I initially opted for Replica Blue, but ultimately ended up going with Black because I wear a lot of monochromatic black and grey in the winter.
Brock purchased the Replica Grey / Orange parka. Replica Grey (discontinued) is actually more of a green color.
I have to say that the bright orange lining peaking out from the sleeves and/or chest area can be quite eye-catching.
Honestly, I wish it had a black lining.
The reason behind the orange lining harkens back to the coat’s military heritage as the jacket could theoretically be worn inside-out in order to more easily be spotted, and potentially rescued, by friendly aircraft if you’re ever stranded. However, since you can’t zip this coat up when it’s inside-out, wearing it bright side out when it’s cold out isn’t really an option.
Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka Features
Besides the bright orange lining, this jacket has a lot of other unique features.
I was most excited about the exterior slanted chest pockets. I first saw coats with these pockets in Russia (my friends and I called them “T-rex pockets”).
I was kind of jealous of my Russian pals that had coats with this feature as they seemed like a really good way to warm up your hands when you’ve forgotten your gloves.
Unfortunately, on the Alpha Industries N-3B T-rex pockets aren’t lined and are situated outside of the coat’s insulating material. That means that they don’t really do a very good job of warming up your hands (unless you’re using hand warmers, that is).
Faux Fur-lined Snorkel Hood
This coat has a “snorkel hood.” This means that when the coat is zipped and buttoned up all the way and you put up your hood, only a small part of your face is exposed. Theoretically, this provides a lot of added warmth in frigid conditions.
The hood is lined with faux fur and has a detachable faux-fur fringe. Honestly, I think faux fur does an ok job as a lining but is basically worthless for other uses.
Without getting into the ethics of using real fur on clothing, it performs spectacularly. Real fur hood fringes actually keep snow out of your face and insulate well even when wet.
While fake fur has come a long way in recent years, it still can’t come close to providing the same benefits as the real McCoy.
While I’ll admit that most people live in climates warm enough that it doesn’t really matter, as someone who yearly experiences temperatures of -20F and plans to wear a coat for 10 years or more, I’d prefer having a real fur fringe even if it meant paying more.
Aside from function, the fringe on this coat’s hood doesn’t look very good.
Even new, it looked matted and cheap. (Not to mention that the light color doesn’t really match the black parka). Both Brock and I wear the coat with the fringe detached.
Zipper and Button Closures
This coat has both a quality metal zipper and large plastic buttons that attach to thick loops. (If you see an AI N-3B Slim Parka with a plastic zipper, it’s a fake).
I really like having both a zipper and buttons on a winter coat. The zipper keeps in a lot of warmth and the buttons make the coat look better.
I’ve had some issues with buttons coming loose and I’ve had to reattach two or three so far.
The hood has a draw cord to help keep you warm when you’re in “snorkel mode.” The waist also has a drawcord on the inside of the jacket to help you adjust the fit as needed.
The top of the left sleeve has a zipper pocket and two external pen sleeves. The zipper has a large red pull-cord ribbon that says “Remove before flight.” Initially, I wore the coat with the ribbon out, but now I tuck it into the pocket.
My guess is that the pocket was originally designed to hold a pack of cigarettes as it looks to be about the right size.
The pen sleeves have small, bullet-shaped plastic cones at the bottom to protect the coat from pen leakage and from getting holes from sharp writing implements.
Parka Warmth / Comfort
As I mentioned, I live in and travel to cold places. I’ve worn this coat for two winters now. With proper layering and winter accessories, it is sufficient down to about -20F, I’d say. (It really depends on humidity, windchill, and other factors).
Truthfully, I think my Russian wool/poly overcoat is a little bit warmer.
I wore this parka when I visited an area of Lapland, Finland, about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle a while back.
While perhaps not ideal for those extremely cold climes, it was sufficient when I went snowshoeing and dogsledding.
However, when I sent on a long snowmobiling trip, I wore a bulky snowsuit on top of my many layers, including my N-3B parka. With the bone-chilling wind and the fierce cold of the polar night, the parka alone wouldn’t have been enough.
As I always say, a quality winter coat is just one component, albeit an essential one, in staving off frostbite and hypothermia in true winter conditions.
I think the Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka is an excellent choice unless you will be spending extended periods of time outside below -20F or -30F.
Alpha Industries Parka Long-Term Wear & Tear
I’ve worn this coat for two winters and it’s held up well. Again, I’ve had a few buttons come loose, but besides that and a few loose threads, I haven’t had any other major problems.
This coat has stood up to thorns, the heat of campfires, long miles of hiking, and more.
Where to Buy an Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka?
I initially bought a new Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka on eBay. When it arrived I noticed that the quality wasn’t very good.
The plastic zipper broke the second time I tried it on! It turns out that the coat was fake! I returned it and bought one from another seller on eBay. This time the coat I received had a quality metal zipper and better finishing.
Up until that point, it was one of the most expensive pieces of clothing I’d ever bought, coming in at around $180.
While Brock wore his N-3B for a few years, he found that with the casual accents — like the shiny finish, the orange lining, and the bright red tag — this coat looked too “young” for his tastes. He ended up replacing it with a Patagonia parka.
I plan to wear this parka for many years to come. I’ll probably keep it in my winter rotation until it wears out.
I’d recommend the Alpha Industries N-3B Slim Parka to guys looking for a versatile winter coat. It fits well, is durable, and provides warmth for all but the most vicious winter conditions.
However, if you’re in the market for a coat that’s ideal for truly extreme cold weather this may parka might not be the best choice.
What’s the coldest temperature you’ve ever experienced? Did your coat keep you warm? Let us know in the comment section below!