top of page

N-2B Vintage Military Parka: Higher, Faster, Warmer!

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

A parka is a warm, functional hooded coat typically lined with faux fur. First developed by the Caribou Inuits ( Eskimos are traditionally considered part of these tribes in North America ) and they usually used caribou or sometimes seals skins to avoid the freezing winds and arctic temperatures they experienced living in the frozen fridge northern climates.

These parkas often need to be coated with fish oil to retain their waterproof qualities and date back several centuries as garments commonly worn by cultures of northern indigenous peoples.

The original snorkel parka (USAF N-3B parka, which is 3/4 length and has a full, attached hood; the similar N-2B parka is waist-length and has an attached split hood) was developed in the United States during the early 1950s for military use, mainly for flight crews stationed in extremely cold areas. Such as Air Crew and ground support personnel

It was designed for use in areas with temperatures as low as −60 °F (−51 °C). Originally made with a sage green DuPont flight silk nylon outer and lining it was padded with a wool blanket type material until the mid-1970s when the padding was changed to polyester wadding making the jacket both lighter and warmer. The outer shell material also was changed to a sage green cotton-nylon blend, with respective percentages 80–20, 65–35, and 50–50 being used at various times.

It gained the common name of "snorkel parka" because the hood can be zipped right up leaving only a small tunnel (or snorkel) for the wearer to look out of.

Primarily issued to aircrews assigned to troop transports, helicopters, and strategic bombers, it’s said that the jacket was temperature rated to −60 °F. Adopting many of the same features of the N-3B including a nylon outer shell, polyester lining, storm flap, fur hood trim and chest pockets. However, the N-2B also adopted a knit waistband and cuffs, split hood with zipper and ’pass-through’ pockets to enable pilots to reach their pants without exposing their hands to sub-freezing temperatures. Military giant Alpha Industriesmanufactured the garment for the Department of Defense (DOD) from 1963 until 1996, as well as offering a civilian model in the late-1980s due to the popularity of the jacket.

the parka is knee length, made for cold weather, stuffed with synthetic fibres or more traditionally with down. The hood is also lined. The first time that the term parkawas used in text was by Samual Purchas in 1625, parka derived from the language of the Nenet or Samoyed people of north Russia and in English it means animal skin.

From the 1950’s the United States Air Force adopted the N-3B or snorkel parka, it was and is a three quarter length coat with an attached hood.Its predecessor the N-2B covered its wearer to the waist and had an attached split hood so the N-3B was seen as more protective. Primarily, it was designed for air crews based in cold territories and the parka could withstand temperatures of below -51 degrees Celsius.

Back in the fifties the snorkel parka had sage green silk nylon on the exterior and it was padded with thick wool to form a blanket layer against the weather, by the mid 1970’s the outside was made from a sage green nylon and cotton mix and woollen padding was superseded by a polyester one which made the coat a lot lighter to wear, it also made it warmer. It was given the name of the snorkel parka because the hood zipped up so highly that only the smallest aperture, a tunnel, otherwise known as a snorkel, allowed the wearer to look out while the neck, back and top of the head and ears remained concealed. Real fur was used around the hood but this soon changed to synthetic fibres. Different blends were used for these parkas, 80% cotton, 20% nylon, 65% cotton, 35% nylon and 50% cotton with 50% nylon. Interestingly, the older style nylon made sage green ones tended to change colour to magenta after a great deal of exposure to ultraviolet light and some service personnel felt that this was a proud sign that they’d been serving their country for a long time and so were to be respected, if not envied.

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page