For many, The North Face is synonymous with adventure. Check out our top 5 North Face jackets, including a look at the incredible Futurelight fabric.
What makes a good jacket? Performance? Value? Appearance? For us, it’s a mixture of all three. We break down our favorite jackets that The North Face has to offer, starting with No. 5. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel where we cover these jackets in more detail and put our No. 1 pick on this list to the test.
5. The North Face Denali 2 Jacket, $180
The relaxed-fit Denali 2 Jacket is an evolution of the rightfully iconic Denali Fleece. This jacket has been redesigned to feature 100%-recycled soft polyester fleece and zip-in compatibility with many other shells from The North Face®, they have improved on a nearly perfect jacket.
This Denali is designed for snow. When The North Face built this product they didn’t trade warmth for sustainability. What makes this jacket a great option if you are looking for a solid mid-layer is that it comes built with The North Face’s zip-in integration that makes it a great option if you already have a compatible shell. It comes with the iconic embroidered logo on the left chest and back-right shoulder.
The two chest pockets are covered with zipper access and secure-zip hand pockets. The reinforced shoulders, chest, and forearms are added for better abrasion resistance. A hem cinch-cord for adjustability when it gets drafty and non-PFC durable water repellent finish on the woven overlay helps keep you nice and dry. There’s also stretch fabric on cuffs for added mobility and an exposed center front zip to bring it all together.
This jacket comes in weighting around 480 G, or just over a pound, and will run you $180.
4. The North Face 6 Retro Nuptse Jacket, $280
The moment you see the oversized baffles you know you're looking at the iconic Nuptse Jacket. Drawing inspiration from the 1996 version, this durable jacket is covered in shiny ripstop fabric and has a lofty 700-fill down. You get a sleek, stowable hood that packs away into the collar.
There’s an embroidered logo on the left chest and back-right shoulder and this jacket will sit on your shoulders with a relaxed fit. You’ll have a bungee cinch at hem secure-zip pockets. The exterior of this jacket has been treated with The North Face’s durable water repellent. There are hook and loop cinched cuffs. You’ll keep this jacket together with a YKK Vislon front zip. This large puff The North Face jacket is highly compressible and gives you the ability to stow the whole jacket in the right-hand pocket!
This jacket weighs in at 775 G and will cost you $280.
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3. The North Face ThermoBall Eco Snow Triclimate, $360
Epic days on the mountain demand a high-performance jacket. The ThermoBall™ Eco Snow Triclimate® has all the features you need and the versatility takes you comfortably far beyond where other jackets can.
The ThermoBall Eco-Snow Triclimate is an excellent 3 in 1 jacket ready for cold adventures. One of the best features of the jacket is that it comes with an inner jacket that’s made from The North Face’s ThermoBall™ Eco Insulation for warmth even in wet weather. The center front zip and hand pockets are #5 PU-coated which basically means that they are waterproof. There is also one external chest pocket as well. It comes with a fixed, helmet-compatible hood that makes taking on skiing or snowboarding not just safe, but comfortable. Because it is helmet-compatible, it will feel a little large without some type of headgear.
This jacket also has one of my favorite items: underarm vents. If you’ve never had a jacket with venting like this and you spend time in the outdoors doing physical adventures, then just get this jacket and thank me later. A few features that are specifically a nice feature for the slopes: A wrist pocket that holds a lens cloth, a powder skirt with gripper elastic, and an internal goggle pocket.
This waterproof, windproof, and breathable jacket is a seam-sealed DryVent™ 2L shell that lets the moisture out without letting it in.
The Thermoball Eco-Snow Triclimate comes in weighing at 1000 G and will cost you right around $360.
What is Futurelight?
Now we’ll pause the countdown for a moment. The final two jackets are a serious step above the rest because they use a new material that The North Face has produced which is called Futurelight. Futurelight is a proprietary material that allows for air permeability in a waterproof membrane. Unlike conventional membranes, the nanostructure of the Futurelight membrane allows air to pass through for better venting and breathability without sacrificing waterproofness and durability.
The North Face elite athlete team was integral in the prototyping, development, and testing of Futurelight products. Every element of those products went through the scrutiny of their world-class athletes who pushed the design and engineering teams to rethink the future of technical outerwear.
Now, I’ll tell you about my surprising experience using this material when I get to the number one jacket, but first, let’s cover number two on the list.
2. The North Face Brigandine Futurelight Jacket, $750
From alpine starts in Alaska to all-day pursuits in the Andes, the breathable-waterproof Brigandine Futurelight jacket adapts to the elements, keeping you dry and protected in tough-to-access backcountry powder stashes. The Brigandine is The North Face’s top-of-the-line, high adventure, extreme sport jacket, and it’s loaded with features.
It has a hyperarticulated fit built around skiing and riding with a fixed, helmet-compatible, hybrid drop hood with riveted cord-lock adjustment system. There are over 8 YKK AquaGuard sealed zippers on this jacket and half of them double as vents. You’ll also get the same YKK AquaGuard seal on the underarm vents and center front zip.
There’s an internal goggle pocket, stash pocket, and another rigging to work with radio and avalanche survival gear. There are integrated wrist gusset and elastic thumb-loop cuffs with velcro closure around the wrists. The bonded, articulated, four-way stretch powder skirt is built to like up with jacket-to-pant integration compatible with The North Face pants. That powder skirt is double covered by an ergo drop hem with riveted cord-lock adjustment system
This jacket weighs in at 920 G, which is incredibly light for such a feature-rich jacket.
One of the best parts has to be that this jacket is machine washable. That’s a testament to the Futurelight material and an inspiring durability point when you consider that this jacket costs $750
1. The North Face Apex Flex Futurelight Jacket, $250
This all brings me my number one pick, the Apex Flex Futurelight jacket. But you may be thinking that if the Brigandine is the best of what The North Face has to offer, why did it come in at number two? Well, Let me tell you why.
The Apex Flex is a jacket that offers a slim fit and stretchable protection for everything off-the-grid. On the outside, you have a sleek wind and waterproof shell that has one job: let nothing in. The pocket layout is minimal and purposeful. There really is nothing here that doesn’t need to be. It’s an incredibly lightweight jacket coming in just above a pound.
One of the most shocking things about this jacket besides the Futurlight fabric was to find that nearly every seam is sealed. And I mean every seam. It was actually hard to find any visible stitching at all. The only places I could see were the inside of the hem and hood sinch cord sleeves and the zipper for the internal chest pocket. But those were only visible from the inside. There is not a single stitch visible from the outside of the jacket. That means we have some of the best sealing available to protect from heat loss, wind penetration, and a lack of waterproofing in the seam and zipper areas. It was something that was only possible with the future light fabric.
My first real test for this jacket was a good one. I broke it in with a steep 7-mile hike with only a t-shirt on underneath. I bought an insulated jacket for backup but I never ended up needing it. I started my hike before sunrise at 34 degrees. The jacket was excellent in its wind protection and from keeping the frozen morning air from chilling me too badly. As I started to gain elevation and sweat I noticed my arms feeling wet, like I was soaking the inside of my jacket and I was starting to get disappointed because I had high hopes for it.
I finally reached the saddle we were going for so I decided to investigate just how wet I had made the inside of this jacket. You can imagine my surprise when I touched my arm and it almost felt totally dry! This confused me because I was feeling wet so where was it coming from. I found that my jacket had soaked it up. Like a really thin ShamWow. Make no mistake, my jacket was definitely wet, which brought me to my next concern: worrying about the chill factor and dangers that come with wet clothes in the cold. This is where I had my next surprise. As I started to stop sweating, my jacket dried out. I really don’t know how to explain how this happened. In sub-40-degree temperatures, I had a wet jacket that got dry. This is honestly the first jacket I have had that was a clear step up in breathability and comfort when you are trying to stay dry outside.
But that is all a focus on the Futurelight material which both my number one and number two jacket had, so why did the Brigandine take second? Because of the cost. The Brigandine is a $750 feature-packed jacket and the Apex Flex is a $250 jacket focused on flexibility and keeping you dry. There are a ton of things you can do with the $500 you would save by going with the Apex Flex.
The Brigandine is an excellent option for someone who needs all those extra features, but for someone who only has a $750 budget to build out a set of gear that needs to make multiple situations work, well then you can quickly see when the Apex Flex took number one for me.
Outdoor gear isn’t all about having the best stuff or making a statement, it's about having the right equipment that allows you to have the best kind of experience you can have. For someone who doesn't want to go as far or push into the elements as hard, having a jacket that’s an ultra utility shell isn’t the right option. Instead, spend that money on having a better night of sleep or a better time hiking.
Check out our video below to see the Apex Flex in action: