The North Face Buyers Guide

Frequently Asked The North Face Jacket Questions:

  • I'm looking to buy a new jacket, but I really don't even know where to start. What do I do?
  • How should I layer my apparel to get the most comfort and protection when out in the elements?
  • What types of material does The North Face use?
  • How Do I Properly Care for Down Jackets?
  • Besides jackets, what other types of outerwear are available from The North Face, and good for layering?
  • What are the differences between a 2-layer and 3-layer outerwear fabric?
  • How do I know which materials are used in my jacket, and what they offer me?
  • What types of technologies should I look for in my next piece of outerwear?
I'm looking to buy a new jacket, but I really don't even know where to start. What do I do?

First things first; let's narrow down your decision and help weed through our huge selection of The North Face jackets by answering a few questions.

What type of activity will you be using this jacket for?
The North Face offers some jackets that are big and well insulated, meant for cold-weather activities and winter outings. Others are lighter, and designed for more active outdoor ventures. Have an idea of what you'll be using the jacket for, and you're a step closer to finding what you really want.

How many years do you want your jacket to last?
Some jackets are more durable than others, depending on the material used and the manufacturing processes. For instance, down insulated jackets are incredibly comfortable and warm, plus they are compressible and perfect for travelling and hiking. Natural down, though, requires a lot of care to last a while. On the other hand, synthetically insulated jackets provide good warmth and versatility, and are fairly easy to care for. Each has its pros and cons, but longevity should be something to consider when looking for a new jacket.

In what type of climate will you need the jacket for?
Different jackets are designed for different environments and uses. It would be overkill to wear a heavily insulated North Face jacket on a mild fall day on the trails, while on the other hand, it would be flat out dangerous to where only a light fleece during a blizzard. Know when and in what climate you plan on wearing the jacket, and you'll have a better idea of what you're looking for.

Do you plan on layering to stay comfortable? What type of layers are appropriate for your needs?
It's important to build your outfit around both style and function, when heading out into inclement weather. Thankfully, The North Face offers stylish options for any layer, and even offer 3-in-1 Jackets that build layering into the design. Layering is always the best way to stay warm and regulate body temperature. Read all about proper layering below.

What features are most important to you?
The North Face Jackets offer a myriad of features and options. When you have a better idea of how and when you'll be using your jacket, ask yourself, what else would I want with it? Do I need a hood? Do I need to stay dry and cool underneath the jacket? Do I need to stay warm while standing still, or do I need to stay dry while active? Do I need to be able to fit my jacket in my backpack or bag? When you have a better idea of what features you're interested in, you'll have a better understanding of which jacket would work for your needs.

How should I layer my apparel to get the most comfort and protection when out in the elements?

Layering your apparel when out in cold weather is incredibly important, as each layer works to seal in body heat, keeping you warm, comfortable, and protected from harsh conditions. Layering is also great for regulating body temperature when participating in high-energy activities like skiing, snowboarding, climbing, hiking, or just shoveling the drive way.
In addition to sealing in heat, layering gives you options if things start to heat up or cool down. Take off a layer or add a layer to stay cozy and protected. Follow the simple 3-layer plan to regulating your body temperature, and you'll never be more comfortable during your favorite winter sport or activity.

3-Layering System in Cold Weather:
  1. Baselayer
  2. Insulating Midlayer
  3. Protective Outer Shell
1. Next-to-Skin Baselayer (typically known as "Long Underwear")

Function - Works to wick sweat and moisture from the body and quickly dry, keeping your body warm and dry underneath your other, heavier layers. If you're working up a sweat, or get wet when its cold out, you know you lose heat faster than you would otherwise, putting yourself at an increased risk of hypothermia, or at least a severe case of goose bumps.

Fit - Cold-weather baselayers should fit snuggly against the body, like a second skin, to help the fabric pull sweat off of you. If the fabric isn't touching your skin, it's not wicking that sweat off of you, and you're going to stay cold and wet.
Types of Baselayer Fabrics -

Wool

  • Pros - Efficient at regulating body temperature. Natural fabrics keep you warm when it's cold, and cool when it's hot. And since they're naturally anti-microbial, they stay fresh and keep your stink to a minimum when you sweat.
  • Cons - Dry slowly, and may be itchy on sensitive skin. Some people may also have an allergy to wool.

Synthetic Fabrics

  • Pros - Synthetic and synthetic/natural blends, such as synthetic polyester/wool blends are quick drying, warm, moisture wicking, and feature anti-odor technologies to keep you smelling great.
  • Cons - Synthetic baselayers are typically more expensive than wool or cotton.

Cotton

  • Pros - Affordable and accessible. Most people have a cotton long-sleeve shirt in their wardrobe that can work as a baselayer.
  • Cons - Retains moisture and incredibly slow drying. Cotton is a usable, but poor choice for keeping your body warm, dry, and comfortable under other layers when skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing, or getting active in the cold.
2. Insulating Midlayer

Function - Insulating jackets can be worn underneath shells to add warmth and protection in harsh wind, extreme cold, and wet conditions, but they can also be worn as an outer layer, on their own, in milder weather. The North Face fleece jackets, such as the North Face Denali, are perfect examples of fleece midlayers, which can be worn on their own or as layers. Their fleece construction traps body heat, keeping you warm in bitter conditions, while naturally breathing to keep you dry and comfortable. When you're getting really active and start to overheat, just remove your insulating layer. If you start to cool down, throw the layer back on and warm up again. Simple right?

Fit - Midlayers should fit close to the body, in order to provide the maximum amount of heat and protection possible, but should still give you enough room for a baselayer. If you're venturing out into extremely cold and bitter conditions, your heavier insulating layers (your down jackets, synthetically insulated jackets, or heavyweight fleeces such as The North Face Men's Khumbu Fleece Jacket) should provide adequate room for a lighter insulating piece, like a micro fleece, or lightweight fleece jacket such as The North Face Womens TKA 100 Microvelour Glacier 1/4 Zip Fleece.

Warmth-to-Weight - The level of warmth provided, compared to the weight of the jacket. For climbers and mountaineerers, a high warmth-to-weight ratio jacket is vital. They provide the maximum warmth needed, in lightweight jackets that never restrict movement or speed. But these types of jackets, such as The North Face Windwall 1 Fleece Jacket, are also convenient for the regular Joe or Jane, looking for warmth without bulk. Others prefer the weight and durability of heavier winter jackets, such as the heavyweight fleece Khumbu Jacket. It's all about personal preference here!

The North Face Fleece

Probably the most famous and popular of their outerwear fabrics, North Face fleece is an incredibly soft, lightweight, warm, and comfortable material. It is naturally water repellent, and wicks moisture, keeping you dry when you get active. Even when it does get wet, it still retains its insulating qualities! Finally, (and most eco-friendly) it can be made of recycled materials!

The only downside to fleece is that it can generate static electricity that can get pretty pesky (here's a tip though; rub a dryer sheet on your clothes and hair to minimize static). It is also flammable, if not pre-treated, and is not windproof, unless purposefully reinforced with a windproof barrier, like in The North Face Windwall 2 Fleece Jacket. If wind cuts through your fleece, it can cool your body quickly and reduce heat.

The North Face Goose Down

Down is a layer of fine feathers beneath the outer feather of water birds. It's used in outwear as a natural type of insulation against heat loss in cold weather. The North Face uses only the highest quality goose down in its insulation, and this gives its jackets amazing loftiness, moisture resistance, and packability.

Down insulation also has a high warmth-to-weight ratio, which means that an ounce of down fill is warmer that one ounce of synthetic insulation. Unfortunately, once down gets wet, it can be worthless as an insulator. It is slow drying, and can't hold on to warmth when wet. Down is also non-hypoallergenic, meaning people can be allergic to the material. People love down for its look, feel, warmth, and compressibility, but it requires a lot of maintenance to stay clean and functional.
Goose down jackets are measured by "fill power." This refers to the measure of cubic inches taken up by an ounce of down; the higher the fill power, the better the insulation. Higher fill power jackets also are typically lighter than those with lower fill powers, and more easily compressible and packable. The North Face down jackets range from fill power 600 to 900.

How Do I Properly Care for Down Jackets?
Down jackets are comfortable and warm, and an important investment that should be properly cared for. To care for down insulation the right way, and extend its life:

  • Always read and follow the directions for care on your garment's tags before taking any action or washing!
  • Always zip up any zippers on your jacket during tumble wash or drying (zippers can catch sleeves or damage other garments)
  • Dry clean down, or take the down garment to a dry cleaning service that knows how to care for down
  • If this is not possible, wash the garment with a down-cleaning product
  • Do NOT use typical washing detergent, as this could permanently damage the down fill
  • Once it is washed, place the down jacket into the drying machine and set to low, or no heat. Place in a couple of tennis balls (yes, tennis balls), and make sure they are new and clean. The tennis balls will help fluff up the down

The North Face PrimaLoft Insulation

In addition to using down insulation, The North Face also utilizes synthetic insulating materials, such as PrimaLoft, to provide incredible warmth. Man made insulations are created to mimic the feeling and heat of down without some of its disadvantages. Most synthetics are quick-drying, and can keep you warm even while the insulation is wet. PrimaLoft is hypoallergenic, easy to maintain, and less expensive than down.

3. Protective Outer Shell

Function - Outer shells, as the name implies, should be worn as the top layer of your system. Shells are designed to protect you from harsh elements like bitter winds, driving rain, and thick snow with waterproof outers. The North Face even offers shells that are windproof, keeping precipitation and chill out, while allowing your body to release sweat vapor, keeping you cool and dry.

Fit - Shells should have a loose fit, and be large enough to accommodate a baselayer and an insulating midlayer.

Types of Shells -

  • Waterproof/Breathable
    These types of jackets can also often be windproof or wind-resistant, and work to keep out wind and rain, while allowing sweat vapor to move through the fabric and away from your body. While keeping you warm, these jackets also prevent you from feeling too balmy, moist, or uncomfortable while wearing your full bundle of layers. Typical Outer Shell technologies include:
  • GORE-TEX Guaranteed to Keep You Dry
  • HyVent Technology
  • WindWall
  • Windstopper
  • Windproof
    Blocks wind, prevents heat loss, and keeps you warm. Windproof jackets are measured in CFM.
  • Hardshells vs. Softshells
    • Hardshell jackets are typically lightweight, highly water resistant, and windproof. They're ideal for situations when staying dry is vital and space is limited, such as hiking and climbing. Unfortunately, hardshells can also be stiff and restrict movement, as well as crinkly and noisy.
    • Softshell jackets, like The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket, are typically very breathable and weather resistant, as well as mobile and quiet, perfect for a wide range of motion. Ideal for cold-weather activities. Unfortunately, since softshells are woven, they cannot be 100% waterproof, although they are often treated to resist water.
Besides jackets, what other types of outerwear are available from The North Face, and good for layering?

In addition to fleeces, jackets, and shells, The North Face offers great vests and hoodies to keep you warm. These pieces are also great for layering!

Vests - Vests come in the same types of fabrics and technologies as other shells and midlayers. But unlike those types of jackets, vests do no have sleeves, so they never restrict arm movement. They are also lighter, and never hold you back when you're on the move. The North Face offers vests in comfortable fleece and wind-blocking styles!

Hoodies - Most are available for our younger customers, but The North Face offers incredibly cool and cozy hoodies that kids will love to wear! Stylish enough to be worn on their own, but perfect as base or midlayers, The North Face Hoodies are great for back to school and can keep them warm when you can't keep them inside in the fall and winter.

What are the differences between a 2-layer and 3-layer outerwear fabric?

The North Face offers different shells and jackets made with 2- or 3-layer fabrics. These layers give jackets different heating and venting properties. Layers are typically laminated together to create a seamless, lightweight feel. To know what you're getting in a piece of outerwear, it's important that you understand the difference between the layers:

  • 2-Layer fabrics use an outer shell coated with Durable Water Resistant (DWR) treatment, and a waterproof/breathable membrane to keep you dry from the elements and your own perspiration.
  • 3-Layer fabric the same two layers as in a 2-Layer piece, with the addition of an extra layer of moisture wicking material to improve comfort and dryness.


How do I know which materials are used in my jacket, and what they offer me?

The North Face uses all sorts of materials to improve the wear, durability, and abilities of base layers, mid-layers, and shells. Assess the following glossary to understand which materials are used in your favorite pieces, and what they offer:

Apex Softshell Technologies - The North Face's exclusive softshell technology offers a tightly woven softshell made of a durable nylon that's abrasion resistant, stretchable, breathable, and coated with a durable water resistant (DWR) finish. This material is also highly wind and water resistant, keeping the user dry, warm, and comfortable. Perfect in light rain with moderate winds. The North Face Apex garments are lined with a soft-brushed interior for a comfortable next-to-skin feel, while also allowing moisture to escape, properly controlling the climate inside the garment.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) - Durable water resistant treatments and coatings helps to bead water from fabrics, and make them more resilient. Commonly used on the outer layer of a jacket, gloves, bags, or headwear.

GORE-TEX - Products with a GORE-TEX membrane, placed between a water repellant outer fabric and insulation, are completely waterproof and windproof. These products are also incredibly breathable and durable. GORE-TEX products are ideal for an active lifestyle in cold weather, since they will keep you dry in any weather condition you might face, while also allowing perspiration to escape.

HyVent 2-Layer Fabric - Used in The North Face's Exploration and Flight Series products, this fabric is similar to the HyVent 3-layer technology, except its 3rd layer is a thinner, micro-grid print that creates a moisture-wicking barrier between the garment and skin. This layer also makes the fabric more lightweight and packable than other HyVent technology.
Breathability Rating: 600 g/mē / 24 hours on the MVTR scale
Waterproof Rating: 25 PSI

HyVent 3-Layer Fabric - A 3-layer waterproof/breathable fabric technology that uses a PU waterproof coating, and allows moisture vapor to pass through the fabric, away from the body, where it quickly evaporates. This cools the user and leaves the inside of the waterproof, windproof shell, completely dry.
Breathability Rating: 700 g/mē / 24 hours on the MVTR scale
Waterproof Rating: 25 PSI

HyVent DT - Used in The North Face's Exploration and Flight Series products, this fabric is similar to the HyVent 3-layer technology, except its 3rd layer is a thinner, micro-grid print, which creates a moisture-wicking barrier between the garment and skin. This layer also makes the fabric more lightweight and packable than other HyVent technology.
Breathability Rating: 700 g/mē / 24 hours on the MVTR scale
Waterproof Rating: 25 PSI

HyVent Alpha - A waterproof/breathable, micro-porous lamination membrane that contains about half a million pores per square inch. This allows sweat vapor to pass through the jacket, without letting rain or snow inside, keeping the user dry, warm, and comfortable in inclement weather conditions.

MVTR Scale - The Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR) is a measure of the amount of water, in a gas form, that passes through a fabric over a certain amount of time. The higher the rating, the more breathable the garment. The rate is expressed in terms of grams per square meter during a specific amount of time.

Polartec - Polartec fleece is a popular fleece used in many garments, across many top brands. It is moisture wicking, to keep the user dry, and it also has a high warmth-to-weight ration, maximizing warmth without adding weight.

PSI - Pounds per square inch

TKA Fleece - The North Face's exclusive TKA (Thermal Kinetic Advancement) fleece series is a high-performance, wear-resistant, and warm fleece made in three weights:

  • TKA 100 - a lightweight microfleece that can be worn as a baselayer, or as a lightweight midlayer. Durable, resistant to pilling, this fleece stays warm when wet and packs into small areas. Great for high-energy activities like backpacking and hiking.
  • TKA 200 - a midweight fleece made to wear as a midlayer piece. Pill resistant, warm, and breathable, this fleece is a good, versatile midlayer fleece.
  • TKA 300 - a mid-heavy weight fleece, made to wear as a midlayer piece in incredibly cold conditions, or by itself as a casual jacket.
What types of technologies should I look for in my next piece of outerwear?

The latest and most advanced outerwear features some of the coolest and innovative technologies outside of the space station! Even lower-end jackets sport some cool features that should not be overlooked. So read on to learn more about your next jacket, and how it's going to make your active life even better!

Adjustable Cuffs - Adjustable wrist cuffs let you pull your rain jacket over or under gloves, for added warmth and protection. They're also great at sealing up your coat from cold air drafts.

Adjustable Hood - Typically built with pull cords at the bottom of the hood, near the collar and in the back of the head, adjustable hoods deliver a custom, secure fit so your head stays dry during rigorous activity or high winds.

Breathable - Breathable rain jackets pull sweat vapor away from your skin and through the fabric where it can quickly evaporate, keeping you dry, cool, and comfortable underneath your jacket.Jackets that are "waterproof/breathable" are manufactured with pores in the material, small enough to keep moisture, like rain and snow, from penetrating the fabric, but big enough to allow sweat vapor out, where it can evaporate. GORE-TEX is the most commonly known waterproof/breathable fabric, and is made of a complex membrane material.

CFM - A measurement of windproofness, cubic feet per minute measures the air permeability of a fabric. The higher the number, the less windproof the garment is. A garment of 1 CFM or less is considered completely windproof.

Drawcord Hem - Also known as a hem cinch cord or an adjustable hem. Can be pulled tight to keep cold air drafts away from the body, or loosened for added ventilation.

Napoleon Chest Pocket - A vertical zippered pocket on the left chest of a jacket, typically including a storm-flap or water-resistant zipper, to keep rain out. Named for the French military leader who was often pictured with his hand in the left part of his jacket, these pockets are great places to hold onto small essentials, like cash, credit cards, cell phones, or music players, so your hand-warmer pockets are free to do what they do best...keep your hands warm!

Pit-Zip Vents - Zippers located on the underarm of a jacket, usually a hard shell garment. When un-zipped, these vents allow for added breathability to the body's core and underarm area during high levels of activity in cold weather. Pit-zips are a good feature to have for outdoor enthusiasts who hike, climb, mountaineer, and perform other aerobic activities in wet or cold climates.

Packable - Also referred to as compressible or stow-able, packable garments can be packed into themselves, or into a small area such as a backpack, for convenient, lightweight hauling. Packability is important in hiking, mountaineering, travel, and other activities where space is limited and low weight is important.

Removable Hood - A removable hood gives you the option of protecting your head when it's raining, and removing the hood for a streamlined look when its a bit nicer out. This feature gives jackets a lot of versatility, making it perfect for commuters and other more "on-demand" rain-jacket needs.

Seam Sealed - Garments that are seam sealed are waterproofed at the seams. Garments that use waterproof fabrics, but are not seam sealed, are not 100% waterproof, and are only suited for light rain and snow.

Storm-Flaps - Fabric covering a zippered or snap closure on a jacket. Storm flaps are also found on the inner side of a closure, and are meant to keep wind and water away from the body, and out of pockets.

Stowable Hood - These types of hoods let you pack the hood away into the collar of the rain jacket when you don't need it. When it starts to rain, it's as easy as pulling the hood back out and cinching it up. Preferable to removable hoods, for more seasoned outdoors people, since they are not easily lost when moving.

Visor - A support band attached to the top of a hood delivers a hard surface edge to the hood that diverts rain away from your face.

Zip-In Compatible - An insulation piece that is zip-in compatible can be zipped into a corresponding outer shell for added warmth and protection. An outer shell that is zip-in compatible can be incorporated into a matching zip-in compatible insulation jacket. Most outerwear brands offer zip-in compatibility, but those garments can only be used with other garments from that brand, and in the same size. For example, a The North Face Women's Denali Jacket, in a size small, can only be zipped into a The North Face zip-in compatible Women's outer shell, also in a size small.