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Hands-on Gear Review

North Face Apex Bionic Review


Softshell Jacket

  • Currently 3.0/5
Overall avg rating 3.0 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: March 14, 2014
Price:   Varies from $82 - $170 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  Looks great, fits well, inexpensive.
Cons:  Odd hook and loop wrist closures, heavy.
Best Uses:  Around town, alpine skiing, showshoeing.
User Rating:     
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 (3.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   The North Face
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 14, 2014  
The North Face Apex Bionic is a budget, casual softshell for around town use. Due to its poor breathability and heavy weight, we found that it performed poorly for active use outdoors. Back in 2011 the Apex Bionic was our favorite casual use softshell, but in the years since then other companies have introduced jackets that perform better in our tests. The primary example of this is the Patagonia Adze, which is similarly inexpensive and higher performance. Check out the Adze if you're dead set on a casual use softshell.

This review is of a slightly older version of the Apex and since we published this review, The North Face has re-tooled the jacket with an updated fit.

RELATED: Our complete review of softshell jackets - men's

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison

Weather Protection

The Apex uses a windproof membrane that's windproof and moderately water resistant. The quality of this membrane is significantly less than that of premium windproof softshells like the Gore Windstopper equipped Arc'teryx Venta MX Hoody. These other membranes are windproof and more breathable that the Apex Bionic's membrane.


This jacket scores low here due to its stiflingly low moisture vapor transfer rate. The jacket is poorly suited to active use outdoors, like cross-country skiing and winter hiking.


Low mobility because the jacket is not stretchy, it's heavy, and it's cut is boxy and bulky.


25 oz. is very heavy for non-hooded softshell. Many backpacking sleeping bags and all ultralight sleeping bags weigh less than this jacket.


The jacket has causal features: two low handwarmer pockets that get covered by a backpack's hipbelt and one chest pocket.


The jacket looks handsome and, as a result, it scores very highly in this category.


See our Price Versus Value Chart.

Other Versions

North Face Apex Bionic - Women's
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  • Cost - $150
  • Women's version
  • A protective budget piece
  • Comes in 16 different color options

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: March 14, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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Average Customer Rating:   
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100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Mar 30, 2011 - 06:50am
Rokjox · Climber · Boys I'dunno
I am not sure how the website will feel about my note here but …

It looks like Wall Mart is selling a knockoff of this coat right now for $25. My kid picked up an official one at a local contest as a draw prize, and I got the Wally World version, and we compared them. For the life of me they look identical except for the logos and the sleeves, where the Chinese Star version doesn't have the velcro cuffs the reviewer complains about.

It doesn't really seem all that practical for rain wear, but I don't much like the soft shell thing in the rain anyway. It also isn't quite as warm as an old style fleece jacket liner. The wind isn't especially locked out, but I usually wear hard shells and maybe its not a fair comparison. I have a pretty nice hard rain shell, and this is going to get layered under that in nasty weather. It lays flat and doesn't have a lot of bulk, so it should add just enough insulation on those icy sleet filled days around town without making you look like the Michelin Man or letting a slimy cold hard shell lay on your skin. When an actual parka is too much, this may fill out the need.

It really doesn't lend itself to being pack stuffed as well as an old style fleece jacket. I usually go for a hood in most outer coats, and this has no provision for one. It kinda looks like it will stain/tear/abrade easily, but I havn't tested that yet.

It does look OK for everyday wear in town although some of the color combinations have a cheezy Star Trek vibe to me, what with the black yoke on the colored body. Watch out for the zipper, its a type that I find wears out and busts open easily if carelessly worked. There are no alternative closures like snaps, so if it pops, your gut is going to be exposed to the weather.

Its a pretty good buy at $25. I don't think I would ever buy one at full NF price, but thats just a cheapskate talking, I suppose.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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