The North Face Denali Review
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The North Face Denali
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|Pros||Warm, stylish, durable, weather-resistant||Comfortable, warm, simple, versatile, breathable||Breathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athletics||Lightweight, athletic fit, easy to layer,||Warm, great mobility, incredibly comfortable,|
|Cons||Heavy, boxy, low performance||Few features, less technical, no thumb loops||Average weather resistance||Not exceptionally warm, poor casual wear use,||Lacks thumb loops, poor breathability,|
|Bottom Line||This classic fleece features plenty of pockets, warmth, and style with a boxy cut||This lightweight piece has all the warmth of a mid-layer jacket but with a highly breathable design that's ideal for colder, active adventures||Highly featured and even higher performing, this cost-effective option provides a hard-to-beat value||Built for outdoor performance, this lightweight fleece works perfectly for active use||Comfort, style, and function make this piece work well in the mountains and for casual evenings around town|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Denali||Patagonia R1 Air Fu...||Outdoor Research Vi...||Patagonia R1 Hoody||Arc'teryx Kyanite A...|
|Layering Ability (15%)|
|Weather resistance (10%)|
|Specs||The North Face Denali||Patagonia R1 Air Fu...||Outdoor Research Vi...||Patagonia R1 Hoody||Arc'teryx Kyanite A...|
|Measured Weight||17.1 oz||12.5 oz||13 oz||11.4 oz||15 oz|
|Main Material||Main: 100% polyester
Overlay: 70D nylon
|100% Polyester||94% polyester, 6% spandex||93% polyester, 7% spandex||53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane|
|# of Pockets||4||3||3||1||2|
|Unique Features||Hem cinchcord, DWR||Slim-fit hood, quick drying||Thumb holes, UPF 30, 3-panel hood with binding||Balaclava hood, odor control, thumb holes||Scuba hood, stretchy fabric|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Constructed with Polartec 300 Series fleece with "Repreve" fibers (fleece derived from recycled soda bottles) and made with 85% recycled materials, The North Face Denali 2 offers significant warmth in a jacket with two handwarmer pockets, two chest pockets, and great weather resistance. The two-ply nylon reinforced chest, shoulders, and elbows fight abrasion and the weather. The jacket also has a zip cord hem, and elastic-bound cuffs which further trap the heat. The great features of this fleece and the warmth make it a solid piece to consider for casual wear.
The Denali 2 excelled in this metric and was one of the warmest fleeces in our review. A drawstring cinched hem, a high collar, and snug cuffs help trap the thick Polartec 300 series fleece's warmth, and the reinforced panels on the chest and across the back of the shoulders prevent cold air from getting in.
The Denali's warmth makes it a great jacket to wear around town and as a standalone piece. It can handle colder temperatures better than most of the jackets in this review.
The Denali 2 has a decent amount of comfort. The Polartec fleece feels fairly smooth on the skin though it has a bit of a heavier feel. The cut of the jacket feels a bit boxy and loose, which is nice for layering under but less than ideal for constant wear.
After a bit of use, the Denali softened a bit and conformed to our testers bodies more but off the rack, the jacket felt a bit stiff.
The Denali 2 performed average in terms of its versatility. While it has more weather resistance than many of the jackets reviewed, it's fairly heavy, bulky, and hard to pack. Polartec fleece has a unique DWR coating and with the 70D nylon overlay in the chest, this jacket can withstand the elements better than any other fleece in this review. Our testers wish this jacket had a hood as well to better batten down when storms came in and started to affect them. In light rains and gentle precipitation, this jacket did well but when the weather came in heavier, our testers needed to put on a rain jacket or shell as it eventually became saturated in heavier rains.
While stationary, this jacket was one of the few that provided enough warmth and wind protection to function on its own, making it a great option for an all-weather fleece.
With all the warmth, the pockets, and the reinforcement, this jacket started to tip the scales and was the heaviest piece we reviewed with 17.1 ounces for a medium. This makes it fairly heavy for backcountry use or for light and fast missions. However, if you're just planning on car camping, making short hikes around town, or just keeping it for casual use, then the added weight isn't a huge factor.
The Denali is a relatively thick fleece and not intended for heavy physical exertion. Though our testers were able to pull down the full-length zipper to better ventilate, they tended to overheat in the piece and the best option was to take it off entirely. The Polartec 300 tends isn't form-fitting enough nor permeable enough to breathe very well.
If you're looking for a fleece to run in, charge up steep ski hills, or climb in, then the Denali isn't the best choice.
While the Denali has zip-in-compatible integration with the North Face's Mountain Jacket and Mountain Light Jacket, it doesn't do as well with other brands. The jacket lacks thumbholes to keep the sleeves in place and the loose, boxy feel makes the garment feel a bit cumbersome under other pieces. It does provide ample space for wearing a long sleeve underneath which added to this jacket's ability to keep our testers warm.Luckily, this fleece serves better as a standalone jacket than many of the others reviewed.
Should You Buy The North Face Denali?
Reasonably priced, this jacket's warmth, weather resistance, and durability make it a solid choice for around-town and casual camping wear. The Denali also has a great style and ample color choices. While it's not the best performance piece on the market, it does well to provide warmth and fight small storms, making it a reasonable choice for low-key adventure use.
What Other Fleece Jackets Should You Consider?
The North Face Denali 2 delivers an iconic look while keeping you warm and the wind off your back. It's by far the most weather-resistant fleece in this review. Due to its lack of breathability, we don't recommend it for endurance activities, and it doesn't score well in layering ability because of its stiffness and bulk. Unless you've decided to purchase this classic fleece, higher performing products, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody, Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip, or Outdoor Research Vigor cost less and provide exceptional performance.
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