Reviews You Can Rely On

The North Face Denali Review

An excellent stand alone fleece for shorter day hikes and staying warm around town on cool, breezy days
The North Face Denali
Credit: The North Face
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $179 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Weather resistant, warm, hem drawstring, lots of pockets
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, bunches up, blocky cut
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By James Lucas and Matt Bento  ⋅  Aug 26, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 9.0
  • Comfort - 20% 5.0
  • Breathability - 20% 3.0
  • Layering Ability - 15% 3.0
  • Weight - 15% 4.0
  • Weather resistance - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The North Face Denali 2 is an updated version of the classic The North Face fleece, first debuting all the way back in 1988. The Denali has a fan following and you'd be hard-pressed to find an outdoor retailer that doesn't carry it. This fleece is thick, heavy, and reinforced with nylon patches over the chest arms, making it a poor choice when weight is a concern. However, for a short day in the wilderness or running around town on cold winter days, the Denali holds up as a stand-alone jacket against the wind and light rain.

Editor's Note: This product was retested and the review was updated on August 26, 2022.

Compare to Similar Products

 
The North Face Denali
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $179 List
Check Price at REI
$169 List
$169.00 at REI
$110 List
Check Price at REI
$169 List
$169.00 at REI
$179 List
Check Price at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
54
86
80
79
77
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Weather resistant, warm, hem drawstring, lots of pocketsCozy, athletic fit, breathable, lightweightBreathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athleticsPerfect fit for most active uses, ideal weight for many conditions, great hood designIncredibly soft brushed fleece interior, athletic fit, incredibly comfortable
Cons Heavy, bulky, bunches up, blocky cutNo thumb loopsAverage weather resistanceNot as warm for its weight as some high-loft modelsNo thumb loops
Bottom Line An excellent stand alone fleece for shorter day hikes and staying warm around town on cool, breezy daysPatagonia made the classic R1 warmer and more comfortable with this versatile pieceHighly featured and even higher performing, this cost-effective option provides a hard-to-beat valueA perfect layering piece that regulates body temperature so well you'll leave it on from summit to sleeping bag and everywhere in betweenAn extremely comfortable and well-built fleece that’s ready to accompany you as far into the mountains
Rating Categories The North Face Denali Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Warmth (20%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Breathability (20%)
3.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Layering Ability (15%)
3.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Weight (15%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Weather resistance (10%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Specs The North Face Denali Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Type Heavyweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Midweight
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
Hood Option No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face Denali 2 comes with a variety of different features that are sure to please just about anyone looking for a warm fleece. It is constructed with Polartec 300 Series fleece with "Repreve" fibers (fleece derived from recycled soda bottles) and is made with 85% recycled materials. This jacket has two handwarmer pockets along with two chest pockets, and a zip cord hem and elastic-bound cuffs to trap in body heat. It also sports two-ply nylon reinforced shoulders and elbows to help reduce abrasions and extend the life of the jacket.

Performance Comparison


The North Face Denali fleece jacket - this stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers...
This stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers quite warm. It earns the highest score in our weather resistance metric.
Credit: James Lucas

Warmth


This jacket is by far the warmest fleece in this year's selection. The Polartec 300 series fleece is thick, like a heavy blanket. No breathable grid patterns or stretchy side panels here, just thick fleece between you and the cold, reinforced with wind-resistant nylon on the chest and across the back of shoulders. Snug cuffs and a cinchable hem keep the heat in, and the warm collar kept our necks warm like a scarf. No other contenders were on par with the Denali's warmth.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - the denali comes with a lot of warmth but a boxy fit that makes...
The Denali comes with a lot of warmth but a boxy fit that makes movement difficult.
Credit: James Lucas

Comfort


The Denali 2 is comfy when hanging out by the fire, or strolling around on a brisk, winter evening. As soon as we did anything that got our heart rate up, this fleece felt too hot, bulky, and restricting. It is too bulky to fit comfortably under a climbing harness or the waist belt on a backpack, and the hem cinch rides up when pulled tight. Two zippered handwarmer pockets offer a welcome respite for your freezing mitts, and the two chest pockets have plenty of room for snacks, keys, or chapstick. The left chest pocket has a hole for headphones.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - the north face denali comes with four pockets that make stashing...
The North Face Denali comes with four pockets that make stashing extra keys, wallets, snacks, phones, and other sundries easy.
Credit: James Lucas

Breathability


The thickest fleece is in this year's lineup, the Denali 2, is also the least breathable. It's designed to provide the warmth you can get from a traditional fleece jacket, and there aren't many concessions for breathability. Gone are the pit zips from the old Denali, which isn't a major problem, as they didn't offer much relief from this furnace of a fleece anyway. The takeaway here is that the Denali 2 is great for stationary activities like belaying or walking to a local coffee shop, but we don't recommend wearing it for steep hiking or running, as our testers who tried found themselves a sweaty mess in no time.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - the thick, plush cuffs on this jacket keep the sleeves in place, but...
The thick, plush cuffs on this jacket keep the sleeves in place, but they are loose enough to pull up above your elbows. Big plastic zipper pulls are easy to manipulate with gloved hands.
Credit: Matt Bento

Layering Ability


Attributes that make the Denali warm and weather-resistant aren't the best for layering. The bulky material tends to bunch up in the sleeves, noticeably restricting movement when under a puffy jacket or a hardshell. If you want to layer up over this fleece, you'll need to size your shells a bit bigger to accommodate the big shoulders and thick, stiff collar. This jacket is sized big, and our testers had no problem fitting a base layer or a sweater underneath.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - layering with this piece can be a bit cumbersome, as the boxy fit...
Layering with this piece can be a bit cumbersome, as the boxy fit makes putting it under another garment difficult.
Credit: James Lucas

Weather Resistance


The Denali 2 stands up to wind and rain better than any other fleece in this year's review. It's also the only fleece with a non-PFC durable water repellent on the woven overlay for added protection. While it eventually becomes saturated in heavy rain, light rain beads up on the fleece and nylon portions and is easily shaken off. The nylon panels that reinforce the chest, shoulder, and elbows help light winds at bay. On cold, breezy winter days, this was the only fleece we could wear comfortably as a stand-alone jacket without a shell.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - nylon patches over the chest, shoulders, and elbows of the north...
Nylon patches over the chest, shoulders, and elbows of The North Face Denali make it even more durable and weather resistant.
Credit: Jenni Snead

Weight


This is not the jacket you want to lug around the backcountry or haul into the alpine. Weighing in at 17.1 ounces, it's the heaviest fleece in the review. However, if you plan on using it for shorter day hikes, car camping, or staying toasty around town, the weight of this jacket won't be an issue.

The North Face Denali fleece jacket - this jacket has an unbeatable amount of warmth and weather...
This jacket has an unbeatable amount of warmth and weather resistance but that makes it less practical as a performance piece.
Credit: James Lucas

Should You Buy The North Face Denali?


The price of this iconic jacket is reasonable. It's warm and weather-resistant, so on chilly days around town, you could get away with one layer. We didn't do any destructive testing, but in our time with this jacket, we noticed no obvious damage after a few months of climbing and scrambling around. In a nod to environmental stewardship and sustainability, each Denali 2 is constructed with at least 50% recycled content. There are definitely better-functioning jackets and ones at a lesser price but if you like the style, the Denali is a great option.

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.

James Lucas and Matt Bento
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More