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The North Face Denali 2 Review

An excellent stand alone fleece for shorter day hikes and staying warm around town on cool, breezy days.
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Price:  $179 List | $144.98 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Weather resistant, warm, hem drawstring, lots of pockets
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, bunches up, blocky cut
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 17, 2017
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Warmth - 20% 10
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Breathability - 20% 3
  • Layering Ability - 15% 3
  • Weather resistance - 10% 10
  • Weight - 10% 3
  • Style - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The North Face Denali 2 is an updated version of the classic North Face fleece jacket, first debuted all the way back in 1988. Its fans are legion 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 better than any other jacket in this year's review.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Weather resistant, warm, hem drawstring, lots of pocketsPerfect fit for most active uses, ideal weight for many conditions, great hood designLightweight, long zipper, chest pocket, thumb loopsBreathable, awesome balaclava feature, great fitStretchy, lightweight, comfortable
Cons Heavy, bulky, bunches up, blocky cutNot as stylish as some other fleeces for around town, not as warm for its weight as some high-loft modelsLess breathableExpensiveNot incredibly warm
Bottom Line An excellent stand alone fleece for shorter day hikes and staying warm around town on cool, breezy days.A perfect layering piece that regulates body temperature so well you'll leave it on from summit to sleeping bag and everywhere in between.An incredible layer that strikes a perfect balance between warmth and breathability for active pursuits.Arc'teryx's take on the half zip has some solid advantages over the R1.This fleece is as light as some base layers, but still takes the edge off on cool days.
Rating Categories The North Face Denali 2 Patagonia R1 Hoody Type 2 Fun 3/4 Zip Hoody Arc'teryx Konseal Hoody Arc'teryx Adahy Hoody
Warmth (20%)
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
3
Comfort (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Breathability (20%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Layering Ability (15%)
10
0
3
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
10
Weather Resistance (10%)
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
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6
10
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8
10
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3
Weight (10%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
Style (5%)
10
0
8
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
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8
Specs The North Face... Patagonia R1 Hoody Type 2 Fun 3/4 Zip... Arc'teryx Konseal... Arc'teryx Adahy...
Type Heavyweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight
Weight 24.7 oz 10.8 oz 11.7 oz 13.3 oz 9.9 oz
Main Material 333 g/m² Recycled Polartec 300 Series - 100% polyester 6.9-oz Polartec Power Grid 93% recycled polyester 7% spandex with Polygiene permanent odor control 55% polypropylene, 45% polyester Polartec Power Dry High Warmth Torrent (84% polyester, 16% elastane)
# of Pockets 5 1 1 1 2
Unique Features Contains at least 50% recycled content by weight Balaclava style hood, thumb loops, Polygiene permanent odor control, longer length to stay tucked under a harness Helmet-compatible hood Neck Gaiter/Balaclava, Thumb Loops, Media Pocket Gusseted underarms
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face Denali 2 comes with a lot of different features 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


With the Denali 2 keeping him warm  our tester reflects on another awesome day of skiing in the Sierra backcountry. This contender earns a high score for warmth.
With the Denali 2 keeping him warm, our tester reflects on another awesome day of skiing in the Sierra backcountry. This contender earns a high score for warmth.

Warmth


This jacket is by far the warmest fleece in this year's selection, a 10 out of 10. It's 333 g/m2 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.

On our slim  5'9" tester  this jacket felt bulky in the shoulders and too long in the arms.
On our slim, 5'9" tester, this jacket felt bulky in the shoulders and too long in the arms.

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.

With two cinch cords  you can make the hem on this jacket very tight  keeping the heat in. Unfortunately  it rides up uncomfortably when pulled tight.
With two cinch cords, you can make the hem on this jacket very tight, keeping the heat in. Unfortunately, it rides up uncomfortably when pulled tight.

Breathability


The thickest fleece is in this year's lineup is also the least breathable. This jacket is designed to get the most warmth you can get out a traditional fleece jacket, making no concessions for breathability. Gone are the pit zips from the old Denali Jacket, which isn't a big 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 sitting on the chairlift, but don't try to run or do any steep hiking in this jacket, our testers who tried found themselves a sweaty mess in no time.

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.
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.

Layering Ability


Attributes that make this jacket 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.

This Jacket resisted rain and wind better than any other model in this year's review. Look closely and you can see that light precip isn't absorbed due to the DWR finish.
This Jacket resisted rain and wind better than any other model in this year's review. Look closely and you can see that light precip isn't absorbed due to the DWR finish.

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 durable water repellent finish. 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.

Nylon patches over the chest  shoulders  and elbows of The North Face Denali make it even more durable and weather resistant.
Nylon patches over the chest, shoulders, and elbows of The North Face Denali make it even more durable and weather resistant.

Weight


This is not the jacket you want to lug around the backcountry or haul into the alpine. Weighing in at 24.7 ounces, it's the heaviest fleece in the review, but if you plan on using your fleece for shorter day hikes, car camping, or staying toasty around town, than the weight of this jacket won't be an issue.

Our lead tester stays warm on date night while scarfing down a massive helping of frozen yogurt. The Denali 2 has a classic style  loved by many.
Our lead tester stays warm on date night while scarfing down a massive helping of frozen yogurt. The Denali 2 has a classic style, loved by many.

Style


Love it or hate it, this jacket has, a classic look that has remained popular for years. Those drawn to the style of this fleece have a plethora of color combinations to choose from.

Value


The price of this iconic jacket seems fair to us. 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.

Conclusion


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 year's 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, but if you're interested in purchasing this jacket because you like the style, you'll also be taking home a fleece that specializes in keeping you toasty.


Matt Bento