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The North Face Denali 2 Hoodie Review

An excellent stand alone hooded fleece for casual day hikes and keeping warm around town on cool, breezy days
The North Face Denali 2 Hoodie
Photo: Amazon
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Price:  $199 List
Pros:  Weather resistant, toasty, hem cinch, lots of pockets
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, blocky cut
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento  ⋅  Apr 28, 2020
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55
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The North Face Denali 2 Hoodie is the modern hooded version of the classic The North Face fleece jacket, first released way back in 1988. This fleece is thick, heavy, and reinforced with nylon patches over the chest, shoulders, and hood, making it a poor choice when weight and/or packability is a concern. However, for casual days in the mountains or running around town on cold winter days, the Denali 2 Hoodie will keep you super comfortable and protected from the elements. This classic fleece feels much more jacket-like than any other fleece in the review due to its thick nature and reinforced panels.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $199 List$99 List$98.95 at Backcountry$159.00 at Backcountry
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$77.73 at REI
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Pros Weather resistant, toasty, hem cinch, lots of pocketsCozy, athletic fit, breathable, lightweightBreathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athleticsPerfect fit for most active uses, ideal weight for many conditions, great hood designLightweight, long zipper, chest pocket, thumb loops
Cons Heavy, bulky, blocky cutPoor weather resistance, no thumb loopsNot incredibly warm, poor weather resistanceNot as warm for its weight as some high-loft modelsLess breathable
Bottom Line A true classic, it's perfect for staying cozy around town or while on casual day hikesA warmer and more comfortable version of the classic R1It is hard to beat the value of this high performing and cost effective fleeceAn ideal fleece for almost anything you can think of, you'll never want to take it offThis fleece makes a great layering option for active days in the mountains
Rating Categories Denali 2 Hoodie Patagonia R1 Air Vigor Full Zip Patagonia R1 Hoody Type 2 Fun 3/4 Zip Hoody
Warmth (20%)
10
8
8
7
6
Comfort (20%)
5
9
8
8
9
Breathability (20%)
3
9
9
9
8
Layering Ability (15%)
3
9
9
9
10
Weather Resistance (10%)
10
7
7
6
6
Weight (15%)
3
9
9
9
8
Specs Denali 2 Hoodie Patagonia R1 Air Vigor Full Zip Patagonia R1 Hoody Type 2 Fun 3/4 Zip...
Type Heavyweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight
Weight 27.1oz 9.7 oz 12 oz 11.1 oz 11.7 oz
Main Material 333 g/m² Recycled Polartec 300 Series - 100% polyester 100% recylced polyester Grid-back fleece: 94% polyester, 6% spandex 6.9-oz Polartec Power Grid 93% recycled polyester 7% spandex with Polygiene permanent odor control 55% polypropylene, 45% polyester
# of Pockets 5 1 3 1 1
Unique Features Contains at least 50% recycled content by weight Hollow-core fabric is highly breathable for high-output activities
offset shoulder seams
Balaclava style hood, thumb loops, Balaclava style hood, thumb loops, Polygiene permanent odor control, longer length to stay tucked under a harness Helmet-compatible hood
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face Denali 2 Hoodie comes with a lot of different features to please. Just about anyone looking for a warm fleece for non-technical use will appreciate this toasty jacket. 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, another couple of chest pockets, a hem cinch that is tensioned from inside the handwarmer pockets, and elastic-bound sweatshirt style cuffs to help trap in body heat. It also sports two-ply nylon reinforced shoulders, chest, hood, and elbows to help reduce abrasions and extend the life of the jacket.

Performance Comparison


The Denali is a great cold-weather fleece.
The Denali is a great cold-weather fleece.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Warmth


This fleece is toasty warm. The 300 weight Polartec fleece is about as thick and warm as it gets. Even though thick, its a "standard" fleece, with no breathable grid patterns or stretchy side panels. Snug cuffs and a cinch-able hem keep the heat from escaping, and the hood, with its "Kenny from Southpark" brim perimeter cinch, goes the extra mile to help lock in the warmth when it's really cold. For active pursuits or anytime its not downright cold, this jacket tends to be a bit too much.

The hood cinch is not our favorite design but at least it allows you...
The hood cinch is not our favorite design but at least it allows you to lock out the cold.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Comfort


The Denali 2 Hoodie is comfortable for hanging out by the campfire 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 of a backpack, and the hem cinch, though a welcome feature, 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 comfortable Denali shines as a casual fleece.
The comfortable Denali shines as a casual fleece.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Breathability


Being one of the thickest fleece' is in this year's lineup is also one of the least breathable. This jacket is designed to get the most warmth possible out of 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 aluminum bleachers of a cold football game, 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.

Layering Ability


Attributes that make this jacket warm and weather-resistant don't tend to work well for layering. The bulky material tends to bunch up in the sleeves, noticeably restricting movement when under a puffy jacket or 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. This jacket is sized big, and our testers had no problem fitting a base layer or a sweater underneath.

The extra-thick 300 weight fleece does not layer well under many...
The extra-thick 300 weight fleece does not layer well under many outer shells.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

While this jacket won't layer well under most jackets, it is, however, zip compatible with some TNF jackets. For that application, they layer well but are best used for seriously cold, non-active days.

Weather Resistance


The Denali 2 stands up to wind and rain just about better than any other fleece in this year's review. While it will eventually get saturated in heavy rain, light rain beads up well on the fleece and nylon portions and is easily shaken off. The nylon panels help keep wind out, and on cold, breezy winter days, this was the only fleece we could wear comfortably as a stand-alone jacket without a shell.

Water will make its way into the exterior of the fleece easily and...
Water will make its way into the exterior of the fleece easily and become a heavy mess in prolonged rain.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Weight


This is not the jacket you want to lug around in the backcountry or haul into the alpine. Weighing in at 27.1 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.

Being the heaviest and bulkiest fleece in the review, this thing is...
Being the heaviest and bulkiest fleece in the review, this thing is not ideal for stuffing down into a pack.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

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 visible damage after a few months of climbing and scrambling around. In a nod to environmental stewardship and sustainability, each Denali 2 Hoodie is constructed with at least 50% recycled content.

Conclusion


The North Face Denali 2 delivers an iconic look while keeping the wind off your back. It's one of the more weather-resistant fleeces in this year's review, but due to its lack of breathability and weight, we don't recommend it for endurance activities. It doesn't score well in layering ability because of its 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.

Looking for the warmest fleece available, give the Denali 2 Hoody a...
Looking for the warmest fleece available, give the Denali 2 Hoody a look.
Photo: Elizabeth Paashaus

Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento