The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie uses a unique insulator designed to mimic down. Instead of using continuous yarn filaments, little clusters of insulation trap air around and between each other to retain heat. This is similar to how down works, but without turning into a cold soggy mess when it gets wet. The result is a mid-weight jacket with the burliest shell fabric of any jacket we tested, a stylish quilted pattern, and a convenient stowaway pocket with a clip-in loop.
Since our test period, The North Face released an eco-friendly version of this jacket, the ThermoBall Eco Hooded Jacket, which is made from recycled materials. The Eco version is pictured in the image above, and we're now linking to that model.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review of the ThermoBall Hoodie
While scoring well for weather resistance, The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie is heavy and bulky compared to lighter competitors like the Patagonia Micro Puff, Patagonia Nano-Puff, and the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. Brand aficionados will appreciate the stylings of the ThermoBall, but our testers prefer a jacket with a more athletic cut that is more appropriate for layering.
The ThermoBall is a lightly insulated jacket. We feel that it compares very closely with the Patagonia Nano Puff and may even be ever so slightly warmer. The ThermoBall felt warmer than the hybrid styled Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, which employs stretchy side panels for breathability but at the cost of heat loss. With a fleece layer on underneath and the waist hem cinched down, the ThermoBall kept us toasty while belaying.
Weight and Compressability
The ThermoBall Hoodie is impressively light, especially considering how thick and tough the 15 denier nylon shell feels. It's only slightly heavier than the Editors' Choice Award-winning Rab Xenon X and the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. It packs away easily into the left hand pocket, and it has a clip in loop! We really appreciate this feature and are glad The North Face added it to the hooded version. The ThermoBall's stowed size is bigger than the Patagonia Nano Puff and about the same size as the Rab Xenon X.
We felt that the sizing of the ThermoBall Hoodie ran on the large side. This is good if you're looking for a layer to throw on top of everything else. You may want to size down if you plan on wearing the jacket with just a light shirt underneath, as the bulky shoulders and torso could create some uninsulated air space if the sizing is too big.
The hood is fully insulated and roomy, easily accommodating a helmet. Two hood cinches located on either side of the chin secure the hood around the face. This is not our favorite method of securing the hood. We prefer hood cinches around the head like on the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody and the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, which allow the hood to move with your head. These contenders ensure you're not looking into your hood when you try to look around.
The hem cinches around the waist are located in the front of the jacket. This is a great spot because they are easily accessible and stay out of the way of a climbing harness or the waistbelt on a backpack. We also really liked the recessed cuff design. The elastic cuffs are recessed about an inch and a half inside the sleeves, creating enough space to overlap a pair of light gloves or mittens.
The ThermoBall Hoodie's first line of defense against the elements is a very effective durable water-repellent treatment. After five minutes under running water, not a drop had soaked through. This is super impressive, especially when we considered how thin and lightly insulated the jacket is. This contender cuts the wind out marginally better than the Patagonia Nano Puff and the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket and significantly better than "heavy breathers" like the Outdoor Research Uberlayer and the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. The quilted sewn construction doesn't protect from the wind as well as a continuous shell that can be found on the Rab Xenon X.
This jacket breathes much better than the models with a continuous shell, such as the Rab Xenon X and the Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody. Due to the ventilating panels on the sides, the hybrid styles of the Cathode Hooded Jacket and the Arc'teryx Atom LT both breathe better while maintaining a similar degree of wind resistance. Check out the Nano-Air, Uberlayer, or the Atom SL if you're looking for maximum breathability.
The ThermoBall Hoodie is available in whopping ten different colors and patterns! Plenty of options with something that should appeal to everyone. We like the quilted pattern that uniformly covers the entire jacket, and the recessed cuffs look great. Be aware that it runs large and, if possible, try one on before you buy (or order from a website that offers free shipping or returns and exchanges).
This jacket is excellent for hiking, ski touring, alpine climbing, or even a night on the patio of your favorite brewery. It performs well enough to hold its own in the backcountry while retaining some urban style.
At $220, the ThermoBall Hoodie is a good deal and a great alternative to jackets like the Patagonia Nano Puff or the Arc'teryx Atom LT. It's got a burly shell that resists thorns and brush encountered while bushwhacking and is backed by the North Face lifetime warranty.
This jacket has one of the most durable shell fabrics we tested. If you're looking for an alternative to the tighter fitting Nano Puff or the Atom LT, check out The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie.
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