Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Warm Review

The North Face Warm
Best Buy Award
Price:  $60 List | $59.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Smooth comfort, solid all around, superior durability, inexpensive
Cons:  Snags easily, not very warm, average drying speed
Bottom line:  With a solid performance across the board, and stand-out comfort and durability, this relatively inexpensive contender presents a great value, and wins our Best Buy award.
Editors' Rating:   
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Material:  57% polyester, 43% repreve recycled polyester
Fabric Weight:  Lightweight - 180 g/m 2
Thumb Loops?:  No
Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

We had to shell out more than a few pretty pennies for a lot of the long underwear tops we purchased for this review. With so many base layers costing $90 and up, we were skeptical at first of the performance we would receive from The North Face Warm. After tossing this product over our heads and heading to the outdoors, we quickly realized that we could kiss our fears goodbye. While ironically not providing a great deal of insulation, this contender very breathable, and appears to be built to last. Moreover, it is one of the most comfortable shirts we tested. Seriously, this shirt feels smoother than a partner's touch. This product placed fifth overall after tallying total scores, but costs at least $30 less than the four products that placed ahead of it. With a strong performance across the board and a comparably affordable price, it took home our Best Buy award.

Reduced Colors
The North Face no longer offers the Warm in the navy blue colorway we tested. It's mostly only found in black and grey at online retailers now. Regardless of the new colors, this top remains the same.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Long Underwear and Base Layer for Men

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson

Last Updated:
Monday
December 19, 2016

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The synthetic fabric of Warm by The North Face offers a lot of goodness for only $60. It provides solid base layer performance across the board without any major drawbacks. We especially liked its comfortable feeling against our skin and its above-average durability in a category of products notorious for their lack of longevity. This valuable product won't let you down in the backcountry and will save you considerable cash in the checkout line, making it a clear choice for our Best Buy award.

Performance Comparison


This top handled the California coast with ease  and didn't put a huge dent in our wallets.
This top handled the California coast with ease, and didn't put a huge dent in our wallets.

Warmth


Despite its name, the Warm didn't provide a ton of insulation in comparison to other models we reviewed. However, it is a lightweight model with a fabric weight of 180 g/m², so we can't expect the impossible. It is noticeably warmer than other lightweight models, though. It was sufficiently warm enough to keep us happy when temps dropped to 40°F, and even a little below, when moderately active. This shirt didn't have as great of a temperature range some of the top merino wool tops and tended to overheat when the thermometer rose above 65°F in active use.

As long as we didn't stop for long breaks  we were able to wear this top solo on snow-covered hiking trails.
As long as we didn't stop for long breaks, we were able to wear this top solo on snow-covered hiking trails.

Without any thumb loops to keep the sleeves up, we wished the sleeves of this model were a little longer to protect our wrists from cold air exposure. The torso was just barely long enough to keep our bellies covered during most overhead, reaching movements, but some extreme reaches did pull it up above the waist of our pants.

Breathability


Although this top can get a little warm, its solid ability to wick away moisture to the outside of the shirt counteracts the extra heat and sweat. Our backs tended to get a little sweaty when hiking fast with this top under a backpack, but this moisture evaporates quickly, especially after removing the pack.

If you're looking for the best performance to price ratio  the Warm is it. It moved moisture away from the body quite well  and didn't require a load to purchase.
If you're looking for the best performance to price ratio, the Warm is it. It moved moisture away from the body quite well, and didn't require a load to purchase.

During our indoor workout test, we worked up a sweat and then timed how long it took to dry out after ceasing exercise in a controlled, indoor environment. Following multiple rounds of pull-ups, mountain climbers, burpees, and more, it took this top less than six minutes to transmit the moisture we created between our skin and the inside of the shirt to the external air. In comparison, its performance in this test was average.

Comfort and Fit


This contender pulled through in this category. We found the smooth texture of this product felt great. As we moved, the fabric of this model seemed to glide over our skin like a silky caress. Who doesn't like that? Unlike its wool competitors, this product has an absolute zero itch factor, which we think many outdoor enthusiasts and athletes will appreciate. Furthermore, the quality seams lie very flat, and in no way rub or chaff during activity. We love all these features!

When using our arms  the sleeves tended to ride up a bit with this model  as you can see from our exposed wrists in this shot.
When using our arms, the sleeves tended to ride up a bit with this model, as you can see from our exposed wrists in this shot.

The only room for improvement in this metric would be some small changes to the fit. We wished the sleeves stayed in place a little better, and we think the neck collar could fit a bit more snug to our necks.

If you just can't stand wool products for their feeling on your skin, we recommend this North Face model, which proved to be very friendly to epidermises.

Drying Speed


The North Face supplied this base layer with their FlashDry technology. As the name implies, it is aimed to speed up drying time. While this product isn't very thick, it took longer than we expected to dry in our timed test. It barely beat much thicker wool products.

Durability


In this metric, the Warm's most exceptional characteristic is its bomber seams. Except for the stitching around the zipper, the entire seam system is either triple or quadruple stitched in flatlock seams. When The North Face says flatlock, they mean it. The profile of the seams was one of the lowest of all models. Not only do they resist chafing, but they also didn't let loose a single thread during three months of extensive use.

We expect this top to stick around longer than almost of its competition.
We expect this top to stick around longer than almost of its competition.

This product lost a point due to its likeliness to snag. When walking through the backcountry, this top tended to snag on bushes and branches. This created imperfections on the surface of this top, of which there was a handful at the end of the testing period. While this didn't affect its performance, it didn't look very nice. Wearing another layer on top of this shirt will stop this, though.

The high durability and quality craftsmanship of this product lend itself to putting up with many, many trips through the washing and drying machines.

Layering Ability


This model stretches to fit over t-shirts easily but feels a little tight over the top of even thin base layers. However, with the high level of comfort provided by this top, we're not sure why you'd want to pass it up as your first layer.

The Warm fit well underneath this mid-layer  but occasionally required adjustment when it didn't stay in its place.
The Warm fit well underneath this mid-layer, but occasionally required adjustment when it didn't stay in its place.

The Warm fits under mid-layers and jackets easily, as the smooth outer surface of this model gently slides into the sleeves of over-layers. However, it was prone to moving around a bit under other layers, which forced us to readjust regularly.

Best Applications


If you need a base layer for low to medium activity in cold or cool temperatures, this product will serve you well. Furthermore, if your skin rejects itchy fabrics, we can't imagine it would complain about the ultra smooth and comfy feeling of this shirt's fabric.

Value


We were happy that we could find a solid base layer that didn't cost $90-$100. Although it didn't win any category, it performed well enough for us to consider this model, with its $60 price tag, an excellent value. The Warm deserves our Best Buy award.

Our Best Buy award winner from The North Face proved its value with its great comfort  durability  and all-around solid performance.
Our Best Buy award winner from The North Face proved its value with its great comfort, durability, and all-around solid performance.

Conclusion


From the moment we first pulled our arms and head through the appropriate holes of The North Face Warm, we crossed our fingers that this super comfy shirt would also perform well in the field. To our satisfaction, it didn't disappoint, especially regarding breathability and longevity. The products that managed to outscore this top also cost a full $30 more. It's inexpensive in comparison to the other models, breathes well, and will likely outlast the competition in the long run. Best Buy? Oh yeah!
Ross Robinson


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Most recent review: December 19, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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