The North Face Crew Anorak is well-suited for urban environments. We put this jacket through its paces via long runs and bike commuting to work through rain and fair weather. The tried and true pullover/kangaroo pocket design has been revived in the 2018 Anorak. As the heaviest jacket we tested, you might imagine it has superior capabilities in shielding you in harsh conditions, and you would be right.
While best suited for urban running and commuting, the Anorak performs well in the great outdoors.
Breathability and Venting
While the Anorak can't quite compete with the breathability of some of the lighter weight fabrics that competitors used in this review, it does have some clever ways of boosting its venting. The front has a half zip, chest pocket, and Velcro kangaroo pouch. For maximum venting, we found opening the main zipper and unzipping the chest pocket went a long way. The liner of the chest pocket and kangaroo pouch is mesh that opens into the body of the jacket. There is also a side zipper on the right side, which allows for a touch more ventilation.
The actual "Wind Wall" fabric that comprises the jacket isn't the most breathable. It was designed to block wind and elements, which it does well, but sacrifices the ability to vent heat and moisture without having zippers and pockets open.
One of the highlights of the Anorak was its ability to block wind and precipitation. Our daily commute to and from work in Salt Lake City this spring was rather wet. Eventually, of all jackets tested, the Anorak became our go-to layer when the skies were grey.
By the end of the testing period, we were confident that spray from the bike tires, as well as falling precipitation, wouldn't make it through the jacket as long as we kept the commute shorter than 45 minutes. The high level of visibility and reflective badging were a plus in these conditions.
Out of the entire field, the Anorak kept us the most comfortable. While none of the jackets were perfect, the Anorak exceeded our expectations set by previous years of running jacket weather proofing.
The level of weather protection, while not equal to an actual rain jacket, offered us a cool/wet weather solution that wasn't as bulky and uncomfortable as our actual rain jacket. When the skies opened up and unleashed, we obviously still reached for our proper rain jacket, but on those questionable days, the Anorak was our weapon of choice.
The burly Wind Wall fabric of the Anorak did a great job beading water and keeping us relatively dry inside. This was much appreciated on our cold early morning commute with snowmelt spraying on our back.
Comfort and Mobility
A extremely important attribute of any running layer is its comfort and mobility. In addition, a level of comfort that doesn't distract you from your run or ride is a top priority.
We all know the importance of finding a pair of shoes that suits our running as well as the right socks and other gear. Having the wrong jacket can be just as miserable as ill-fitting shoes. The Anorak does take some hits in the comfort and mobility department.
The thick, durable fabric of the Anorak proved to be restrictive when we were doing anything that required a wide range of arm movements. This is partly because the fabric is so rigid and partly because of the almost abrasive texture.
First, the fabric is extremely noisy compared to the thinner materials used by jackets such as the Outdoor Research Tantrum II or the Patagonia Airshed. Even after months of use, it is still far crinklier than the rest of the jackets tested. Secondly, we found the wrist cuffs to be too baggy despite the elastic band sewn in. Other than these annoyances, the comfort isn't anything to truly complain about, unless you compare it against the supple stretch material of the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, which has an insanely comfortable design. After using the Outdoor Research jacket, everything else felt a bit restrictive. While the thick fabric did add weather protection, in dry times, the Anorak felt baggy and heavy. As we ran, our arms would continuously make a loud fabric rustling sound against the body of the jacket. Compared to slimmer fit jackets such as the Patagonia Airshed or the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, the Anorak was cut with far too much material.
Even though The North Face didn't design this to be an all-around urban and trail running jacket, we went ahead and tested it as both anyway.
One main negative when it came to portability is the lack of a stuff sack built into the jacket. Every contender tested came equipped with a small pocket, which is capable of storing the jacket when not in use.
For comparison sake, we crammed the jacket into one of its pockets (not meant to be stored in this way). The zipper is one sided making it difficult to open and close and probably not good for longevity as it puts a large amount of stress on the threads.
The burly fabric of the Anorak would have made for a large package anyway. The other downside of the Anorak is its relatively heavy weight.
At 215 grams or 7.58 ounces, it's no wonder why The North Face is one of the best we tested at weather resistance and durability. The thick DWR coated material did pretty dang good even in moderate rain and spray from the road when we took this on a rainy bike commute.
When compared to the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, a jacket with better performance, The North Face is over three ounces heavier, with a total weight of 7.5 ounces. This doesn't seem like that much until you compare it with the top performer in Portability, the Montane Featherlite 7, which weighs in at an astounding 1.6 ounces for a size large and packs down smaller than a pack of cards.
Day and Night Visibility
The bombastic design of the Anorak is sure to draw attention from distracted eyes during day and nighttime conditions.
Our gear tester was almost hit by zero cars while wearing this jacket, and that might sound silly, but in Salt Lake City it almost feels like a daily occurrence. At the best of times, we felt that we were wearing a disco ball with a strobe light attached. At the worst of times, we felt like Jeff Bridges character in Tron with his light-up robe.
A look at the reflective qualities of the jackets in our test. The TNF Anorak and Ultimate Direction Breeze had the strongest low-light visibility, with the other three having fairly comparable levels of reflectivity. Pictured left to right Ultimate Direction Breeze, the Anorak (2 pictures), Outdoor Research Tantrum II, Marmot Air Lite, and the Airshed from Patagonia.
With The North Face logos on the chest, back, and back of your head, you might look like a traveling billboard, but at least you will live to advertise another day. All kidding aside, we thoroughly appreciated the extra reflective logo on the back of the hood, as we generally used the hood in morning low light and in rainy conditions when visibility is extra low. Well played The North Face.
The Anorak is well-suited for urban environments when visibility and weather could be a problem. For us, this became a go-to for bike commuting to and from work and school as well as a necessary jacket for running when we felt there might be some precipitation. There are a generous amount of pockets, and while this wasn't the most comfortable jacket, it got the job done.
At $90, this isn't the best value for a jacket. That being said, the pros are quite good, e.g., weather protection and visibility. It isn't a bad deal either, mind you. The Anorak felt durable and might be one of those pieces that your grandchildren pull out of the closet and say, "Granddad, why would you ever wear this?" sixty years from now.
The North Face Crew Anorak is an all-around functional jacket. It performed well on our urban runs as well as during bike commuting. The styling and reflective emblems provided ample visibility and the weather protection was above par for a running jacket. If the pros line up with your necessity, this is a great jacket.