Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Flight Better than Naked Review

The Better than Naked jacket took on some big changes from the last version; it has increased weather resistance but decreased breathability and venting.
By: Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2018
Price:  $100 List  |  $99.95 at MooseJaw
Pros:  Lightweight, good weather protection
Cons:  Portability
Manufacturer:   The North Face
62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Breathability - 30% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 6
  • Portability - 15% 6
  • Visibility - 15% 6
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Our Verdict

The outdated version of the North Face Flight Better Than Naked Jacket was a fantastic running layer. It had venting panels similar to what we see with the 2017 Outdoor Research Boost which we love. Another layer with similar breathability is the Arc'teryx Incendo which also provides excellent weather resistance like the North Face Better Than Naked. In our original test of the Better Than Naked we were focused primarily on wind resistance as it was one of the competitors in the past wind jacket review. We felt like it was more of a running specialist than it was a wind protection layer as it was highly breathable and vented. The most recent version is a completely different story.

After getting to know this new jacket, our verdict is that North Face has done a 180 from the previous version. While there are vents sewn into the jacket along the ribs and back, the giant venting panels have been removed and replaced with a very slick and quiet 100% Nylon fabric. The entire jacket has taken on more of a wind jacket form with intermittent vents placed around the torso and we found the performance of the jacket to follow. It performed well in wind and weather resistance but poor in breathability. On our heart pumping uphill runs, the jacket would collect moisture and cling to our arms, whereas the previous version offered superior breathability. We did, however, find superior protection from the elements with this new version.

Product Update
The North Face has replaced the Better Than Naked jacket with the Flight Better Than Naked jacket, shown in the photo above. Scroll on down to find out what's changed with the new version!


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Flight Better Than Naked vs the Better Than Naked


The Flight Better Than Naked is The North Face's new incarnation of the old Better Than Naked jacket. TNF tells us that the Flight jacket uses a new fabric with articulated seams and that it's intended to be a more durable version than previous iterations. See the new version pictured below on the left, followed by the version we initally reviewed.

The North Face Better than Naked
  • New fabric — For this version, TNF is using a new window pane fabric with articulated anti-rub seams. The old jacket was 100% nylon, while this one is a blend of 72% nylon and 28% polyester ripstop.
  • New collar — The Flight Better Than Naked has a stand-up collar.
  • Chest pocket — This version features a zippered chest pocket.
  • Price decrease — The Flight jacket retails for $100, which is $20 less than the previous version.

Since we haven't tested the Flight Better Than Naked jacket, the rest of this review refers to the original Better Than Naked jacket.

Hands-On Review of The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket


The new North Face Better Than Naked running jacket is wildly different than its past generation. The new jacket has much less venting and far more protection from the elements. We aren't convinced that all of the changes are good and that the design is swaying from being a pure running jacket to be more of a jacket designed specifically to shield from the elements. We found similar performance to that of the Montane Featherlite 7 but at almost double the weight. That's not to say that this model is heavy. It weighs in at second place - with only 2.8oz to its name. There were some other nagging issues with the jacket that we discuss in more detail further down. The Patagonia Houdini Pullover also has similar properties, but The North Face Better Than Naked costs less.

The Better Than Naked had us struggling on big hills. While it has some nice features the breathability was lacking.
The Better Than Naked had us struggling on big hills. While it has some nice features the breathability was lacking.

Breathability and Venting


Compared to the highest performing jackets in the Breathability and Venting category, the Better Than Naked didn't quite stack up. Yes, it has venting, and the material is breathable, but when our testers put the hammer down, the jacket couldn't handle the added heat and moisture. We ended up settling on a consensus of 6/10 for breathability and venting. If you're looking for a little more support with breathability check out the OR Boost or the Arc'teryx Incendo While out for a two or three-mile jog on level terrain, it did keep us protected from the morning chill while venting our excess heat and moisture. The breakdown came when we would deviate from our normal jog and encounter hills or other terrain, causing deviations in our heart rate, and boosting our output of heat. This would result in a collection of moisture inside the jacket on the ups, and when we started to descend, there was just enough venting in the jacket that we would get uncomfortable from the evaporating sweat. The OR Boost seemed to be superior at handling this extra moisture and keeping us dry on the ups, thus better regulating when we were descending.

The Better Than Naked was equipped with gills along the ribs and shoulders. The issue being they lay flat and would require a wind tunnel to force air into them in order to be effective.
The Better Than Naked was equipped with gills along the ribs and shoulders. The issue being they lay flat and would require a wind tunnel to force air into them in order to be effective.

The reason we gave the Better Than Naked 6/10 for breathability and venting was when compared to the top performers, the user had to do 'extra work' to get the jacket to perform. For example, when reaching a long sustained uphill section of a run we had to unzip or remove the jacket entirely to avoid the moisture buildup inside, then replace the jacket once we started back down. The OR Boost and Arc'teryx Incendo both offered enough venting to avoid having to alter the garment at all when in the same situation. As a runner, this is a big advantage. Instead of fiddling with your jacket, you could instead take that time before the uphill to take a drink, analyze the terrain, or even switch to Africa by Todo to fuel your uphill slog.

Weather Resistance


Overall the weather resistance of the Better Than Naked jacket is pretty good. It wasn't a top performer but it is far from the worst. Along with all of the jackets in this review, we found the DWR treated nylon to perform well in light and intermittent rain. The Better Than Naked was most comparable to the Brooks LSD jacket both in wind resistance and rain resistance. The Brooks LSD, however, is much cheaper. The Brooks retails for $60 (at some stores) whereas the The North Face model rings in at $100. When you consider the protection that both provide the Brooks really is a screaming deal.

On our wind resistance downhill ride, we again found the Better Than Naked to ride right in the middle of the pack. You could feel some air leaking in through the venting, which isn't a bad thing. It kept us from being absolutely pummeled by the wind and kept us from feeling the chill of the canyon air. All said and done, it offered us decent wind resistance but not enough to justify the price. You could get the Patagonia Houdini, Salomon Agile, or Brooks LSD - all of which offer comparable wind and rain protection, for much cheaper.

Comfort and Mobility


The middle child of the running jacket review just can't decide if it wants to be a comfortable, forgiving jacket. The 100% nylon is incredibly slick and quiet when you are on the move. Out of all of the jackets, if we had a category for the quietest material the Better Than Naked would take the prize with ease. As you move, and your arms swing, you don't hear that typical nylon melody you get with most jackets. Unfortunately, the positives stop there.

We found the Better Than Naked to need more material in the arms. They were simply just too short.
We found the Better Than Naked to need more material in the arms. They were simply just too short.

The arms are too short for anything other than having your arms directly at your sides, the elastic cuffs on the wrist don't create a seal, and we were constantly tugging the waist back down as it rode up during our run. None of these little niggles were enough to ruin the jacket on their own, but when you were dealing with all of them together and then running in a rainstorm, you might end up ditching this jacket for something a little more forgiving like the Outdoor Research or Arc'teryx models. Both are comparable in price but offer a jacket that is much more comfortable in a wider variety of situations.

Portability


When we think about portability, we think about solutions. We don't want to just cram our jacket into the bottom of our hydration pack or tie it around our waist. We are looking for a way to pack it along with us during the times it isn't needed and be able to unpack it and get it on fast and easy. The Better Than Naked checks most of those boxes until you get to the point where you want to unpack it fast and easy. It packs down quickly and easily with its slick nylon. The stuff pouch is a great size for the jacket, allowing the entirety of the garment to be contained without having to enlist the help of a stranger on the side of the road. The problems arise when you get to the zipping and unzipping of the stuff pouch.

Notice the zipper on the Better Than Naked jacket has a one sided pull. We found it difficult to open and close this stuff pouch.
Notice the zipper on the Better Than Naked jacket has a one sided pull. We found it difficult to open and close this stuff pouch.

When we were doing anything other than popping out the door for a quick two or three mile jog this jacket didn't suit our needs like the other top performers. It just was too much of a hassle to pack and unpack to justify bringing it. On those shorter runs around the neighborhood, it was indeed better than being naked, though we didn't test that for various reasons.


Day and Night Visibility


We didn't find the Better Than Naked to have the best day and night visibility, although it was near the top. It was awarded a 7/10 and could have done much better if it had reflective material visible from all four sides. As it stands there is a reflective North Face emblem on the front and back but when viewed from either the right or left side it is noticeably harder to see. Reflective emblems on the arms, like we see on the Arc'teryx Incendo, offer superior visibility while the subject is moving. The movement in the arms gives more opportunity for light to hit the reflective blazing and thus a better chance that the attention of the distracted drivers will see you.

Using the same low light method as all other jackets  you can see the North Face doesn't offer superior low light visibility. We found the same to be true in our real world testing.
Using the same low light method as all other jackets, you can see the North Face doesn't offer superior low light visibility. We found the same to be true in our real world testing.

If we were primarily running during the night or twilight hours and were in an urban setting, we would consider the Nike Impossibly Light for the sole purpose of its superior nighttime reflectivity. The reflective stripes on the arms specifically are incredibly bright.

Value


At $100, the Better Than Naked is on the upper end of price for this years running jacket review. For the cost, we would like to see a jacket have a more well-rounded approach to running. As it is, The North Face does a pretty good job protecting its wearer from wind and rain and does retain some breathability, though the venting wasn't completely adequate. While there are vents, they don't get much air moving through them. Although the North Face isn't bad value for money, you could spend less and get a jacket better suited for running.

Conclusion


The North Face Better Than Naked provides adequate protection from the elements while out on your training runs. It is lightweight at 2.8oz and stuffs down into a manageable size. While we found the venting and breathability to be lacking during strenuous outings, for running around town and keeping your heart rate below the redline, it is a great jacket.

Brian Martin

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