The North Face Flight Better than Naked Review
Cons: Not as breathable as a softshell
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
The new Better Than Naked running jacket is wildly different than its past generation. Many of the nagging issues which detracted from the overall usability of the jacket have been addressed. While it may have a touch less breathability, overall, it is a significantly better design.
Considering the single-layer shell design and recent omission of vents, one might have preconceived notions of how the Better Than Naked will perform. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to feel decent temperature regulation and air movement. Even without the vented shoulders and chest panels of past versions, our testers felt more comfortable when charging up hills in this new version. One tester noted the more ergonomic fit and properly sized arms let air move inside the jacket better than the restrictive cut of previous versions.
With the advent of single layer GORE-TEX running layers and the existence of ultra weather resistant triple-layer softshells, it's difficult for classic DWR jackets like the Better Than Naked to stack up. Our experience with it in light precipitation, however, was positive. The DWR treatment does an excellent job keeping drizzle and early morning dew from throwing a wet blanket over a daily run. Where the Better Than Naked fell short, and where nearly all DWR-treated single layer jackets fall short, is during constant heavier precipitation. Eventually, heavy rain is guaranteed to make its way through.
As a wind layer, the Better Than Naked performs quite well. We spent many hours testing running jackets in situations meant to push their limits. The Better Than Naked did a good job shielding us from frigid wind.
Comfort and Mobility
As the years tick by and technical outdoor layers pile on the technology, it is a full-time job keeping up with the top dogs. Not only is it challenging to keep up with the highest performing layers, improving on past designs is a must to remain competitive. While the Better Than Naked does have some redeeming features, it lacks the necessary attention to detail needed to be an award-winning jacket. The Better Than Nake doesn't have tapered wrist cuffs, costly non-abrasive seams, or ample arm length, making it less than ideal for long distances or big days out. If you're throwing on a jacket for a jog around the park, it likely won't make any difference. But if you're heading out into the mountains, the abrasive seams and short arms will eventually wear on you like the neighbors barking chihuahua.
On the upside, the slippery ripstop fabric is lightweight and smooth, and an elastic drawstring allows you to cinch up the waist to help keep everything in place. Additionally, a softer layer of material is sewn into the neckband, giving it a relatively chafe-free feel.
If you're in the market for a lightweight single-layer running jacket, portability is likely a critical attribute. Having a pocket capable of easily containing the jacket with a no-hassle zipper or pouch is a must-have. The Better Than Naked omits the two-sided zipper pull making the storage pouch truly frustrating. Attempting to unzip a zipper without a pull is like trying to ice-skate uphill.
Storage pocket issues aside, this jacket is lightweight. Stuffing it into the bottom of your running pack will certainly not weigh you down. Eventually, we surrendered to the frustrations of the storage pouch and just crammed the jacket down in our running pack. This solution was easily more efficient than attempting to utilize the pocket for storage.
With only a few reflective markings over the right shoulder, the Better Than Naked is lacking in both day and night visibility. Reflective markings on each wrist would go a long way to translating running movement to the unobservant eyes of half intoxicated nighttime drivers. As the jacket is currently, our nighttime driver test revealed a sometimes visible bobbing nighttime stripe. Compared to other jackets with 360-degree visibility, the Better Than Naked is not a high performer.
The Better Than Naked is on the higher end price-wise of our tested models. Overall, we feel you can get a better-performing jacket for the same amount of money or, quite easily, much less.
If you're looking for a casual running layer to cut through the morning chill, the Better Than Naked could be a solution. However, if you happen to have the extra cash sitting around to afford this layer, there are options on the market that blow its performance out of the water.
— Brian Martin