With versatile construction, a comfortable fit, neutral-yet-photogenic styling, and an inexpensive price tag, the Vortex Triclimate is a solid choice for someone looking for protection from the skiing and snowboarding elements.
Neutral styling in the Vortex mellows out the more aggressive and colorful pants and helmet. Test editor Jediah Porter dressed up like a bag of Skittles.
Just like the other 3-in-1 style jackets, the Vortex Triclimate is one of the warmer offerings in our test. The generous synthetic insulation, combined with many layers of fabric between the two components provide ample protection from heat loss. The North Face blocks convective and evaporative heat loss with a proprietary waterproof/breathable HyVent shell material. Their HeatSeeker synthetic fill insulation provides enough puff to block radiative and conductive energy transfer. The average owner of a Vortex Triclimate can stay warm in basically all conditions they may encounter in normal ski area conditions.
The Vortex in action on the East Coast.
The North Face brings a mountaineering pedigree to the proprietary HyVent shell fabric of the Vortex. The durable water resistant coating and construction work together to give above-average weather protection. As compared to a discontinued tested jacket from The North Face, the Vortex has a much improved cut. The sleeves are long with generous cuffs to cover the user's wrist gap in gnarly weather. The hood, while suffering from familiar drawcord fiddliness, cinches down effectively over either a helmet or toque. Only the Arc'teryx Modon and Patagonia Rubicon Rider had better helmet cinching. The ski jacket business as a whole can improve hood cinching construction, and in our opinion, more complicated solutions are not the answer.
In an admittedly debatable move, we rated all of the 3-in-1 style jackets near the top of the ventilation category. It takes some more effort throughout a single day, but mixing and matching the layers allows for fine-tuned temperature regulation. If ventilation is analogous with temperature regulation then it follows that the modular Vortex Triclimate and Columbia Whirlibird Interchange jackets should score well. Additionally, the pit-zips of the shell portion of The North Face Vortex Triclimate can be opened and closed to adjust air flow.
Just another hard day of testing ski jackets. OGL editor Jediah Porter at Mammoth Mountain in The North Face Vortex Triclimate and Smith Vantage Helmet.
The Vortex Triclimate holds a modest selection of ski features. It will store whatever you want in the various pockets, and when your goggles get fogged up you can whip out the included lens-friendly cloth.
Fit and Comfort
As compared, once again, to its nearest competitor, the Columbia Whirlibird jacket, The North Face Vortex Triclimate is quite a bit more comfortable. Most notably, the collar is far lower profile and smoother on tender wind- and sun-burned chins. Similar in comfort scores to the Helly Hansen Enigma, the Vortex earns its marks in a very different fashion. It fits loosely and generously, providing good range of motion for a gyrating boarder. However, it isn't baggy and clumsy like the Flylow Roswell.
The Vortex Triclimate jacket offers a generic, neutral look. It will appeal as much to skiers as it will snowboarders. Beginner to intermediate riders won't be making unfounded claims about their skills with the Vortex jacket. If a beginner rider is going to sport something like the Spyder Titan, they should be warned that expectations will be high for their abilities. Not so for wearers of the Vortex Triclimate - and that is a good thing. On the other hand, equipment from The North Face has fallen from fashion in recent years among hard core ski fashionistas. Other brands are trendier and/or reputed to make better equipment. We have no reservations recommending the look and quality of this piece, despite the reputation. Additionally, and opinions were far from unanimous, but votes on the appearance of the inner jackets of the two modular jackets in the test fell significantly in favor of the Vortex. The inner jacket of the Columbia piece, when worn on its own, is boxy, loose, and somewhat techy looking as opposed to the better fitting layer from The Vortex.
Worn on its own, the liner of the Vortex Triclimate is a nice spring or town jacket.
We really like the value-added benefits of a 3-in-1 style jacket. Each layer can be worn on its own on the hill or in town, or the owner can strap them together to serve as one heavy-duty insulated jacket. Within this value-added category, the Vortex model is a product of The North Face's long pedigree of excellent performance. Subtle changes to this model haven't significantly altered the performance or value.
One small durability problem did show up on the Vortex jacket. The inner and outer layers are joined mainly by their front zippers. The inner zips to the outer. Also, at each cuff, matching snapped loops join the sleeves. With very little pressure, the loop on the sleeve of the shell jacket tore from its mooring in one tested iteration. Our second tested sample did not suffer the same fate. Overall function and weather protection was not affected at all, but extra care must be taken when taking the jacket on and off.
The frayed blue string was originally attached to the cuff of the shell portion of the Vortex jacket. The black snapped tab is part of the liner. The snap tab and blue string join the sleeves for easier donning and doffing. The blue part tore out in routine usage.
We grant the Best Buy award to The North Face Vortex Triclimate for obvious reasons. As compared to any single-piece jacket, the elevated value is clear. The owner gets 3 jackets for the price of one. Granting the Best Buy award to a 3-in-1 jacket is an easy choice, even if the product were similar in price to the other jackets. In this case, the price of the Vortex is far less than the high end one piece jackets. The materials in the Vortex are high quality and the fit and construction is more than adequate for most people on the market for a ski jacket.
Best Buy winner The North Face Vortex Triclimate