Hands-on Gear Review

North Face Vortex Triclimate Review

The North Face Vortex Triclimate
Best Buy Award
Price:  $280 List
Pros:  Versatile, warm, with neutral styling
Cons:  Minor construction inadequacies
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

Discontinued - 2016
The North Face has discontinued the Vortex Triclimate. See our full Ski Jacket Review for other available options.

The North Face Vortex Triclimate is a carefully designed 3-in-1 style jacket. It keeps us warm, protects us from foul weather, and delivers an excellent multi-purpose package at a reasonable price. The North Face started out as a climbing clothing and equipment company, but has adapted smoothly to the gravity-powered market. The Vortex jacket offers all the expected ski feature niceties, and then some. In our testing no significant durability concerns came to light and comfort matched all but the best in our testing. Fashion is neutral, blending in as easily in the lift lines as the apres scene. In our test inventory, the Vortex compares best to the Columbia Whirlibird Interchange. These jackets stack up shoulder to shoulder in ventilation and weather resistance. The North Face Vortex is far more comfortable than Columbia's offering. The overall comfort is the primary attribute that tipped the scales in favor of awarding the Best Buy award to The North Face Vortex Triclimate.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Friday
November 25, 2016

Share:
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.

Performance Comparison


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.
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.

Warmth


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 Vortex in action on the East Coast.

Weather Resistance


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.

Ventilation


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.
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.

Ski Features


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.

Style


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.
Worn on its own, the liner of the Vortex Triclimate is a nice spring or town jacket.

Value


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.
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.

Conclusion


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
Best Buy winner The North Face Vortex Triclimate
Jediah Porter

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 25, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (2)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Person Icon

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   Feb 24, 2016 - 02:07pm
Dr. K · Other · Bend, Oregon
I bought this jacket from a North Face outlet store in Woodburn, OR in the 2011-2012 winter season.

I originally used a Columbia winter jacket and had poor/dangerous results in the waterproofing and ventilation departments, so I was looking for a replacement. I happily found this jacket at the outlet store for about $120. I am a woman, but bought the Men's large to accommodate motion and extra layers.

My main uses for this jacket include dog mushing, snowshoeing, and winter camping in the Pacific Northwest. I use the liner independently for about anything and have replaced it once with another compatible liner from North Face in the 2014-2015 season. The replacing of the liner had nothing to do with quality- quite the contrary. I found it to be quite durable, surviving numerous training runs/hook ups (when the dogs are all jumping up on and grabbing the outermost jacket), puppy chews, and wipe outs (getting dragged on the ice/snow). It simply got a few too many holes and the cuffs were getting pretty worn. I still keep the original as a back up. It took 3 hard years of abuse, hundreds of miles by foot and dog team, and multiple trips as a insulating layer in my backpack (all seasons).

As far as the shell is considered, I am more than pleased. It has ZERO holes/wear points, etc and has been exposed to similar conditions to the liner. I did make a point to try to retain the integrity of the shell by NOT wearing it most of the time while I am hooking up dogs teams (somewhat less exposure to claws and teeth). I literally have nothing to complain about as far as the shell is concerned with the exception of the hood. I sometimes, usually when I have a big hat or helmet on, have a hard time getting it far enough forward to provide the protection I want it to. I have never had a problem putting the jacket together/taking it apart and I have accidentally pulled pretty hard on the button connectors, thinking they were undone. I am not kind to my things in general. I am extremely pleased with the waterproofing and breathability of this coat. I do a high energy, sometimes high sweat sport and have had EXCELLENT results when pairing this with a base wicking layer +/- an additional fleece layer. I have never had an issue with getting wet. The only place I've found a buildup of water is between the puffy liner and the shell, though only after a high output sled run (racing). I do not get wet (and therefore cold) with this jacket, from inside or out.

Long story short:

PROS: very waterproof, comfortable, easy to move in, good ventilation, does not require professional cleaning.

CONS: hood can be difficult to adjust properly.

Last thought: This jacket has converted me into a North Face jacket loyal buyer. Will go back to them in the future.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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