The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comes in many colors, very wind and water resistant, very durable
Cons: Boxy fit, not very mobile, wrist closures are not adjustable
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
Stylish, thick, and highly wind protective, this is a jacket for the casual urban adventurer.
The Apex Bionic 2 uses proprietary Apex WindWall Fabric that performs as advertised at blocking all wind. You won't feel the breeze through the thick stretch-woven fabric that's bonded to a fleecy interior. When the wind kicks up, you can feel it a little through the non-water resistant front zipper, despite the zipper flap, but when it comes to overall warmth, this is a seriously cozy casual jacket.
This jacket is a good fit for chilly days around town or at the ski slope. If we were reviewing the hooded version of the Apex Bionic 2, we likely would have given it a higher score for weather protection. Sans hood, you'll need to carry a rain jacket if it starts to pour, lest your head get soaked. If you plan on taking this jacket to the ski resort, your warm ski helmet will keep your head toasty, and you'll save about $20 over the hooded version. Overall, this jacket is pretty weather resistant and will undoubtedly block wind and light precipitation. If you use it primarily around town or in the snow, we expect it to keep you warm and dry.
The big test for any windproof softshell is to see how well it breathes when you're moving around. Unfortunately, we don't find this jacket incredibly breathable. While it certainly moves more air than a full-on hardshell jacket, it fares worse than most of the other softshells in this review. If you're buying a softshell for aerobic endeavors like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing through deep snow, or hiking, you will be better served by a more breathable shell. As with any jacket, you can always open the front zipper and pockets to vent some heat, but, simply put, the Apex isn't breathable because it is warm and weather resistant.
Mobility is another category in which the Apex Bionic 2performs poorly. The cut of this jacket causes the hem to rise, and the lack of wrist closures means the cuffs fall when reaching up. This is most important to people pursuing vertical sports like rock and ice climbing. For other uses like hiking, skiing, and strolling around town, this isn't as big of an issue.
Before you write-off the Bionic 2, ask yourself if supreme versatility is valuable to you. As a softshell that performs from coffee shop to ski slope, the Bionic is plenty mobile for the uses of most non-climbers. It has a somewhat boxier fit that's much looser than that of some of the more technical jackets and, overall, fits true-to-size.
If you aren't going on long ski tours, climbs, or multi-day ventures, then weight probably won't be an important metric in your softshell selection. The reason this one is heavier than other pieces is that it features a thicker softshell fabric bonded to a fleece liner. The only other jacket in our review that weighs more than the Bionic 2 has a hood; accounting for that, this coat feels the heaviest while wearing it.
Generally speaking, a softshell can either be warm, or it can be lightweight, and this jacket is one of the warmest casual jackets we reviewed. While that's nice, we hated having to carry this jacket in our packs because of its large packed size — it's simply not the one to choose if you'll be hiking with a backpack or working up a sweat.
One chest pocket, two handwarmer pockets, and hem adjustments located in the pockets sum up the features of the Bionic 2. The cozy pockets were our favorite when strolling around town. The non-adjustable wrist cuffs, on the other hand, were our least favorite feature. They are wider than the other non-adjustable cuffs found in our review and easily slip up the wrist.
The North Face makes this jacket in many colors, ranging from vibrant to softer tones. Whether you want to be flamboyant or discreet, this jacket probably comes in a color you'll love. As a jacket to be worn around town and commonly over business casual attire, we appreciate the color options.
The Bionic 2 jacket is an OK value. It does not have a hood (though a hooded version is available), it is rather cumbersome, and its usefulness is limited in outdoor activities — yet it costs as much as many other jackets in our review. Be sure to look online for deals, as this often is available for less than its retail price.
The North Face Apex Bionic 2 has been a top-selling softshell jacket for years and embodies the thick, comfortable, and durable design that many expect when searching for such a jacket. It isn't our favorite for rigorous mountain uses, but it works great close to town and at the ski resort. It blocks wind and is a stylish piece for your wardrobe.
— Ryan Huetter