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The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Review

This is a heavy-duty casual jacket that is durable and robust, though not meant for technical trips or athletic movement
The North Face Apex Bionic 2
Photo: The North Face
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Price:  $149 List | $148.95 at Backcountry
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
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 30, 2020
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Weather Protection - 30% 6
  • Breathability - 30% 4
  • Mobility - 25% 3
  • Weight - 10% 3
  • Versatility - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The North Face Apex Bionic 2 jacket is a favorite softshell jacket for the general public for its weather resistance, durability, and casual styling. It is an excellent choice for those who do not need the extra protection of a hood, and just want a decent looking coat that can handle cold and stormy trips around town. With stiff fabric and a boxier cut than most jackets we reviewed, the Apex Bionic 2 is not the coat we would recommend for athletic activity or trips into the mountains. But, for those needing a relatively inexpensive model for use around town, this is a good looking option.

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Pros Comes in many colors, very wind and water resistant, very durableDurable fabric, great fit, all-around usefulnessSoft and stretchy fabric, lightweight, great wind protectionInexpensive, great breathability, stretchyIncredibly light, very mobile
Cons Boxy fit, not very mobile, wrist closures are not adjustableLimited water resistance, fitted cuffsHood fit is tightLimited weather protectionLimited weather protection, few features
Bottom Line A relaxed fit jacket that provides ample weather protection for casual trips, the Apex Bionic 2 is for non-technical outingsAn all-around softshell jacket that is at home in the mountains but looks good in town as wellA do-it-all softshell jacket, the ROM is a great choice for those seeking a simple jacket that does well in a range of conditionsWhile not the most weatherproof jacket, this wind resistant softshell allows for ultimate mobility for climbers and adventurers on a budgetThis lightweight jacket pairs well with a baselayer to keep you protected while climbing or hiking
Rating Categories The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody Marmot ROM Ferrosi Hooded Rab Borealis
Weather Protection (30%)
6
8
8
3
5
Breathability (30%)
4
8
8
10
8
Mobility (25%)
3
9
8
10
9
Weight (10%)
3
8
7
8
9
Versatility (5%)
4
7
6
4
5
Specs The North Face... Arc'teryx Gamma LT... Marmot ROM Ferrosi Hooded Rab Borealis
Measured Weight (size medium) 24.5oz 17oz 17oz 13oz 10.5oz
Material WindWall 100% polyester with DWR finish Wee Burly (56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane) GORE Infinium 3L (92% nylon, 8% elastane plain weave) Body/hood: 86% nylon, 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop
Shoulders/lower sleeves: Cordura 91% nylon, 9% spandex 120D stretch woven
Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR
Type Casual Active Active Active Technical
Lined/Insulated? Yes, fleece lining No No No No
Hood? No Yes, helmet compatible, adjustable StormHood Yes, with Peripheral Cord Adjustment Yes, adjustable Yes, under helmet with lycra binding
Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted) 3 (2 handwarmer, 1 chest) 3 (2 handwarmer, 1 internal) 4 (2 harness-compatible hand, 1 chest, 1 interior) 3 (2 handwarmer, 1 chest) 2 (external chest)
Adjustable Cuffs? No Stretch cuffs Velcro Elastic cuffs Lycra cuffs
Available Sizes XS - 4XL XS - XXL S - XXL S - XXL S - XXL

Our Analysis and Test Results

Stylish, thick, and highly wind protective, this is a jacket for the casual urban adventurer.

Performance Comparison


A night out on the town, in a nice restaurant? The Apex Bionic 2 can...
A night out on the town, in a nice restaurant? The Apex Bionic 2 can handle a variety of urban settings with ease.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Weather Protection


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.

Water-resistance testing with the Bionic 2.
Water-resistance testing with the Bionic 2.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

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 cuffs on this jacket don't have any closures, making them rather...
The cuffs on this jacket don't have any closures, making them rather loose, unless gloves are worn.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Breathability


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.

The thick inner lining of this jacket does not allow for easy...
The thick inner lining of this jacket does not allow for easy breathability.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Mobility


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.

We have tested many iterations of the Bionic 2 jacket, and they have all felt rather stiff. However, it is worth noting that the heather color that we tested has a slightly stiffer exterior than the solid ones, so choose a solid hue if you want a little easier movement.

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.

Range of motion is pretty much limited to bending the elbow in this...
Range of motion is pretty much limited to bending the elbow in this very rigid feeling jacket.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Weight


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.

The North Face Bionic 2 is among the heaviest of our tested jackets.
The North Face Bionic 2 is among the heaviest of our tested jackets.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

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.

Although the Apex scores poorly for weight and packed size, if you don't plan on throwing it into your backpack, you may value the increase in warmth and comfort over packability.

Versatility


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.

Well suited for a night out on the town, the Apex has a casual...
Well suited for a night out on the town, the Apex has a casual non-technical style.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Value


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.

Conclusion


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