Not necessarily your go-to choice for fast and light mountain travel, but rather for stylish weather protection, The North Face Fanorak is a pull-over wind jacket built for adventures in and out of the city. This jacket is an affordable option for the urban commuter or the trendy enduro rider, and earned its spot in this category as our Best Buy. The Fanorak's coolest feature is that it stuffs into its kangaroo pouch and can be carried around as a fanny-pack — one that also sports an additional small, exterior-pocket. While this jacket has pitfalls in terms of breathability and venting, it offers legitimate wind and weather protection in a fun, relatively lightweight package.
The North Face Fanorak Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Low price, impressive water resistance, folds up into a fun fanny-pack
Cons: Not very breathable, heavier and bulkier than most other options
Manufacturer: The North Face
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The North Face Fanorak
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|Pros||Low price, impressive water resistance, folds up into a fun fanny-pack||Low price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coating||Lightest in the category, tiny packed size, larger chest pocket||Well-ventilated, body-mapped Merino panels||Lots of zippered pockets, ease of packing, elastic brim|
|Cons||Not very breathable, heavier and bulkier than most other options||No feature to stow-away hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activity||See-through material, under-performing DWR fabric||Lack of drawcords, billowy||Goofy looking brimmed hood, swampy, lack of DWR|
|Bottom Line||A streetwear-inspired jacket that might also appeal to the mountain bike crowd||The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standard||An ultralight jacket purposefully built for fast and light mountain missions||Packable weather protection that skillfully incorporates Merino into a well-ventilated shell||Best-in-class storage in a lightweight, ripstop-nylon shell|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Fanorak||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Merino Sport Ultra Light||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Breathability And Venting (30%)|
|Weight And Packability (20%)|
|Fit And Functionality (10%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||The North Face...||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Merino Sport Ultra...||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Measured Weight, size M||9.2 oz||3.9 oz (size L)||3.5 oz||4.8 oz||4.7oz|
|Material||100% polyester ripstop||100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish||100% nylon ripstop, woven w/ DWR treatment (Green Theme Technology)||100% nylon outer, 54% Merino wool / 46% polyester liner, DWR coating||Hyperlite nylon|
|Pockets||1 velcro kangaroo w/ 2 zippered hand behind||1 zip (chest)||1 chest zip||1 zip (chest)||3 zip (2 external hand, 1 internal)|
|Safety Reflective Material?||No||No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible)||No||Yes reflective logos on chest, back, right arm; stripes on cuffs and seat hem||Yes, reflective logo on chest and back|
|Stuffs into itself?||Yes, stows in kangaroo pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in internal pocket|
|Adjustable Cuffs?||Elastic||Half Elastic||Elastic||Half Elastic||Half Elastic|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Although The North Face website lists the Fanorak as a jacket designed for an urban lifestyle, we put this jacket through its paces right alongside more technically designed pieces. While compared to other options, this jacket is neither the most lightweight or packable, but we found it comfortable to wear when running around town.
Where the Fanorak does impress is in the jacket's water resistance. While we think that this jacket does an adequate job of blocking the wind, we found it to be hot to wear for anything more than easy-going activity.
Despite a double-layer polyester fabric over much of the jacket's body, the Fanorak was quickly penetrated by cold, gusting winds during our side-by-side testing. For a jacket that is heavier than most its single-layer counterparts, we were surprised that this jacket was noticeably colder in a consistent wind. The extra material of the kangaroo pocket does a good job of protecting your core, and the zippered hand pockets are helpful in keeping hands warm.
When pelted with snow or sideways rain, we liked being able to tuck our faces into the high collar, which is soft against your face. The hood on the Fanorak has an easy-to-pull cinch system, but with no cord lock, we found that gusting winds can slowly loosen the drawcords.
Breathability and Venting
With its additional material, it is no surprise that the Fanorak is not nearly as breathable as other much lighter-weight options. We found that during anything other than casual activity, such as hiking, this jacket is overwhelming.
This jacket's construction does not sport any venting, but this is not really necessary as you have the option to turn the jacket into a fanny-pack when temperatures rise past the point of comfort.
Weight and Packability
Although this jacket is heavier than many others in this review — it nearly triples the weight of the lightest jacket in this review — when turned into a fanny-pack we were impressed with how light it was to carry along on bike rides.
On even the most technical — read: bumpy — mountain bike rides, we hardly ever even noticed the Fanorak comfortably strapped to our backs.
Fit and Functionality
The colorways of the Fanorak are clearly streetwear-inspired, and we believe it is designed with the urban-user in mind. It is super soft when worn over just a t-shirt, very comfortably sized to throw on over a casual sweatshirt, and has a large hood to easily accommodate a bike helmet.
The fanny-pack is a style that is actually making quite the comeback among designers of mountain bike accessory packs — they are lightweight, less bulky than backpacks, and hold enough to support shorter-distance rides.
In this same vein, the Fanorak gains points in terms of functionality. As stated above, we found the fanny-pack option to come in super handy when wanting to ditch the jacket during the hot part of a ride, and break it back out at the end of an evening ride when the descent got too chilly.
This jacket impressed in terms of water resistance. Water beaded up and ran off better than any other jacket, and at the end of our hose test, the Fanorak was only slightly damp across the shoulders.
The Fanorak is one of the more affordable options we have in our review, earning it our Best Buy award. From the casual hiker in the foothills around LA, to the bike commuter in NY, this jacket is sure to keep you looking stylish on your urban adventures. However, if you are looking for a jacket that will keep pace in the mountains, we suggest looking to the Patagonia Houdini — our Editors' Choice award winner.
A jacket with flair, the Fanorak is a great option for the price-conscious commuter who is looking for a little extra protection from the elements. It also has appeal for the enduro mountain bike crowd — those who want to carry a jacket just in case, but also don't want to unnecessarily weigh themselves down with a backpack.
— Aaron Rice