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The North Face Denali - Women's Review

A quintessential lounging fleece that also provides warmth on light hikes and walks around town
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The North Face Denali - Women's Review
Credit: Amber King
Price:  $180 List
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Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Amber King ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 24, 2024
68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 12
  • Warmth - 25% 9.5
  • Comfort - 25% 8.5
  • Breathability - 20% 5.0
  • Layering Ability - 15% 5.5
  • Weight - 15% 3.0

Our Verdict

The North Face Denali stands out for its heavyweight design that provides warmth and comfort on the coldest nights. It has a unique retro design with a boxy fit, meaning there is lots of room to add a base or mid-layer. It features thick fabrics and massive pockets and has a nylon exterior in high friction areas to beef up its durability. During our testing, we enjoyed using it mostly for walks around town, skiing the slopes at the resort, and easy hikes on the trail. It also became a favorite for camping and driving when the temperatures were cooler outside. We steered clear of it for any sweat-inspiring endeavor as the thicker fabrics don't lend to being super breathable. If you're looking for a warm jacket built for standalone use that you may not need for sweaty adventures, don't miss this beauty. See how it compares to other options in our fleece jacket review.
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent warmth
Cozy thick fabric
Adjustable hem
Large pockets for storage
Durable construction
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor ventilation through the fabric
Boxy look
Heavy
Not very packable
Pricey

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Bottom Line Warmth and comfort wrapped into a heavyweight fleece that we love to lounge in and wear during low-output activities outdoorsA very versatile fleece that offers lightweight comfort and breathability but midweight warmthIf you seek a lightweight fleece that thermoregulates well at a great price, take a ganderA simple budget polyester fleece boasting soft fabrics and a cozy designA classic pullover with a simple design offering a relaxed fit, cozy vibe, and much to love for a lower price
Rating Categories The North Face Dena... Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... REI Co-op Trailmade Columbia Benton Spr...
Warmth (25%)
9.5
7.5
6.5
5.5
7.0
Comfort (25%)
8.5
9.0
7.0
7.5
8.0
Breathability (20%)
5.0
8.0
7.5
5.5
4.0
Layering Ability (15%)
5.5
7.0
7.0
6.5
4.0
Weight (15%)
3.0
8.2
9.0
8.7
7.3
Specs The North Face Dena... Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... REI Co-op Trailmade Columbia Benton Spr...
Measured Weight 15.6 oz (Size S) 10.7 oz (Size S) 9.8 oz (Size M) 10.1 oz (Size S) 11.4 oz (Size M)
Type Heavyweight Lightweight Lightweight Midweight Midweight
Main Material 100% recycled polyester 100% recycled polyester 94% polyester, 6% spandex 100% recycled polyester 100% polyester
Hood Option Yes Yes No No No
Number of Pockets 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand, 1 chest 1 chest 2 hand, 2 interior None
Features Very large pockets, durable fabrics in high-wear zones Off-shoulder seams, no armpit seams, moisture-wicking Thumbholes, UPF 30, moisture-wicking, off-shoulder seams, no armpit seams, chin guard Relaxed fit, double-layer collar, large pockets Comfort stretch, extended collar
Cuff Construction Elastic cuff Quick-drying woven binding Elastic cuff LYCRA spandex binding Elastic cuff

Our Analysis and Test Results

The retro, stylish North Face Denali offers unparalleled warmth and comfort. It can function as a standalone jacket, protecting you during a light Spring rain or snowstorm. We recommend it if you are looking for a warm and cozy fleece built for light hikes and hanging around a campfire.

Performance Comparison


the north face denali for women - as a reigning queen for comfort, it's not a surprise that the north...
As a reigning queen for comfort, it's not a surprise that the North Face Denali is the layer we reach for during camping trips and colder nights outdoors.
Credit: Amber King

Warmth


This fleece is loaded with 300g/m2 of 100% recycled polyester, making it thick and warm. We tested it while downhill skiing in Colorado, camping in the desert, and hiking on cool days. Whith this jacket, we never felt cold.


While camping out on a cold winter evening in the desert, we huddled around the fire while the temperatures started to dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing just a baselayer and the Denali Jacket, we felt content. As the wind picked up, we could feel the wind through the arms, but not in the areas armored with the nylon fleece panels. We cinched down the waist loop to keep the wind out as we noticed it coming in from under the jacket. We also added a pair of gloves, as the arms aren't tapered or with a cuff. With this set-up, we were golden.

the north face denali for women - we love the adjustable hem which allows you to lock in warmth.
We love the adjustable hem which allows you to lock in warmth.
Credit: Amber King

Skiing and hiking were low-output activities (meaning we didn't sweat a ton). During the ski day, we layered a shell overtop and stayed warm, even when flying down the slopes at Mach speeds. On the hike, we wore the jacket on its own. At one point, when the sun came out, it was actually a little too warm. During our testing over these past winter months, this jacket has truly earned its top marks in this category.

the north face denali for women - the thick polyester material is what makes this a super warm fleece...
The thick polyester material is what makes this a super warm fleece jacket. The heavyweight construction translates to thick and insulative.
Credit: Amber King

Comfort


When a fleece comes loaded with thick fabrics, it's expected that comfort will follow. The Denali checks all the boxes and does not disappoint. If you have a “Rambo” moment and decide to sport only skin and a sports bra, this baby is perfect to don. While the boxy shape may not be for all, the fit is on point. Plus, the fabric is a little weather-resistant, holding its own in a light rainstorm.


The Denali became a quick favorite for cozy lounging because of its thicker fabrics, which are soft on the skin. While the interior seams are not flat, we didn't notice them as an issue when wearing them without a base layer or t-shirt. The two hand pockets are massive, easily fitting a phone or any other items you might need to carry with you. The chest pocket is also a decent size. An added plus is the durable fabric concentrated on the shoulders, back, and chest, adding durability to high-wear areas. If you wear a heavy backpack a lot, for example, this feature will come in handy.

the north face denali for women - the pockets are monstrous...consuming our hands and providing ample...
The pockets are monstrous...consuming our hands and providing ample storage. We love that it has a huge chest pocket and fleece-lined hand-warming pockets.
Credit: Amber King

The fit is right on the money. Many of our friends who tried it on felt it was the right size. Our main tester sits between a small and medium (size 6 with wider shoulders), and the size small fits just right. The arms are pretty baggy, while the entire jacket has a boxy fit, so don't expect a form-fitted design.

the north face denali for women - the simple elastic cuffs, unfortunately, do not have thumbholes, but...
The simple elastic cuffs, unfortunately, do not have thumbholes, but they do have a nylon material placed strategically in high-rub locations, making it a durable design.
Credit: Amber King

Another feature of the jacket is its weather resistance. Unlike most other fleeces, it comes with weather-resistant paneling. In our water tests, the water wicked away and was dry within 5 minutes of trying to rub it into the fabric. The fleece, on the other hand, behaved like most polyester fleece jackets. Water absorbed into the fabric and it took much longer to dry. That said, we were also caught in a small rainstorm and noticed the water beading off the entire jacket, keeping us warm. Overall, this jacket has all the comforts one might look for while lounging at home or staying cozy on the trail.

Breathability


The Denali is warm and comfortable, and we recommend it only for low-output activities. While the polyester is quite porous and the wind can dry moisture through the arms and torso, it does not vent as well as light jackets. This thicker barrier doesn't allow moisture to escape easily. While it is great for a chill hike where you won't get too sweaty, we never wanted to wear it during high-output activities like running or backcountry skiing.


Our testing plan had us running at least a mile in each fleece jacket in cooler weather. We could feel the sweat building up quickly about four minutes into our run on a 40-degree day (where we would usually keep a lighter fleece on). We had to unzip the jacket, and after about six minutes, the fleece was off. We tested it again while backcountry skiing on a strenuous uphill hike with a similar result. Therefore, we recommend purchasing this only if you intend to stick to low-output activities where you expect to avoid sweating too much.

the north face denali for women - for simple hikes in wintery landscapes, this fleece does well. but...
For simple hikes in wintery landscapes, this fleece does well. But if you amp up your output, you might take this layer off quickly.
Credit: Amber King

Layering Ability


The bulky and boxy design of the North Face Denali provides lots of room to layer under. It also functions as a light jacket when there isn't much weather in the forecast. While it's easy to layer underneath, layering overtop might make you feel like a stuffed sausage.


During our testing, we tried many different layers, both over and under the jacket. When layering garments underneath the Denali, we could easily fit a base layer or tank top. Given the amount of room, we could even add another fleece. Layering overtop was another story. Given the bulky and heavyweight design, there is a lot of bunching fabric through the arms and torso. When it came to throwing thinner jackets over top, we weren't comfortable--especially if they weren't stretchy or didn't have a lot of extra room through the arms and torso. However, with a big shell that had more room, it worked just fine.

You can easily layer underneath the North Face Denali, but fitting a tighter jacket over top requires a little more effort.
Credit: Amber King

Weight


A heavy-weight design translates to more ounces on the scale. This behemoth is almost a whole pound, weighing in at 15.65 ounces (size small).


Since it is constructed with 100% recycled polyester, it doesn't compress or pack up nicely. As a result, it's not our recommendation for an adventure where you might value a light or compressible layer. However, it's a nice one for car camping or where space isn't an issue.

the north face denali for women - a heavyweight design means more weight and the ability to compress...
A heavyweight design means more weight and the ability to compress less.
Credit: Amber King

Should You Buy the North Face Denali?


We recommend buying the North Face Denali if you want a heavyweight fleece that will keep you comfortable and warm. It functions nicely for light hikes in cool weather and is a favorite for camping. This is the one to buy if you especially like the retro styling and the larger-looking fit.

the north face denali for women - if you seek a heavyweight fleece that provides extreme comfort and...
If you seek a heavyweight fleece that provides extreme comfort and warmth on cool mornings like these, the North Face Denali is our first pick.
Credit: Amber King

What Other Fleece Jackets for Women Should You Consider?


While this is the only heavyweight fleece tested in our line-up, there might be others to consider. If comfort and warmth are still at the top of our priority list, but you want something more breathable, consider the REI Co-op Hyperaxis 2.0. This is a warm contender in the line-up with better breathability. If you instead prefer a cozy but lightweight polyester fleece, check out the REI Co-op Trailmade, which also comes with a low price tag. Nothing beats the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody for excellent comfort and technical performance.

Amber King