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The North Face ThermoBall Hooded - Women's Review

Take on the mountains with this lofty and warm quilted contender that will keep you warm through all four seasons.
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Price:  $220 List | $219.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lofty and warm, lightweight and compressible, versatile fit
Cons:  Not breathable, no chest pockets
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 11, 2018
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort & Coziness - 15% 6
  • Breathability - 15% 6
  • Style & Fit - 5% 8

The Skinny

As one the cutest quilted competitors, The North Face ThermoBall boasts an exceptional warmth to compression ratio. The jacket utilizes little balls of synthetic insulation that mimics the properties of down; as a result, it has a higher loft to warmth ratio. While it's loftier and warmer than competitors like the Patagonia Micro Puff, our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures, it's not as lightweight or compressible. It does have its own stow-away system and can easily be stuffed into a pack or clipped to a harness. Our testers loved the versatile fit and extra length in the arms in the torso, in addition to the super cute baffling patterns; we only wished it was a touch more breathable. Layer it under or a shell when the weather gets grim or wear it alone during the Spring, Fall, and warmer Winter days.

October 2018 Update
The Thermoball Hoodie has undergone a few small changes this season. The baffling pattern has changed as has the available color options. The rest of the specs remain the same. See below for a comparison of new vs. old!


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This season, some new colors have been released as well as a new "bottleneck" baffle pattern on the Thermoball. The North Face states that the new baffle pattern is intended to minimize cold spots and increase durability. See that new baffle pattern and a new colorway below on the left, with the version we tested shown on the right.


The ThermoBall boasts a high warmth to weight ratio. It's perfect to use as a layer or standalone jacket depending on the temps outdoors. Take it with you on pretty much any adventure you can think of, as the hydrophobic insulation will also keep you warm when wet.

The ThermoBall Hoody is super cute hosting numerous baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation.
The ThermoBall Hoody is super cute hosting numerous baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation.

Warmth


Compared to some quilted competitors, this jacket is a little warmer. Its shell isn't anything special; it's a 100% nylon 15-D ripstop shell, but it does have a great internal hemline drawcord that will seal in the jacket's warmth with one pull. The hood is fitted but doesn't have a pull-string adjustment. What truly makes the difference is its ThermoBall insulation, sandwiched in the square baffles of its shell and liner.

The North Face ThermoBall model features square baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation. This provides a fantastic warmth to compression ratio.
The North Face ThermoBall model features square baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation. This provides a fantastic warmth to compression ratio.

When we did a comparison of the Patagonia Nano Puff and the ThermoBall (both quilted jackets with similar wind resistance) on a cold winter hike, we discovered that the ThermoBall provided more warmth. The North Face claims its warmth is equivalent to 600 fill goose fill down, but we are reluctant to confirm such a number, especially since most lightweight down jackets are still made with at least 800 fill down. In our observation, we will say that it was one of the warmest lightweight, quilted jackets we tested.

The interior pull cords in the Thermoball cinches down the hem of the jacket. An excellent warmth feature that many of the synthetic jackets in this review exhibit.
The interior pull cords in the Thermoball cinches down the hem of the jacket. An excellent warmth feature that many of the synthetic jackets in this review exhibit.

ThermoBall insulation differs from the famous PrimaLoft. The fibers are long filaments instead of a sphere. These round synthetic traps heat between them to retain the heat in small air pockets to keep your warmer. Essentially, the additional loft comes from air-pockets that effectively heat up to keep you warm.

Weight & Compression


As a quilted jacket, this model is designed to be easily compressed and lightweight. Weighing only 11.46 ounces, we love that it compresses into its hand pocket and has a carabiner loop to clip to a harness or backpack. It's super easy to stuff away into the corner of a pack when not in use, compressing to the size of a grapefruit.

The Thermoball is quite compressible with its own stow-away system.
The Thermoball is quite compressible with its own stow-away system.

Comfort & Coziness


This lofty jacket is not as cozy and comfortable as other options out there. What we like is the elastic wrist cuffs, fitted helmet-compatible hood, two large interior storage pockets (no zipper) and two handwarmer pockets. While this jacket doesn't have a plethora of fancy features, it's built as a simple, compressible, and lightweight contender.

The giant unzippered pockets are super accommodating. We especially liked them for sneaking treats into the movie theater - muahahaha.
The giant unzippered pockets are super accommodating. We especially liked them for sneaking treats into the movie theater - muahahaha.

The hand pockets are decently sized and accommodate gloved hands easily. However, unlike most other jackets tested, this one does not have a zipper garage or an internal zippered chest pocket. It also lacks any liners in the hand pockets and doesn't have any cozy chin guard features. Our testers also love that the slippery liner and face fabric makes layering with any other material easy. As a result, it's more versatile.

This jacket has a helmet compatible hood with an elastic around the rim providing a precise fit.
This jacket has a helmet compatible hood with an elastic around the rim providing a precise fit.

Weather Resistance


We are surprised by the ThermoBall's ability to repel water. When we wore it in the shower for five minutes, we noticed the DWR treated fabric beaded for a couple of minutes before wetting out. However, when we wrung it out, we learned it absorbed very little water. Even though the fabric was wetted through, it seemed like the insulation did not capture any of the water and punched the water molecules back to the exterior shell; what's more is this is one of the fastest insulated jackets to dry. So if you do end up in a rainstorm without a shell, don't despair. The technology will keep you warm and will not absorb much water. But if you have a shell, throw it on overtop. The quilted outer allows some air flow in the areas of the stitching around the baffles, but we are happy to report that wind doesn't just cut through this jacket.

Breathability


Like most of our quilted competitors, the ThermoBall provides a decent level of breathability, but it wasn't our favorite option for aerobic activities. The shell, in addition to the loftier insulation, it heats up quickly and doesn't release much heat quickly as we found with more breathable jackets.

Style & Fit


Our testers loved the style and versatile fit of this techie-looking jacket. It features a long cut and roomy fit that easily accommodates layers to be worn underneath. It hosts a flattering hourglass cut with a super roomy hood and square baffle pattern throughout the body and arms. It can be ordered with or without a hood. Also, our testers of all shapes and sizes said that it fit them all.

A look at the length and fit of the ThermoBall jacket.
A look at the length and fit of the ThermoBall jacket.

The fabric is shiny, giving it a more 'techie' look, but our testers thought it was perfect to wear both to the crag or hiking and out with friends. The size is true to fit.

The baffling pattern is quite flattering.
The baffling pattern is quite flattering.

Best Applications


Given that this coat stands out with its high warmth-to-weight ratio, it does well in activities that require just that. You can layer under a shell for ski days at the resort or slip it on as a stand-alone piece for a cool Spring or Fall morning. It's nice to wear around town when picking the kids up from school or just taking the dog for a walk. It's also easy to stuff into a backpack for a long hike or to wear as a belay jacket at the crag. It's a great piece to bring backpacking because of its compressibility, but we'd leave it at home if you plan on getting super sweaty.

Take this jacket hiking or camping. A perfect wear alone option for Fall and Spring  or a nice layer in the winter.
Take this jacket hiking or camping. A perfect wear alone option for Fall and Spring, or a nice layer in the winter.

Value


With a low price of just $220 for the hoodie, and even less for the jacket, this piece was in the running for our Best Buy award. It's a low-cost technical jacket that boasts great performance features. So is it worth the money? Yes! We didn't note any stitching fly-aways or durability issues; in fact, we love the bomber zipper.

Conclusion


The North Face ThermoBall Hoody offers a great warmth to compression ratio. It's lightweight, has its own stow system, and pretty inexpensive (comparatively). It's a great layering piece for winter and a wonderful stand-alone jacket for the spring, summer, and fall.

The ThermoBall is a great option for those looking for a jacket with a great warmth-compression ratio.
The ThermoBall is a great option for those looking for a jacket with a great warmth-compression ratio.


Amber King