Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face ThermoBall Hooded - Women's Review

Price:  $220 List | $219.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Lofty and warm, lightweight and compressible, versatile fit
Cons:  Not breathable, no chest pockets
Bottom line:  Take on the mountains with this lofty and warm quilted contender that will keep you warm through all four seasons.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
Weight (ounces):  11.46 oz
Relative Compression (1 = most compressible, 11 = least compressible):  4
Number of Pockets:  5 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest, 2 internal drop-in)
Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

As one the cutest quilted competitors, The North Face ThermoBall boasts a wonderful warmth to compression ratio that shouldn't be missed. The jacket utilizes little balls of synthetic insulation that apparently 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 it's 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.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Insulated Jacket for Women Review


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Amber King

Last Updated:
Friday
March 9, 2018

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The North Face ThermoBall boasts a great 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! The hydrophobic insulation will also keep you warm when wet.

Performance Comparison


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, scoring a six out of ten in this category. Its shell isn't anything special - just a 100% nylon 15D 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.

Pieces like the Rab Xenon X Hoodie, our Editors' Choice winner and the Patagonia Nano Puff are constructed with the competing PrimaLoft Gold insulation, which is known for providing lightweight warmth using longer filament-shaped fibers.

TNF model features square baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation.
TNF model features square baffles loaded with ThermoBall insulation.

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 325 grams, it is the fourth lightest jacket tested. We love that this jacket compresses into its hand pocket and has a carabiner loop to clip to a harness or backpack. Also, it is super easy to stuff away into the corner of a pack when not in use. It scores an eight out of ten in this metric.

Even though it compresses to the size of a small grapefruit, it's not quite as compact as the Patagonia Nano Puff, one the second most compressible jacket in this review. If you're searching for the lightest and most compressible insulated model, don't miss our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures - the Patagonia Micro Puff. This jacket is surprisingly warm for its puny eight grams of weight.

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

Comfort & Coziness


Scoring a six out of ten in this category, 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 fleece lining the interior of the jacket like the OR Women's Ascendant Hoody or a fur-lined hood and collar, like the Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush, it all works out because it's built to be a less featured, 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 quite large 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 fabric 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


Scoring a seven out of then in this category, we were 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 too much water. But if you have a shell, throw it on overtop.

Performing well in wind-resistance, we are happy to report that wind doesn't just cut through this jacket. The quilted outer allows some air flow in the areas of the stitching around the baffles. But we thought these quilted pieces offer better wind resistance than breathable jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air, our Top Pick for Breathability. Though, jackets with a continuous shell like our Top Pick for Winter Recreation, the Arc'teryx Proton AR Hoody did better in our wind tests because of their impervious face fabrics.

Breathability


Scoring an average six out of ten, 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 lofty insulation, heats up quickly and doesn't release much heat quickly as we found with more breathable jackets such as the Arc'teryx Atom LT, our Top Pick for Alpine Adventures.

Style & Fit


Our testers loved the style and versatile fit of this techie-looking jacket. It scores an eight out of ten because of its long cut and roomy fit that easily accommodates layers. 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. In addition, 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.

In comparison, the jacket is roomier than the Patagonia Micro Puff and the Arc'teryx Atom LT. The fabric is shiny, giving it a more 'techie' look, but our testers thought it was perfect to wear both to the crag 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 jacket 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 easy to stuff into a backpack for a long hike, or works well 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. That said, it's not as well crafted as the Arc'teryx Atom LT, with more durable face fabrics and amazing construction. If you do not need a technical jacket, be sure to check out the Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush, our Best Buy award winner. It costs only $130 and scores higher in performance than many jackets in this review. It's best suited for winter wear only.

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

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Most recent review: March 9, 2018
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
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