As one of the cutest quilted competitors, The North Face ThermoBall boasts an exceptional warmth to the 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. It has 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 2019 Update
The Thermoball Hoodie has undergone a few small changes this season. The baffling pattern has changed as has the available color options, and it is made with recycled fabrics. We're now linking to the new jacket.
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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 ThermoBall provides lots of on-trail 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 is 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.
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.
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 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.
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 airflow in the areas of the stitching around the baffles, but we are happy to report that wind doesn't just cut through this jacket.
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 fits them all.
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.
A great price! 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.
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.
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