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North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's Review

North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's
Price:   $170 List | $169.95 at MooseJaw
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Pros:  Inexpensive, soft and comfortable fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof and very water resistant, improved fit
Cons:  Not very flexible, tight sleeve cuffs make it hard to layer underneath
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

The popular Apex Bionic strikes the desirable balance of fantastic weather protection and reasonable cost. Being one of the only two softshells in the review to be windproof earns this jacket extra kudos in our eyes. Its closest competitor, the Patagonia Adze Hoody - Women's sneaks in and takes our Best Buy Award over the Apex Bionic because it fits better in the sleeves, is slightly more flexible and comfortable, and has adjustable cuffs for wearing with gloves. However, the Apex Bionic adds livability with a soft fleece chin guard and fuzzy sleeve cuffs. The windproof Apex Bionic has a stiff and inflexible feel, which is contrary to the defining features we love about softshells: that they are soft, supple, and mobile. For a more comfortable jacket, our other Best Buy winner, the Columbia Kruser Ridge - Women's is a soft yet budget shell.

Update - August 2017
The Women's Apex Bionic Hoodie is updated and pictured above! Keep reading for a side-by-side comparison.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Softshell Jacket for Women Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
McKenzie Long

Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 16, 2017

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The New Apex Bionic Hoodie Vs. The Original Apex Bionic


The New Apex Bionic Hoodie is updated with a whole bunch of adjustments. Technical augmentations include an additional 2 inches of length, resulting in 100 grams of added weight. The North Face also did away with the cinch cord at the top of the hood. The sleeves now feature a fun bell shaped curve, and the stitching design is slightly divergent from the old model. For 2017, new color options are available, including Bright Navy and Dark Eggplant Purple.

Check out the new Bionic Apex Hoodie on the left next to the original version on the right.
North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's
The North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's
 

Here's a summary of the key differences between the new Women's Apex Bionic Hoodie and the previous version:
  • Length — The new model features two inches of extra length.
  • Weight — At 680 g (23.98 oz), the new Bionic weighs 100 grams more than its predecessor.
  • New Sleeve Design — The new model flaunts a stylish bell shaped sleeve.
  • New Colors — For 2017, TNF adds new colors to the mix. Currently, you can purchase the jacket in Dark Eggplant Purple, New Taupe, Bright Navy and Medium Gray Heather.
  • Altered Stitching Design — The stitch lines are updated (which you can see in the two contour lines that run the length of the body on both sides of the jacket).

Since we haven't tested the new version of this jacket yet, the ratings and reviews below reflect the original Women's North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie.

Hands-On Review of the Original North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's


A windproof and highly water resistant softshell, the Apex Bionic is a protective budget piece.

The affordable  comfortable  and windproof Apex Bionic out for a Sierra cross-country ski. This jacket is not the most breathable model we tested  and we find it best suited to moderately aerobic winter activities such as this  hiking  snowshoeing  and walking the dog.
The affordable, comfortable, and windproof Apex Bionic out for a Sierra cross-country ski. This jacket is not the most breathable model we tested, and we find it best suited to moderately aerobic winter activities such as this, hiking, snowshoeing, and walking the dog.

Breathability


The Apex Bionic is constructed from The North Face's proprietary Apex ClimateBlock fabric, which is the most protective in their line of softshell materials. It is windproof, almost waterproof, and has a fleecy backside. Since this jacket incorporates a windproof layer, the breathability of the jacket is lowered. We found it to be on par with the also windproof Patagonia Adze Hybrid, but less breathable than thinner non-windproof jackets such as our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody - Women's.

Weather Protection


Being one of four windproof products in this review, the Apex Bionic stands out for its weather protection. In addition, it is also one of the most water-resistant jackets we tried; water beads up and rolls right off the Apex ClimateBlock fabric without soaking in. Unfortunately, this weather resistance comes at a sacrifice of breathability and mobility.

The Apex ClimateBlock fabric that makes up the Apex Bionic is 100% windproof  making it warm and protective in stormy  windy weather.
The Apex ClimateBlock fabric that makes up the Apex Bionic is 100% windproof, making it warm and protective in stormy, windy weather.

Mobility


The technology that makes this jacket windproof also gives it a stiff and less-stretchy feel. It is not nearly as stretchy or comfortable as the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody or even the Columbia Kruser Ridge. Additionally, the sleeve cuffs have an interior fleece cuff that is tight, which keeps the wrists warm, but also makes the piece almost impossible to layer underneath. If you do manage to squeeze a fleece layer on beneath the Apex Bionic, the sleeves are then very restrictive.

The North Face Apex Bionic (front) the Mammut Ultimate Hoody (green) and the Columbia Kruser Ridge (light blue) all out for a test on a sunny cross-country skiing day. Each jacket provides protection from wind and mild precipitation while offering varying levels of flexibility and breathability.
The North Face Apex Bionic (front) the Mammut Ultimate Hoody (green) and the Columbia Kruser Ridge (light blue) all out for a test on a sunny cross-country skiing day. Each jacket provides protection from wind and mild precipitation while offering varying levels of flexibility and breathability.

Weight


This jacket is tied with the Adze for the heaviest in this review at 1.36 pounds, making it less than ideal for an alpine adventure or an excursion into the backcountry. It is not too heavy or bulky, but noticeably more so than something like the Mammut Ultimate Hoody - Women's, which is also windproof and weighs less than a pound.

Features


The double-layer sleeves cuffs are a distinct feature that help this jacket stand up against the weather. These keep wind and moisture out while holding warmth in. However, these cuffs are restricting and make the Apex Bionic uncomfortable to wear with many other layers underneath. Only a thin base layer will fit comfortably underneath these cuffs, which makes it harder to bundle up while wearing this jacket.

The sleeves on the  Apex Bionic have an interior fleece cuff that fits tightly around the wrists and seals out wind and cold. Here the outer sleeve on the front (bottom) hand is folded back so that you can see this inner cuff. We find this to be comfortable if only wearing a thin layer underneath the jacket  but it can be restrictive and bulky with thicker layers on or with gloves.
The sleeves on the Apex Bionic have an interior fleece cuff that fits tightly around the wrists and seals out wind and cold. Here the outer sleeve on the front (bottom) hand is folded back so that you can see this inner cuff. We find this to be comfortable if only wearing a thin layer underneath the jacket, but it can be restrictive and bulky with thicker layers on or with gloves.

The Apex Bionic adds a degree of luxury and comfort by including extremely soft fleece on the sleeve cuffs and on the chin guard.

The interior zipper flap on the Apex Bionic is lined with fleece  so when it is zipped all the way up  it is less likely to chafe the chin.
The interior zipper flap on the Apex Bionic is lined with fleece, so when it is zipped all the way up, it is less likely to chafe the chin.

We like that the hooded version of this jacket allows you to cinch it tight around your face if the wind is blowing. This adjustable hood just barely squeezes over a helmet, and is not really designed to be worn with a climbing helmet.

The adjustable hood toggles on the Apex Bionic  which cinches the hood tighter around the face.
The adjustable hood toggles on the Apex Bionic, which cinches the hood tighter around the face.

Style


The Apex Bionic has a simple, casual look that is appealing without looking overly technical or flashy. It comes in several different color options, so it is easy to select a jacket that suits your taste. The fit of the most recent version is more tailored and flattering than past versions of this jacket.

The most recent version of the Apex Bionic has an improved fit. It is now more tailored and less boxy looking than previous iterations. Overall we think the look and fit of this jacket is appealing and comfortable.
The most recent version of the Apex Bionic has an improved fit. It is now more tailored and less boxy looking than previous iterations. Overall we think the look and fit of this jacket is appealing and comfortable.

Best Application


The Apex Bionic is a great jacket if you want plenty of protection from weather for a low amount of money. Since is is middle of the road in terms of breathability, but is fully windproof, we think that is perfect for moderately aerobic winter activities such as snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, or just wearing around town.

Our three contenders for the women's softshell Best Buy award our for some comparison testing on a winter hike  which is a moderately aerobic activity that is perfect for a softshell. L to R: Columbia Kruser Ridge  The North Face Apex Bionic  and the Patagonia Adze.
Our three contenders for the women's softshell Best Buy award our for some comparison testing on a winter hike, which is a moderately aerobic activity that is perfect for a softshell. L to R: Columbia Kruser Ridge, The North Face Apex Bionic, and the Patagonia Adze.

Value


$170 for a typically pricey piece like a softshell is not a bad deal, especially considering that you get a very functional, hooded, windproof and highly water-resistant jacket for the price. This is more than most of the other more expensive jackets in this review offer. The Apex Bionic fought hard for our Best Buy award, which ultimately went to the Patagonia Adze Hoody - Women's; the Adze is also windproof and costs slightly more, but we found it to be more comfortable and flexible than the Apex Bionic.

Conclusion


For a highly weather-resistant softshell, the Apex Bionic performs well. However, if we had to pick one windproof softshell, it would be the similarly featured Patagonia Adze Hybrid.
McKenzie Long

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Most recent review: August 16, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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