The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The North Face Apex Bionic 2 - Women's Review

For simple outings where you're not working up a sweat and just want to stay warm, this is a good layer to consider.
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Price:  $149 List | $148.65 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, soft and comfortable fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof and very water resistant
Cons:  Not very flexible or breathable, heavy, no hood
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Penney Garrett ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 20, 2018
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 15
  • Weather Protection - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 4
  • Mobility - 25% 6
  • Weight - 10% 5
  • Versatility - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The North Face Apex Bionic 2 is a straightforward and competent windproof softshell. It's a solid choice for simple windy and cold activities. It repels water quite well, has a soft plush lining, and delivers clean, classic lines. For chilly day hikes or urban outings, this is a smart pick at a fair price. We don't suggest this jacket for technical endeavors due to its weight, stiffness, and lack of critical features like a hood. And while this windproof shell is warm, it suffers in the breathability department.

For a more balanced jacket, be sure to read about our Editors Choice, the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody. While not quite as warm, it is lighter with far superior mobility, breathability, and features.

New Color Options

The North Face has freshened up their color choices for the Apex Bionic 2. A current option, Four Leaf Clover, is shown above. The fit, fabric, and features of the jacket remain the same as the color we tested.

March 2019


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Pros Inexpensive, soft and comfortable fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof and very water resistantHighly breathable, quick-drying, harness and helmet compatible, stowable hood, durableVery lightweight, excellent mobility, highly breathable, great fit, affordable.Super breathable, great sun layer, excellent mobility, chest pocket doubles as stuff sack, thumb loopFull-legth side zippers, excellent fit, windproof, lined, thumbholes
Cons Not very flexible or breathable, heavy, no hoodNot very warm, only one pocketNot warm, only two pocketsNot warm, less durable than other options, hem adjustment piece is bulkyLess breathable due to windproofing, expensive
Bottom Line For simple outings where you're not working up a sweat and just want to stay warm, this is a good layer to consider.This lightweight and streamlined pullover is a fabulously durable layer that breathes like a dream and dries lightning fast.This smart and ultralight softshell is extremely easy to move in and highly breathable - an excellent pick for the movement-minded adventure seeker.This thin pullover is perfect for when you just need that little bit of extra protection while standing in the sun, working up a sweat, or shimmying up a rock face.This innovative hoody ups the ante with great features like full-length side zips, fantastic mobility, and excellent weather protection.
Rating Categories Apex Bionic 2 Sigma SL Anorak Pullover Rab Borealis - Women's Whirlwind Pullover Ultimate V SO Hooded Jacket
Weather Protection (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
3
10
0
8
Breathability (30%)
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
7
Mobility (25%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
Weight (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
Versatility (5%)
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
8
Specs Apex Bionic 2 Sigma SL Anorak... Rab Borealis -... Whirlwind Pullover Ultimate V SO...
Measured Weight - Size Medium (oz) 21.1oz 9.5oz 8.3oz 8.2oz 13.1oz
Material 351 g/m² WindWall: 96% polyester, 4% elastane with DWR finish Aequora Airperm - 86% nylon, 14% elastane Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR 86% recycled polyester, 14% spandex, 75D stretch woven 100% polyester
Lined/Insulated? Yes No No No Yes
Hood No Yes, 2-way adjustable Yes, stretchy but not adjustable Yes, 1-way adjustable Yes, 1-way adjustable
Helmet Compatible? N/A Yes Yes, underneath Yes Yes, underneath
Wind Resistant? Yes, windproof Yes Yes Yes Yes, windproof
Water Resistant? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted) 3 (2 hand, 1 chest) 1 chest 2 hand 1 chest 2 hand
Adjustable Cuffs? No No No No Yes
Available Sizes XS - XXL XS - L XS - XL XS - XL XS - XXL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Apex Bionic 2 is a simple softshell with a warm, windproof exterior and soft lining. There's nothing technical or hardcore about this piece, but for the right applications, it's perfectly adequate.

Performance Comparison


The Apex Bionic 2 out for a simple day hike on a chilly fall day.
The Apex Bionic 2 out for a simple day hike on a chilly fall day.

Weather Protection


This is the one category where this softshell performs well. It's thick, lined, and windproof, so it can keep you quite warm even in low temperatures. The lack of a hood, however, means it's not as ideal for more serious wind or moisture, though the material is decently water resistant. Overall, we find this to be quite good protection from the elements as long as you don't get into anything too serious.

The Apex Bionic 2 kept us quite warm while hiking on a cold day  though we had to supplement our own hood since it doesn't have one.
The Apex Bionic 2 kept us quite warm while hiking on a cold day, though we had to supplement our own hood since it doesn't have one.

Breathability


You will notice a common theme across our softshell review — fully windproof jackets don't usually breathe very well. The one exception in our review is the Mammut Ultimate V. It's a tradeoff that you need to consider when deciding on your purchase. The Apex Bionic 2 is no exception — while it kept us quite warm in cold and wind, we wouldn't want to wear this thick jacket for anything aerobic.

While this layer is great for simple chores and casual time in the chilly outdoors  it's not a layer we would choose for anything requiring much exertion.
While this layer is great for simple chores and casual time in the chilly outdoors, it's not a layer we would choose for anything requiring much exertion.

Mobility


Once again we see that, as a general rule, a thicker lining and windproof exterior translate to less mobility. The Apex Bionic 2 is a bit stiff and devoid of any real stretch, placing it pretty firmly in the casual, low-exertion category and not in the sweaty-and-technical category.

This softshell is flexible enough to have casual fun and not feel overly restricted in  but it's certainly not what we would reach for when climbing or snowboarding.
This softshell is flexible enough to have casual fun and not feel overly restricted in, but it's certainly not what we would reach for when climbing or snowboarding.

Weight


The Apex Bionic 2 weighs in at a hefty 21.1 ounces — especially heavy when you consider that it doesn't even have a hood. Its weight and stiffness mean storing this shell on your coatrack at home or the passenger seat of your car are fine, but it's not ideal for stowing in a backpack when space is limited and keeping ounces down is crucial.

Versatility


This isn't a highly versatile jacket. Features are pretty minimal and it's not meant for anything very technical or aerobic. The most unique feature is the curved cuffs, which have a secondary inner cuff that is soft and stretchy. While they are cozy and comfortable, they cease to be quite as lovely if and when you get them wet. At that juncture, they stick to the skin and take much longer to dry than the rest of the jacket. But with clean lines and a classic sporty look, this is a decently good-looking layer for urban outings, though nothing to write home about.

The additional soft inner cuffs of the Apex Bionic 2 are nice  but a bit impractical  especially in wet situations.
The additional soft inner cuffs of the Apex Bionic 2 are nice, but a bit impractical, especially in wet situations.

Best Application


The Apex Bionic 2 is best suited for strolling through chilly mountain towns, walking the dog to the park on windy days, or simple trail hikes that don't get too difficult. It's warm and windproof but lacks the kind of mobility and breathability needed for more serious endeavors. The lack of a hood also means that the jacket is best suited for non-technical excursions.

The plush lining of this jacket helped keep us cozy warm on chilly and windy days.
The plush lining of this jacket helped keep us cozy warm on chilly and windy days.

Value


If you're searching for something casual and warm, this decently priced piece is a logical choice that won't break the bank.

Conclusion


For someone new to the outdoors or looking for a smart city layer to add to their wardrobe for the fall, the Apex Bionic 2 might be the perfect solution. It's windproof, warm, and decently stylish, though the lack of full mobility and breathability mean it's not what we would suggest for technical undertakings such as climbing or skiing. But for the price point, this is a perfectly acceptable layer.

Out on a chilly day hike with the Apex Bionic 2 we stayed warm and protected from the wind.
Out on a chilly day hike with the Apex Bionic 2 we stayed warm and protected from the wind.


Penney Garrett