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The North Face Apex Bionic 2 - Women's Review

A weather-resistant casual softshell for urban adventures or staying warm around the camp-fire
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Price:  $149 List | $119.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, durable, soft fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof, very water resistant
Cons:  Stiff, boxy-fit, heavy, no hood, chin-guard can feel restrictive on neck, not very feature-rich
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 7, 2020
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46
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7
  • Breathability - 30% 4
  • Mobility - 25% 4
  • Weight - 10% 2
  • Versatility - 5% 1

Our Verdict

The North Face Apex Bionic 2 is a crowd-pleasing, non-technical softshell for staying toasty in the winter. The face fabric is incredibly water- and wind-resistant, and we were impressed by the coziness of the plush fleece on the neck and wrists. The Apex is a warm and fairly weather-resistant option for urban commutes and front-country adventuring. The material is fairly stiff but durable, and the fit is on the boxy side — both qualities that may be ideal in the city but aren't great for getting rowdy in the backcountry. If you're looking for an affordable but tough winter jacket to stay-away the wind, this just might be the one.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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

Performance Comparison


The Apex Bionic features plush pockets that are great for warming your hands on cool desert mornings.
The Apex Bionic features plush pockets that are great for warming your hands on cool desert mornings.

Weather Protection


The Bionic 2 performed fairly well in terms of weather protection. In our water-resistance tests, it did swimmingly! The fabric was able to resist absorption for the duration of our 4-minute shower test, meaning it will likely keep you dry in a storm. However, the lack of a hood makes it less ideal for seriously inclement weather, unless you plan to carry an umbrella. Beyond water-resistance, the Apex proved to be essentially wind-proof. Then, with the thick fleece lining, this jacket is pretty dang warm. Overall, this jacket provides good protection from the elements as long as you're able to avoid sustained exposure to inclement weather.

Keeping warm in the Apex Bionic.
Keeping warm in the Apex Bionic.

Breathability


Being a wind-proof jacket, the Bionic 2 is not very breathable. Indeed, it is quite rare to find a jacket that is both wind-proof and breathable. However, breathability is not the purpose of this jacket. This layer is designed to keep you warm around a camp-fire, as you walk between office buildings, or on short bicycle commutes in winter. While it's fairly warm, we wouldn't recommend this jacket if you are looking for the ideal layer to keep you well-ventilated and warm while doing aerobic activities.

The Apex Bionic did not score well in terms of breathability  but it is great for staying warm while car camping.
The Apex Bionic did not score well in terms of breathability, but it is great for staying warm while car camping.

Mobility


The Bionic 2 also does not excel in terms of mobility. A jacket with great mobility will feel like a second skin while climbing, ski-touring, hiking, or running. Given that this one is designed as a plush wind-proof softshell, it feels rather stiff and the cut is short — both qualities that inhibit movement. Additionally, the cuffs are not adjustable, though, with the addition of an inner fleece cuff, the sleeves generally stay put. With that said, even though this jacket does not outperform other models in our review, it is perfectly comfortable for cruising around town.

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.

Weight


The Bionic 2 weighs 20 ounces in a size small, which is on the heavier end of the spectrum in our review. While this weight doesn't feel significant when you are wearing the jacket, it does feel rather cumbersome in a pack. Additionally, given the stiffness of the Bionic, it does not pack down very well. If you're looking for a layer to keep you warm and dry while wearing it, and aren't concerned about weight or packability, then this jacket might be right for you. Otherwise, not so much.

While the Apex Bionic has a zippered chest pocket it is not big enough for a smartphone.
While the Apex Bionic has a zippered chest pocket it is not big enough for a smartphone.

Versatility


The Bionic 2 did not score very high in terms of versatility. We determined the versatility of our tested jackets by considering features, style, durability, and the array of ideal activities and climates each is suited for.

The Bionic 2 is a fairly stylish and warm jacket that provides more than adequate wind and water resistance. While it may not be ideal for most backcountry pursuits, it will certainly keep you warm. If you got this far in the review and you're still considering this layer, ask yourself, do you really need a jacket for technical pursuits in the backcountry? If the answer is "no," then this may very well be the right jacket for you. It does come in an array of understated colors, which will flatter most outfits, and it can be an appropriate fall and mild winter layer for the office and for around town. Other jackets in our review may score better in many of our metrics, but that is because this review is skewed toward identifying the best women's softshells for mountaineering, backcountry and cross-country skiing, or rock and ice climbing. The Apex Bionic, by contrast, is a great jacket for staying warm in urban environments.

The cuffs on the Apex Bionic feature plush fleece inset cuts for extra warmth.
The cuffs on the Apex Bionic feature plush fleece inset cuts for extra warmth.

Value


If you're looking for a casual softshell that will keep you warm and protected from the elements, this is a decently priced option that won't break the bank.

For slow camping mornings  the Apex Bionic is great for staying warm while drinking coffee.
For slow camping mornings, the Apex Bionic is great for staying warm while drinking coffee.

Conclusion


The Apex Bionic 2 is a casual and classic offering that is both wind-proof and warm. While it lacks the mobility and breathability of the more technical jackets in our review, it is still a fairly stylish and durable jacket for cruising around town or hanging by the camp-fire. If you're in the market for something warm that will last a long time and is an affordable price, this is a good option.

While the Apex Bionic is not ideal for technical outings  it is durable and warm  making it a great jacket for car-camping.
While the Apex Bionic is not ideal for technical outings, it is durable and warm, making it a great jacket for car-camping.

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett