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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
The North Face Apex Bionic 2 - Women's
Photo: The North Face
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Price:  $149 List | Check Price at Amazon
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.

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Pros Affordable, durable, soft fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof, very water resistantHighly breathable, quick-drying, foam inserts prevent jacket creep, helmet compatible, stowable hood, durableInsulated, highly breathable, moisture-wicking, comfortable, great weather protection, durable, lots of pocketsInexpensive, stellar mobility and breathability, stow-away pocket, harness-friendly pockets, excellent fitUnbeatable weather protection, taped-seams, spacious hood, stretchy, generous drop-hem, adjustable cuffs
Cons Stiff, boxy-fit, heavy, no hood, chin-guard can feel restrictive on neck, not very feature-richNot very warm, no stow-away pocket for clipping to your harness, cuffs stretch out with heavy useSpendy, no stow-away pocket for clipping to your harness, hood somewhat small, some reviewers feel it runs smallNot very warm, below average water resistanceTight shoulders, runs small, somewhat heavy
Bottom Line A warm and wind-proof but non-technical softshell for casual outingsIf you're in the market for a lightweight and durable layer that will repel sun and wind with ease and dry super fast, this is a stellar choiceIf you need need good breathability and all-around comfort, this insulated hybrid is a great optionThis jacket is lightweight, breathable, easy to move in, and affordable - a great combination for the active outdoorswomanA fantastically mobile and stretchy technical jacket for alpine conditions, this layer manages to be nearly weather-proof AND breathable
Rating Categories Apex Bionic 2 Sigma SL Anorak Pullover Proton FL Hoody Rab Borealis - Women's Marmot ROM - Women's
Weather Protection (30%)
7
8
8
5
9
Breathability (30%)
4
8
7
10
7
Mobility (25%)
4
9
9
9
7
Weight (10%)
2
8
8
8
5
Versatility (5%)
1
7
9
4
8
Specs Apex Bionic 2 Sigma SL Anorak... Proton FL Hoody Rab Borealis -... Marmot ROM - Women's
Measured Weight 20 oz (size S) 9.5 oz (size S) 9.5 oz (size S) 9 oz (size 10/S) 15 oz (size M)
Material WindWall (96% Polyester, 4% Elastane with DWR finish) Aequora Airperm (86% nylon, 14% elastane) 84% nylon, 16% elastane Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR GORE Infinium 3L (92% Nylon, 8% Elastane Plain Weave)
Type Casual Active Technical/Hybrid Active Technical
Lined/Insulated? Yes, fleece backer No Yes No Yes
Hood? No Yes, 2-way adjustable Yes, 1-way adjustable Yes, stretchy but not adjustable Yes, with Peripheral Cord Adjustment
Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted) 3 (2 hand, 1 chest) 1 chest 4 (2 hand, 2 chest) 2 hand 4 (2 hand, 1 chest, 1 interior)
Adjustable Cuffs? No, Fleece lined inner stretch cuff No, Stretch Cuffs No, Stretch Cuffs No, Stretch Cuffs Yes, Velcro
Available Sizes XS - XXL XS - L XS - XL 8 - 16 XS - XL

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

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.
Photo: Scott Sinor

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

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

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

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...
The cuffs on the Apex Bionic feature plush fleece inset cuts for extra warmth.
Photo: Scott Sinor

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

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

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett