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 a tough and affordable mild winter jacket to stay-away the wind, this just might be the one.Editor's Note: This review was updated on November 19, 2021 to reflect design and material changes to the Apex Bionic 2.
The North Face Apex Bionic 2 - Women's Review
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
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The North Face Apex Bionic 2 - Women's
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|Pros||Affordable, durable, soft fleece on chin guard and sleeve cuffs, windproof, very water resistant||Inexpensive, stellar mobility and breathability, stow-away pocket, harness-friendly pockets, excellent fit||Very flexible, flattering fit, long torso, comfortable cuff||Ultralight, comfortable, fairly breathable, stow-away pocket, ideal for summer and fair weather activities||Lightweight, affordable, durable, breathable, feature-rich, dries fast, packs into stowable pocket, UPF 5-+ sun protection|
|Cons||Stiff, boxy-fit, heavy, no hood, chin-guard can feel restrictive on neck, not very feature-rich||Not very warm, below average water resistance||Gets wet very easily, thicker fabric is heavier||Sizing runs a bit large, not very weather resistant, not durable, hem rides-up while climbing||Not the most weather protective, baggy fit, pockets aren't accessible with a harness|
|Bottom Line||A weather-resistant casual softshell for urban adventures or staying warm around the campfire||This wicked light softshell has great mobility, is highly breathable and well-tailored - a perfect layer for fair-weather climbing or hiking||This comfortable jacket will keep you protected and stylish, from climbing with friends to hanging at the coffee shop||An ultra-light, ultra-packable, and fairly breathable wind layer for summer climbing and hiking||This lightweight jacket is highly breathable and stretchy with an arsenal of fun and useful features|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Apex...||Rab Borealis - Women's||Black Diamond Alpin...||Mountain Hardwear K...||Outdoor Research Fe...|
|Weather Protection (30%)|
|Specs||The North Face Apex...||Rab Borealis - Women's||Black Diamond Alpin...||Mountain Hardwear K...||Outdoor Research Fe...|
|Measured Weight||20 oz (size S)||9 oz (size 10/S)||6.5 oz (size S)||4 oz (size XS)||11.5 oz (size S)|
|Material||WindWall (96% Polyester, 4% Elastane with DWR finish)||Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR||Schoeller w/Eco-Repel Bio (93% nylon, 7% Elastane)||Pertex Quantum Air 20D stretch ripstop||Body/hood: 86% nylon 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop
Shoulders/forearms: Cordura 91% nylon, 9% spandex 120D stretch woven
|Lined/Insulated?||Yes, fleece backer||No||No||No||No|
|Hood?||No||Yes, stretchy but not adjustable||Yes, 2-way adjustable||Yes, stretchy but not adjustable||Yes, 1-way adjustable|
|Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted)||3 (2 hand, 1 chest)||2 hand||1 chest||3 (2 hand, 1 interior drop-in)||3 (2 hand, 1 chest)|
|Adjustable Cuffs?||No, Fleece lined inner stretch cuff||No, Stretch Cuffs||No, Stretch Cuffs||No, Stretch Cuffs||No, Stretch Cuffs|
|Available Sizes||XS - XXL||8 - 16||XS-XL||XS - XL||XS - XL|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face updated this softshell, dropping the 2 from its name. The new Apex Bionic jacket has had some style changes, with different seamlines and new colors, and the material has changed, too. The updated model is constructed from 86% recycled polyester and 14% elastane. Compare the Apex Bionic 2 we tested (left) to the updated Apex Bionic (right).
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.
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 windproof. 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.
Being a windproof jacket, the Bionic 2 is not very breathable. Indeed, it is quite rare to find a jacket that is both windproofand breathable. However, breathability is not the purpose of this jacket. This layer is designed to keep you warm around a campfire, 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 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 windproof 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Apex Bionic 2 is a casual and classic offering that is both windproof 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 campfire. 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.
— Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett
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