The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Warm, waterproof, windproof, faux-fur ruff, adjustable waist, seven pockets
Cons: Heavy, tight shoulders and tricky fit, awkward collar and hood
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
What this jacket lacks in finesse, it makes up for in brute force. Some of our testers loved its style and tough-on-winter attitude. Others did not. Its fit is a little finicky, and it feels cumbersome. What none of us can argue about is that it is a fortress against the wind, rain, and cold.
The Outer Boroughs Parka's 550-fill goose down is encased in a thick and durable fabric, a mix of nylon, polyester, and cotton canvas. The combination does a great job of holding in heat and blocking wind. We were comfy in this jacket on cold morning walks, and it warmed us up quickly after a long, cold day of skiing. Many online reviewers from Montana and Minnesota agree that this jacket can take on bitter northern winters.
The insulated hood fits snuggly. With its faux fur ruff, it does a great job of fending off frigid and windy weather. The tall and thick collar zips up to your nose. It's lined in fleece and insulated with down, creating an impenetrable wall between the weather and the lower half of your face. All you need is a pair of goggles to complete the cocoon.
The jacket has fleece cuffs that extend a couple of inches beyond the sleeves. They help hold the cold at bay and convert to mittens. This thoughtful detail is handy in a pinch, but they aren't waterproof and can work against warmth when they get wet. And there isn't a great place to keep your hands dry. The handwarmer pockets are tucked in by your rib cage. They are narrow, quickly running into the zipper, and deep. To tuck your hands in, you have to turn your wrist at an uncomfortable angle to shove them straight down along the zipper.
Waterproof and windproof, the Outer Boroughs brushed off all the rain, snow, and wind mother nature threw at us. A storm flap snaps across the zipper, keeping every drop of moisture out. Only a few issues showed up in our shower test that kept it from earning top marks in weather resistance.
First, the fleece cuffs wet through. You can cut them off or tuck them in to avoid the issue, but neither is an elegant solution. And second, the fur ruff acted as a funnel, dumping water into our collar. It would create a pool that would then douse our lead tester's shirt. She got soaked. If you take the ruff off, this isn't an issue. So remember to remove it in the rain, when it's not that useful anyway.
The fabric is also breathable, according to North Face. We don't have any reason to doubt that it breathes, and we didn't notice excessive moisture buildup. But it's so thick that it blows our minds that anything could escape, including air. That said, we never caught a chill because of interior moisture buildup.
Weighing in at 3.5 lbs, this is one of the heaviest options we tested, and we could tell. It's also stiff and feels like a lot of jacket. It's not that much fun to carry around in a store or restaurant. The fit is also hard to nail. Our regular size small is tight in the shoulders, especially with a fleece-weight layer, but the bell bottom is large enough that we wouldn't want to size up. The overall effect is cumbersome, and one tester compared it to wearing a straight jacket (which is a little harsh). On its own, we get used to it. When we compare it to the other jackets in the test, we don't.
The hood is snug, which helps combat the cold, but leaves little margin for long necks, big heads, lots of hair, or hats. It's comfortable, though, as long as you remove the ruff and stays out of your face. We like faux fur's function. It does a great job of keeping wind and snow out of our face. But the way this one zips in bunches the fabric along the edge of the hood, making it weirdly stiff and uncomfortable. We take it off whenever we can, which is a shame because the faux fur on the Borough is beautiful.
The tall collar is also stiff and narrow enough to zip a little too tight to your face. Despite the plush fleece liner and soft down insulation, it's not the best. It does its job in a storm, though, and you can always unzip it. After wearing the jacket for a couple of months, the collar did relax a little. That's something to look forward to and probably speaks to the jacket's durability.
The fleece cuffs are cozy when dry. We've already talked about the less than ideal hand warming pockets. They are functional but not comfortable. We do like that the cargo pockets are low enough on the jacket for you to sit down with a phone in them without it jabbing you in the ribs.
The testing team couldn't agree on this jacket's style. Some loved it, and others loathed it. Most were pretty ambivalent — it's a durably looking parka with an uncomfortable but pretty fur ruff. We settled on a bit above average in the scores. Here we'll run through the stye features and leave the ultimate decision up to you.
An adjustable waistband gives the jacket some shape, and it curves out to a bell around the hips. Despite being a think and bulky jacket, it manages a reasonably slim silhouette. The pockets are a defining aspect of the jacket's style, which some like more than others. When the hood is up, the collar flares along with it, bringing some automatic attitude.
The Boroughs is a tough, durable jacket that will withstand harsh winter conditions for years to come. Over the months that we tested this jacket, we didn't come across any durability issues. Online reviews don't mention any consistent durability issues, either. The minimal exterior stitching and sturdy fabric make snags or tearing unlikely.
The Outer Boroughs Parka doesn't shy away from features. There are the convertible mitten storm cuffs we mentioned, the high collar, and non-detachable hood with its detachable fur ruff. All of these features work to improve your comfort in harsh weather.
The hood isn't detachable, but we didn't mind that as much as we thought we would. The beautiful faux fur ruff is removable. We love that about it since it's so uncomfortable to wear.
There are lots of pockets, seven of them. Six are on the outside. There are the two hand warmers we've discussed and two cargo pockets with snappable flaps. Tucked into the outside of each cargo pocket is an equally sized zipper pocket. If you need that many storage pouches, this jacket has them. There is also an interior, zipped media pocket that's big enough for most smartphones.
The double-sided zipper lets you lengthen your stride. There's also a storm flap that buttons over the zipper for extra protection in wet and stormy weather. We like that we can just snap a few buttons and go without worrying about the zipper. A cinch at the waist adds shape and style.
This jacket offers protection from the cold, the wind and water for a reasonable price. It's loaded with features like a removable faux fur ruff, adjustable waist, seven pockets, convertible mitten storm cuffs, and a down-insulated inner collar. The fit and comfort issues are most apparent when you try on a lot of lighter, more comfortable options. If you need shelter from the storm, this is an excellent option.
Overall we were very impressed with The North Face's Outer Boroughs Parka. It's warm, practical, and waterproof. If you can find a fit that works for you, you can't go wrong with what this jacket as to offer.
— Clark Tate