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The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka - Women's Review

A classic winter parka that is warm, waterproof, windproof and breathable
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $420 List | $188.98 at Backcountry
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
By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 13
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Style - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The North Face Outer Boroughs Parka is a winter workhorse. Insulated with 550 fill goose down, the jacket has a heavy-duty waterproof exterior that hits just above the knee. It's bombproof. From wind to sleet to deep cold, nothing gets through. The downside is that you feel like you're walking around in a tank. It's heavy, feels tight in the shoulders, and the hood is uncomfortable when the faux fur ruff is attached. That said, for the weather protection and warmth that it offers, it's reasonably priced. It also has cuffs that convert to mittens and plenty of pockets. An adjustable waist helps to combat the jacket's bulky appearance. It offers the best weather protection to price ratio of any jacket we tested, winning it our Best Buy for Serious Weather award.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


With a thick waterproof and windproof shell  550 fill goose down insulation  and a collar that zips up to your eyes - the Outer Boroughs Parka has you covered in winter weather.
With a thick waterproof and windproof shell, 550 fill goose down insulation, and a collar that zips up to your eyes - the Outer Boroughs Parka has you covered in winter weather.

Warmth


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.

Weather has a hard time finding an opening to sneak into this parka.
Weather has a hard time finding an opening to sneak into this parka.

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.

The thick waterproof keeps you dry and blocks wind. The fur ruff keeps the snowflakes out of your eyelashes.
The thick waterproof keeps you dry and blocks wind. The fur ruff keeps the snowflakes out of your eyelashes.

Weather Resistance


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.

After four minutes in the shower  the Outer Boroughs Parka looks like we just splashed it a bit.
After four minutes in the shower, the Outer Boroughs Parka looks like we just splashed it a bit.

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.


Comfort


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 fur ruff bunches uncomfortably around its zipper.
Removing the ruff makes for a comfortable hood. It doesn't block the wind as well but works much better in the rain.

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 collar was somewhat stiff when we first started to test this model. The more we wore the jacket  the less stiff it became.
The collar was somewhat stiff when we first started to test this model. The more we wore the jacket, the less stiff it became.

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.

Some of our testers love this jacket's style. Others give it a solid "meh."
Some of our testers love this jacket's style. Others give it a solid "meh."

Style


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.

Good luck wearing this jacket out.
Good luck wearing this jacket out.

Durability


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.



Features


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 the faux fur ruff is. We loved how shiny and beautiful the ruff is. For being fake fur  the quality is outstanding.
The hood isn't detachable, but the faux fur ruff is. We loved how shiny and beautiful the ruff is. For being fake fur, the quality is outstanding.

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.

The cozy fleece cuff extends so far beyond the shell's protection that it gets wet easily  even when we're just washing our hands.
The cuff converts into a mitten  a great feature for cold days.

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.

Pictured above is the adjustable cinched waist  and one of the six exterior pockets. The lower side exterior pockets do not have any kind of microfleece lining them.
There are six exterior pockets. Two on the chest  two at the side and two attached to the bottom side pockets. Despite there being so many pockets  they actually blended in well and were highly practical.

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.

There is double-sided zipper that allows access from both ends. This helped with mobility as well as access. There is a storm flap over the zipper as well as buttons to secure it.
An adjustable gives you some control over the fit and style.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

A burly jacket that can handle the dark depths of winter  the Outer Boroughs is in it for the long haul.
A burly jacket that can handle the dark depths of winter, the Outer Boroughs is in it for the long haul.

Clark Tate