Style meets function meets versatility: in the search for one winter jacket to serve all active needs, look no further than The North Face Thermoball.
The North Face Thermoball Jacket Features:
- Exterior fabric: 100% nylon
- Insulation: 15D 33 g ThermoBall™ synthetic down insulation
- Weight: 350 g (12.3 oz)
- Length from center back: 28”
- Internal elastic cuffs
- Hem cinch-cord system in hand pockets
- Stows in left hand pocket
- bluesign® approved fabric
- 19 color options
- Price: $199
Oh Thermoball, Where Have You Been?
Thermoball is The North Face’s proprietary synthetic insulation material that retains its loft and maintains its warmth even when completely wet. It’s a remarkable material that is lightweight and compressible, and has a great warmth-to-weight ratio, which gives the Thermoball jacket an extensive range of uses, from high-intensity aerobic training to relaxing around camp at the end of the day.
We did a little of each in our testing: cold-weather trail running, a couple weeks of hiking and camping, road running in the rain, and general “wearing it everywhere for everything” use. In our testing it worked best as an outer layer for calm and cold conditions, and as a middle layer under a shell for highly windy conditions or heavy rain.
Insulation when wet works exactly as advertised: even when the jacket is soaked, your body stays warm. We tested this during a few rainy 8-to-10 mile runs wearing the Thermoball as an outer layer over a base layer of merino wool, which is similarly effective at maintaining warmth when wet. It was an odd feeling to be completely drenched in 40-degree weather and still not feel cold. This is the advantage of the Thermoball synthetic down, which doesn’t lose its loft when wet like natural down fibers do. Another huge advantage of the Thermoball down is that it dries quickly, similar to a tech fabric shirt – and unlike merino wool, which sometimes seems to take forever to dry after getting soaked.
In dry conditions, the Thermoball provides very strong warmth for its weight. My closest point of comparison is with Patagonia’s Nano Puff jacket, which is less than an ounce lighter than The North Face Thermoball. The Thermoball is definitely a warmer jacket than the Nano Puff, and seems to retain body heat more effectively. Neither jacket functions well as a wind blocker, so during windy conditions a light exterior shell is recommended for maintaining warmth.
From a comfort standpoint, the Thermoball is exquisitely soft and smooth; it feels like a light quilt against the skin, and it slips easily underneath a shell. The hand pockets are nice and deep, and the cuff design extends the insulation beyond the elastic at the wrist, which enhances both comfort and warmth. The 2014 edition has more contoured trunk lines than previous versions, providing a bit more stylish fit.
The Thermoball is easy to stow and pack, and compresses entirely into the left-hand pocket, so it’s a no-brainer piece of equipment to have for any type of adventure. Again comparing it to the Patagonia Nano Puff, the Thermoball doesn’t compress as compactly, but it’s actually a perfect size to use as a camp pillow. Also, with a small strap the Thermoball can be compressed even further, to about half of the size pictured here.
- Fully maintains insulation when wet
- Super comfortable material construction
- Ideal for wide range of activity
- Limited wind blocking ability
- Would like smaller compressed size without using strap
Bottom Line: The North Face Thermoball Jacket
The North Face Thermoball is an outstanding mid layer jacket that provides high comfort and strong insulation for cold-weather activity. It is convenient and versatile enough to be considered a must-have layer if you’re packing light on your way to the outdoors, and can also be used as a fashionable everyday winter jacket.
Buy Now: Available at REI.com