Synthetic Insulation and Style: A North Face Thermoball™ Jacket Review
I’ve recently purchased quite a bit of outdoor gear for a trip in March 2016 to the base camp of mount Everest, and I thought it might be helpful to describe my experience using the gear, starting with this North Face Thermoball jacket review.
Admittedly, I’m looking for very performant equipment, as I trek the Himalayas for 17 days, but most of the gear I purchased is versatile enough to be used at home as well, for winter activities, like snowshoeing, or even walking the dog 😉
Disclaimer: Our little group of 15 trekkers going to the Base Camp of Everest is sponsored by an independent North Face boutique in Montreal. The owner has generously offered us discounts on some of his merchandise, and has provided much needed advice about the gear we would need for such an adventure.
What is the North Face Thermoball™ Jacket?
The North Face Thermoball jacket is a synthetic jacket that uses an insulation technology called PrimaLoft®. The jacket itself is fitted and has a full zipper at the front. You can buy a Thermoball with or without a hoodie. Mine is black, but Thermoball jackets come in a wide range of colors, including this luminous pink!
Before getting into the technical details of PrimaLoft, I’d like to point out that, while this jacket is extremely versatile, it was never designed to be waterproof or windproof. I read a few negative comments left online from people who bought the jacket and were disappointed because it did not fare well as a ski jacket, or in heavy rain. No surprise there, obviously. However, if you are looking for an insulating layer under your hardshell, or a jacket to keep you warm in moderate winter conditions, then the Thermoball is something you should look into.
uses an insulation technology called PrimaLoft®. The jacket itself is fitted and has a full zipper at the front. You can buy a Thermoball with or without a hood. Mine looks exactly like the one in the picture, but Thermoball jackets come in a wide range of colors.
Now, if you were curious about some of the properties of PrimaLoft, here is a short video on the topic:
My North Face Thermoball Jacket Review
I’ve had my North Face Thermoball jacket for a few months now, and wear it regularly on outings, whether I’m walking up the steep streets of my neighborhood with my backpack, or snowshoeing with the dogs. I’ve tested it as an insulating layer under a hardshell, as well as on its own, in temperatures varying from 0°C (32°F) to -15°C (5°F). This North Face Thermoball jacket review is therefore based on my personal experience with the gear; others might have had different experiences with it.
I bought a medium, and the fit is true to size. The sleeves are long enough to cover my arms when I extend them and the inside of the sleeve fits snug around my wrist thanks to a hidden elastic band. The jacket feels a bit short in length, but this is normal for a sports jacket (and I am tall). The style is an active fit, which means the jacket is close to the body. However, I am able to wear two layers under it, if need be (a base layer, and a thin polar fleece), with some room to spare.
When you first pull it off the hanger, the jacket feels surprisingly light, so light in fact that you start doubting its ability to keep you warm. On the North Face web site, it states that the average weight is 328 g (11.57 oz). Putting the jacket on for the first time feels strange, especially if you are used to heavy winter parkas.
Insulation and Warmth
Even though it felt a bit thin at first, I was able to wear the Thermoball jacket for outdoors activities on its own with only a base layer in temperatures going down to -5°C (23°F) and with a thin polar fleece on top of the base layer in temperatures going down to -10°C (14°F). When it’s colder, or there is a cold wind, you really need to wear a hardshell on top of the jacket to feel warm.
This is the only part of this North Face Thermoball jacket review where I have some negative comments to make. For medium-intensity exercises, it will do the job, but after an intense training, I’ve found the inside of the jacket to be slightly wet. If you are training outside but have access to a place to warm up afterwards (home, the cottage, the car), this breathability issue shouldn’t concern you too much because the jacket dries up really quickly and doesn’t retain moisture. However, if you are in the backcountry and your resting place in a tent, this could be a problem. For the trip to the Base Camp of Everest, I’m less worried, as we stop for lunch and evenings in lodges along the trek. Nevertheless, this is something to keep in mind.
I have yet to put this jacket though the test of a long trek, or through several washes, so I cannot comment at this point on its durability. North Face offers a lifetime warranty on the jacket, which makes me feel confident about quality issues down the road. The exterior is nylon ripstop, so it should be able to withstand a decent level of abuse without ripping apart.
Remember the old K-Way rain jacket that could be packed inside its front pocket? Well, the Thermoball jacket also lets you pack it neatly, within its left-hand pocket. This also goes to show you the compressibility of the jacket, something that is quite important when packing space is limited. I learned about this while researching the jacket’s features for this post, and I thought it was pretty cool!
As an insulating layer, or a warm jacket for activities in mild winter weather, I believe the North Face Thermoball jacket is a good purchase. I will be taking mine on the trek to the Base Camp of Mount Everest and will probably end up wearing it regularly, unless we find ourselves in unusually wet or cold conditions.