If there is one item in my closet that I cherish above all others, its my collection of puffy jackets. Whether I’m on a cold belay ledge, snowshoeing through the backcountry, or commuting to work on cold, short, November Seattle days, my puffys keep me toasty and dry all day long.
When the North Face told us they were sending their Thermoball Jacket to take on the last of the seasons high mountain adventures, I was stoked. It’s a jacket that so far I had only heard good things about, and as we traversed a long, windy ridge in Central Washington, it held up to its reputation.
What makes the Thermoball such a coveted piece of my collection?
Thermoball is named for the small quilted baffles that make of the lining of the chest and torso. Rather than having jacket-wide pockets that trap hot air across the body, the smaller pockets keep air evenly distributed in small batches. Not only does this create a tighter weave, not allowing warm air to escape, it also keeps the Thermoball impressively dry, something that I love when living in the Pacific Northwest. The insulation itself is equivalent to 600 Fill Down, an impressive amount for a jacket of this size.
But off the science and on to the adventures. When I first received the Thermoball, it was in the closing days of summer, and the temperatures along the coast were already cooling down, while the days of sunshine gave way to rainy afternoons. In the windy enclaves of Downtown Seattle, the jacket kept me warm against sudden showers, and blasts of cold air. It was surprisingly breathable, and even when afternoon temps were raising, I never felt clammy or overheated. Opening the pockets and letting the interior liner breathe quickly cooled down my core.
In early November, we went to hike the Teanaway Range in Central Washington, a magnificent set of small peaks that borders Mt. Stuart. The forecast called for a cold chill and low-hanging clouds, which would turn to wind once we got above the treeline. Once we started hiking, I already had the Thermoball against me, and while the chill had permeated me at first, when we were moving, I felt all that toast warm air getting trapped against my chest.
We got to the saddle just under Iron Peak and started the long walk across the ridge leading to the summit. While blasts of cold air smothered the traverse, the last thing I was thinking about was being cold, and being uncomfortable was never an issue.
While the Thermoball is a super light and warm puffy, it had a couple shortcomings that left a little to be desired. The first is a lack of cinching straps at the torso, which would keep cold air from entering from the bottom. I like to keep my jackets pretty tight and I found myself body hugging myself to keep air down. While the down fill worked magnificently, the outer liner took a tear when I was longboarding to a morning coffee run. I didn’t expect it to run down so quickly, and if a skier were to take a hard fall on some ice, or a climber is constantly subjecting himself to abrasion against the rock, this might prove to be problematic. Finally, I’d like if the hand warmer pockets were placed a little higher. When I was wearing a backpack, the torso straps fell over the pockets, and it was tough to open them while keeping my pack on.
Despite minor shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Thermoball, and I can see it being an essential piece of my collection for many adventures to come. The ski and alpine climbing season is about to start, and when we’re getting knocked around in the backcountry, setting up anchors on an icy belay ledge, or grabbing coffee on a cold Seattle morning, I know that I’m going have to certainties: I’m going to look good, and I’m never going to be cold.
The North Face Thermoball Remix Jacket
Material: Ripstop Nylon / Primaloft
Weight: 15.2 Grams
- Stays warm when wet.
- Lightweight and folds into itself.
- Serious contender against windy conditions.
- Took little abrasion before tearing.
- No cinching in the torso.
- Low pockets have little access when wearing a pack with a hip strap.