The North Face down jackets

Written By: One Fit Medic

The North Face engineers and manufactures technical apparel for outdoor enthusiasts and cold weather athletes. The gear lines provide a variety of textile and insulation options, including an extensive line of down jackets. Cuts include parkas, hoodies, vests, and traditional jackets with fit and sizing available for men, women and children. Product specifications include average weight, down fill (feather volume), and in some cases, “packability” and weather resistance. “Packability” refers to the ease with which the jacket can be compressed and packed into gear bags or luggage. This is an important consideration for extended hikes or variable climates. The jackets are activity specific and categorized by lifestyle, snow sport or running/training.

What is down fill?

Down fill refers to both the type and volume of the filling. Traditionally, and including The North Face, down jackets are made with goose feathers. The down fill is an indicator of quality and is measured by placing one ounce of feathers in a graduated cylinder and measuring the volume of space occupied by the feathers in cubic centimeters. The higher the number, the higher the quality. Larger volumes accommodate more air. This provides insulation and therefore warmth. Jackets made by The North Face range from 500 to 900 down fill, with 900 being reserved exclusively for their Summit Series, a gear line designed for exceptionally cold and harsh climates.

Lifestyle jackets

These jackets are designed for casual wear and include parkas, hoodies, vests and traditional jacket cuts. The color palette is largely neutral and the jackets are designed to accommodate the cold weather commuter. Hand and electronics pockets are standard for most jackets and many of the hooded jackets are feather lined for additional warmth and as a style preference. These jackets are weather resistant, but none are weather proof.

Snow sports

Designed primarily for skiing and snowboarding, this gear line accommodates two levels of layering for outdoor performance. Mid-layer down jackets are respectively thinner, lighter and more packable than their outer layer counterparts. They are weather resistant, but not weather proof, since they are meant to be worn under a shell or other weather proof layer. Outer layer down jackets are either a weather proof single or 3-In-1 jacket. The single jackets are designed for mild to moderately cold temperatures and have a down fill in the 600 range. The 3-In-1 jackets are designed for more severe conditions (higher down fill) and are actually a mid-layer and shell combined to offer three different ways of wearing the jacket.


This line is designed to accommodate cross training for cold weather sports and all-season athletes. The down jackets are usually thin and packable mid-layers that are meant to perform as outerwear in milder seasons and insulating layers in the winter. They are weather resistant, but not weather proof, and usually have lower down fill volumes.

Activity specific gear lines are meant to be selected for purpose and then narrowed down by weather considerations, fit preferences, functionality, and budget. Down is ideal for warmth and insulation, but can become bulky, so packability should be an important consideration. Down feathers are also limited in availability, especially in the 800 and 900 down fill range, which will drive the cost of these items. An increase in warmth equals an increase in cost.

Down Ski Jackets

Written By: One Fit Medic

Down, or goose feathers, is used in ski jacket insulation because of its warmth and compressibility. Though no other type of insulation is warmer than down, some factors need to be considered before choosing a down-insulated ski jacket. Weight, compressibility, weather resistance, jacket construction and the intended ski terrain are important and should help to narrow down jacket selection.

Down fill

Weight and compressibility are determined by down fill. The down fill, also known as fill power, is the volume of one ounce of down feathers. This volume is typically between 500 and 900 cubic centimeters. Why are there different volumes? Because not all down is the same. The more air that fits within and between the feathers, the more space (volume) one ounce of feathers will occupy. This concept is often referred to as loft. A loftier feather takes up more volume, traps more air and increases insulation. These high loft feathers, closer to the 900 ranges, are more valuable because they require fewer feathers to achieve the same amount of insulation. Jackets made with high loft feathers are therefore warmer, but lighter. This is an important consideration for any skier who wants to minimize bulk, but maximize warmth along with ease of movement.

Weather resistance

One major drawback of down is that it loses volume, and therefore insulation, when wet. Some jackets are engineered with a hydrophobic coating to protect the down, but these coatings usually do not last as long as the jacket itself. Another option is to pair a down jacket with a waterproofed hardshell jacket. This usually involves the use of a low weight and compressible down jacket as a mid-layer. The hardshell protects the mid-layer and also helps to hold in the air trapped between the feathers.

Jacket construction

Most down jackets contain small compartments to hold the down in place and distribute the insulation evenly throughout the jacket. One way to make these compartments is to insert the down and then sew through the jacket, both the inner and outer layers, trapping the down. This evenly distributes the down, but creates weak points in the jacket. The seams release heat, may allow water to penetrate completely through the jacket and can decrease the lifespan of the jackets. Inserting and stabilizing fabric between the inner and outer layers, trapping the down without compromising the integrity of the fabric, is another way to create these compartments. This method is superior to sewing through the jacket, but is less common.

Activity consideration

Skiing is a global activity and, though a cold weather sport, is enjoyed in a variety of climates and terrains. Temperature is affected by altitude as well as global position, and humidity combined with temperature influences precipitation frequency and type. Down is ideal for extreme cold, but may not be practical in areas that experience a lot of wet precipitation, such as freezing rain. Skier ability should also be a consideration. Beginners are more likely to fall and retain more moisture in their gear. Adding a hardshell jacket and using down as a mid-layer will help to keep out the moisture.

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