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.
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.
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.