This jacket has been on some adventures over the past few weeks. It has ridden the Staten Island ferry on a moody New York afternoon. It has been soaked while I ran through the streets of Manhattan, refusing to spend $20 on an umbrella. It has accompanied me to meetings throughout Sydney, where winter finally decided to arrive. And it has hiked valleys in the Blue Mountains and been whipped by wild winds on the Coast Track in the Royal National Park.
I've been a lot of things during these jaunts — tired, hungry, hangry, invigorated, excited, stressed, motivated and a whole lot more. But there's one thing I have never felt at any point — cold.
What Is It?
Meet The North Face's Thermoball Parka II. It's an insulated parka (which I keep calling a jacket) that has been designed for cold and wet days, and also has added wind protection.
Here are some specs for you:
- Average weight: 539g
- Centre back length: 33-inches
- Solid: 30D 45 g/m², 100% nylon
- Heather: 40D 69 g/m², 55% polyester/45% nylon
- Lining: 30D 45 g/m², 100% nylon
- Print: 50D 80 g/m², 100% polyester
- Insulation: 11 g/ft² PrimaLoft and ThermoBall synthetic insulation
For any gents out there, the one I tried is designed for women, but there are plenty of other options in the Thermoball range for both genders that are made from the same material — so this is definitely relevant for everyone.
What Is It Good At?
As it turns out, a lot of things.
Day or night, I wasn't cold for a single second while wearing this. Whether I was in a city, out on the water, in a Blue Mountains valley or on top of a cliff where the wind was strong and biting - I was always toasty.
Now to be fair, winter has only just started here in Australia - so I'm interested to see how it goes when the temperature drops further.
While this isn't a water proof parka, it definitely kept the water off me when it was raining in New York. There was no soak through and it only took 10 minutes to dry out once I was indoors.
This was both impressive and good news for me, because I was not dropping cash on an overpriced umbrella in Times Square.
Despite being long and looking bulky, the Thermoball only comes in a at 539g, and packs down quite small thanks to the ultralight fabric. It fits easily into my 34L Osprey hiking day pack, as well as the backpack I bring to work.
Style and Versatility
While you're certainly see more stylish outwear out on the streets, I appreciate that some thought has been put into the style, making it appropriate for both city and outdoor wear. In addition to being a slim fit, the dual gold zips, gold embroidery and printed inner fabric are nice touches. You can see these in some of the above selfies.
Also, I have seen a lot of similar style jackets in both New York and Sydney this year - so you can definitely get away with wearing this wherever you damn well please.
What Is It Not So Good At?
This is a tough one, because I genuinely love this parka. But there are definitely more ideal options out there for hiking. And that's probably because it isn't actually designed for hiking.
It's really more geared towards leisure and street wear, and is a bit too long for hardcore hiking. It can restrict the movement of the upper legs while climbing or going up steep staircases. You can get around this by releasing the bottom zipper, but it really isn't the best option if you're looking for a hiking jacket — you'll want something shorter.
If anything, this would be better suited as a camp jacket to put on at the end of a long day on the trail.
And while I haven't gotten to try this bad boy in the depths of winter yet, I have found that it can be a little too warm at times. While this is definitely a positive thing (it's in the name, after all), it perhaps isn't the best jacket during season transitions. At one point I overheated just by carrying it on my arm on a cool to mild day in New York.
Should You Buy It?
At $400, this is not a cheap purchase. That being said, you shouldn't need to replace for a long time — you're paying for quality and longevity. If you look at it as an investment, and one that will serve you both on the streets and outdoors, it's worth considering.
For me personally, it comes down to warmth and versatility. Despite not being the ideal length for hard hikes, that didn't stop me from using it anyway. I would justify this purchase to myself by utilising it regularly — whether I'm going to work or hitting the trail.
If the length does bother you, but you're happy to spend the money, I would recommend looking at something shorter in the Thermoball range to suit your needs.