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Could This North Face Jacket Make Down Obsolete?

This latest piece of North Face kit is impressive...

The North Face’s brand new Thermoball jacket is, according to the brand “a revolution in insulating technology.”

This bold claim is based on the material they’ve used to fill this jacket, a new kind of PrimaLoft that they also call Thermoball.

On paper anyway, it’s impressive stuff. According to an independent study by Kansas State University,¬†Thermoball has the equivalent warmth of 600-fill goose down (600 is round about the fill used in a middle of the range sleeping bag).

But the key claim is that the synthetic material outperforms its natural counterpart when wet, “providing exceptional warmth”.

So does it up to the hype?

Our first impression was that it was well designed and well put together. Although The North Face admit that the Thermoball material doesn’t compress as small as down, it still packs down pretty effectively, with a neat little design feature meaning it fits into its own pocket.

“A neat little design feature means it packs away into its own pocket.”

It’s also lightweight and comfortable – Mpora wore it sleeping under canvas on a recent trip to the Nepalese Himalayas and barely noticed the bulk. Designed to be worn as either an outer or a mid-layer, its zips and fastenings are all easily adjustable with gloves on.

But where the jacket really came into its own was on a soggy mountain bike ride in the Peak district – worn as a mid-layer under a Gore-Tex shell it kept this reviewer impressively warm despite the sweat soaking my baselayer and the rain running down my collar.

Mpora abseiling down a Nepalese waterfall with the Thermoball under a dry jacket. It performed impressively well.

And once I’d taken the muddy outer jacket off, the drizzle seemed to run off the Thermoball. It also dried impressively quickly once I eventually got inside.

All in all then, this is an impressively effective and versatile piece of kit – small, lightweight and ideal for a wide range of activities and conditions. Definitely one for your Christmas lists.

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