The North Face and Patagonia are two of the best known outdoor gear brands. Whether you’re in the market for a new technical outer layer or just want a nice new fleece to cozy up with during the colder months, both The North Face and Patagonia have something for you.
But how can you determine which of these brands is right for you? They both make some fantastic products, but each brand has its own unique flair and dedicated group of followers, so where do you fit in? Which brand produces the gear that you need for your next adventure?
To help you out, we’re going to pit The North Face and Patagonia against each other in this head-to-head matchup. We’ll start out by looking at each brand’s history. Then, we’ll discuss the different materials and manufacturing processes they use when making their gear before wrapping up that section with a look at each brand’s warranty policies.
Finally, we’ll compare some of the best products from each brand in three different categories: nylon rain jackets, puffy jackets, and fleece jackets. At the very end of it all, we’ll give you our verdict and answer the question: which brand is better?
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North Face vs Patagonia Product Comparisons
Now that you have some background information on The North Face and Patagonia, it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty details of the different gear they make. We’ve pitted some of each company’s signature pieces of gear against each other in a head-to-head competition to see which products come out on top.
Coming up, we’ll take a look at The North Face and Patagonia’s signature rain jackets, puffy jackets, and fleece jackets. Let’s get to it!
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Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket
The Torrentshell is Patagonia’s signature rain jacket. Made with a 2.5 layer H2No Performance Standard waterproof breathable membrane with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish, the Torrentshell is a no-nonsense rain jacket that’s designed to get the job done, regardless of the conditions.
The Torrenshell features a two-way-adjustable hood with a laminated visor, as well as pit zips to keep you cool, even when you’re charging uphill. A microfleece-lined neck also provides ample comfort for those days when you have to hide away under your hood.
With two zippered hand pockets (one of which converts into a stuff sack), the Torrentshell is fully outfitted with the features you’d expect in your rain jacket. The best part? The Torrentshell is surprisingly affordable, so you can stay dry in the rain, without emptying your bank account.
The North Face Apex Elevation Jacket
The North Face Apex Elevation Jacket is your classic water-resistant windproof, breathable rain jacket with a modern twist. Made not with your standard “hard shell fabric” which often feels like a garbage bag with sleeves, the Apex Elevation is, in fact, a soft-shell hooded jacket that offers outdoor enthusiasts a high level of insulation while staying breathable, waterproof, and warm in foul conditions.
The Apex Elevation Jacket is made with The North Face’s WindWall fabric with a DWR finish. Plus, the Apex Elevation is chocked full of 60G and 100G PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Eco to help you stay warm when the weather gets nasty.
If you need a jacket that’s warm and water-resistant, the Apex Elevation Jacket could be a fantastic option. Plus, the Apex Elevation has a stylish cut that looks good both on the trail and in town, so it’s the perfect adventure companion.
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Patagonia Nano Puff
Patagonia’s Nano Puff Jacket has a been an iconic layer in the synthetic puffy jacket game since its initial debut over a decade ago. The Nano Puff comes in a variety of different options, including one model with a hood, which is perfect for those chilly fall mornings or brisk winter hiking days.
Patagonia’s Nano Puff is made with 60-g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco, so you can rest easy knowing that 55% of your jacket’s insulation is post-consumer recycled content. This insulation is smartly organized using a brick quilting pattern throughout the jacket that helps stabilize the insulation to prevent it all from clumping up in one corner of the garment
The jacket comes with two zippered hand pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack when you’re on the go. The Nano Puff revolutionized the world of synthetic insulation when it first hit the market and Patagonia’s dedication to excellence means it still meets our exacting standards today.
The North Face Thermoball
The Thermoball Jacket is The North Face’s answer to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts who live for adventure in extreme conditions. The Thermoball Jacket features The North Face’s proprietary Thermoball synthetic insulation, so it’s perfect for keeping you warm, even when wet.
All of this lightweight, yet warm insulation, is organized using The North Face’s unique quilting pattern, which helps maintain a great warmth-to-weight ratio while limiting cold spots and insulation clumping. The Thermoball also features two zippered hand pockets (one of which converts into a stuff sack) and a zippered internal chest pocket, so it’s a great addition to your gear kit, whether you’re hitting the trails or backpacking around the world.
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If you need a fleece sweater to wear around town on a cool day, then look no further than the Patagonia Better Sweater. Made from 100% polyester fleece with a sweater-knit face, the Better Sweater looks stylish but can keep you warm, all at the same time.
The Better Sweater comes in a variety of different models, but the standard option features a full-zip with a stand-up collar. Two zippered handwarmer pockets and a zippered chest pocket round out this jacket’s list of features, so it’s perfect for your apres ski party or a day out on the town.
The North Face Denali
The North Face Denali has long been a mainstay in the fleece jacket market. This iconic jacket is made with recycled fleece, which provides ample warmth, comfort, and durability, wherever you might be. The Denali has a relaxed fit but is zip-in-compatible with a number of different shell jackets from The North Face, which means you can customize your layers easily and efficiently when you’re out and about.
Perhaps the most popular feature of the Denali jacket is the reinforced shoulders, chest, and forearms, which provide some fantastic durability, even when the going gets rough. Whether you’re using the Denali for a cold weather approach to a climb or as a cozy layer for a winter morning in by a fire, it’s a great jacket for those of us who want to combine style with functionality.
The North Face
Despite being named after the coldest, darkest, most foreboding side of a mountain, the story of The North Face actually beings in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. There, two outdoor enthusiasts decided to follow their dreams and start up a small outdoor retail store, dedicated to selling only the best in outdoor clothing.
This little shop soon earned the name, “The North Face” and got itself a reputation for selling some really high-performance climbing and hiking gear. Eventually, the store moved to the other side of the Bay Area – to Berkeley – and began creating its own technical mountaineering clothing and gear.
The North Face has been making quality outdoor gear since 1966 but in the decades since the company first opened their doors, they’ve taken the technical gear world by storm. Beyond the manufacturing of quality gear, however, The North Face has consistently distinguished themselves as a major sponsor of remote and extremely challenging expeditions.
The North Face’s mantra, “Never Stop Exploring” is reinforced with every expedition they sponsor. In the 1980s, The North Face took this mantra to a new level by adding ski mountaineering gear to their line up, which set the stage for the development of the modern day extreme skiing athlete.
These days, The North Face is equally well known for its technical line of gear as it is for its lifestyle line. The North Face has a complete line up of quality hiking, climbing, skiing, and running gear, but also keeps it real with some good-looking clothing that fits right in at an apres ski event or just at your local coffee shop.
Materials and Manufacturing
The North Face prides itself on always being on the cutting edge of materials and manufacturing technologies, something that is easily seen with just a glance at some of their newest pieces of gear. Here’s some of what you can look forward to in any of The North Face’s gear:
The North Face uses only the highest possible quality goose down when manufacturing their products. Their down goes through a three-stage testing process to help ensure the loftiness, moisture resistance, and compressibility of the end product. The North Face uses only 550 to 900 fill down in their products, so you can select the down that’s best for your needs.
If you’re headed to a wet and cold locale, you might not be keen to take along your down jacket, which loses all of its insulating properties when wet. Luckily, The North Face has a synthetic alternative to down, known as Thermoball, which can help keep you warm, even in the rain.
Thermoball uses small, round PrimaLoft fibers that are closely clustered together to mimic the warmth-retaining properties of down. These round fibers trap heat into small air pockets, just as down would, but don’t clump together when wet, which means they provide ample insulation, even in the rain.
The best part about Thermoball? It’s lightweight, just like down. So, with Thermoball, you can have all of the same great benefits of down but still stay warm in foul weather.
Similar to many other high-end outdoor gear companies, The North Face partners with Gore-tex to provide adventurers with the highest possible protection from the rain, wind, and snow. Gore-tex is well known for being an industry leader in waterproof breathable fabrics, so their partnership with The North Face means we have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the company’s waterproof layers.
Gore-tex is lightweight, highly breathable, easily packable, and designed to stand the test of time after years of abuse in the mountains. When combined with The North Face’s propensity for designing stylish and functional gear, there’s a lot to love with The North Face’s shell jackets and pants.
When it comes to creating a waterproof breathable jacket, there are a lot of potential sticking points in the design. For starters, the last thing anyone wants is to spend a lot of money on a nice, new jacket, only to have it wear out after a few uses. At the same time, however, no one wants to lug around a jacket that’s heavier than it needs to be, nor do they want to wear something that resembles a heavy-duty garbage bag more than a high-end rain jacket.
The North Face’s answer?: fuseform. You may not have heard of fuseform, but it’s been used in many of The North Face’s jackets in years past.
Fuseform is The North Face’s proprietary fabric construction technique that allows the company to seamlessly blend together thicker and more durable fibers with lighter, low-density fibers. This technique is incredibly useful in high-wear areas of a garment, including around the shoulders of a rain jacket, to reduce the overall weight of the gear without reducing quality or durability.
The North Face offers customers a limited lifetime warranty for customers in the United States and Canada, wherein they guarantee their branded products to the original owner for the lifetime of the product. That being said, they only guarantee against manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship, so that pair of ten-year-old rain pants you destroyed after countless expeditions probably won’t be guaranteed.
Additionally, The North Face only guarantees its footwear and products called “The North Face Renewed” for one year, so don’t try to send back that five-year-old pair of boots or that used fleece to snag a new piece of gear. The North Face’s warranty only applies to original, unaltered, and unmodified pieces of gear, so anything that’s been previously repaired at home wouldn’t be covered either.
It’s important to note that The North Face only guarantees products to the person who originally bought them and only for the lifetime of the product, which, it so happens, isn’t the same as your lifetime. This isn’t a unique warranty policy for The North Face but is something that people tend to overlook when trying to submit a warranty claim for their gear.
Finally, although The North Face’s warranty will not cover damage caused by accidents or normal wear and tear, they are happy to repair their products for a reasonable fee, plus the cost of return shipping. Oh, and all gear sent in for warranty or repair must be clean, or The North Face will charge you a fee to do the job for you.
Patagonia is well known and loved by outdoor enthusiasts, prep school students, and Wall Street investors, alike, for its commitment to producing not only high-quality technical gear, but sustainably sourced, colorful, and stylish lifestyle fashion. But did you know that Patagonia started out as a climbing gear manufacturer long before it ever produced its first piece of clothing?
The company started out when a young Yvon Chouinard realized that the protective gear (known as pitons) available to climbers of the early 1950s and 60s needed to be left in the rock after it was placed. This meant that this gear scarred the rock and left behind a trace of previous climbers, all of which left a lasting impact on the environment.
To deal with this problem, in 1957 Chouinard went to a junkyard and bought a coal-fired forge, a 138-pound anvil, tongs, and hammers so he could teach himself how to become a blacksmith. Chouinard soon became quite a talented blacksmith and quickly built a small shop in his parents’ backyard so he could sell his homemade pitons to others.
Doing so helped sustain Chouinard for a number of climbing seasons in various mountain ranges around the world. Soon enough, Chouinard realized there was enough of a demand for his gear, so he went into business with his friend, Tom Frost, who also happened to be an aerospace engineer. The rest is history, and the duo soon ran the climbing gear manufacturing business in the United States.
But how did Chouinard Equipment, as it was then known, become the Patagonia we know today? Well, it all started with the need for a new line of “active sportswear” for climbers that could withstand the demanding conditions of outdoor adventure.
While on a winter climbing trip to Scotland in the 1970s, Chouinard bought himself a regulation team rugby shirt to wear while rock climbing, which had a collar to protect the neck and was built to withstand the rough and tumble game of rugby. All of Chouinard’s friends back in the States wanted to know where they could get one of these shirts, and Patagonia was born.
Patagonia’s first major advancement in outdoor clothing technology came when Chouinard decided to create a synthetic pile sweater for mountain use that could insulate well when wet without absorbing too much moisture. Thus, Patagonia gave the world the “Synchilla” fleece.
Then Patagonia realized that wearing a cotton t-shirt under a quick-drying synthetic fleece provides little benefit as the t-shit will quickly freeze when wet and cold. So, Patagonia created their first line of insulating long underwear made exclusively from polypropylene, which absorbs no water. This was the start of the capeline baselayer that Patagonia is so famous for today.
Materials and Manufacturing
Patagonia has continued this trend of manufacturing and innovation, giving the world hundreds of new outdoor clothing options for every possible adventure. These days, the company is known for its commitment to environmentalism and fair trade, both in terms of sourcing only environmentally friendly and fair trade-produced fabrics and in their dedication to repairing and recycling used gear.
The Patagonia brand is known for being environmentally friendly, fair trade-focused, and committed to excellence. The company relies on a number of different materials and manufacturing processes to stay true to this commitment. When you buy a Patagonia product, here’s what you can look forward to:
Traceable Down Insulation
In all of their down products, Patagonia uses either recycled down features or traceable down. When down is considered “traceable,” one can follow the down’s production all the way from the parent farm that housed the geese to the apparel factory where the garment was made.
The traceable down standard helps ensure that all of Patagonia’s down comes from farms that ensure the highest possible level of animal welfare while simultaneously producing the product that we all know and love. These days, Patagonia has also had all of its virgin (i.e., non-recycled) down certified to the Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard which means all of their products that use virgin down meet the program’s strict requirements.
By meeting this standard, Patagonia can ensure that all of the geese that produce the down in their products are treated humanely and that no live plucking of feathers occurs. Instead, all of Patagonia’s down is a by-product of the meat industry, so none of the animals are killed just for the sake of jacket so you can feel good about the gear you buy.
Even though Patagonia is an industry leader in the sustainable down industry, they also lead the way when it comes to producing high-quality synthetic insulation. All Patagonia products made with synthetic insulation feature PrimaLoft insulation, which is known for its warmth, compressibility, and comfort.
PrimaLoft insulation fibers are juset a fraction of the diameter of a human hair, which means they can form miniscule air pockets that efficiently trap heat from your body to keep you warm in the coldest of conditions. Even when PrimaLoft is wet, it can still keep you warm, which is great in those damp environments.
Patagonia uses two main kinds of PrimaLoft insulation: Gold Insulation Eco and Silver Insulation Hi-Loft. PrimaLoft’s Gold Insulation Eco is designed to provide the same level of warmth as other PrimaLoft fibers while using 55% post-consumer recycled fibers. Meanwhile, PrimaLoft’s Silver Insulaiton Hi-Loft is made with two different size fibers to combine high thermal values, packability, and increased loft into one amazing package.
3-Layer H2No Performance Standard Shell
Patagonia uses a number of different waterproof breathable membranes inside their shell jackets, including their proprietary 3-layer H2No Performance Standard fabric. This fabric is designed to be packable, waterproof, windproof, and breathable, all while being durable enough to withstand long-term use.
The 3-Layer H2No Performance Standard Shell also comes with a DWR (durable water repellent) fabric finish, which helps water bead off the fabric to reduce that horrible “soaking through” feeling in a heavy downpour. Plus, all garments made with a 3-Layer H2No Performance Standard Shell are tested in the field by Patagonia’s gear ambassadors and testers to ensure the highest level of quality throughout the production process.
Bluesign Approved Fabric
In line with their commitment to the environment and to their consumers, Patagonia has worked tirelessly to ensure that their products pose no risk for outdoor enthusiasts or the wilderness they love. Thus, Patagonia teamed up with Bluesign in 2000 to ensure that their textile manufacturers only use environmentally and human-friendly chemicals, processes, materials, and products so you can be confident in what you buy.
Patagonia guarantees everything they make with their “Ironclad Guarantee.” According to Patagonia, if you’re not happy with one of their products as soon as you buy it or if it fails to live up to your standards after you use it, then you can bring it to the store you bought it from (or return it to their online shop).
You can also send any gear in to Patagonia for a repair, replacement, or refund. Any gear that needs a repair due to damage caused by wear and tear wil be repaired by one of Patagonia’s gear repair experts for a reasonable fee. You can also get your gear repaired by one of Patagonia’s gear repair experts at any of their “Worn Wear” events, so you can continue using your ger on all of your adventures.
Which Brand is Better?
At the end of the day, both The North Face and Patagonia are fantastic outdoor gear brands. That being said, if we had to choose just one of these brands to go with, we’d choose Patagonia for its commitment, not only to making quality gear but to the environment and our health.
Patagonia is well known for its innovation in the gear world and its style is undeniably awesome. While The North Face also churns out some amazingly high-quality gear, we had to give Patagonia our top prize for it’s additional dedication to ensuring that all of its materials are sustainably sourced, fair trade certified, and guaranteed for life.