The North Face thermoball jacket

By Justin Walker 25 March 2015
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Thought synthetic jackets were inferior to natural down? Well not any more

IT’S NOT OFTEN that man beats – or at least equals – nature; natural materials and fibres are often perceived as the go-to for the ultimate in warming properties. Down-filled jackets are probably the best example of this in the outdoor world.

The North Face (TNF) is challenging this status quo with its new Thermoball jacket, which is named after the synthetic fill technology developed by PrimaLoft and TNF.

This synthetic fill is claimed to replicate down’s warming properties and compressibility; the PrimaLoft fibre clusters are designed to imitate the way clumps of down work to trap heat within the small air pockets surrounding them.

The synthetic fill does not absorb water, thus retaining warmth-giving loft even when wet. The significance of this cannot be understated; get caught out in a wet winter storm and your body’s core temperature soon drops.

Being able to put on a garment that retains your body heat while offering some protection from wind and water could help avert a potentially serious situation.

Construction is high-end, the two hand pockets are perfectly positioned, and the elasticised cuffs and hem cinch-cord system (accessed through the pockets) ensure wind ingress is minimised. It is also quite compressible; the jacket can be squashed down into its own pocket for storage in your pack.

The jacket was tested in the wet and wild conditions of southwest Tasmania, where it proved invaluable. During the five days of trekking, the Thermoball was worn around camp most nights, and also used as a warm mid-layer under an outer shell during a 5°C day of howling wind and rain.

The jacket excelled in all conditions, providing ample warmth without excessive amounts of moisture building up inside. During one evening’s flash rainstorm, the jacket (and I) got quite wet (read: drenched), but I still remained comfortably warm.

The Thermoball’s wet/dry warming properties, robust construction and light weight have seen it become one of my first-packed items for any adventure.

RRP $280