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The North Face Denali Review

This classic fleece features plenty of pockets, warmth, and style with a boxy cut
the north face denali fleece jacket review
Credit: The North Face
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Price:  $179 List | $134.19 at REI
Pros:  Warm, stylish, durable, weather-resistant
Cons:  Heavy, boxy, low performance
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By James Lucas and Matt Bento  ⋅  Nov 14, 2022
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 9.0
  • Comfort - 20% 5.0
  • Breathability - 20% 3.0
  • Layering Ability - 15% 3.0
  • Weight - 15% 4.0
  • Weather resistance - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The North Face Denali 2 classic color blocking and heavy weight make it a favorite for many. While the Polartec fleece supplies plenty of warmth for fall day hikes and early spring morning walks, it is less of a performance piece with poor breathability and layering. It's possible to wear this skiing and during heavy physical activities but it's better as a single jacket. It does fight the conditions better than many of the other jackets in this review because of reinforced areas in the chest and sleeves. Ultimately, this jacket excels as a stand-alone piece for casual wear in colder climates when a bulky hardshell jacket is a bit too much.

Editor's Note: This product was retested and the review was updated on November 14, 2022.

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the north face denali fleece jacket review
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Price $179 List
$134.19 at REI
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Pros Warm, stylish, durable, weather-resistantComfortable, warm, simple, versatile, breathableBreathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athleticsLightweight, athletic fit, easy to layer,Warm, great mobility, incredibly comfortable,
Cons Heavy, boxy, low performanceFew features, less technical, no thumb loopsAverage weather resistanceNot exceptionally warm, poor casual wear use,Lacks thumb loops, poor breathability,
Bottom Line This classic fleece features plenty of pockets, warmth, and style with a boxy cutThis lightweight piece has all the warmth of a mid-layer jacket but with a highly breathable design that's ideal for colder, active adventuresHighly featured and even higher performing, this cost-effective option provides a hard-to-beat valueBuilt for outdoor performance, this lightweight fleece works perfectly for active useComfort, style, and function make this piece work well in the mountains and for casual evenings around town
Rating Categories The North Face Denali Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Warmth (20%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (20%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Breathability (20%)
3.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Layering Ability (15%)
3.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Weight (15%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Weather resistance (10%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Specs The North Face Denali Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Type Heavyweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Midweight
Measured Weight 17.1 oz 12.5 oz 13 oz 11.4 oz 15 oz
Main Material Main: 100% polyester
Overlay: 70D nylon
100% Polyester 94% polyester, 6% spandex 93% polyester, 7% spandex 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
# of Pockets 4 3 3 1 2
Unique Features Hem cinchcord, DWR Slim-fit hood, quick drying Thumb holes, UPF 30, 3-panel hood with binding Balaclava hood, odor control, thumb holes Scuba hood, stretchy fabric
Hood Option No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Constructed with Polartec 300 Series fleece with "Repreve" fibers (fleece derived from recycled soda bottles) and made with 85% recycled materials, The North Face Denali 2 offers significant warmth in a jacket with two handwarmer pockets, two chest pockets, and great weather resistance. The two-ply nylon reinforced chest, shoulders, and elbows fight abrasion and the weather. The jacket also has a zip cord hem, and elastic-bound cuffs which further trap the heat. The great features of this fleece and the warmth make it a solid piece to consider for casual wear.

Performance Comparison


the north face denali fleece jacket review - this stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers...
This stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers quite warm. It earns the highest score in our weather resistance metric.
Credit: James Lucas

Warmth


The Denali 2 excelled in this metric and was one of the warmest fleeces in our review. A drawstring cinched hem, a high collar, and snug cuffs help trap the thick Polartec 300 series fleece's warmth, and the reinforced panels on the chest and across the back of the shoulders prevent cold air from getting in.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - the denali comes with a lot of warmth but a boxy fit that makes...
The Denali comes with a lot of warmth but a boxy fit that makes movement difficult. The thickness of the fleece helped with keeping our testers warm.
Credit: James Lucas

The Denali's warmth makes it a great jacket to wear around town and as a standalone piece. It can handle colder temperatures better than most of the jackets in this review.

Comfort


The Denali 2 has a decent amount of comfort. The Polartec fleece feels fairly smooth on the skin though it has a bit of a heavier feel. The cut of the jacket feels a bit boxy and loose, which is nice for layering under but less than ideal for constant wear.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - the north face denali comes with four pockets that make stashing...
The North Face Denali comes with four pockets that make stashing extra keys, wallets, snacks, phones, and other sundries easy. Out of the store, the jacket felt a bit boxy and stiff. Our testers thought some of this came from the reinforced areas of the fleece.
Credit: James Lucas

After a bit of use, the Denali softened a bit and conformed to our testers bodies more but off the rack, the jacket felt a bit stiff.

Versatility


The Denali 2 performed average in terms of its versatility. While it has more weather resistance than many of the jackets reviewed, it's fairly heavy, bulky, and hard to pack. Polartec fleece has a unique DWR coating and with the 70D nylon overlay in the chest, this jacket can withstand the elements better than any other fleece in this review. Our testers wish this jacket had a hood as well to better batten down when storms came in and started to affect them. In light rains and gentle precipitation, this jacket did well but when the weather came in heavier, our testers needed to put on a rain jacket or shell as it eventually became saturated in heavier rains.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - the thickness of the fleece as well as the abrasion-reinforced...
The thickness of the fleece as well as the abrasion-reinforced shoulders and chest helped battle the weather.
Credit: James Lucas

While stationary, this jacket was one of the few that provided enough warmth and wind protection to function on its own, making it a great option for an all-weather fleece.

With all the warmth, the pockets, and the reinforcement, this jacket started to tip the scales and was the heaviest piece we reviewed with 17.1 ounces for a medium. This makes it fairly heavy for backcountry use or for light and fast missions. However, if you're just planning on car camping, making short hikes around town, or just keeping it for casual use, then the added weight isn't a huge factor.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - while this jacket tens towards the heavier side, the iconic look...
While this jacket tens towards the heavier side, the iconic look makes it appealling.
Credit: James Lucas

Breathability


The Denali is a relatively thick fleece and not intended for heavy physical exertion. Though our testers were able to pull down the full-length zipper to better ventilate, they tended to overheat in the piece and the best option was to take it off entirely. The Polartec 300 tends isn't form-fitting enough nor permeable enough to breathe very well.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - the denali does well in terms of warmth but it lacks in terms of...
The Denali does well in terms of warmth but it lacks in terms of breathability. It's a better jacket for getting cozy in then for running or athletic use.
Credit: James Lucas

If you're looking for a fleece to run in, charge up steep ski hills, or climb in, then the Denali isn't the best choice.

Layering Ability


While the Denali has zip-in-compatible integration with the North Face's Mountain Jacket and Mountain Light Jacket, it doesn't do as well with other brands. The jacket lacks thumbholes to keep the sleeves in place and the loose, boxy feel makes the garment feel a bit cumbersome under other pieces. It does provide ample space for wearing a long sleeve underneath which added to this jacket's ability to keep our testers warm.

the north face denali fleece jacket review - the denali tends to be a bit large, making it hard to fit under a...
The Denali tends to be a bit large, making it hard to fit under a shell but easier to put over a lighter layer underneath.
Credit: James Lucas
Luckily, this fleece serves better as a standalone jacket than many of the others reviewed.

Should You Buy The North Face Denali?


Reasonably priced, this jacket's warmth, weather resistance, and durability make it a solid choice for around-town and casual camping wear. The Denali also has a great style and ample color choices. While it's not the best performance piece on the market, it does well to provide warmth and fight small storms, making it a reasonable choice for low-key adventure use.

What Other Fleece Jackets Should You Consider?


The North Face Denali 2 delivers an iconic look while keeping you warm and the wind off your back. It's by far the most weather-resistant fleece in this review. Due to its lack of breathability, we don't recommend it for endurance activities, and it doesn't score well in layering ability because of its stiffness and bulk. Unless you've decided to purchase this classic fleece, higher performing products, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody, Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip, or Outdoor Research Vigor cost less and provide exceptional performance.

James Lucas and Matt Bento
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