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The North Face - Polar Hooded Jacket 2012

posted Feb 20, 2013, 1:23 AM by Italo Balestra   [ updated Apr 19, 2013, 1:09 PM by GoOut Project ]



The Polar Hooded Jacket is a hybrid jacket that combines the warmth and the moisture-wicking properties of a fleece with the protection of a soft shell in a single garment. The idea is to reduce the number of layers to wear therefore enhancing freedom of movement. 
Some already dubbed this jacket “Puffy Killer”. Manly because the Polar Hooded is a truly new concept of garment that has the potential of setting new standard in the field of technical outdoor clothing. We decided to test its real performances on the field.

Construction

The Polar Hooded Jacket features a body-mapped construction that is designed to maximize insulation on the trunk and shoulders and freedom of movement on the arms. The body is made of Polartec® Power Shield® high loft, a soft shell fabric with a high loft fleece interior. Soft shell and fleece are fused thanks to a new lamination technique and the resulting fabric is claimed to be 25% warmer and 25% lighter than the standard Power Shield® fabric. A new version of Polartec® Thermal Pro® is used on the sides, underarms and hood to insulate without inhibiting breathability and moisture vapor transport. Arms, hood, and shoulders are protected by a rip-resistant material. On the interior, most of the trunk and shoulders are covered by the high-loft "furry" fleece, while a highly stretchable knit mesh covers the arms, underarms, part of the shoulders, and the hood helping at the same time moisture-vapor transport and freedom of movement. 


Our Test

We tested the Polar Hooded in a range of weather conditions (i.e. snow, rain, dry cold) and for different activities (i.e. hiking, climbing, snowboarding, running, and mountain biking).

What impressed us most of this new hybrid jacket was its superb fit, its impressive breathability, and the overall comfort.  

It is definitely a very good garment to wear for long approaches in cold and variable weather conditions. Protection from wind and light rain or snow is decent. A great advantage that this garment offer is a superior breathability, which is always sufficient to keep you dry, even when walking fast or running. However, during long breaks in colder temperatures you will soon notice that the filling is still just a fleece, not quite as warm as a down jacket. So for long bivouacs in colder temperatures you will have to carry some extra insulation layer.

Another great advantage that this garment offers is that it can be worn directly on top of a base layer, effectively eliminating one layer and, therefore, leaving a large freedom of movement, especially on arms and shoulders. This may be appreciated, for example, when belaying, although in most situations the jacket is a bit heavy and bulky for climbing. In addition, since it is not very compressible,this is also not the best jacket to pack in a small volume, as for example in a day pack.

The rip-resistant material on the arms, hood, and shoulders is a clever feature, very important to improve durability, especially if you go often skiing/snowboarding or mountain biking in the woods. When snowboarding and mountain biking at high speed we noticed some breeze on the sides and underarms, where also thermal insulation is lower.

Finally, the hood is really well designed offering always a perfect fit (also with a helmet), great comfort, and maximum mobility. 

One last minor note is that the regulation of the cords is not always that easy especially if wearing gloves. 


Conclusions

In conclusion, what is the Polar Hooded good for? We find it well-suited for day trips, during which you want to have only a single garment to wear, that you don't want to take off often. The Polar Hooded is good, for example, for long approaches in cold and variable weather conditions. It is even good for running or mountain biking in very cold temperatures. Being a bit too bulky and heavy, it is less good for climbing and maybe better suited for lower temperatures, as in ice climbing or for walks on glaciers. Its high breathability is appreciable during aerobic activities, but in the windiest situations, as for example in high-speed sports like ski/snowboard and mountain bike, it also has the down side of providing less wind protection, especially on the sides and underarms.

PROS
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Highly breathable 
  • Superb fit 
  • Stretchable
  • Warm and protective. It combines two layers in a single one
CONS
  • Not very light. However, consider that it reduces the number of layers to wear 
  • Not very compressible. Not the best garment to pack in a small volume

Our score

 Weight  4/10
 Versatility  6/10
 Compressibility  3/10
 Fit  9/10
 Mobility  8/10
 Warmth  7/10
 Breathability  9/10
 Water Resistance  7/10
 Wind Resistance  7/10
 Tear Resistance  9/10
 Durability  8/10
 Final Score  7.0/10


Possible alternatives: a direct competitor of the Polar Hooded is the Lodestar by Outdoor Research, which is a very similar concept of hybrid softshell+fleece jacket. 
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