Saturday, December 22, 2012

North Face Denali Fleece Jacket

$116 on Amazon

If you’re looking for an all-purpose fleece jacket that will stand up to the rigors of heavy outdoor use and still look good around town, you should consider picking up The North Face’s Denali Jacket.

It is a jacket that has been designed with hikers, climbers and mountaineers in mind. The Denaliis a great jacket for any who’s always outside and doesn’t want to sacrifice comfort for performance.


Made of Polartec 300 series water-repellent fleece, the Denali not only warms you, but protects you from the elements. In addition to the fleece, the Denali’s upper portion and elbow areas are reinforced with a 2-ply synthetic nylon fabric to handle the wear and tear from backpack straps. The fleece is fairly soft and comfortable to wear against your body. The reinforcing fabric does a good job preventing any extra wear and tear from your pack straps or resting on your elbows.

If you want some extra breathing room in the Denali beyond the breathability of the fleece material, the jacket has underarm zipper vents on the sleeves that allow you to open up and help you stay dry and comfortable. The zippers are quite large and give you a good amount of adjustability.

There are two zippered chest pockets and two zippered hand pockets on the jacket that are comfortable to use with or without gloves on. The zippers on all of the pockets are nice so you can keep small gear in your jacket without fear of it getting lost. The chest pockets are handy for keeping small items in, such as a map or anything like that so they are handy to reach.

If you want the bottom of your jacket to hug your body instead of hanging free (handy when you are skiing or engaging in some other sport you don’t want your jacket to get in the way), the Denali has an elastic drawcord around the hem of the jacket that allows you to tighten and loosen the jacket’s fit around your lower torso.

All told the Denali weighs in at about 27 ounces (a little over a pound and a half) and can be compressed quite well in a backpack, stuff sack, or anywhere else you might be packing the jacket. Fleece is mostly air, so when you pack it, the jacket compresses quite a lot.

Because the jacket is fleece and nylon (and is water-repellent), it dries quicky and does not get damp, even if you are either in the rain or sweating heavily. The fleece will continue to keep you warm through almost any condition.


For those of us with North Face jacket shells, the Denali zips directly into the North Face shells and can be used interchangeably with jackets. This is a handy feature when you want the added protection of a strong shell jacket (a shell jacket basically provides wind and rain/snow protection without any insulation) to the warmth of your fleece jacket.


I’ve had this jacket for some time and it looks almost as good as when I first got it. The fleece and nylon have worn in a bit, but otherwise I haven’t had any problems with the jacket.

I usually wear the Denali when I’m hiking in the fall, winter and early spring and cross-country skiing in the winter. The jacket is versatile enough to handle the varied weather – from the very cold to the somewhat warm. In extreme cold the jacket is really not warm enough unless you are actively doing something. I wear it cross-country skiing a lot and usually wear just the Denali when I’m actively going and exerting myself and then throw on at least a shell over the jacket when I’m heading down to head off the wind since the Denali doesn’t offer any wind protection.

Beyond hiking, skiing and mountaineering, the Denali looks good enough to wear out and about town. I usually use it as my late fall and early spring jacket so that I don’t have to deal with the heavier winter coats on my way to and from work.

When the jacket has gotten dirty, I just throw it in the washing machine and the dryer (which is almost not even needed because the fleece and nylon are almost dry from the washer’s spin cycle) on low.

Final Thoughts 

It might seem pricey for a fleece jacket, but the North Face’s Denali jacket is well worth the money you’ll spend on it. You not only get the quality workmanship of the North Face, you get a versatile jacket that is as comfortable out on the trail as it is on the side of a mountain and still looks good downtown.

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