Last Updated: July 10, 2019

North Face vs Patagonia: Who Makes The Best Outdoor Gear

When you are looking at outdoor gear like a jacket, fleece or vest you will inevitably come across these two powerhouses: The North Face and Patagonia.

They both produce quite similar ranges of gear, but there are some key differences in the details as well as the philosophy of the company.

In this post I am going to show you how they differ by comparing some of their most popular models.

Company Overview

Both North Face and Patagonia are very similar on face value but they do differ in some areas. Patagonia is more focused on the environment than North Face, with strict environmental guidelines on materials and a focus on recycling. Patagonia is also less focused on growth and more interested in their impact on the planet.

Patagonia

Their mission statement is:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

They were born as a company providing gear to the climbing community, but have since become more of a top quality and stylish outdoor gear. Their passion for the outdoors means they try to reduce their environmental impact (less dye, organic cotton etc) and they donate at least 1% of time, service and sales to various environmental causes each year.

They focus very strongly on ensuring their materials are sourced from quality suppliers using ethical principals.

The North Face

The North Face has been around since it's first store on the beaches of California over 50 years ago. They have grown into an extensive outdoor gear company providing everything from extreme skiing gear to running shoes.

They strongly support the exploration of the outdoors they love and also protect the environment in any way they can. They also state that they believe in improving our environmental performance and social responsibility in the supply chain.

So, although they both strongly believe and implement environmental practices and sustainable supply chains, I believe Patagonia is a step ahead in this area.

Pricing

In general, Patagonia products tend to cost more than North Face equivalents. You can see this in some product comparisons below, but this is usually because Patagonia goes the extra mile with quality of their materials and production. This is not always the case, but is true in general.

Comparison Of Products

In this section I am going to compare various products from Patagonia and North Face so you can find one that is best for your needs.

Nylon Rain Jacket

There is not a lot separating these two brands when it comes to their best selling light weight rain jackets.

Patagonia has the Torrentshell, which is a breathable, waterproof and windproof Nylon jacket complete with adjustable hood, comfy fleece collar (great for stopping scratching when you have it zipped up against the wind), cinchable cuffs and hem (so no wind gets in).

It also folds up into it's own pocket which is very handy if you want to pack it for hiking or just travel.

North Face has the Venture which is almost exactly the same. They both just fit a little differently. So it will really depend on your size/shape.

Both are almost exactly the same weight, and use very similar materials (details below). 

So, perhaps it only comes down to price - where of course, North Face is a little cheaper (I can't quote prices as they vary too often, but its usually about 1/4 or more difference).

Patagonia typically makes slightly higher quality products and sources more sustainable materials.

But the choice is yours...here are the specs.

Material

Rip-stop Nylon - waterproof, windproof, breathable.

2.5-layer, 2.9-oz 50-denier 100% recycled nylon ripstop

Rip-stop Nylon -  windproof, waterproof, breathable.

40D 85 g/m² DryVent™ 2.5L

Average weight

12.1 oz (343 g) 

11.6 oz (330 g)

Adjustable Hood

Yes

Yes

Zippered Front Pockets

Yes

Yes

Pit Zips (Under arm venting)

Yes

Yes

Fleece Lined Collar

Yes

Yes

Hem Adjusting Cord (Keeps air out at bottom)

Yes

Yes

Packs into own pocket 

Yes

Yes

Lightweight Insulated Jacket

Down jackets are all the rage and for good reason. They are light, warm, pack down small, but, they also have a few disadvantages. They are expensive and do not work when they are wet (and drying them is horrendous).

That is why companies like North Face and Patagonia have developed light weight jackets using synthetic materials. These materials mimic the natural behavior of down but at a reasonable price. And, they often retain above 90% of their warmth when wet (and they dry quickly too).

Northface's most popular is the Thermoball Jacket, which uses a material they developed with Primaloft (the top synthetic down producer).

Patagonia have the Nano Puff Jacket.

Both these jackets are again very similar. They are great for warming you up. Take very little space when packed down (in their own pockets). They offer some water resistance (they are coated in a water repellant - but won't replace a rain jacket!).

Price-wise they are similar, but it really depends on the prices available at the time (you can check via the links above at Amazon). Typically the Patagonia is more expensive, but not always.

The main differences are:

  • The Nanopuff is also windproof and has a slightly longer rear hem/bottom
  • The pattern of the panels differs (Nano is a staggered brick, Themoball is a straight brick)

Material

1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish

5D 33 g/m² 100% nylon ripstop with durable water-repellent (DWR) finish

Insulation

60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco 100% polyester (55% postconsumer recycled content)

10 g/ft², 11 g/ft² and 13 g/ft² PrimaLoft® ThermoBall™ synthetic insulation

Average weight

11.9 oz (337 g) 

12.3 oz (350 g)

Zippered Front Pockets

Yes

Yes

Internal Chest Pocket

Yes

Yes

Elastic Cuffs

Yes

Yes

Drop Tail Hem

Yes (slightly longer at rear)

No

Hem Adjusting Cord (Keeps air out at bottom)

Yes

Yes

Packs into own pocket 

Yes - Chest Pocket

Yes - Hand Pocket

Fleece Jacket

Fleece jackets are an awesome way to add a warm layer when it's cold out. They are light, comfy and easy to combine with an outer layer like a wind proof or water proof jacket.

One of Patagonia's best fleece jackets is the Better Sweater. It's a stylish fleece jacket with a full-length zipper on the front, and a chest zip pocket. It is also well-design with low seams for less chaffing, soft inner-fleece and micro fleece on the cuffs. And, it has Patagonia's environmental stamp - use of low-impact dye methods.

North Face also has quite a few great options, one of which is the Denali 2. It differs a little from the Patagonia model as it's made of Nylon. It also comes with a full length zipper that can be integrate with compatible jackets from North Face (so zipped into a waterproof jacket to add an inner layer for example). It also has two zippered chest pockets, protective material on the upper shoulder and lower arm areas (great for backpackers and climbers) and stretch cuffs. 

Material

100% Polyester

100% Nylon

Average weight

20.7 oz (587 g) 

24.7 oz (700 g)

Front Zipper

Full length

Full length (fits into compatible North Face jackets)

Zippered Front Pockets

Yes

Yes

Chest Pocket

1

2

Elastic Cuffs

No

Yes

Hem Adjusting Cord (Keeps air out at bottom)

No

Yes

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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