The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Soft Shell Jacket is a hoodless, windproof fleece jacket that you’d normally wear as an outer layer. The jacket’s exterior has a smooth, almost suede-like, exterior fabric that has some stretch to it. Called WindWall, the jacket’s exterior fabric has a low level of air permeability, which helps block wind. It is coated with a DWR layer, which also helps repel rain, but wears off with use.
The inside of the Apex Bionic 2 has a grid fleece liner over the chest that traps body heat and provides enhanced insulation around your core. The back of the jacket, insides of the sleeves and neck are lined with a soft fleece for greater comfort. The fit of the jacket is relaxed so you can layer underneath it. The sleeves of the jacket do not have cuffs to block out drafts, so it is best worn with gloves to help keep your wrists warm in cold weather. The jacket fabric is really quite stiff and doesn’t drape very well, even after you’ve worn the jacket for some time.
There are three zippered pockets: two side hand warmer pockets and a chest pocket. The two side pockets are not hip-belt compatible and are covered when wearing a backpack hip belt. The side pockets have internal hem adjustment pulls so you can block cold air from blowing inside from below. The nice thing about these hidden pulls is that they don’t snag on protruding objects when you walk by them.
The inside of the pockets is lined with grid fleece (facing the interior) and soft fleece. The grid fleece allows for the passage of moist perspiration, warmed by your body heat, to pass into the pockets, which can be an issue if you store electronics, like a camera or phone, in them. Wrap them in plastic bags so they don’t get moist and fog up.
While the Apex Bionic 2 is wind proof it isn’t much warmer than a 100 weight fleece jacket, so you’ll definitely want to layer underneath it in cooler weather. It’s also quite heavy, at least in a men’s XL, weighing in at 1 lb 9 oz. If you are backpacking or hiking and you want a combination wind and warmth layer, you’d be better off getting a wind shirt like a Patagonia Houdini or a Rab Vital Windshell which weigh a few ounces and combine it with your existing mid layer garments. You’d be surprised how much warmth a wind shell jacket or hoody can provide with a warm mid-layer garment, while still providing good breathability.
I like soft shell jackets as much as the next guy, but if you’re a hiker, you should opt for ones that are more technical and lightweight than the Apex Bionic 2 reviewed here. I’d recommend getting one with pockets that are hip belt compatible, wrist cuffs for warmth, an adjustable hood, and hem adjusters.
The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket works fine around town and for light outdoor activities, but if you’re looking for a lightweight and warm softshell jacket for active shoulder-season or winter use, I’d give it the pass.
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