My most trusted old North Face jacket has finally…
Fabric: 2-ply Gore-Tex
Fill: Zip-in Sychilla and R3 Patagonia Fleece Jackets - but my North Face Pumori Fleece zipped in *perfectly*, woo!!!
Price Paid: $159.99
My most trusted old North Face jacket has finally become threadbare -- after years of hikes in the mountains and running errands in metropolis, little rips and tears around the cuffs give it a second hand store appearance. So, after seven years, it was time to find a replacement.
I searched for a coat that could perform the dual duties of my old one:
1) It had to be light and it had to be impervious to rain, esp. when spending upwards of 12 hours climbing mountains in the Adriondacks, and it had to breathe fairly well in order to accommodate the weather changes that can occur on such all-day hikes.
2) It had to have a relatively low-profile exterior, so I could wear it to the office and go shopping around town, or even wear it on the streets of NYC, without looking like too much of a sports-wearing dork (ie, the coat must eschew the "starter coat" parka look sort of thing). I am NOT a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, I just need an urban/mountain coat that can blend in without calling too much attention to itself. IE, I want to be able to wear the coat, not vice versa, and when you are a petite female, this can be a difficult quest.
From Altrec.com, I ordered TNF's Women's Alpine Light Parka to replace my old jacket. On the page it looked like it met my stringent criteria, and it had pit zips, too! But it was not at all what I expected. I'm not a North Face basher (yet). So to be fair to the coat, I'd say it's made well, there's no doubt about that; the material felt as good as my old worn out coat, and though I'm a petite 5'2", the fit wasn't *too* bad (except for the gargantuan length of the arms, which I expect by now -- but are all women at TNF orangutans???).
The thing was, I ordered the Black Medium, and I was disappointed to find that, instead of being a uniform black, as my old coat was, the new North Face jacket had a silver gray interior that, on my petite frame, looked positively garish. When I left the collar open, its grayness stood out and up, surrounding my head, and I looked like Queen Elizabeth, with an enormous ruff the size to rival that of Sir Walter Raleigh's. The collar was bad enough, but the Alpine Light also featured a "skirt" on the back, which gave the overall appearance a much sportier appearance than my original, which had a straight hem from back to front, yet still covered hips and butt. The straight hem gave my old coat a much more classic "on the town" appearance, whereas the skirt on the new coat seemed to say, "take me to the Giants game".
These factors put together gave me the look I dreaded -- that of a TOTAL DORK -- and I knew I'd rather be caught dead than ever wear that coat anywhere but on a mountain trail. Functional as it was, it embarrassed me. So, I repacked the jacket and sent it back to Altrec.
After I returned the Alpine Light, my first thought went to TNF's Mountain Light Parka, which seemed like it might better match the style of my old coat (I've no idea *what* style the old coat was, as there is no indication on the jacket at all).
But after reading lots of user comments about TNF and other brands, I decided that TNF wasn't the only name in town by a long shot, so I searched other brands that had been given a general thumbs up by others on this site. That's when I found the Patagonia Liquid Sky Women's Jacket. I loved the look of it -- all black with all black interior, hurrah! -- and better yet, the site states that the women's model has "feminine contouring", all the better for wanting a nicer look to the coat. The make of it was just what I wanted, too. I do not yet trust any of these new Gore-Tex knockoffs that companies have come up with, and Patagonia has their own version as well (some nebulous-sounding combination of "waterproof H2No HB (Highly Breathable); Deluge DWR (durable water repellent finish)". So, the fact that this coat was made with good old dependable 2-ply Gore-Tex meant that this jacket was a no brainer.
But the icing on the cake came when I "froogled" the coat online, which retailed for $299.00 almost everywhere, except for a site called livetoplay.com, which had it, amazingly, for $159.99 in my color and size. (Click here to go directly to that link.) On top of that, I paid $9.95 for ground shipping, so the whole she-bang came to $169.94. Not too shabby!
I've just tried it on and it is truly a thing of beauty. It is black both inside and out, so when I leave the collar open (not zipped all the way up), I do not look like a featured player at the Renaissance Faire. The hem across the bottom is straight, and covers my hips and bottom, so looks v. classic and is more suitable for urban life, yet will still protect my bottom when I sit on wet rocks/benches/curbs/what-have-you.
And, as the gentleman who reviewed the Men's Liquid Sky Jacket pointed out, you're not a walking advertisement -- there's only one label that says "Patagonia", located on the left upper chest area, and it hardly calls attention to itself. Unlike TNF's penchant for putting "THE NORTH FACE" labels ALL over their material -- front, back, sideways top and bottom, eeesh!
On the women's model, there are two exterior pockets, located below the waist, and one interior pocket. The Optipull hood is stowable, and tucks inside the collar, which is fastened with three snaps (not velcro). I am able to pull the hood out and stuff it back in when I'm wearing it, though it will take me time to perfect the hunt for matching snaps. The arms, according to Patagonia, feature "y-contouring" for a better fit -- and this must do *something*, because although my measurements show that the Patagonia sleeves are actually *longer* than my original North Face ones, there seems to be much less material to have to shove upwards and away from my wrists. But this could change with use and extended wear, as the new jacket becomes more comfortable and soft, so we shall see.
As with my old North Face jacket, there is a waist cinch accessed from inside the coat, so a more tailored look can be appropriated (yay feminine contouring!). And how's THIS for a bonus -- the gorgeous cream-colored North Face Pumori Fleece jacket that I bought to go with the North Face Alpine Light Parka that I eventually returned, actually ZIPS AND FITS INSIDE THE PATAGONIA LIQUID SKY JACKET!!! And here I thought I was going to have to eventually purchase one of the Patagonia zip-ins that were to meant to go with this jacket (ie, Synchilla or R3). That's another savings of over $100, and betcha you didn't know you could mix-n-match brands, eh? Even the little North Face sleeve snaps snap into the sleeve snaps of the Patagonia jacket -- brilliant!
My only complaint so far is that the Patagonia jacket feels stiff and not quite as substantial as my old North Face jacket. But the old jacket's been through storms and washing machine cycles and countless DWR retreatments, so perhaps time will soften the Patagonia. Also, I just took it out of its bag today, and have yet to give it a test in wet weather, but as it is made out of Gore-Tex 2-ply, which is tried and true, I hardly think anything can go awry.
I highly recommend this coat for the urban girl on the go, who also toughs it out on the trail with the boys. Looks excellent both in the mountains and at the corner Starbucks (and the one across the street from that one ;-).
PROS: If you like uniformity when you wear black, this coat features black exterior with black interior, so a low-profile silhouette is assured. A straight hem along the bottom from front to back affords a more classic look than a front with a longer curved skirt in the back. 2-ply Gore-Tex means you will get dependable waterproof material with high breathability; so far it's not been proven that anyone else's formula can compete with Gore-Tex's original. (Only Gore-Tex can top itself, apparently, and it has done so with XCR, which is just as waterproof as the original formula, but offers more breathability.) This jacket is very light and so it is well suited to rainy days in spring, summer and fall, and even milder winter days. With the fleece in it, I suspect I will be comfortable from 25F and higher.
CONS: No pit zips, which was a feature I would have liked in a lighter coat, esp. for summer hiking, but ah well. The two exterior pockets have fleece lining inside, which is nice, but there is no fleece lining on the collar (unlike TNF's models), so you just feel stiff nylon against your chin/neck. Frankly I'd rather have the fleece on my chin than inside my pockets, but whatever. Also, the coat is brand new and I can't tell if it is just stiff from newness or made out of a flimsier nylon than I am accustomed to from TNF -- time will tell on that one. And for $159.99, I don't think I really care :).
Very happy with my new Patagonia Liquid Sky Women's Black Medium Jacket,
PS: Once I have subjected this coat to weather, I will write again, in order to confirm the breathability and waterproofness of the jacket.
A comfortable, relatively light, well-fitting jacket.
Fabric: 2-Ply Gore -tex
Fill: Zip-in R3 Fleece
Price Paid: $299
A comfortable, relatively light, well-fitting jacket. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does an excellent job of keeping you dry. 4 outside pockets (on the men's model) all with fleece lining, and 1 interior zip pocket. It has waist and hem drawcords, but the waist cord can only be accessed when the coat is open. The Radiant R3 fleece jacket zips in and out very easily, and together they make for a great combination in cold/wet weather.