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The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket soft shell jacket

this is my first soft shell top or bottom, a gift.  as a hard shell lover, i was prepared to be disappointed in how this would perform.  instead, i really like it. 

the jacket is new, so it's too early to comment on long term durability.  the workmanship looks good - no loose stitches or frayed edges anywhere.  initially, the zipper was fussy about 1/8 of the way up, right at the bottom of the hand pockets.  that went away after wearing it about a week.  it has two large zippered pockets that open along each side seam, for your hands, and one good-sized zippered pocket at the left chest.  the cuffs aren't elastic but close with a velcro tab.  the hem has a shock cord that tightens by pulling the cord from inside each of the side pockets.

The fit is consistent with other North Face jackets I have worn or tried on; i'm a 46 regular in suit coats and size XL fits me well - the sleeves are a little long, and the fit is sufficiently roomy to layer a fleece or a sweater, plus a baselayer, underneath.  the fabric definitely has more stretch or 'give' than a hard shell, which makes it a little more comfortable to wear in some situations, and more than most wind-blocking fleece I have worn. 

wind resistance is pretty good.  i could feel the wind on a series of cold day hikes, somewhat more than a hard shell, but it effectively stopped meaningful wind chill in 30 mph winds.  my hard shells definitely stop the wind better than this, however.  the same with water resistance.  I walked through steady snowshowers and light drizzle already and was fine, no penetration.  i can't speak to heavier rainfall, but i'm not sure this would be my choice for very rainy days.

breathability has been hard to determine.  most of the times I have used the jacket, i was hiking or moving pretty quickly and working up a sweat.  it certainly didn't feel like wearing a plastic bag, but my baselayers became somewhat damp - the same as they would wearing an eVent or gore tex hard shell or nylon windshirt.  the inside of the jacket has felt a little damp after these hikes, again, same as any waterproof/breathable or highly wind-resistant hard shell.  because this soft shell is backed by some fleece, it's definitely warmer than an uninsulated hard shell, so long as the wind isn't blowing extremely hard.   

on a series of workouts, this jacket over a medium baselayer was too warm for me on 40 degree fahrenheit days, but it felt very good at 20 degrees with a heavy baselayer.  i'm confident that it could go down to zero fahrenheit by adding a fleece vest or jacket and heavier hat/gloves, and up to 50 or so over a light short sleeve baselayer. 

overall, the jacket is comfortable, simple but well-designed in terms of features, and capable of handling a fairly wide variety of weather conditions comfortably.  it probably wouldn't be my choice for very cold or very wet conditions. 

I would like to test the jacket for cold-weather cycling, where I think it might be great too.  definitely a keeper, and a welcome addition to the arsenal.   

Price Paid: gift

I couldn't decide between TNF Apex Bionic Jacket and TNF Denali. I purchased both and the Apex won out hands down.


  • Water resistant
  • Nice fit
  • Breathable


  • None, so far

I just bought this jacket at the same time as I purchased the Denali and wore them both intermittently trying to decide which to keep.

The Apex won out. The Denali, although quite warm and functional, was bulky in comparison to the mid-layer Apex. I was able to wear both a lightweight Columbia fleece jacket and a base TNF shell underneath to keep me extremely warm.

The difference in price wasn't great, Apex at $148 vs. Denali at $138, but I wanted the Apex with the pink TNF embroidery on the chest and Breast Cancer logo on the sleeve, so I paid a premium of almost $30 for it. My version didn't come with the Velcro sleeves, but my arms are long, so I don't have the issue of the hang down problem so many complained about from the older versions.

Overall, I can see myself wearing this jacket out year 'round and layering beneath it, depending upon the temperature.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $148

The North Face Apex series has been one of the best jacket series I have found on the market. It's light weight and ability to provide protection is perfect.


  • Light weight
  • Warm, doesn't allow wind to cut thru it.


  • Sometimes the zipper sticks

The fitting for this series jacket is spot on. It's a stretchy material allowing you to wear a base layer and another shirt, and still fit under your outer shell.

When moving this is the jacket I more often than not reach for. It's truly a great jacket. I'll wear a base and this soft shell while moving allowing for complete range of motion, and a breathable outer layer. 

When waterproofed, will with stand most light rain and the material does well while climbing. Surprisingly I have caught this jacket on a rock outcropping while climbing and the stretchy material allows some give so that the arm won't rip.  

Hands down I would buy this jacket again and again. High recommend it, never been cold or wet with this jacket on! 

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $60


  • Durable
  • Excellent construction
  • Wind blocking
  • Clean look


  • A little boxy

The North Face = Quality and the Bionic is no exception. Excellent craftsmanship and materials and I have no doubt this jacket will serve me for many years.

The Velcro sleeves are effective and the drawstrings on the waist help tighten it up to deliver even more if its exceptional wind blocking properties. On its own this jacket will not provide serious warmth but that's what layers are for. I've worn this in the rain and while not considered waterproof I've remained dry.

At 6' and a broad chested 190 lbs. the large fits me well in the shoulders and chest but I do find it to be a little boxy through the waist. That said, there is ample room for layering.

I wear this one on the trail but am just as comfortable wearing it around town. Shop around if you're going to pull the trigger. The deals are out there.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $85

Unless it's in the laundry, this has been my go-to jacket for cooler days (55 degrees or cooler) here in Colorado Springs. I wear it mostly around town, and have only worn it once when snowshoeing. During the snowshoeing trip I wore a hoody underneath, but removed the hoody about 30 minutes into the trek and just wore the soft shell with a Dri-Fit long sleeve shirt.

I have the all black colored jacket and it looks good whether I'm wearing warm-ups, khakis, or slacks. It blocks the wind well and has kept me dry when it's snowing or raining. At 6'1", 200 lbs, I wear an X-Large and it fits beautifully. The sleeves are a little long, but I prefer this. It vents well when you leave the pockets unzipped, and the breast-pocket is awesome for quick access to smaller items you might be carrying.

All in all, for my purposes this jacket does the job. I wouldn't hesitate to wear it during a weekend camping or backpacking trip.

Price Paid: Gift

Great for around the town, also great in the backcountry for early spring to and mid to late fall hikes. Blocks the wind and adds some warmth. Definitely worth adding to your coat arsenal.


  • Windproof
  • Sheds light to moderate snow


  • Heavy

A great windproof jacket that can shed light rain and snow for any most types of weather you may encounter when out and about. Wore it primarily this year walking and commuting to my classes in law school, but it worked great for that.

Worked well for dayhikes around Michigan throughout the very mild winter we had here. Definitely need to wear another layer under it when the temps go below 40°F. Easy to put a fleece layer underneath and will be good to go for 25°F+. 

Definitely a good buy and something worth adding into your shell arsenal.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $65 (on sale)

I have owned this jacket for five years now, so I have an older version. I believe they have improved the jacket with a draw cord for the waist and Velcro wrist adjustments. If my jacket had these improvements I think I would like it a lot more.

The Good:
Really warm jacket that isn't flashy. It layers well with either a fleece or a hoodie. I like the positions of the pockets (two hand pockets just over the hip and one napoleon pocket). I really dislike pockets that are floating just under the chest and above where hip pockets should be. It is water resistant, good in a constant drizzle for up to 45min.

The Bad:
If they have made the two improvements listed above (waist draw cord and Velcro wrist straps) then this jacket would be amazing and worth every penny.

Overall a great jacket that can be used in the fall and spring.

Fabric: Softshell
Fill: Fleece liner
Price Paid: $95

Nice jacket for the price, definitely worth it. Never owned a North Face shell before, but this one's definitely a keeper. I like the material, which seems very similar to Polartec Powershield, but does just as well to cut out the wind. The jacket is advertised as Windproof at 0 CFM, which is very good. My jacket is the newer Fall 07 model English Green.

Only thing I would change is the bulk, but just a little. I wear a medium, so that's what I bought. The jacket has a little bulk in the arms, but that's good for light layers underneath. Small was too short and Large was just that. Good stretchiness and very warm in the chilly North Georgia Mountains. Glad I bought it. Definitely recommend giving it a try. Thanks for reading.

Fabric: Apex
Price Paid: $129

I've got the 2007 version with the drawstring waist and velcro on the cuffs. Would recommend it, although on a recent visit to Blacks it seems that the material has been updated. Get the feeling that's a positive update.  Definitely keeps the wind out if you use the velcro on the wrists. As other reviewers have noted, the arms on the XL are on the long side.

Not the warmest of jackets, although I was fine with a fleece and t under it in -8 c (when moving) on a recent trip to the lake district. Seems fine in the snow too... Wouldn't be my choice in the rain, not that I don't think it would perform, just wouldn't take the chance...

Liked it enough to buy my Dad one for Christmas. 

Price Paid: £69

An absolutely wonderful jacket -- stylish and functional. From the time that you put it on, you will find it hard to believe that it functions as well as it does with such light weight and miniscule bulk.

Despite all the praise, it did have one major caveat that unfortunately I could not live with. While the fit of the jacket was perfect, the design of the sleeve cuffs were not tailored to provide a snug fit around the wrist. Subsequently the sleeves drooped past my wrist and over my hand diverting from the look of the jacket and its function. Hopefully in the future TNF will either design a better elastic cuff or attach a velcro tab.

Price Paid: $99.95

I have owned the newer version w/ wrist and waist adj. for 3 years. I live in eastern Pa. This is an awesome shell.

Most of my time is spent on the A.T. I live 7 miles away!! I have used this as an outer shell with the Denali as insulation and a long sleeve wicking top at -14 and was comfortable. I have also used it on a +50 degree day in the wind and loved it.

I have been in quite a few different types of rainy days +50 to +25 and stayed dry. The outer skin get wet but the inside stays dry. Snow is no issue. My next Apex is the hoodie !!!!!!!!

Price Paid: $75 on sale

Great jacket for activities and is absolutely impregnable to the wind.


  • Wind blocks like a boss
  • Very comfortable


  • Not super warm

This is a great jacket for outdoor activities. It really keeps the wind off of you. It is not the warmest jacket, it doesn't have a lot of insulation but it the fleece does provide some warmth and overall this is a great jacket.

Source: bought it new

I was on the peak of Algonquin Mt. in the ADKs when a rainstorm came through on a particularly windy day. The jacket was already doing a great job of blocking the wind, and not one ounce of rain soaked through the jacket. Even though the rain eventually stopped, I wore it all the way down to the base of the mountain without taking it off on a 75 degree day.

It breathes and keeps you warm when it needs to, and lets your skin breath when it needs to. Definitely worth the money.

Price Paid: $120

Pretty good jacket for the weight and price. Doesn't seem like the windblocker works that great tho. It doesn't really repel water either, but it at least stops it from soaking all the way through. Mine is older so it doesn't have wrist or waist closures, which makes it a bit colder too. I like all the pockets though.

Price Paid: $100

I love this jacket. I own several North Face jackets, one of which is a Denali, and I wear this jacket out more than any other jacket I own. Keeps me warm in the winter and breathes very good in the summer. I don't leave home without it. It also has very pleasing appearance!!

Fabric: Apex 4-Way Stretch Fabric
Price Paid: $99.99

Great jacket, I use it mainly for skiing.

It is windproof. It is waterproof if maintained properly. Treat it like you would your $300+ gore tex shell and it will work as advertised. Wash with non-detergent soap and then re-proof it with "nikwax" and watch the water bead off. 


Price Paid: $99

The cut on this jacket is the best my monkey arms have ever had. Love the material, very light weight yet feels like i could blast through a wall. The waterproofing is great. I've now become a TNF fan.

Great jacket! New improvements include wrist adjustment straps and waist cinch cord. Very lightweight and still keeps the wind out.

Price Paid: $100

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Price MSRP: $129.00
Current Retail: $103.99-$150.00
Historic Range: $22.35-$169.00
Reviewers Paid: $60.00-$129.00
Weight 837 g / 24.7 oz
Fabric 90D 351 g / sq m (10.3 oz / sq yd) Plain Weave Polyester TNF™ Apex ClimateBlock
Price MSRP: $129.00
Historic Range: $16.99-$150.00
Reviewers Paid: $148.00
Weight 755 g / 22.3 oz
Fabric 90D 351 g / sq m (10.3 oz / sq yd) Plain Weave Polyester TNF™ Apex ClimateBlock
Price MSRP: $99.00
Historic Range: $23.83-$99.00
Fabric 100% Polyester Mechanical Stretch TNF™ Apex Universal, DWR Finish, Fleece Backer
Price Historic Range: $49.49-$99.00
Product Details from The North Face »

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