If you saw my recent post on the Spires and Steeples challenge and the fact that I failed (go read it here), then you’ll already have had a preview of the latest product I’ve been testing for The North Face. This is the shot of me with Mark at the start of the walk donning the Vanadium Jacket, hoping that it would live up to the expectations created by the product description.
I might have failed the Spires and Steeples challenge this year, but I can assure you the jacket played no part in that. Unless The North Face claim to produce a jacket that stops rain, wind and mud sapping all the energy from your body and mind then they cannot be to blamed, and of course they don’t do that! The jacket did its job. It kept me dry whilst being breathable so I didn’t get too hot inside it.
The North Face Vanadium Jacket is a “fully featured waterproof mountain shell built for fierce weather”. It is a three layer Gore-Tex performance shell, which means it should be not only very waterproof but also breathable. When it rains the water forms droplets all over the coat, and doesn’t soak in; you’d need a lot of water to penetrate this fabric. The zips are PU and also watertight without the need for additional flaps. At the end of the sleeves there are velcro tabs so you can tighten the cuff around your wrist to stop the water going up your arms, and the main zip does up nice and tall over your chin to try and stop water going down from the top. There is also an adjuster around the hem so you can get a good fit around your body.
I know for sure that this coat is waterproof because when on Spires and Steeples I accidentally left the left pocket open a smidgen, allowing water to enter. When I opened it fully to put my hand in, I had a puddle of water inside like you would if you put water in a plastic bag. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a coat when the inside of the coat pocket is so waterproof you could carry a goldfish in it! I had my phone in the inside pocket and not a drop of water touched it – I’m very confident in the waterproofing of this jacket.
One thing that can be very frustrating with a waterproof coat is the hood – this one is adjustable and has a bonded visor so the hood stays up over your head and doesn’t keep flopping over your eyes. It took a bit of playing with to get it right but now it’s just right and I shouldn’t have to change it again until I want to wear it with a thick beanie hat.
The material itself is breathable but just to make sure you don’t get too warm there is also additional venting via zips under the arms so you can allow lots of air in that way. You might thing “eurgh” but this is a feature I like in a waterproof jacket like this – underarm sweat is not pleasant at the best of times, but you do work up a sweat when walking in the rain, so it is nice to be able to ventilate a bit!
Technical stuff aside, it helps that I like the look of this jacket. To be fair my preferred style of clothing is the outdoors type (I know I’m not fashionable!), but I appreciate the design and how The North Face have made this traditionally shaped waterproof coat look. The “cosmic blue” colour is a good blue – not too dark or bright – and the bright orange accents look really great. It was hung on the coat rack at work when someone asked who the nice coat belonged to, and more than one person has said it looks nice when I’ve been wearing it. Always nice.
There are a couple of things on the fit that I should mention. This is a fairly long waterproof jacket; it finishes below my bottom, enough to sit on it with ease (I am short, don’t forget). But because I am wide around the top of my thighs it is much tighter there than it is in the rest – I could do with an inch more material around the hem for me to say it’s a perfect fit. Having said that, I can fit a few layers (that stop at my belt) underneath this jacket and it still does up comfortably, and the arms don’t become restrictive with a decent thickness jumper on.
Wearing the jacket is very easy – it’s soft and flexible, has a nice feminine shape, and works very well with pretty much anything that I choose to wear. My sister took these photos for me – I will never be a model (these pics make me both cringe and laugh!) but hopefully it shows you what the coat looks like on. I am a size 12 and am wearing a medium.
As far as you can love a waterproof jacket, I love this one. It is waterproof and breathable, fits nicely, and looks good. It is a grab and go jacket – light enough, thin enough and fashionable enough. While I would like a little bit more material around my derrière, I am more than happy with this as my everyday and adventure-day waterproof.
The technical specification, especially the Gore-Tex, makes the price of The North Face Vanadium Jacket a rather large £240.