It is fair to say that the black Thermoball hooded jacket I received from The North Face just about a year ago has become my most worn coat in the cold weather. I love it – it fits well, is warm, looks great, and is useful as both outerwear and a layer. I thought I was going to hate the shiny fabric and man-made insulation, but the practicality took over and every time I wear it people say it’s a great looking coat.
For this autumn/winter (2014/2015 if you’re reading this next year), The North Face have taken their women’s Thermoball jacket and given it a bit of a make-over. There are new colours, but more significantly they have changed the shape of the jacket to a more fitted, figure hugging profile that moves with the body as you walk. Knowing I was about to embark on my re-match with Spires and Steeples, The North Face sent me one of the updated jackets to try out.
I received an active-fit Thermoball in the new light grey. I love the colour – it’s light and bright and will go with everything (not that clashing colours actually matters when it comes to active clothing!). This time I have the version without a hood, which means it will work better as a layer underneath waterproof outers that have their own hoods; I hate feeling restricted around the back of my neck by more than one hood at a time, I’d rather wear a beanie hat and a neck buff.
The fit is quite different. In short it is tighter in most places – a closer fit to help keep the jacket where it’s supposed to be as you bend and stretch and move about. It does that, but as a result, for girls like me carrying a bit of weight around their bum and tummy, this new active fit is not as flattering as the original relaxed fit version. It’s a little longer than the old style, which isn’t so great for someone short like me. Having said that, the change in fit is not all bad – the new design at the end of the sleeves, slightly longer with the elastic a little bit inside the sleeve, is brilliant – no more cold wrists when the jacket rides up a bit. I think you can make out in this photograph the differences – the slightly longer and narrower active fit on the left, with the more relaxed fit on the right.
Practically speaking, and this is a utility jacket designed for a wide range of uses after all, the new Thermoball lives up to all expectations. On my Spires and Steeples walk, which started early on a damp Sunday morning, it worked a treat keeping me warm as I marched out of Lincoln and towards the first checkpoint. After 10 miles when the sun was shining and I’d worked up a sweat the jacket packed down very small and slipped inside my pack with no bother. Since then I’ve made use of the grey jack when walking, cycling, going to work, wandering around town. Being autumn it’s worked perfectly as my top layer, but I have tried it under my ski jacket and it with definitely be coming to Obergurgl with me in January to help keep me toasty on the slopes.
The fact that it’s not as flattering on me is a shame as it’s a fantastic technical piece of clothing, I just feel like it’s lacking a little bit of material around the bum and tummy areas. More athletic ladies will probably find it much nicer than the original. If I was choosing my next Thermoball (and I’ve been eyeing up the bright colours – “fanfare green” would really stand out), I would choose the relaxed fit over the active fit, and I hope The North Face continue to make both.
Thank you to The North Face for sending me a new Thermoball jacket to try out.