More lightweight, breathable, and comfortable than ever before, this new running jacket uses a layered ventilation system that works to push heat and moisture out through laser-cut, perforated vents at back, as cold air enters at front. Water-resistant nylon ripstop fabric features stretch woven and mesh underarm and side panels for unrestricted movement. Bonded, stitchless seams eliminate chafing on long runs.
- Body-mapped ventilation
- Strategic bonded, stitchless seams
- Laser-cut perforated ventilation
- Sanitized Silver antimicrobial treatment
- Placed graphic
- Chest pocket
- DWR (durable water repellent) coated
- Main body – 53 g/m² 100% nylon ripstop
- Stretch woven panels – 92 g/m² 86% polyester, 14% elastane
- Knit mesh panels: 140 g/m² 90% polyester, 10% elastane
- Measured size medium
- Weight – 144 g (5.1 oz)
- Pit to pit – 56.4 cm (22.2 in)
- Sleeve length – 89.8 cm (35.4 in)
- Center Back – 72.4 cm (28.5 in)
- Retail – $130
Everyone I am sure has heard of The North Face, so I am not going to cover the brand. Last year, they released their Better Than Naked Collection, which is clothing that is so light and minimal that you will not even know you are wearing it. I did a review of the first Better Than Naked Jacket last fall and liked it. The North Face this spring released the new version with some strategic updates. They sent me one to review in the size medium.
The Better Than Naked Cool Jacket is part of the Flight Series. Athlete inspired pieces made to be fast, light and technical. I tested the Cool Jacket on a couple day hikes and a bunch of runs. It was a cool and wet winter here in Bend and that provided perfect weather for testing this jacket. I used it on runs ranging from 3 to 25 miles.
The Better Than Naked Cool Jacket can best be described as a more breathable version of the original. It features a bunch of body mapped vents to keep the runner cool. If I have a main issue with nearly all my running jackets, it is that I get too warm. To combat this The North Face has made this jacket with a combination of three fabrics. The main body fabric is a super lightweight nylon ripstop material. This material is what the majority of the original jacket was made of. It is light, tough, and wind resistant. The North Face has added some laser-cut ventilation holes in this fabric in strategic locations for breathability. The jacket also uses two more breathable fabrics that have been used in strategic places. One is a stretch woven polyester/elastane fabric that has a diamond pattern on it in the images. The other is a mesh polyester/elastane fabric which is even more breathable and put in the places that need the most air flow. Both these fabrics are stretchy and help the jacket move better with the runner. They also have wicking properties that help keep the runner cooler if they do begin to sweat. The inside of the neck has also been lined with the mesh material for softer feel and increased wicking. The jacket is not weather proof but would be considered weather resistant. It has been treated with a DWR to help water bead up and roll of before soaking into the jacket. This will help it fend off light showers.
The Cool Jacket is a minimalist design by nature. It has a full zip front zipper with a zipper guard behind it to make it more comfortable to the skin. There is one pocket located on the chest. It has an audio out so it can be used with a phone or music player. The previous version had it on the arm and was much smaller. At the waist and wrist, there is not the standard bungee cord system but rather a thin elastic band inside that can stretch to accommodate when needed. The North Face has also used some innovative manufacturing techniques to not only save weight but also increase the performance of the jacket. All the seams have been bonded so they are stitchless. This increases comfort and creates a jacket with less bulk.
While this jacket is not made of any sustainable or green materials, The North Face does have a robust Environmental Policy. They are working to implement responsible supply chain processes, sourcing environmentally preferred materials, designing for durability, and fostering innovative solutions to environmental issues. They even release a report of their sustainability. If you would like to learn more, click through to the website here: .
Arm Length (20%)
Comfort Next to Skin (15%)
Ease of Movement (20%)
Torso Sizing (20%)
I tested the medium in this jacket just like I did with the original version. I have since found that maybe the small might have been a better option as I am right on the border between the two sizes. I feel like the sizing chart is correct on this jacket. If you are like me and on the edge, you will have to choose between a looser or tighter jacket. Just like before the jacket is very light, and you barely notice you have it on. The different fabrics all feel comfortable to the skin and with the lack of traditional seams I did not have any chafing issues. The jacket in a medium has a bit of extra room in the sleeves and midsection for me. Not enough that it s uncomfortable but more than I would prefer.
The bottom hem and the wrist are similar to the original jacket. Instead of having an adjustable hem or cuff they have an elastic stretch built in to help it stretch when needed. I found that around the wrists this fit me rather well while there was more room at the hem. The North Face does this to save weight and bulk, but I wish they had an adjustable bungee of some sort at the hem. I did not have any issues with it being too loose but having the option to tighten it as you prefer would be nice. The wrists are fine the way they are. The arms are nice and long and never felt too short. I also appreciated the mix of fabrics that give the jacket some stretch. I never felt constricted when running, the jacket easily moves with me as I run or hike.
Weather Resistance (25%)
While this may say jacket, do not expect it to be warm. There is no insulation but it will keep you warmer by keeping the wind off you. I found the Cool Jacket to be much more breathable than the original. This helped extend my comfort range by about 10 degrees. I have a tendency to be on the warmer side when running so this was a great option for me on runs from 30 degrees to 55 degrees. If the sun was out, then I might drop that down to 50. The Cool Jacket kept me from overheating better than the original while still providing a good amount of protection from the elements. The increase amount of breathable panels definitely dissipates the heat. My favorite was the ones added to the elbows, a place where I get warm quickly. The Cool Jacket has reflective logos on the front, back, and shoulder. There are also reflective elements added to the forearms for increased low light visibility. I felt like The North Face did a good job adding these while not making the jacket look funny.
The Better Than Naked Cool Jacket is very wind resistant. It is tough to feel any wind through the main fabric. I have even heard of some users taking this as a done in a day summit jacket because it is so light and packable. I can see that as it really does pack away small, there is virtually no reason to bring it. When caught in the occasional snow and rain squalls the jacket had no issues keeping me dry. It has been treated with a DWR so the water will just bead up and roll off. If it becomes more than a light rain, the jacket will succumb and get wet so dress appropriately. I used the jacket several times with a hydration pack when running or a backpack when hiking, and the jacket has not shown any wear or tear. It has been surprisingly durable for such a thin and minimal feeling jacket. I also like how they moved the jacket from the sleeve to the chest. This makes it bigger and also more usable, in my opinion.
Overall, I was impressed by the original jacket, but I can honestly say this update makes it better. By adding more body mapped breathable mesh zones the jacket has an increased range of temperatures I can comfortably use it in. I had a tendency to overheat in the first one but this one in cooler. The jacket is still impressively lightweight and can pack down very small. If you are unsure if you need a jacket, this jacket takes little space and has a small penalty, which makes it more likely to be packed. there are lighter and smaller jackets out there but they tend to feel a lot plasticier. I do wish there was a little more adjustability so you can customize the way you like it to fit. between sizes and opted for bigger when I should have gone smaller. the sizing chart to fit the jacket or just go with what has worked on The North Face before. Than Naked Cool Jacket retails for $130, which puts in with similar lightweight running jackets. always, your mileage may vary.
- Very lightweight
- Body mapped mesh panels
- DWR will repel a light rain
- Pocket moved from sleeve to chest
- Packs down small
- Bonded seams are very comfortable
- Little extra room in the midsection
- Wish the bottom hem was adjustable
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