Product Review: The North Face Stormy Trail Running Jacket

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak
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    North Face does make good stuff. Lots of serious outdoors people use their gear in the most difficult conditions. But for most people their stuff is over priced. There are plenty of good gear makers that are cheaper. It’s usually fit or minor features like pocket placement that sell me on something. I’ve taken a liking to Smartwool long underwear for xc skiing especially when its cold ( not this year, but Ak used to be cold). But i never buy their stuff at full price, i’ll only buy on sale or with some coupon. Heck i get a ton of use out of most of my basic REI stuff which i cheaper then the big name brands but just as good for most uses.Report

    • Avatar Sam in reply to greginak
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      Greginak,

      I’ve always wanted to get to the bottom of the cost-versus-quality, although I (mostly) abandoned it after deciding that everybody likes their own thing and there’s no real way to have an answer. But still, I know plenty of people who assume higher cost equals higher quality. I think the issue might be in how we’re defining quality. What it means to me might be different than what it means to you.

      I respect the fact that The North Face’s stuff is highly regarded, especially by the people who need it most. I sort of wonder if this jacket wasn’t an attempt to get into a world they’re really not traditionally a part of. Making great skiing equipment doesn’t necessarily mean an ability to make great running equipment.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Sam
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        NF does seem to make a zillion different products. They do seem to have some sort of product for every outdoor pursuit. I was looking for couple simple running shirts over the summer and the NF ones were like 35 bucks a piece!!!….for a basic wicking t shirt. That was all about having the NF label.

        I’ve never really bought into the cost equals quality after a certain level. Certainly the cheapest outdoor gear is usually mediocre but moving up a level most of it is fine. Like i said for many items it is small details. Zippers can be a deal breaker for some gear, cheap zips can be real problem for a lot of winter use.

        I think many of us can do a lot of outdoor activities, use our gear heavily but we really don’t need high end gear. That doesn’t mean we don’t need good stuff but the high end is really for the upper 5% or so. The labels and wearing high end gear is often for show even if you are working out hard in it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Sam
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        says:

        Sam,

        Are you close to an REI? One thing that really helps – or did for me when I was gearing up – is to try on a bunch of different brands to see how they fit your body. That’s the consideration that ended up driving my decisions to by certain items or brands even (once I learned that I could trust em to fit right.) I spent quite a bit of time Out There and what constituted good gear was defined more by how it performed than how much it cost. High price doesn’t equate to comfort, that’s for sure.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam
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        says:

        I don’t think there is a bottom to the cost-quality issue. Some of cost is about quality, some is about signaling, and there’s no consistent function.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam
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        says:

        Stillwater,

        Unfortunately, there isn’t one nearby, so I just wing it when I’m not buying stuff from a place called Gabes (which is like if a TJ Maxx and a Big Lots joined forces). Jackets I buy online although I expect this North Face one to last forever, given what the company charges for it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Sam
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        says:

        Sam,
        I make that an hour and a half by car, if you swing by the REI in Pittsburgh.
        If you’re ever looking for well-fitted boots, it’s definitely worth the trip (come when they’re doing bootfittings).
        Bringing a decent sized list is a good way to get a full set of gear for whatever you need.

        Do you have rain pants, by some chance? I find them invaluable when it gets really cold out, and nice to have most of the rest of the year, particularly for exercise.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam
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        says:

        Kimmi,

        I run in my shorts whenever possible. When that goes south, I wear tights with shorts over them (because I’m not a monster). If there is rain/snow, I tend to just endure the misery. I’m sure that’s a bad idea in the long run but I think I’d go crazy listening to the shoof-shoof-shoof of the rainpants between these thighs of mine.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    I have a couple pieces of North Face gear. A gortex lined rain … parka, I guess … that leaks like a sieve (and is ancient) and a goose down Expedition Parka, with full goose-wrap hoodie (I got it for 80 bucks!) which is unbelievably awesome. (Just came back from walking the dogs in that coat. It’s -16 degrees and the parka made the walk fun.) greg may know more about North Face gear than I do, but my experience is that they don’t fit as well as some other brands. Personally, I’m very partial to Patagonia stuff and not only cuz of the cool colors: the armpits and crotches, sleeve lengths, etc actually allow for unhindered movement without feeling bunchy or bulky.

    On the other hand, my daily goose down coat is a Costco knock-off brand I don’t even know the name of and it fits like a dream.

    Also, water proof running gear presents a bit of weird dilemma for me. Back when I used to run a lot I found that even the best Gortex lined, so-called breathable rain gear didn’t allow moisture to pass through quickly enough to prevent the inside of the jacket from gettin all swampy. (I sweat a lot. Like buckets, actually.) I ended up not really worrying about it and rely instead on pile to keep me warm. Now I only use rain gear as a windbreaker when it’s really cold.Report

  3. Avatar Kimmi
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    says:

    Everything depends on what you’re looking for:
    http://www.rei.com/product/855420/arcteryx-beta-lt-jacket-mens
    Arcteryx makes nigh indestructible waterproof jackets… (as well as emergency gear for alpine conditions).

    If you’re looking for something a bit less expensive, try Marmot.

    If you’re going running in light drizzle, it’s far better to grab a water-resistant jacket. You’ll be more comfortable.

    With a lot of outdoors gear, you’re paying for weight. I think the Storm “Trail Running” Jacket might be one of those… People are willing to pay oodles when they’re going minimalist (or competing)Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    The guy on the right looks visibly skinnier than the guy on the left… Congratulations!

    Err, I mean, if that’s the more recent of the two pictures.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    Can’t you wear it in the shower to test out the waterproofing? That will allow you to get to the bottom of things without risking getting caught soaked while out on a run.

    I love running in the rain if it is a warm summer rain. Even a big downpour. During that time of year, I’m usually just in some sort of wicking shirt with shorts and compression shorts and a fairly minimalist pair of shoes. Nothing that really soaks up to much water so I don’t feel water logged. I’ll run if it is a bit wet in colder weather but not a big downfall.

    I hate feeling weighed down by what I run in. I invested in some UA and Nike warm weather under garment, which I love. I’ll layer lightly upon that but never go heavier than a hoodie. I can’t imagine running in a jacket like the one pictured, but that is me.

    More importantly, whatever you are doing and wearing is obviously working. Besides the obvious physical transformation you’ve undergone, 600 miles in under 6 months is awesome!!!Report

  6. Avatar David Ryan
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    says:

    Thank you Sam for this post. You have hit what has been frustrating me in some 30 years of using outdoor clothing in just the way it is depicted in the advertisements and promotional material selling the same.

    And in those 30 years I have found very little relation between cost and performance the high end. Yes, the cheap stuff is very rarely functional or durable. What did you expect? It’s cheap. But the expensive stuff often (perhaps even usually) isn’t much better, and there is no difference between the medium fancy brands and the fancy brands.

    There have been a couple of exception (though none come to mind) and a long long long list of disappointments. When I see people walking around town wearing garments with the same marks, and knowing how much they paid, I think “What a moron.”Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to David Ryan
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      says:

      David,

      I’ll tell you this: I’m willing to pay more if I know there’s a good customer service experience waiting for me if something goes wrong. In other words, I’m willing to pay for LL Bean’s products. The markup is ridiculous but they’re guaranteed literally forever. In this case, I eventually got some halfway decent customer service, but that “eventually” and “halfway decent” part gives me real pause about doing business with The North Face in the future.Report

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