Saturday, 19 November 2011

REVIEW: The North Face Apex Bionic Softshell: 1st look

“Another softshell review?” Yes. After my slight disappointment with the RAB Men’s Exodus Softshell, those awfully nice people at Go Outdoors, well, namely Adam Smith, got back in touch and asked me if i would like to try a North Face softshell without a hood as this had seemed to be the sticking point with the Rab jacket.

I ask myself, “Do bears shit in the woods?”

So with lightning efficiency I said “yes” and received an email confirming the purchase of the garment for £0.00. I can live with a price like that. After all, times are hard! I had ordered a North Face Men’s Apex Bionic Softshell, Size Large, in black. That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

TNF Apex Bionic Softshell

It arrived, as promised, within the 24 hour delivery frame in sturdy plastic packaging in good shape. You should be able to click on the picture to fill your screen.

I liked this jacket immediately. First off: No big saggy hood. The second thing I liked: The backing material behind the zip is made from a sturdy material that doesn’t snag the zip, unlike that of the Rab softshell. The third thing: The jacket is made of material that is very stretchy but it also has a smooth, slightly fleecy lining, which means that putting it on and taking it off is much easier than the Rab jacket which seemed to grip your fleece. It also has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish.

In the words of  TNF  “the  jacket “features the acclaimed TNF™ Apex ClimateBlock fabric, wind permeability rated at 0 CFM for total defence against howling headwinds” So I shall find out about that later.

There is a hem draw-cord that is quite natty: See picture below:


It’s a captive chord so that when you pull it nice and tight (presumably in “defence of the howling headwinds?”) you don’t have flailing strings banging about on your thighs, like you do with my Paramo Velez Adventure jacket – incredibly annoying after a while!.

You will see from the top picture that there is a sizable zipped chest pocket, big enough for a walking guide book. One of the two lower pockets is really really good: cavernous, in fact. It extends all the way up to almost your collar bone. I have no idea why you would want to stuff tall animals in your pocket but I am sure they would fit. Both of these lower pockets suffer slightly, from a backpacker’s perspective, of being slightly low, so that a rucksack hip belt will cut across the lower part of the pockets. All the pockets are air-permeable, which means that you can use them for venting – probably not a great idea though if you have stuff inside them?

The collar is nice and snug and is fleece lined.

The cuffs are interesting: It’s a Velcro–type closer that I have not seen before (maybe I have not been looking too closely?) Velcro is a hook and loop fastening, yet the cuffs on this jacket aren’t “hooky” in any way, so they won’t snag your fleece. They are sort of rubbery stumps very closely packed together. I don’t know how it works, but it seems to work very well. A rather neat touch, I think.


The blurb on the TNF website says the jacket weighs an “average” 837 grams. Interestingly, mine came in at 689 grams. That’s a surprising difference but a very welcome one. Though, in the cooler months when I will be wearing this, the weight is not so much of an issue.

You can find this jacket on the GO Outdoors Website where, if you have one of their discount cards, they will ensure you get the best deal (which sounds a bit ‘John Lewis?’)

You can find all Go Outdoors softshell jackets by going to THIS PAGE and having a good browse. What I particularly like about their site is the fact that there is often more information about the products on their site than on the manufacturers’ own websites! A good example of this is with their selection of waterproof jackets where the information on the Berghaus jackets is far more comprehensive than on Berghaus’s own site.

Anyway! I’m going to take this jacket away with me for a long weekend in the Dales, where, knowing my luck, it will be very cold, wet and windy. When I get back from there, I’ll let you know how I got on with it.


  1. Hope you have better luck with this one. Oh and btw, its always cold wet and windy up here. There’s no luck about it.
    Hm maybe a hood would have come in handy after all.

    Look forward to you next review.

  2. Alan R: Surely not so? I was always led to believe that Yorkshire was "God's County" Surely Lord G Almighty prefers some sunshine now and again?

    I have just been for a walk with my "Bionic Bianca" It was hardly testing for her: cool still air with mist & occasional fog. The young lady managed a steady 12 miles with no upset. Let's see hoe she fares "up north"

  3. Sloman - The Gear Monstaa!!

    If you need a hood with it, Buff do a variant with a hood now

    Sean would probably do you a cuben one if you wanted ;o)

  4. Robin: In my day they called those "balaclavas" In fact, I believe they still do?

    You just need a fleecy buff and a mountain cap.

  5. Chesterton - you are a man of great taste Mr S.
    Can't say I know that one, but if it's a patch on The Club of Queer Trades, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Napoleon of Notting Hill or any of the the Father Brown stories then you can't go far wrong. Add in 'The Rolling English Road' and it's hard to see why he isn't more well known.
    Was there something about a jacket too?
    Actually - I think that Go Outdoors are going to send me some goodies too. I've examined my carefully nurtured principals and discovered that they can't compete with free stuff. Wahey!

  6. It's a wonderful read - two characters setting up a mobile pub in an era of prohibition and the wonderful chase that ensues.

    Laugh-out-loud Bed time reading!

    I was brought up on Father Brown.

  7. Alan, I am testing a soft shell at the moment, so this post was very relevant to me with the features of other soft shells. So far I have been very happy with mine. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I have the Apex trousers (slightly older version) and they will be accompanying me to the Dales.
    I have had them a couple of years and they are great. (subjective).
    Too hot for summer or Challenge, but for this time of year and when colder I have found them to be the dogs!


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