The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

Fleece Jacket
The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket
$179, 1 lb. 6 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL

What can you say about a fleece jacket? Its simplicity of design belies its versatility in all seasons, especially for on-the-move activities in cool and sub-freezing temperatures of fall, winter, and spring. Consider The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket, which kept my teenage son warm through several hours of backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, on a day when it snowed hard for hours and temperatures sat in the teens Fahrenheit (he wore it mostly under a soft-shell jacket). There isn’t much to this jacket, and yet, it could be the piece of outerwear you slip into more than any other.

The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

With a high-end fleece like the Novelty Denali Jacket, you pay a little more largely for more warmth per ounce, comfort, and durability. The partly recycled Sherpa fleece is warm, soft, and durable; and it has a DWR (durable, water-repellent treatment) to shed light rain or snow, meaning you can continue wearing it as an outer layer for a while in light precipitation. But the real strength of a quality fleece like the Novelty Denali is its blend of warmth and supreme breathability: You can sweat hard and this fabric will move that moisture from inside to outside almost as fast as it pours from your pores. Wind cuts right through it, of course. But that’s what shell jackets are for.

The relaxed fit allows for layering underneath it. Abrasion-resistant nylon overlays on the shoulders, upper chest, and forearms reinforce areas of higher wear, especially for someone regularly carrying a pack. Four zippered pockets, two on the chest and two at hand level, provide plenty of secure space for stashing a phone, keys, or extra gloves or hat. The beefy front zipper will last for years, and the adjustable hem extends below the waist.

My son has also worn this jacket as a middle layer on cold winter days of resort skiing (under a shell, with other insulating layers), plus many days to school. For the amount of hours you’ll spend wearing a classic fleece like The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket—and the years of use you’ll get from it, whether you’re a backcountry skier, snowshoer, climber, or cold-weather hiker—it’s hard to beat its value. The North Face women’s Denali 2 Fleece Jacket is $179.

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See all of my reviews of fleece jackets, insulated jackets, and outdoor apparel that I like.

See also my stories:

10 Smarter Ways to Think About Your Layering System
Review: 6 Super Versatile Layering Pieces
Review: The Best Base Layers and Shorts For Hiking, Trail Running, and Training
12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza


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