The North Face Geosphere JacketPosted By Mark on Jan 4 '08
|Cinch Cords:||Dual Hem||Insulation:||None|
|Cuffs:||Velcro & Elastic||Pit Zips:||No|
|Napoleon Pocket:||Yes||Handwarmer Pockets:||2|
|Sleeve Pockets:||None||Zipper Type:||Storm Flaps|
|Chin Abrasion Guard:||Yes||MSRP:||$69|
Fabric utilized: Hydrenalite
As a rule of thumb, I like to have at least one windproof jacket in my collection of outerwear. This does not include hard shells, since hard shells are inherently windproof (although, to be perfectly honest, I have seen a very few fully seam-taped hard shells in my lifetime that were merely wind-resistant). The Geosphere has the potential to fill that slot: a windproof, water-resistant, breathable shell. Constructed from TNF’s proprietary Hydrenalite fabric, and given a good dose of DWR, the jacket’s designed to keep you dry in most conditions, like a softshell, although, given the option, I’d probably more accurately classify this one as a windshell, suitable for cool, windy weather with a chance of rain. At over 17 ounces, the Geosphere gets a good kick in the pants from many windshells that are very comfortable in the 3-7 ounce range. But then again, it’s a good deal more durable, and feature-packed, than those shells, and could probably stand up to even a bit of bushwhacking.
The Geosphere is equipped with three pockets: one Napoleon pocket, and two handwarmer pockets, one of which is capable of holding the entire jacket in itself. The Napoleon pocket is pretty standard, a good size for holding smaller items which need to be easily accessible. The two handwarmer pockets are good-sized, as well, capable of storing more than chilly extremities. And the left handwarmer pocket comes with a zipper and strap of fabric, to stow the jacket, producing a package a little larger than a 32-ounce Nalgene.
The main front zipper is equipped with a good-sized fabric-and-metal zipper pull, and is fairly easy to operate. It’s guarded on the interior by a full-length storm flap, to help keep wind and rain at bay. A soft abrasion guard is sewn in not only by the chin, but also all the way around the neck, which is nice. The other zipper pulls, for the handwarmer and Napoleon pockets, are pretty small, and could become difficult to operate with gloves or cold hands.
The hood is two-way adjustable; that is, it can be adjusted for height in the front by cinchcord locks on either side, and in the back, for volume adjustment around the circumference of the head. The hood is not mesh-lined, like the rest of the jacket, so it’ll probably be the first place you notice built-up condensation.
The hem is adjusted via two cinchcord with two cord locks, one on either side of the jacket.
The cuffs are rip-and-stick Velcro tabs, and are part elastic, to aid in fit. As was previously mentioned, the entire jacket can be stowed in its left pocket. The shoulders are seamless, to aid in water resistance.
While we’re on the topic of mesh, one gripe I had with the jacket was the lack of a mesh lining for the hood. I suppose this aids the Geosphere’s ability to stow in a pocket, but I’ve had multiple experiences where the hood interior was damp with condensation, while the rest of the jacket felt dry. I highly doubt it was leaking, because the DWR I had applied (Revivex) was definitely doing its job (causing rain to bead up on the fabric’s surface and roll off). In the end, it’s probably not a big deal, but I feel it should be pointed out, for those sticklers who value comfort above many things when looking for a jacket. The breathability of the Geosphere could also become an issue. The breathability of the garment, combined with the potentially baggy-feeling standard cut, made me feel a little “swampy” at times. Pit zips would’ve been lovely, but we shouldn’t expect miracles from a sub-$70 jacket. And indeed, I may have chosen the wrong garment for the weather conditions. Finally, kudos to TNF for including a good-length, fabric zipper pull for the main zipper, but what about the handwarmers and Napoleon? The zippers for those three pockets have really short pulls: you’re left with about a half inch of metal to work with. Not ideal for those with gloves, or even those without gloves.
On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a long-sleeved T-shirt, and 10 an expedition-quality mountaineering suit, I’d rate the Geosphere a 3. The mesh lining helps to convey a feeling of warmth, more so than an unlined shell.
No. The fabric is windproof, and has been given a solid DWR treatment from the factory, but in the end, it won’t keep you dry in a downpour. It will keep you dry in most other conditions, though.
This jacket is great for cool, windy days when there’s a fair chance it’ll rain. It was nice to see a (nearly) full mesh lining, and a completely adjustable hood. No jacket is perfect, though, so I’ve got a couple of issues with it. First, and probably the least problematic, is the size of the zipper pulls (or lack thereof) on the pockets. They can cause some fumbling around in attempts to open the pockets, and don’t even think about it if you’re wearing gloves. Second is the lack of a mesh lining for the hood. Sure, it cuts down on bulk, but it can become condensation-y if things start to warm up. Third is the lack of a sturdier brim for the hood. Again, it’ll make packing the jacket easier, but when you cinch down all the hood cords, it can impede vision. Finally, the standard fit can sometimes feel a little baggy. I generally prefer my clothing to be tighter fitting, and although the standard fit provides layering options, it also means the fabric will be further away from your skin, cutting down on moisture transportation and general performance. Despite these qualms, the Geosphere is a solid shell for cool, windy weather.
The Verdict: 6/10
Interested in this jacket? You might also be interested in these windproof jackets:
Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket
An award winner. Really. Windstopper, low-key hood, soft fabrics. Retail: $150.
Marmot Ion Windshirt
Ounce-counter? This one'll run about 4 (!) ounces. And while it's certainly windproof, it may not breathe as well as some other shells on the market.