The North Face Arctic Down Parka II
Fill: 550-fill down
Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
What we like: Durable and waterproof shell; design details lend a high-quality feel.
What we don’t: Heavy and bulky, and fit is hit or miss.
See The North Face Arctic Down Parka II
Many winter jackets are made to withstand cold temperatures, but without a waterproof or windproof shell, they often suffer in wet snow, rain, or heavy winds. Enter The North Face’s Arctic Parka II, a jacket that combines the warmth of down insulation on the inside with a robust weather-protective shell on the outside. Below we break down the Arctic Down Parka II’s warmth, weather protection, features, construction and durability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it measures up to the competition, see our article on the best winter jackets.
The North Face Arctic Parka II is a down jacket designed for winter conditions. Stuffed with 550-fill-power down and wrapped in a waterproof shell, it traps your body heat well and keeps moisture and cold gusts out. And with a faux-fur brimmed hood, a fleece-lined collar and chin guard, and a mid-thigh-length hem for added coverage, the jacket provides good protection in the cold overall. In use, we donned the Arctic on many winter days and nights in central Oregon, and it reliably kept us warm when temperatures hovered at or above freezing. However, in sub-freezing temperatures, we found that it wasn’t quite enough jacket without adding layers underneath.
One issue with warmth is the down itself. The North Face doesn't provide fill weight, or the amount of down in the jacket, making it difficult to provide accurate comparisons. But the 550-fill-power is on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of warmth-to-weight ratio. Jackets with higher quality down, such as the Patagonia Down With It Parka (700-fill power) or the similarly waterproof Arc’teryx Patera Parka (750-fill power), provide more warmth when the mercury drops. The Arctic II also lacks insulation in the pockets, which was noticeable even in above-freezing temperatures. Lastly, length is an important consideration when it comes to warmth. The Arctic measures 37.75 inches down the center back—only a quarter-inch less than TNF’s knee-length Metropolis—but this number is a bit deceiving. On the front, the Arctic falls only a few inches above the knees and does not offer full thigh protection. That said, we do appreciate the Arctic’s drop hem, which provides additional coverage in the back and extends underneath you while seated.
The external baffling of many down jackets might be a sought-after style, but it almost always comes at the price of a non-waterproof or windproof outer shell. The Arctic Down Parka, on the other hand, is designed with a cotton and nylon shell with a waterproof DryVent membrane, and seam-sealed for additional protection against the elements. For climates with wet snow or rain, this provides much more assurance than the simple DWR finish found on many down parkas. Furthermore, a storm flap over the front zipper and a tall collar keep gusts and moisture from entering. On a particularly blustery day in Bend when the wind chill dropped below freezing, we found that the Arctic resisted wind extremely well.
The Arctic Down Parka II features a rather complex hood that offers a wide assortment of protection. You can wear the faux-fur brim for added coziness and warmth, remove the brim when it’s raining, or zip off the entire hood when the sun is shining. Unfortunately, for all its design details, the Arctic’s hood is not one of our favorites. First, it’s on the shallow side and likely too small for those who wear their hair in a ponytail. Second, it's poorly insulated, making it one of the least impressive hoods we tested in terms of warmth. Third, when the fur brim is removed, the hood is ridiculously shallow, and the three elastic attachment cord loops are awkward and unsightly. Lastly, the faux-fur brim stops high on the sides, giving it more of a tent-shape than rounding around the face. In terms of winter jackets with fur-brimmed hoods, we much prefer the design of the Marmot Montreal.
But it’s not all negatives here: the Arctic’s hood attachment is one of our favorites. An easy zipper and snaps connect it to the jacket, and well-designed flaps cover these attachment points whether the hood is attached or not. All in all, it adds up to a very streamlined look, much better than the clunky hood design of a jacket like The North Face's Metropolis.
The North Face Arctic Down Parka II’s cuffs are designed with a simple, clean look on the outside and an inner fleece gasket for comfort and protection against the cold. This gasket is tight enough to sit close to the wrist, but stretchy enough that it’s easy to pull on and off. We prefer this style of cuff to the simpler tapered sleeves of a jacket like the Metropolis or Patagonia Down With It Parka—it traps heat better and offers more protection when playing in snow.
The Arctic Parka has two external handwarmer pockets and one internal chest pocket, and all three close securely with a zipper. We found that the long zipper pulls on the outside pockets make them especially easy to operate with winter gloves on. The hand warmer pockets on the Arctic are fleece-lined but notably uninsulated, which makes for a significant drop in warmth when you’re really trying to hunker down.
At 37.75 inches down the center of the back, the length of the Arctic Down Parka II is middle-of-the-pack compared to other models we tested. It's longer than the Marmot Montreal (33 inches), and slightly shorter than the The North Face Metropolis (38 inches) and Patagonia Down With It Parka (38 inches). However, you should take these numbers with a grain of salt, and specifically regarding the length of the jacket in the front. Our Metropolis extends all the way down to our knees, while the Arctic stops about mid-thigh. One notable feature is the Arctic’s drop-tail hem, which swoops down lower in the rear (hence the measurement), providing more coverage across the legs and butt when sitting or bending over.
Although we’ve been hard on The North Face in the past (see our Metropolis II review), we think that the Arctic II is, in general, a very well designed and constructed jacket. The 70-denier shell fabric is robust and can withstand much more wear, tear, and even bonfire sparks than the thinner shells of jackets like the Marmot Montreal or Patagonia Down With It. Furthermore, it has far less stitching than these baffled jackets, minimizing weak points on the shell. In addition, details such as zig-zag stitching on the zipper flap, elastic shaping around the waist, and a well-designed hood make the Arctic feel like a premium jacket, competitive even with the exceptional quality of Patagonia and Arc’teryx. But it’s not too good to be true: we have heard a fair share of concerns about quality going down with the updated II version. The plastic zipper pull is difficult to get started, many users have reported issues with leaking feathers, and the fur-brimmed hood is unshapely and prohibitively small.
Weight and Packability
At a hefty 2 pounds 14 ounces, the Arctic Down Parka II is the heaviest down parka we tested. Some will love the coziness that comes with the weightiness of the jacket, which certainly lends durability and some warmth. Others will find that the heavy Arctic restricts freedom of movement and does not settle well into different positions (as you move around, you might often find yourself adjusting parts of the jacket). Furthermore, it's certainly not a jacket that can stuff away into small nooks and crannies in your suitcase (unlike jackets like the The North Face Metropolis or Marmot Montreal), making its bulky build undesirable when packing for a weekend getaway or putting the winter clothes away for the season.
Fit is a mixed bag with the The North Face Arctic II, and it’s certainly not a jacket that will work for everyone. We’ve had our fair share of issues with jackets from The North Face being boxy, and the Arctic follows suit. Many will find one size too tight and restrictive—especially in the arms—and the next size too boxy and loose. And as we mentioned above, the heavy nature of the jacket means it does not flow with you as you move, which can result in constant readjustment. Furthermore, the elastic shaping around the waist might not ride in the right spot depending on your body type—it has the potential to either provide great shaping or awkward boxiness. In short, this is a jacket that we’d recommend you try on before you buy (or if ordering online, get a couple of sizes and choose the best fit). In terms of sizing, we consistently wear a small and found our small Arctic to fit on the snug side. If you like to wear bulky sweaters under your jacket or want freedom of movement for shoveling snow or other activities, we’d recommend sizing up.
What We Like
- Down insulation and waterproof shell mean that the Arctic II is both warm and weather protective. It's a great jacket for wet conditions and inclement weather.
- The 70-denier, almost-seamless shell is more durable than most down parkas.
- Detailed touches like the hood attachment, decorative stitching, and drop-tail hem make the Arctic feel like a premium piece.
What We Don’t
- At almost 3 pounds, the Arctic II is a noticeably heavy and bulky winter jacket. This means that it doesn’t always move well with your body and packing it away can be difficult.
- The hood is on the small side and the fur brim doesn’t frame the face as nicely as we’d like.
- Fit and sizing is hit or miss. If possible, try this jacket on before buying.
|The North Face Arctic Down Parka II||$299||550-fill down||37.75 in.||2 lbs. 14 oz.||Yes|
|Marmot Chelsea Down Coat||$380||700-fill down||38 in.||2 lbs. 9 oz.||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Patera Parka||$649||750-fill down & synthetic||36.75 in.||2 lbs. 3 oz.||Yes|
|Patagonia Down With It Parka||$299||700-fill down||38 in.||1 lb. 15 oz.||No|
|Marmot Montreal Down Coat||$285||700-fill down||33 in.||2 lbs. 2 oz.||No|
The North Face’s Arctic Down Parka II is a robust winter jacket that offers the warmth of down insulation alongside the protection of a waterproof, windproof shell. Within its class, the Marmot Chelsea is another interesting option. At $380, the Chelsea is more of an investment than the $299 Arctic, but you get 700-fill down instead of 550-fill in a 5-ounce lighter package (read: more warmth without the bulk). The Chelsea also has a removable, fur-brimmed hood, but it’s even smaller than that of the Arctic, rendering it almost useless. Fit-wise, compared to the boxy and at times misshapen Arctic, the Chelsea fits a larger variety of body types and is roomy enough to accommodate a layer or two underneath. If the Arctic fits, it’s a fantastic jacket, but if it doesn’t work with your body type, the Chelsea is a great alternative.
In the outdoor clothing world, Arc’teryx regularly takes the cake for the best designed and constructed jackets. Their Patera Parka is an impressive waterproof and windproof jacket with both down and synthetic insulation inside. At times we feel that Arc’teryx’s casual wear retains too much of a technical look, but the Patera has an elegant, refined design that skillfully merges performance with style. In fact, without sacrificing warmth or weather protection, it has a much lighter and flowier feel than the Arctic. The hood is not removable, but cinches down with a sleek adjustment system that includes a rear pull-tab for even more customization. At $649, you’ll pay a pretty penny for the Patera, but not one seam, stitch, or feather is out of place—the parka exudes premium quality.
If winter in your neck of the woods is more cold than wet or if you don’t foresee pushing the limits of your jacket in inclement conditions, a down-insulated jacket with a DWR-finish shell could be your best bet. Within the Arctic’s price range, the Patagonia Down With It and Marmot Montreal are strong contenders. Both feature 700-fill-power down and much lighter builds, allowing for more freedom of movement, and both pack down significantly smaller than the Arctic II. The Montreal has a much shorter cut, while the Down With It falls slightly lower down the thigh than the Arctic. On the other hand, the Marmot comes with an extra dose of wet-weather protection in the form of hydrophobic down, but the Patagonia will appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers with a 100-percent recycled shell and down fill. Again, we don’t recommend these jackets for particularly wet climates, but for cold and dry winter weather, we prefer them to a bulkier waterproof jacket like the Arctic.
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