New Hampshire’s White Mountains offer every opportunity to test the limits of outerwear, and The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie is my default insulating layer for that challenge. Equally at home while making breakfast at camp as it is when you break treeline on Mt. Moosilauke, the Thermoball’s synthetic insulation stays warm even when wet—a huge benefit in areas where weather can change at a moment’s notice.
The secret to this puffy’s warmth lies in its innovative down-mimicking filler, which is formed in small, round clusters that create air pockets to retain your heat, sewn into 2.5-inch squares to keep it from shifting. Even with regular washing, I haven’t noticed clumping or performance loss. Bonus: made from 100 percent recycled material, this eco-friendly jacket is part of the North Face’s ongoing effort to make all of its apparel recycled, regenerative, or responsibly-sourced renewable by 2025.
With a simple baselayer, the ThermoBall is most useful between the 30s and 50s; I added an outer shell when the temperatures dipped into the 20s on New Hampshire’s Franconia Ridge Trail and was perfectly cozy in windy conditions. Breathability is excellent: I was comfortable exerting while snowshoeing in the 30s, but needed to toss the jacket in my pack as the temps crept higher—it’s perfect for camp lounging in the 50s.
The ThermoBall compacts easily and stuffs into an internal pocket a little larger than a Nalgene bottle. At 15.2 ounces, it isn’t the lightest puffy in its class, but I’ve pushed mine through heavy brush and squeezed between granite slabs without snags; the beefier 15-denier, water-resistant outer shell is an acceptable trade-off in my book. Not only does this heat-keeper perform in the backcountry, but it’s also a looker, making for a seamless transition to the frontcountry.
Buy Now; $230