Columbia vs. The North Face is today’s topic for our brand comparison. This is the second article in this new segment, in which we will take a look at two American sportswear brands, while focusing on their jackets mostly, of course.
We have done so in the past, too, by comparing the Columbia Bugaboo Interchange and The North Face Carto Triclimate jackets.
These are two of the most frequently featured brands in our selections, reviews and comparisons because of their great jackets. There are many reasons why we are so fond of both and reading further into this comparison, you will see for yourself.
Those of you who are familiar with either, or both of them, might be wondering as to why we are comparing these two particular brands, since they differ so much in price and that it might not be a fair judgment on either brand.
However, they are both American brands with a focus on sportswear and with considerable involvement in nature preservation and technological innovation for performance fabrics. So not too different after all.
A short history of the brand
Columbia started out as a small hat company in 1938 by two German immigrants and even today it has still remained a family-owned business, run by Tim Boyle, the son of Gert Boyle and nephew of the founders of Columbia.
A brand with a very captivating history and commendable devotion to constant improvement, Columbia’s motto “It’s perfect, now make it better” speaks volumes about how the company approaches product design and business practice.
Despite being an internationally renowned brand, a lot of people turn to Columbia because of the small family-owned company image, making it more trustworthy in their eyes.
While most major brands, especially high-end ones, value product quality above all, few test their products like Columbia does. We would like to refer you to their introductory video, to give you a better idea of what we mean.
Materials and Manufacture
As we will see with The North Face as well, Columbia has not only developed several clothing technologies, but has also collaborated with other companies that focus solely on fabric technologies, in order to provide great weather resistance for their products.
- Omni-Tech, a breathable, waterproof and windproof fabric.
- Omni-Wick, which is highly breathable and helps wick moisture away.
- OutDry, an absolutely waterproof barrier, which heat-binds to the fabric and performs flawlessly.
- Omni-Freeze, a technology that helps with cooling down.
- Omni-Shade, Omni-Wind, Omni-Shield – these fabric technologies work to protect against the sun, wind and stains.
If we are to look solely at materials used, around 80% of the Polyester used is recycled, in order to lower the environmental impact of the company. Apart from polyester, they use Nylon as well, mostly in the waterproof jackets.
For the down insulation that is used, it is all RDS certified, meaning that everything is traceable and that it comes from birds that were humanely treated, neither live-plucked nor force-fed.
There are some special insulations developed by them, which include: TurboDown, a combination of Omni-Heat technology with down insulation for ultimate warmth, and Omni-Heat Reflective, a technology that reflects body heat with the silver dots dispersed throughout.
The chemicals used for DWR treatments are short-chain Perfluorinated compounds, that are less harmful to the environment.
As you can see, we are talking about a great consideration for the environment, a trait that both brands share.
Because Columbia, just like The North Face, has a wide product range, we will pick out a Softshell, an insulated jacket and a waterproof jacket so that all the main basis are covered.
Their best-selling softshell is Ascender (check it out on Amazon), which is a high-performance, versatile jacket that withstands water and wind and it is made of 100% Polyester, in a Contour cut that makes it fit a lot better during movement. As with all softshells, they are designed for sportive wear and work great for layering underneath a heavier jacket when the temperatures drop.
Picking one insulated jacket is a bit tricky, since they have a best-seller collection, which is the TurboDown jackets, that come in a variety of colors and designs.
Depending on the fill power of the TurboDown, they provide different warmth and loft but all of them are very well-insulated and are suitable to wear in harsh temperatures.
For the third category, that of waterproof jackets, we picked Glennaker Lake (check it out on Amazon), a nylon jacket that is very lightweight and durable, great for unstable weather and rough terrains.
Despite having products that perform so well and are well-made, Columbia is an affordable brand. Their jackets are moderately priced and there are both cheap and expensive options, which range from $50 all the way up to $500 and above for certain designs, mostly the Titanium parkas.
These expensive parkas are made of several technologies and are completely weatherproof.
2. The North Face
A short history of the brand
Founded in 1966, The North Face began its journey as a retailer for backpacking and climbing equipment and later developed other products.
The brand quickly grew in popularity and was the first choice of many avid sportsmen and explorers. They are renowned for the high-performance of their products, especially jackets and for their stylish designs, which come in numerous eye-catching colors.
Compared to Columbia, their jackets are more modern rather than classic and the product range is extensive.
The North Face is held as a reputable sport brand due to the functionality of their designs and the fact that their jackets are quite well-made overall.
Materials and Manufacture
As we mentioned previously, both brands are quite similar in regards to innovation and environmental awareness.
The North Face focuses mostly on using recycled materials, Polyester especially and makes certain that the cotton used in their products is responsibly sourced, just as the down, which meets the RDS requirements.
To further extend on this, they offer lifetime warranty and are quick to repair any damaged apparel, which would mean less resources used for new items and a product that will last for many years to come.
As for DWR treatments, they are looking to replace them with more environmentally friendly options and to use PFCs as little as possible.
Now, moving on to fabric and insulation technologies that are used in The North Face jackets, the one that most people might be familiar with is definitely ThermoBall. A synthetic insulation, in collaboration with PrimaLoft, it is one of the closest down-mimicking insulations currently on the market, and that says a lot.
DryVent is a fully waterproof, windproof and breathable fabric, which comes in different versions, depending on what the jacket will be used for.
FlashDry is comparable to Omni-wick, designed to keep the body dry by wicking out moisture and by being highly breathable.
WindWall fabrics serve as a protective barrier against cold winds and come in both windproof and wind resistant options.
Lastly, Gore-Tex is one of the key fabric technologies partnerships used in a majority of their high-performance jackets, due to it being waterproof, windproof, breathable and extremely durable.
Just like we did for Columbia, we will look at a softshell, an insulated jacket and a waterproof one.
One of the most popular The North Face softshells is definitely Apex Bionic. This is one of the highest rated softshells on Amazon and a beloved one among men and women who enjoy the outdoors regardless of season. For a more detailed review on this jacket, take a look here.
Two of the most popular insulated jackets are the Arctic parka (check it out on Amazon), which is down insulated and comes with fur trim and has a waterproof and breathable shell.
The second is any of the Thermoball jackets (our review here), which are very lightweight and extremely warm. Both of these jackets are suitable for harsh winters, with the Arctic parka being the warmer of the two.
Lastly, the waterproof jacket of choice is Resolve (check it out on Amazon), a high-performance jacket that is made of DryVent 2L and due to being highly breathable, it makes for a great hiking and sports jacket.
When it comes to price, The North Face is slightly pricier than Columbia overall, but there are more affordable options available.
There are $70 – $100 options, as well as those on the other end of the spectrum that go upwards of $500.
3. Which One Is Better?
If you are looking for a casual jacket or one for occasional sportive wear and you don’t have too many expectations performance-wise, then Columbia offers the best quality to price value.
But, if you want a jacket that is slightly better put together and is designed for activity, then The North Face would be the better brand.
Overall, considering customer opinions on websites and forums online, the general consensus is that quality-wise, you get what you pay for, so while Columbia makes overall cheaper and good-quality jackets, The North Face makes great performance jackets and provides better styles and design options, especially for parkas.