The North Face Kilowatt Jacket is easily the best activewear jacket I’ve ever owned. Then again, it’s the only true activewear jacket I’ve ever owned, so that might not be all that helpful. Instead of meaningless comparisons, let’s instead focus on the pros and cons of this jacket, and if it’s really worth the $130 price tag.
I’ll start by noting that I didn’t pay retail for this jacket, and if you’re looking to buy one now you can actually get a better deal than I did (see below). I snagged a size medium during one of REI’s first end-of-season sales this spring for about $90 after tax. I’m 6 foot, 180 pounds. The medium is slim fitting on me, which is exactly what I wanted in a jacket like this, although I could likely easily rock a size large (they only had mediums left on sale, so I have never actually tried on a large). The Kilowatt Jacket is part of the North Face Mountain Athletics line, which basically means it’s made for working out.
Since purchasing the jacket about two months ago I’ve worn it pretty much daily. It’s perfect for the wet, cool spring weather common here in East Tennessee, and it’s versatile enough to work for my daily routine that flip flops from active to sedentary to active to sedentary (yay, office life!). I use it for pretty much everything, from exercising (mostly running), commuting to work by bike (4-5 days a week), lounging in the office on dress-down days (which, honestly, is pretty much everyday for me), and walking the dog. No, the jacket isn’t exactly business casual, but it is nice enough to bum around the newsroom, and I’ve had anyone refuse to talk with me or make any off-handed comments about my attire being less-than professional.
To me, the $90 I spent on this thing has been well worth it, although it’s not perfect. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few months:
It’s light and not bulky. For me this is a huge plus. It keeps me warm on chilly morning bicycle rides to work but then can easily be tossed in my commuter bag for the warmer ride home in the afternoon. The jacket weighs just over a pound at 1 lb., 2 oz.
It’s (mostly) waterproof, and windproof, yet it’s still breathable. The body and hood are made from ripstop polyester and are completely waterproof and wind resistant. The sleeves are also a type of polyester, but they’re not waterproof. That hasn’t proven to be any sort of issue and helps make the jacket very breathable. I haven’t been caught in a full-on downpour yet, but for the light rains common in East Tennessee it has worked out great.
The pockets zip up and it has a headphone port inside! Perfect for exercising. My iPhone goes in one pocket, my keys in the other, and I don’t even notice them. The pockets are mesh, which some people say they don’t like, but after a hard run you can unzip the pockets for extra venting. It comes in handy. There’s also a little clip on the inside, top-left along the front zipper to hold onto your headline cord. It helps keep earbuds from snagging or pulling down during runs.
It’s super comfortable and looks nice. The inside of the sleeves is lined “brushed-back fleece,” a very thin and soft sort of fleece. The body is coated in some other smooth fabric similar to fleece, but it’s not fleece. Reenforced stitching adds a bold trim to the jacket and makes me think it’ll last for years to come. We can only hope, but after 2 months of steady wear it shows absolutely no signs of fatigue.
The sleeves are too short, at least for making use of the thumb holes. It could use another inch in length to make the thumb holes accessible and not painful to use. They still work fine for running when my arms are bent most all the time, but otherwise they are not comfortable. Then again, I am kind of lanky, so this may not be an issue for you.
The sleeve seams twist around my arm. On each arm the seam starts under the armpit and lines up with the thumb hole at the wrist. If you don’t (or can’t) make use of the thumbholes, the sleeves tend to twist a little around my arm to where both the thumbhole and the seam sit toward the back of my hand at the wrist. It’s not uncomfortable at all, but a little annoying and makes the thumbhole opening very prominent. I strongly considering just sewing up the thumbholes to get them out of the way.
The hood is kind of big and a little awkward. But that’s not always a bad thing. It fits over my bike helmet, which is pretty freakin’ sweet and awfully handy on rainy days, but it’s also a little too droopy in front for me to wear it around casually and feel comfortable. By and large, though, it works out just fine.
I love this jacket, but there is some room for North Face to make some improvements. It’s warm, it’s nice looking, it’s versatile. I’ve sweated my ass off in it already and it doesn’t stink or hold odor. It doubles as a light (if slightly insulated) rain jacket. I see myself using it for years to come.
Right now Cabela’s has this jacket on sale for $65, so that’s an even better reason to pick up one for yourself. (They didn’t even pay me to say that, I just thought it’s worth pointing out a deal!)