The North Face ThermoBall vs. Patagonia Nano Puff: Which Insulated Jacket Is Best?

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The North Face vs. Patagonia testing

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

The North Face's ThermoBall Eco Jacket and Patagonia's Nano Puff are two of the most iconic and popular insulated jackets each brand offers. Both midweight jackets employ synthetic insulation meant to mimic down. While down excels at being light and compressible, synthetic insulations are water-resistant, continue to insulate even when wet, and are generally less expensive than down.

Indeed, the insulated jacket market is crowded. But the Nano Puff and ThermoBall jackets more than hold their own in the space. Both jackets were launched about a decade ago and have undergone multiple upgrades and iterations, with the latest being more eco- and planet-friendly than ever before.

We've spent the past few months testing the brands' latest iterations of these classic jackets. Read on to learn more about where each jacket excels and could still use some improvements.

The Key Takeaways

The North Face ThermoBall Eco
  • $199 (jacket) and $230 (hoody) at time of publication

  • Sizes available: S to 3XL

  • Slim/athletic cut and fit

  • Claimed weight of 9.52 ounces with a good weight to warmth ratio

  • A bit more challenging to pack into its own pocket and didn't pack as small as the Nano Puff

  • Made with planet-friendly materials like a recycled nylon body and post-consumer recycled polyester insulation

Patagonia Nano Puff
  • $229 (jacket) and $279 (hoody) at time of publication

  • Sizes available XS to 3XL

  • Regular fit

  • Claimed weight of 11.9 ounces, providing a good weight to warmth ratio

  • Much easier to compress and pack into its own pocket than the ThermoBall and also packed smaller

  • Recycled polyester ripstop with PFC-free DWR coating, post-consumer recycled polyester insulation

TripSavvy's Pick

These two jackets are quite similar, and both are solid options. But if we're forced to pick one, we'll give the nod to Patagonia's Nano Puff. Both jackets are good when temps dip to the low 40s, But we appreciated how easily the Nano Puff packed down into its own chest pocket. We also like the regular fit and more extensive size range, which should fit more body types. That said, The North Face's ThermoBall Eco is an excellent option for $30 less than the Nano Puff for the jacket version and almost $50 less for the hoody. So we definitely see the hoody version of the ThermoBall Eco as a better overall value than the Nano Puff hoody.

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket

REI

Price at time of publication: $199 (jacket) and $230 (hoody)

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a midweight insulated jacket for travel, hiking, backpacking, backyard potlucking, fly fishing, brewery hopping, city sightseeing, bike commuting, or pretty much any other outdoor activity. The weather resistance will work with light weather, but a shell will be necessary for gnarly weather. This jacket could work as an outer-layer or a mid-layer underneath a ski jacket or hardshell. It looks good enough for the office yet performs and packs small enough to be an excellent backpacking piece.

Materials: 100 percent recycled nylon, and 11 g/ft² ThermoBall Eco 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester | Sustainability: Made with all recycled materials | Jacket weight: 9.52 ounces

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Patagonia Nano Puff Water-Resistant Jacket

Patagonia Nano Puff Water-Resistant Jacket

Courtesy of Backcountry

Price at time of publication: $229 (jacket) and $279 (hoody)

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a highly packable insulated jacket with an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. This jacket is also stylish and versatile enough to go from office to backcountry. The regular fit makes it easy to layer underneath if you want to use it as an outer-layer, but it will also work as a mid-layer underneath a ski jacket or hardshell. It's water-resistant, and the synthetic insulation will keep insulating after it gets wet, but a weatherproof shell will be necessary for extreme weather.

Materials: 1.4-ounce 20-denier 100 percent recycled polyester ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish and 60-grams PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco 100 percent postconsumer recycled polyester with P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions) technology | Sustainability: Made with all recycled materials, bluesign-certified materials, and Fair Trade Sewn | Jacket weight: 11.9 ounces

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Warmth

Winner: It's a tie!

Both of these jackets will work on their own down into the 40s. But anything lower, and you'll likely want to go with a traditional down jacket or a heavier insulated option like Patagonia's Micro Puff. But for most three-season wear, both jackets will more than suffice—especially if you have a particularly warm fleece layer to throw on underneath.

The North Face employs 11 grams per foot-squared of its ThermoBall Eco polyester in a 2.5 by 2.5-inch quilt pattern. Meanwhile, the Nano Puff features 60 grams of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation. The result is two highly packable and warm jackets that push the boundaries and capabilities of synthetic insulation.

We've found both jackets to be the perfect options for autumn temperatures and outings for our autumn coastal Southern California testing, where temperatures dip into the low 40s at night and warm to the low 60s during the day. They've been an ideal layer for early morning hikes, evening strolls on the beach, and evening al fresco meals.

Patagonia Nano Puff

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Durability

Winner: It's a tie!

So far, we've had no durability issues with either jacket. We like that Patagonia employs a 20-denier polyester ripstop outer. But we also haven't had any problems with The North Face's 100 percent nylon construction. Still, neither jacket will be totally bombproof, so tread with caution while climbing, fly fishing, or participating in other activities where abrasions could occur.

The North Face ThermoBall Eco

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Weight and Packability

Weight Winner: The North Face ThermoBall Eco

Packability Winner: Patagonia Nano Puff

Technically, The North Face's ThermoBall jacket weighs a couple of ounces less than the Patagonia Nano Puff. So for ounce-counters planning on packing these while bikepacking or backpacking, the ThermoBall Eco might be the best option. But for space-savers, the Patagonia Nano Puff will be the ideal pick. We also found it much easier to pack the Nano Puff into its chest pocket than the ThermoBall, which we struggled to pack into its chest pocket and zip.

We found both easy to stuff into hiking daypacks for day outings and suitcases for longer trips. For the minimalist travel and adventurer, both jackets are excellent options for lightweight, packable, and warm outerlayers.

Patagonia and The North Face testing

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Weatherproofing

Winner: Patagonia Nano Puff

Both jackets are surprisingly water-resistant. Patagonia uses a PFC-free DWR coating on its shell to boost the weatherproofing. The North Face also uses a DWR coating to increase weather protection. Each jacket will eventually take on water as they're not fully waterproof. The good news is synthetic insulation still insulates even when wet—something that does not happen with traditional down.

The upshot? Both jackets will work well if light rain and wind are in the forecast. If you know the weather will turn nasty, pack a rain jacket or hardshell to throw on top.

Patagonia Nano Puff testing

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Overall Value

Winner: The North Face ThermoBall Eco

These jackets are so similar that if the price difference was $10 or $20, we'd probably call this a tie. But since it's a $30 difference for the jacket and $49 for the hoody, we've got to give the nod in this category to the ThermoBall Eco jacket. Patagonia uses top-shelf insulation with the PrimaLoft Gold Eco insulation. But The North Face's ThermoBall Eco insulation also performs on par with the PrimaLoft. Both use post-consumer recycled material for their insulation, which we love.

Patagonia Nano Puff

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy's Outdoor Gear Editor. Born and raised in the Midwest, he's now one of those Californians who those outside of California make fun of because he's wearing a puffy jacket when temperatures dip below 65 degrees. He's not ashamed. Nathan has owned versions of the Nano Puff and ThermoBall for five or more years. Besides both jackets, Nathan also frequently dons Outdoor Research's SuperStrand LT, Orvis's Pro Insulated Jacket, and Outdoor Vitals' Vario Jacket.

We've tested versions of the ThermoBall Eco and Nano Puff jackets on hikes, backpacking, ski touring, paddleboarding, and backyard potlucks.

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