Gadling Gear Review: The North Face Radish Mid Layer Jacket

The North Face Radish Mid Layer JacketTravelers always appreciate clothing that is versatile, lightweight, easily packable and performs well in a variety of weather conditions. It doesn’t hurt if it also happens to look good. That seems a rather apt description for the Radish Mid Layer Jacket from The North Face, a comfortable and well-designed piece of performance apparel that is equally at home on a mountain trail as it is kicking around town.

Built from a soft, yet very durable, fleece, the Radish is designed to operate as either a stand-alone jacket or part of a technical layering system. On its own, it has the styling of a form fitting hoodie with an athletic cut that allows it to easily move with the body during vigorous activities. Its fabrics include North Face’s proprietary FlashDry technology, which gives the jacket the ability to breathe warm air while also wicking away moisture in an efficient manner. As the name implies, it also dries very quickly, something that most travelers will be able to appreciate.

I found this combination of qualities made the Radish a great option for travel. I wore the jacket in temperatures ranging from 10 – 50°F and remained comfortable at all times. That was true whether I was hiking, trail running or simply meeting friends for dinner. As someone who is fairly active, I appreciate that North Face designed this jacket to move with the body, not restricting motion in any way. I also appreciated the well-designed hood, which is flexible enough to move when turning my head, keeping my vision unobstructed at all times.As good as the Radish is on its own, it performs equally well as part of a layering system. For those taking part in cold weather adventures, a good layering system is key to enjoying the experience. Those systems generally include base layers, which sit closest to the skin, a mid-layer fleece such as this jacket and an outer shell for extremely cold environments. The Radish operates very well as that mid-layer, where its ability to move unrestricted once again comes in handy and its warm fabrics make an excellent insulator.

The North Face Radish JacketThe North Face has been making performance outdoor gear for decades and that heritage shows through here. There are small touches that aren’t readily noticeable at first but are welcome additions none the less. For instance, the Radish has reinforced fabrics on the shoulders and hips that line up quite nicely with a backpack. Those zones keep the jacket from wearing prematurely while wearing it with a pack. It also features specially tapered seams that keep abrasion to a minimum when wearing it as part of a layering system. Those are the kinds of touches that only come from years of experience and knowing your market well.

Still, there are a few things that could be improved on the Radish, not the least of which is its lack of pockets. There is a single zippered pocket on the left breast, which is nice for keeping small, important items close at hand. But there are no traditional hand pockets, which most people will instinctively reach for when the temperature starts to drop. North Face made the conscious choice to not include more pockets as it helps to keep the profile of the jacket low. This is an important design choice for the active outdoor crowd who don’t want to snag their gear while backpacking or climbing, but for the average traveler it could be a bit of a disappointment.

The other point about the Radish that is sure to give some buyers pause is the price tag. North Face has set the MSRP for the jacket at $230, although it can be found online at a discount. For the average traveler, that may be too much to pay for a jacket of this type, although I believe it is worth every penny when you consider the level of performance it delivers. For the active, outdoor traveler this is very nearly the perfect piece of gear, although not everyone needs that level of performance. Those who do will greatly appreciate what the Radish brings to the table. It is certainly the type of gear I’d want with me while trekking in the Himalaya for instance or backpacking in the Alps. This is a jacket that is so good, that the price should be viewed as an investment. One that will pay dividends for many years to come.

[Photo by The North Face]