The North Face Catalyst Micro Jacket – Climbing Gear Review

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CGR tests out the new water resistant down jacket from The North Face- can Dave put a dampener on it?

The North Face Men’s Catalyst Micro Jacket delivers packable, warm and resilient performance for ski touring with a water resistant down fill.

Performance ****



I knew it was coming when our new website guru Richie had bought a water resistant down jacket at a price than made me feint (I am from Yorkshire after all). It was just a matter of time and with 2012/ 13 all about body mapping so 2014 is all about water resistant down.

The North face got quickly on the scene with an affordable water resistant (note that term) down jacket with the Catalyst Micro jacket. This is a typical down micro down jacket in style but is filled with 800 Fill ProDown; a water resistant (or, more technically a hydrophobic) down.

So how does the TNf Prodown work – well in the showroom it works really well as I was shown at TNF HQ with a fully lofted down particle immersed in water shown to me.

Hydrophobic down works by coating the down fibres in chemicals that help the down fibres repel water whilst retaining its loft. In short what the designer is after is the warmth and compressibility of down coupled with the warm when damp properties of synthetic fill. Of course we still have all those nasty chemicals to deal with and The North Face have been working hard to produce garments within Blue Sign guidelines. In order to reduce their environmental footprint with the down coating they have been working with their supplier to reduce the chemical process and change the chemical compounds.

Less of that though and more of the jacket’s performance – I found the fit of this jacket great. Athletic, but not too tight that I couldn’t wear a thick fleece or hoody under it but it fitted well enough for general mountain activities such as hiking, scrambling and winter mountaineering. I should point out that I often wore a hoody under it for casual or coaching activities, but it would interfere with the fit for active sport.

The TNF Catalyst had a good cut for climbing in.
The TNF Catalyst had a good cut for climbing in. A cold and windy Robin Proctor Scar.

The sample size was medium and I’m often a 40” chest, the size was just right for that with a little extra room, the fit was slim at the waist and the cut was great at the arms with very little rise. The Flash Dry (similar to Power Dry) armpit inserts helped here and aided with heat and moisture evaporation when the going got active. They also made the jacket comfortable by reducing chaffing under the arms.

The TNF Catalyst was very comfortable for active sports.
The TNF Catalyst was very comfortable for active sports.

The North Face Catalyst Micro Jacket has three pockets, two handwarmer and one left hand chest pocket. The right hand pocket is the signature stow pocket. They worked well all the time and were plenty big enough for hats, gloves and some food. The jacket compressed well into the pocket and would compress a little more if space was tight. The chest pocket was large enough for phones, wallets, ipods, etc. The handwarmer pockets were low down on the jacket which made them inaccessible with a harness on, but to be honest it’s not a specialist climbing jacket and the chest pocket was big enough for most items (topo’s, food, camera, etc).

The zip tags could have been a little more glove friendly. The main zipper was a YKK Vislon and worked really well in all conditions. The cuffs were well designed, fitted tightly around my wrist and were easy to tuck a pair of glove cuffs underneath.

The baffles were well filled and lofted nicely when heated (by your body), 14 horizontal baffles provided plenty of down to cover my torso. The down is 800 Fill Hungarian Goose, so premium quality and jacket did feel lovely and warm in all but the most cold conditions. The hydrophobic treatment did help with showery or slightly damp conditions as it dried out very quickly, the outer was lightweight ripstop and I should point out that is not shower proof as I discovered on several occasions. The North Face Catalyst Jacket did, however, dry out as quickly as a synthetic fill. The micro style jacket is now firmly established to such an extent that you rarely see a large baffled down jacket at the crag or the wall.

The TNF Catalyst jacket was warm enough on those cold, spring days.
The TNF Catalyst jacket was warm enough on those cold, spring days. Early season Malham Cove.

The hood did just go over a climbing helmet, but did restrict head movements. It worked better under my helmet. It was great in normal conditions , easy to pop on with no adjustment necessary as it was elasticated, so no fuss deployment when needed.

So, The North Face have come up with a great jacket that will suit all manner of mountain activities as well as look great casually. The ProDown hydrophobic treatment, doesn’t shed off moisture so don’t expect a waterproof jacket, but it does help it to perform as good as a synthetic shell. It has served me well as a belay jacket for cragging and bouldering, as a throw on insulator when hiking in damp conditions and I’ve worn it for climbing wall sessions and coaching. It will serve you well in most UK conditions but not UK winter gnarl! At £200 it is priced well enough and the hydrophobic nature of the Summit Series jacket makes it worth that little bit extra.

SRP: £200


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