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The North Face Hecktic Down Jacket

2011-2012 The North Face Hecktic Down Jacket 

Size: Large

Material: [shell] HyVent® Alpha 2L

Insulation: 700 fill down

Fabric Waterproof Rating: 25 PSI

Fabric Breathability Rating: 625 g/m²

Hood: yes, fixed

Length: hip

Venting: underarm zips and forward chest zips

Pockets: 2 hand, 2 chest, 1 biceps

Seams: fully sealed

Manufacturer Warranty: limited lifetime

MSRP: $399, USD

Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin

Days Skied: 20+

Snow reports across the west haven’t exactly been epic so far this season, but that’s not to say we haven’t seen some harsh conditions. The North Face describes the Hecktic Down as the “go-to piece of arsenal for blockbuster, cold days on the mountain.” So far, the jacket has performed as advertised.

An early season day at Breckenridge brought static temperatures of about 20° F with 60 to 70 mph winds and some vicious graupel that pounded us on the chairlift. Surprised the lifts were still running, I felt completely warm while others suggested we head in to let things calm down. That was the first day with the Hecktic in conditions most specific to its design. The weather may not have been “blockbuster” by some standards, but it was clear that the jacket was capable of handling some seriously gnarly weather.

Given its substantially dense 700-fill down insulation, I’m not at all surprised by the Hecktic’s warmth. If you’re riding anywhere with a continental snowpack, you’d probably be very happy with this jacket on those brutally cold and clear days after a storm blows over. Yet after 20+ days, I’ve been far more pleased to find that due to some well designed venting, the Hecktic isn’t overkill for those less than viciously cold resort days. I comfortably wore the Hecktic in 35 degree October conditions at Arapahoe Basin, and in similar sunny conditions throughout November.

The Hecktic's 700-fill insulation

Snap to late December at Taos Ski Valley. 17° F was the day’s high, with a -10 to -15 degree wind-chill factor. Facing into the wind on Taos’ exposed Highline Ridge, I was perfectly comfortable wearing just a thin baselayer underneath. However, I had become uncomfortably warm midway through the hike up. The Hecktic has dual sets of venting zips, two located directly beneath the armpits (as you typically find on most technical shells) and two smaller ones set slightly forward on the chest. This may seem rather trivial, but the inlet and outlet orientation the dual venting creates allows a noticeabe amount of air to pass efficiently through the jacket.

Will Brown, in The North Face Hecktic Jacket, Taos Ski Valley.

Will Brown on Highline Ridge, Taos Ski Valley. (photo by Ryan Heffernan)

With all four vents open, the slightest amount of airflow helps to cool you down (due either to ambient wind currents on a hike, or with speed on a descent).

After opening things up on our hike up Highline, I quickly cooled down, able to better dial in a suitable temperature by closing only the rear vents. While its ample venting doesn’t make the Hecktic totally suitable for slush bump skiing in May, it’s certainly more versatile than some other down jackets might be on a storm day hike.

1 Comment

  1. Bert January 2, 2012 Reply

    Very glad to see this review. I was comparing the Hecktic jacket to a major competitor’s (will give a hint – has Primo Down in the name) and was wondering if the latter was worth the $200.00 difference in performance or quality? Really happy to hear about the dual (not sure if that’s right?) venting. Looking forward to trying this jacket out. Alas, I only go skiing about 15 times a season (live and ski on the east coast) and conditions have been much, much less than epic in these parts. You could argue that the season hasn’t even started. Thanks for the thorough review as it will probably save me 200 bucks.

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