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Is This Jacket the Most Popular Outdoor Item Ever?

Chances are good that you own this jacket or know someone who does.

It's The North Face Denali Jacket, which turned 20 years young this year. Twenty years is an eternity in the outdoor gear world, and this warm fleece jacket has been a perennial top seller at REI and other stores. The North Face wouldn't confirm specific sales numbers with me, just saying "millions" have been sold.

The North Face Denali Jacket - kidsRecently, however, it appears that some new jacket contenders may be taking over its top spot. More on that below.

But first, why has the Denali been such a hit? Its 300-weight Polartec fleece is warm, to be sure, and its abrasion-resistant nylon shoulders make it suitable to wear under a pack. Even more importantly, perhaps, is that the Denali feels good and looks nice, which have allowed it to make the critical leap from technical customer to general customer.

"It has a very loyal following that gives it an almost a cult-like status," says Troy Sicotte, a Seattle-based product rep and brand manager for The North Face. He sums up its appeal this way: "Two words: trust and value." Troy notes there's broad trust in The North Face brand and that Denali offers value in its go-anywhere usage and ability to zip into compatible TNF shells for wet-weather days. He adds, "We still gets lots of feedback on how so many people love this style and own several."

The North Face Denali Hoodie - WThe current jacket has evolved from previous models. Early on, the Denali was retailored from its original unisex sizing (which basically meant men's sizing) to better fit both genders. Women are now, in fact, the biggest Denali customers. Along the way, kids' sizing was also added. Newer options include high-loft thermal fleece and hoodie versions.

The jacket is now much greener, too. In 2009, it started using recycled fleece made of 90% post-industrial waste and 10% post-consumer waste. More recently, the entire garment became Bluesign approved, a certification that takes into account the entire supply chain and life cycle of a product's environmental impact, labor practices and disposal.

While the Denali is still popular, tech-savvy REI customers have begun to favor styles such as The North Face Osito high-loft fleece jacket (below, left) and Maddie Raschel soft-shell jacket for women and the Apex Bionic soft-shell jacket for men (below, right). These jackets offer increased wind resistance, which has always been the Achilles heel of traditional  fleece.

TNF Osito Jacket - W

TNF Apex Bionic Jacket - M


The Denali has had an amazing run. Personally, I can't think of any other outdoor item (with the possible exception of PowerBars) that has been so popular for so long as the Denali jacket. Can you?

 

 

Posted on at 1:21 PM

Tagged: Denali, The North Face, fleece and jacket

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corwinning

this is the jacket for people who want to look cool without having to leave the mall.
marmot all the way.

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scubasteven74

The Denali is the least favorite fleece I have ever owned and is the only North Face item I have bought that I did not like. The wind just rips right through. I have always been surprised by how popular the jacket is, especially in the windy winters we have here in the Midwest.

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Dak

The only other thing I could think of is Nalgene bottles (and Camelbak bottles as a joint partner).

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MVCoho

FYI: its popular because its a teen fad. A must of the "wanna look cool pseudo outdoorsy/mall culture". It has nothing to do with much of anything else because its grossly overpriced. back in the early 90's it was nice because it was one of first fleeces to use shoulder and elbow clothe to protect the fleece.

Now it is just trendy and TNF is recognized by the minions because of the mass cheapening of the brand when the company was sold many year back. Its a staple with the back to school crowd just like the cheap north face backpacks.

It is ubiquitous being sold at the most unlikely venues. However REI you too are sadly becoming a clothing and trinket store. I remember when your stores and catalogs bristled with real gear and technical supplies. I get it, I know you make way more money selling this over priced fleece to every other kid out there but, its just a sad thing to watch.

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smjim

Not in my book. My Mountain Hardware Tech does a much better job of keeping me warm. May me $10 more but the fit is better and has stood up to years of camping, hiking, and cold weather activities.

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BandannaMan

I'm sure it looks cool, but my 10 year old EMS Polartec 300 works great year round - think I'll stick with it.

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IrishTNgirl

I'll take my Mountain Hardwear fleece/ clothing over TNF any day. The jacket is soft and fluffy, but I see it more on the local college campus, being worn with Uggs and a pair of short shorts than I do on the trail.

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gadgetgirl

First off, there is nothing sad about REI because they provide a popular item to customers. If you don't want it, don't buy it. REI has plenty of variety for all. I personally do not own a Denali, but am a faithful supporter of Polartec. Therefore I am glad the Denali has sold so well. Malden Mills is a fantastic company and if there is anything I can do to keep them going I will. REI is a fantastic company as well and has always done right by me. And if there is anything I can do to keep them going as well I will. Merry Christmas!

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writeronthestorm

Wow. Surprised at all the hate for The North Face. Yeah, The North Face is in style right now, but so what? That doesn't take away from the fact that it's great gear. I don't own this jacket, but I do own some TNF stuff, including my main sleeping bag and I have to say all my TNF clothing and gear has been totally rock solid... I don't really care if some teenie bopper at the mall in a Justin Bieber haircut is wearing it or not.

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tripledotter

I owned a green and black Denali Jacket back in the early 90s until it got stolen off a bench at a bar while playing Foosball. It was at the time that TNF was started bailing on the Mom & Pop Outfitters and ****** themselves to every retailer on the planet, so I went with Patagonia and Arcteryx.

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MongooseDelta

It might be the most popular if you consider all the people walking around town wearing it, but it's far too heavy for active wear in anything warmer than maybe 10 degrees. I've gone glacier mountaineering and MIGHT have wanted that jacket then. No, on second thought, I would have gone with down or synthetic puff ball in that setting, if I wanted to be warmer. No, multiple lightweight layers are far better than one heavy/warm jacket.

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MongooseDelta

The most popular outdoor product? Your common Swiss Army knife? Bandana? Wool socks? P-Chord? Could this jacket POSSIBLY be more popular than these items, among outdoor enthusiasts?

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Etodd

Yes, I own one of these, as well as other TNF gear. Works for me. Lots of "outdoor" clothing is being purchased/worn by non outdoor people--so what?

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knotfunny

I bought one of these 15 or so years ago but I've since found better insulating layers since. I am still wearing the summit series shell of 10 years--has endured much abuse and still keeps me dry and warm. Of course what's good for the mountain is going to be good for town--the popularity doesn't bother me. But I do wonder if the popularity is a sign of slipping/changed commitment to quality or if it has triggered an increased focus on the bottom line. Maybe I'm a sucker, but the corporate ethos of Patagonia engenders more trust in my mind.

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Joe Joe Hiker

All the negativity for the most part is coming from smug, elitists who like to think they are the "real" outdoors folk. I have lots of TNF and some are great and some not so much just like ANY other company.

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