The North Face vs Columbia (Outdoor Gear Comparison)

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The North Face vs Columbia Outdoor Gear Comparison

The North Face and Columbia are two of the most famous brands in the outdoor gear industry. Both companies offer a wide range of apparel and equipment designed for activities like hiking, camping, skiing, and more.

While The North Face has been around since 1966 and focuses on technical mountain gear, Columbia was established in 1937 and provides high-quality outdoor wear at more affordable price points. Both have also extensive lines of casual wear.

In this article we’ll make an in-depth comparison of The North Face and Columbia, analyzing key products from each brand, the technologies they utilize, where their items are produced, and their prices to help you determine which label may be a better fit for you.

Let’s get started!


1. The North Face Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

The North Face official website
The North Face’s official website

The North Face stands as a well-established American brand within the outdoor gear industry, boasting a strong following among outdoor enthusiasts.

Since its establishment in 1966, the company has been dedicated to crafting high-performance mountain gear and apparel, including jackets, pants, hiking packs, tents, sleeping bags, and skiwear. The brand’s appeal expanded beyond technical wear in the 1990s, reaching a celebrity market and gaining visibility in popular culture.

Interestingly, in 1993, a rapper featured the Steep Tech jacket in a music video, contributing to the brand’s widespread recognition.

The name “The North Face” originates from the most challenging and coldest face of a mountain in the northern hemisphere, the mountain’s northern part, or “north face”.

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Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

The North Face utilizes primarily Nylon and Polyester, which are common materials in outdoor gear and integrates multiple technologies into its products, including the innovative FUTURELIGHT membrane.

FUTURELIGHT incorporates a thin nanomembrane in jackets, enabling air circulation while repelling water, and has been rigorously tested for waterproofing in extreme outdoor conditions.

Additionally, The North Face utilizes goose down for thermal insulation, providing customers with the desired comfort and warmth during extended journeys. This insulation is lightweight, allowing unrestricted movement during strenuous activities.

The brand’s products often showcase the renowned Gore-Tex technology, known for its waterproof, windproof, and breathable properties. Gore-Tex effectively allows moisture to escape while preventing water from entering inside.

The brand has also developed other technologies such as DryVent, WindWall, FlashDry, and the famous ThermoBall synthetic insulation.

ThermoBall™ Eco | The North Face

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Where is The North Face outdoor gear made?

The majority of The North Face’s outdoor gear is manufactured in Asian countries like China, India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, with additional collections produced in the United States.

Recommended Products

The North Face Men’s McMurdo Parka

The North Face Mens McMurdo Parka
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The North Face Men’s McMurdo Parka offers warmth and protection from the elements. This long coat is designed with a relaxed fit and insulated with 600-fill recycled waterfowl down, making it an excellent option for cold conditions.

The parka is windproof, waterproof, and breathable, thanks to its seam-sealed DryVent™ 2L shell with a non-PFC DWR finish. It comes equipped with practical features, including concealed, secure-zip chest pockets, two dual-entry front patch pockets, and a secure-zip internal chest pocket.

The parka also features an attached hood with an internal drawcord for adjustability, as well as a stormflap that covers the two-way zip. It also has an embroidered logo on the left chest and back-right shoulder, adding a touch of style.

Adjustable hook-and-loop cuff tabs ensure a secure and comfortable fit, making the McMurdo a versatile and reliable choice for challenging conditions.

Read also: The North Face Diablo vs. Nuptse: Which Jacket is Better?

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack
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The Borealis Backpack stands out as a popular pack of the brand, catering to everyday needs with a focus on security and utility. Notable features include the recognizable bungee cord system, spacious interior, and various elements such as the stand-up design, removable waist belt, sternum strap, and protective laptop compartment, for different activities and settings.

Crafted from a combination of recycled nylon and recycled polyester, this backpack not only delivers functionality but also adheres to sustainable principles. A dependable and adaptable option for daily use, blending practical features with a simple design.

Read also: How To Wash a North Face Backpack: Step by Step


The gear from The North Face tends to be pricier than numerous other outdoor equipment labels. Despite this, the brand typically falls within the mid-to-upper price range. For instance, their coats range from $70 to $800, while their packs are priced between $50 and $300.

Are The North Face products worth the price?

If you are an avid mountain trekker, skier, or explorer, The North Face gear justifies its high price. Their equipment is created to deliver the needed comfort, utility, and performance.

In the case of casual clothing, the answer depends. In general, you can get one or two reasonably priced products from The North Face, so even in this scenario the brand is worth it.

Learn more: Why Is The North Face So Expensive and Popular? Are Its Jackets Worth It?

2. Columbia Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

Columbia official website.jpg
Columbia official website

Columbia, a popular outdoor gear label, provides a wide range of clothing suitable for various outdoor activities such as skiing, fishing, camping, and trekking. But also for everyday wear.

Established in 1937 by Gert Boyle’s family after fleeing Germany and settling in Portland, USA, the brand has evolved from the Columbia Hat Company in 1938 to the Columbia Sportswear Company in 1960 to reflect its expansion into outdoor apparel. Presently, the company is under the leadership of Tim Boyle, Gert’s son.

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Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

Columbia Sportswear employs its proprietary technologies to maximize the functionality and performance of its outdoor gear. For example, the Omni-Tech technology enhances the waterproofness and breathability of Columbia’s jackets.

Next, the Omni-Heat Reflective technology, featured in some of their apparel and coats, facilitates efficient warmth retention while releasing excess moisture and heat.

The use of recycled Polyester and RDS-certified down insulation, along with efforts to minimize harmful DWR coatings, further exemplify the brand’s commitment to sustainable materials.

Gert Boyle’s perfectionist philosophy guides the production of Columbia Sportswear products, ensuring high-quality apparel. The brand offers a diverse range of reliable outdoor gear at affordable prices, presenting a commendable quality/price ratio.

Omni-Heat Innovation

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Where is Columbia outdoor gear made?

Columbia continues to manufacture outdoor equipment in the United States and Europe, but the majority of its products, including its owned brands such as Sorel, prAna, and Mountain Hardwear, are made in Asia, in Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, and India. (source)

Recommended Products

Columbia Men’s Whirlibird IV Interchange Jacket

Columbia Mens Whirlibird IV Interchange Jacket
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The Whirlibird IV Interchange by Columbia is a versatile jacket suitable for mountain outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding. This jacket boasts a waterproof-breathable shell and a thermal-reflective insulated liner that can be worn separately or together to deliver optimal warmth.

It comes complete with essential mountain-ready features including various pockets, underarm vents, an adjustable hood, powder skirt, cuffs, and hem to ensure comfort and readiness on the slopes.

Constructed with Omni-Tech™ waterproof/breathable material and critically seam-sealed, it effectively prevents water penetration. Additionally, the jacket incorporates Omni-Heat™ thermal reflective technology to retain body heat, along with a Thermarator™ insulated liner for extra warmth without bulk. It represents a seamless blend of style, comfort, and practicality.

Read also: How To Wash a Columbia Jacket (Omni-Heat, Down, Fleece, Rain)

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack
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The Atlas Explorer represents a versatile and spacious backpack suitable for diverse applications. With a 26-liter capacity, it includes two primary storage sections, a front pocket organizer, individual compartments for a laptop and a tablet, adaptable sternum and shoulder straps, as well as dual water bottle pockets.

It has Twin Slot webbing, a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve accommodating laptops up to 15 inches, a distinct tablet sleeve, front pocket organization, two water bottle pockets, reflective zipper pulls, and a cushioned bottom panel and top haul handle.


Compared to The North Face, Columbia Sportswear items are priced more reasonably. Typically, Columbia’s jackets are priced from $50 to $300, their backpacks are priced below $100, and their hiking shoes begin at approximately $100.

Are Columbia products worth the price?

For casual outdoor pursuits, we believe the brand’s items are great. Specifically, their outerwear offers essential protection.

For experts or those who operate at a higher level, you might consider looking for a more specialized brand. However, even then, you can still find one or two suitable items within Columbia’s extensive product range.

Must read: 8 Best Sustainable Outdoor Clothing Brands: Our Top Picks

3. Which is Better? The North Face or Columbia?

These are two of the most popular names in the outdoor market, if not the most popular. Both are great for their intended uses. Here are our thoughts when it comes to choosing one or the other:

Style: The North Face generally has a more technical, mountaineering-inspired style. Columbia offers a wider variety of styles from hiking to casual wear.

Materials: In general, The North Face uses higher-end, more technical fabrics like Gore-Tex. Columbia offers a good mix of technical and more affordable options. Both also have their proprietary technologies, Columbia with Omni-Tech and Omni-Heat Reflective, and The North Face with DryVent, Futurelight, and Thermoball. (read the “Materials” sections above for more info on materials.)

Warmth / Temperature ratings: The North Face jackets offer higher-end designs in terms of insulation and ability to withstand very cold, alpine conditions.

Fit: Some report The North Face fits trimmer while Columbia fits more loosely for layering. Our recommendation: Try items on in person.

Prices: Columbia often has more affordable options compared to The North Face’s premium prices, though both offer a range of prices.

Availability: Both are widely distributed around the world. Some products may be online-only.

In the end, both are great brands. For serious alpine and winter activities, The North Face has an edge, in our opinion. But Columbia offers good performance at more affordable prices too. So, try both and see which fits your specific needs.

Read next: The North Face vs Mammut: Which is Better?

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