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Columbia vs North Face – Brand Comparisons

Today, we are going to be comparing the Californian outdoor gear brand North Face with the Oregon-based company Columbia Outdoor Gear. Both are major players in the world of outdoor sports clothing, producing quality products adored by many hikers and climbers. We will be looking at the best range each brand have to offer, from the hiking shoes to the jackets and also discuss which of the two is the most sustainable brand. Here is our brand comparison of North Face and Columbia outdoor sportswear.

Columbia vs North Face – Brand Comparison

History of Brand Columbia

From its humble beginnings as a family-owned hat distributor in 1938 to becoming the largest American retailer of ski apparel in 2001, Columbia has grown and prospered over the last century. The company’s popularity sky-rocketed after it started producing jackets with breathable waterproof materials and interchangeable layers. Columbia is best known for footwear, ski apparel, and outerwear, although many of their products are enjoyed by rock climbers and mountain climbers alike.

Columbia vs North Face - Brand Comparisons

Material and Design

Columbia products tend to be aimed towards hikers, fishers, trail runners, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts, but not so much towards climbing. In the earlier years, they designed affordable products making the outdoor clothing market accessible to everybody, and often relied on layering properties to retain heat rather than clever technology. That being said, in recent years, they have developed Omni-Heat Black Dot Technology, a breathable yet reflective inner lining that retains body heat without relying on trapping air, like more conventional methods. This was inspired by technology invented by NASA, used for keeping astronauts warm.

Best Popular Designs

Columbia Sportswear products are not so orientated towards climbing, however, they function well in a diverse range of outdoor activities, and, while better quality and more expensive than some budget brands are still towards the cheaper end of the outdoor sportswear spectrum. Their use of black dot reflective technology throughout their entire range of products is an intelligent innovation for retaining body heat while maintaining breathability.

Hiking Shoes and Boots

1. Columbia Bugaboot iii – Women

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Equipped with an Omni-Heat reflective inner lining, the Columbia Bugaboots will keep your toes feeling warm and toasty all winter. The boots consist of two main layers – a heat-retaining combination of padded insulation and the reflective lining, and a waterproof leather outer layer that has been seam-sealed to keep your feet dry. The sole of the shoe is non-marking and comfortable. It is designed with Omni-GRIP technology to maximize grip on snowy and uneven surfaces, yet the shoe is still simple and stylish enough to look at home in an urban setting.

2. Columbia Fairbanks Omni – Heat Boots Men

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Comparable to the women’s Bugaboots, the Columbia Fairbanks also come complete with an Omni-Heat reflective inner lining to keep your feet comfortably warm. The outer layer of these boots consists of a waterproof seam-sealed membrane. These boots are a little less suited to slippery winter conditions, but the lighter design is perfect for gentle autumn and winter trekking. They are simple and stylish and can be comfortably used for everyday purposes.

Jackets

3. Columbia Autumn Park Down Jacket – Men

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Complete with an Omni-Heat reflective and breathable inner lining to maximiZe heat retention, the Columbia Autumn Park Down jacket is stuffed with RDS certified 650 down filling. It is designed to be flexible in a hiking setting and to provide the right amount of loft and air-flow to keep moisture out and heat in. The down jacket is lightweight and easy to pack down, making it an easy additional layer to stuff into a backpack as a precautionary measure. It is a good, affordable, go-to jacket for colder temperatures for a diverse range of outdoor activities.

4. Columbia Switchback Sherpa Lined Jacket – Women

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The Switchback Sherpa Lined Jacket is a completely waterproof outer shell with a warm fleece lining. It is fully waterproof and windproof and should withstand the strongest of downpours. The jacket is easily adjustable around the wrists, in the hood and, using the drawcord adjustable hem. It is an extremely affordable solution to wet weather, albeit at the cost of some extra weight and bulk in your backpack or on your body.

History of North Face

The history of North face is slightly shorter than that of Columbia Sportswear. Founded in 1968 as a climbing equipment retail store in San Francisco, the stylized Half-Dome inspired logo is now worn by professional and amateur climbers all over the world. North Face has now expanded to producing clothing for skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities, and sponsors famous climbers such as Caroline Ciavaldini and Nina Williams.

Material and Design

The North Face has developed many innovative and revolutionary materials specific to outdoor use. They are also partnered with Gore-tex which is widely renowned to be the highest performing waterproof, windproof, and breathable weather protection. Other trademarked materials include Thermoball; an alternative to traditional down insulation, and Futurelight; an ultra-thin nano-fiber waterproof membrane that maximizes breathability.

Best Popular Designs

5. North Face Back to Berkeley Boots – Men

The iconic Back-2-Berkeley Boots are a simple, lightweight yet functional shoe that will endure light hiking and most obstacles between you and the bottom of the crag. They are filled with PrimaLoft insulation; another alternative to traditional down that provides maximum heat retention while being water-resistant and much more lightweight than down. The outer layer is hydro-sealed, waterproof leather. They are functional enough to belong on the hiking trail and stylish enough to look at home in the city.

6. North Face Storm III Boots – Women

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The North Face Storm Boots are an affordable and functional trail shoe and hiking boot for mid-range difficulties. Fully waterproof and complete with a strong, rugged grip, these lightweight shoes feel fantastic in warmer weather with enhanced breathability and provide some insulation for cooler conditions. These are ideal shoes for spring, summer, and autumn hikes.

7. North Face Apex Canyonwall Softshell Jacket – Men

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This affordable soft shell layer is a comfortable addition to your hiking set up. With a standard fit to allow for multiple layers to be added underneath, the shell is water and wind repellent to help keep the elements outside. There is an interior fleece for additional warmth and comfort, and secure pockets for your belongings. It is simplistic, intuitive, and minimalist, providing no more and no less than what you need.

8. North Face Carto Triclimate Waterproof Jacket – Women

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Made from largely recycled materials, the North Face Carto Triclimate Jacket is a durable, water repellent jacket designed to keep you dry and warm in all weather conditions. It features an integrated zip system so that you can effectively attach compatible layers to customize the product and maximize its effectiveness. The PrimaLoft insulation is lightweight and effective, helping you to retain heat in cold conditions.

9. North Face Aphrodite Motion Pants – Women

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While there are no comparable Columbia products, it is worth mentioning that The North Face produces many climbing-specific clothing products, and items such as the Aphrodite Motion Pants provide unrestricted leg movement on the wall. They are quick-drying, durable and water-repellent, helping to keep the elements at bay so you can focus on the technical moves on your project.

Pricing

Columbia products do tend to be cheaper than North Face products, and while both companies boast about their unbeatable technology, The North Face seems more advanced in their research and production of outdoor clothing materials. The North Face is also more geared towards climbers, so when it comes to flexibility and movement in jackets, they are the safer option to go for, however, if you simply want to go out hiking and to spend less money, then Columbia products are perfectly fine.

Which is a more sustainable brand – North Face or Columbia

The North Face is a much more sustainable brand. While you do pay more for their products, you help them to fund their research and to promote environmental sustainability which has always been at the heart of what they do. Columbia Sportswear, as a brand, seems a little more focused on producing affordable products than promoting the preservation of the outdoors.

Conclusion 

For those who like rough, alpine conditions, it is difficult to go wrong with Arc’teryx. Their products are designed to withstand the extreme Coast Mountain conditions and are produced with high quality, durable materials to ensure their longevity. This comes at a price, but if you are likely to venture into harsh conditions, you will want to be able to rely on your gear and should consider investing a little more. The gear is a little more specialized than Patagonia’s products.

For the everyday sport climber, or for anybody who wants a more diverse product range, Patagonia products are probably more attractive. Not only are they usually more visually appealing, but are usually a little cheaper and more designed with climbing in mind rather than enduring harsh conditions. This usually means their jackets are more flexible and more packable, whereas the Arc’teryx jackets are more weather resistant.

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