Two big names in the world of outdoor clothing are Columbia and North Face. Both have built strong reputations for offering some of the best outdoor gear you can find and both have pretty substantial followings from outdoor folk all over the world.
Both brands are also American and have a focus on sustainability and working in environmentally friendly ways.
Columbia vs North Face – Brand Comparison
In this article, we compare Columbia vs North Face in terms of their history, the materials they use, and some of their most popular products. Comparing them in this way should give you a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the two brands in the hope it can make your decision a bit easier when deciding which one is best for you.
Since Columbia Sportswear began in 1938 as a hat company, it has come a long way and grown into the very popular brand it is today. Since it began, Columbia has been a family-owned business and, even today, it is run by Tim Boyle who is the nephew of one of the founders.
Columbia seems set on constantly making their products better and more able to handle the rigors of outdoor life. The brand’s motto of “it’s perfect, now make it better” highlights their ethos of making their products as good as they can possibly be.
This ethos is carried into Columbia’s product testing processes. Columbia put a lot of time and effort into making sure any product they make can actually do what it is expected to do.
Columbia is a trusted outdoor brand that consistently delivers high-quality products to its customers.
Material and Design
Columbia has gone the extra mile in their outdoor gear by not only using existing fabric technologies but also by creating some of their own. These technologies help make Columbia products to be extremely weather-resistant and durable no matter what environment you are wearing them in.
Some fabric technologies that Columbia uses in their products are Omni-Tech which is a fabric designed to be breathable, windproof, and waterproof, Omni-Wick which helps wick moisture away from your body, and Omni-Freeze which is designed to help cool you down.
The actual fabrics Columbia use are predominantly polyester and nylon. As the brand is committed to sustainability, around 80% of the polyester used in their outdoor gear is recycled.
Hiking Shoes and Boots
The Columbia Women's Bugboot III Boots have 200 grams of insulation to help keep you warm and protected from the elements. With a waterproof leather upper, these boots are a good fit for cold weather and snow sports.
As the name suggests, the Columbia Fairbanks Omni-Heat Boots have an Omni-Heat reflective lining which makes them a very warm pair of boots. They make for great hiking boots as they have a cushioned midsole and advanced traction to keep you protected and comfortable over multiple terrain types.
This is a very warm Columbia jacket that uses 650 fill power down insulation to keep you warm and comfortable out in the wild. It has zippered hand and chest pockets which adds practicality to this awesome jacket.
The Columbia Switchback Sherpa Lined Jacket is a water-resistant jacket that has synthetic insulation to keep you nice and warm on your adventures. It has an adjustable hood so is a good choice to wear if light rain is forecast.
History of North Face
North Face hasn’t been around for as long as Columbia but has still built a strong reputation for being one of the best outdoor brands out there. Starting in 1966 as a climbing equipment retail store, the brand has gone on to create some truly awesome outdoor kits.
North Face jackets are some of the most popular on the market with many serious outdoor enthusiasts wearing them as well as fitting in nicely as an everyday jacket too.
Material and Design
North Face uses a lot of recycled materials in the manufacturing of its clothing. Like Columbia, recycled polyester is a common feature of many products in the North Face catalog. Cotton is also a key component of many items and, as this isn’t always possible to recycle, North Face does all it can to ensure the cotton used is sourced ethically and fairly.
A lot of North Face jackets have a durable water-repellent coating. As a company, North Face is trying to find a more environmentally-friendly solution to this but does its best to only use DWRs that have as little impact on the environment as possible in the meantime.
When it comes to fabric and insulation technologies, North Face is a force to be reckoned with. They have teamed up with PrimaLoft to create their ThermoBall synthetic insulation. This is a very close synthetic replica of down and has similar insulating properties. Making insulation that can get close to natural down insulation levels is highly impressive and something North Face should be recognized for.
Other fabric technologies from North Face include DryVent which is a windproof, waterproof, and breathable fabric, FlashDry which has been designed to be quick-drying and to wick moisture away from your body, and WindWall which offers protection from the wind.
North Face has a very successful partnership with Gore-Tex. This is used in a lot of the brand’s jackets as it is waterproof, breathable, lightweight, and very durable.
North Face Boots
Made from recycled materials, the North Face Back To Berkeley Boots are lightweight, durable, and have a waterproof membrane to protect you from the rain. They have extra ankle support and a padded collar for comfort.
The North Face Storm III Boots are fully waterproof hiking boots that offer good levels of traction and comfort. Its synthetic sole provides lots of support and protection so you can be comfortable on your travels.
North Face Jackets and Pants
North Face jackets are known for being exceptionally warm, and the Apex Canyonwall Softshell is no exception to this. It has a fleece lining for increased warmth and is wind and water-resistant thanks to WindWall technology.
The North Face Carto Triclimate Waterproof Jacket features an adjustable hood and is based on the layering system. It's breathable, lightweight, and has a DWR coating to keep you protected, warm, and comfortable.
If you are looking for quick-drying pants that can handle outdoor life then the North Face Aphrodite Motion Pants could be just what you are looking for. They are tough, water-resistant, and made from four-way stretch fabric giving you lots of freedom and mobility.
North Face and Columbia Compared
When it comes to pricing in the Columbia vs North Face comparison, Columbia has a greater range in prices that can appeal to a wider range of budgets. Columbia jackets can cost as little as $50 but can go up around $500.
Columbia Sportswear will likely fit into more budgets due to this wide range of price tags. Despite their various prices, Columbia jackets are all well-made and of extremely high quality.
As a general rule, North Face is a slightly pricier brand. While you can still get some North Face outdoor apparel for around $100, they have a lot more high-end products available.
Which is a more sustainable brand – North Face or Columbia?
Of the two brands, North Face tends to be considered more sustainable. The higher price tags on the brand’s clothing help fund their research into even more sustainable practices.
While both Columbia and North Face are known for being environmentally conscious brands, North Face seems to do a little more to promote sustainability in their products. Columbia seems to have more of a focus on offering affordable outdoor apparel which doesn’t always coincide with sustainability goals.
Depending on what you will be doing while you wear your gear from Columbia and North Face, you could find the ideal product for you in either catalog.
Typically Columbia waterproof jackets and Columbia winter jackets are very good at retaining body heat and have a much more classic style to their design. Outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a bit more variety in style, color, and types of clothing on offer will likely prefer a North Face jacket.
Whether you are heading out in wet weather, cold weather, or something in between, you will very likely be able to find the outdoor gear you need from one of these well-known brands.
If it comes down to price then Columbia could be your winner, but if you are looking for a brand that puts a lot of effort into sustainability, then North Face could be the one for you.