Kathmandu vs The North Face Down Jackets: Which to Choose?

If you’re looking for a down jacket to keep you warm and cozy this winter, you’re no doubt considering products from both The North Face and Kathmandu.

They’re both popular brands that produce high-quality outdoor clothing. Each also has a range of down jackets to choose from in a range of different styles.

To help you make a decision, we’ve compared the most popular down jackets from these two brands. We’ve looked at important factors like the type of down used, down fill power, comfort, weight, water resistance, and more.

Key takeaways:

Our Kathmandu and The North Face line-up includes everything from affordable everyday jackets right through to technical outerwear for extreme conditions.

The best one for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

Here are our recommendations:

Jackets used in this comparison

To help you choose the right jacket, we’ve compared three of each brand’s most popular models side by side.

  • The North Face Aconcagua 2
  • The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse
  • Kathmandu Epiq
  • Kathmandu Federate
  • The North Face Sierra Peak
  • Kathmandu Heli 600

Heavyweight down jackets:

The North Face Aconcagua 2

The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse

Kathmandu Epiq

Kathmandu Federate

View at Kathmandu

Lightweight down jackets:

The North Face Sierra Peak

Kathmandu Heli

All these jackets are available in both men’s and women’s models and many are available with or without a hood.

Jacket comparison categories

We’ve then split the jackets into two categories: Heavyweight and Lightweight.

Heavyweight down jackets

These jackets are a good option for your main warm layer when you’re camping, hiking, or doing other activities in cool temperatures.

  • Kathmandu Epiq 600 (640 g)
  • Kathmandu Federate (640 g)
  • The North Face Aconcagua 2 (560 g)
  • The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse (775 g)

These are the jackets from our list that weigh more than 500 grams (Based on men’s size M).

Click here to skip to the Heavyweight down jacket comparison.

Lightweight down jackets

Lightweight down jackets are good for layering in cold conditions or using as an outer layer in warmer months.

  • The North Face Sierra Peak (325 g)
  • Kathmandu Heli 600 (396 g)

Click here to skip to the Lightweight down jacket comparison.

The North Face vs Kathmandu: Heavyweight down jackets

Down jackets included in this category:

  • Kathmandu Epiq 600 (640 g)
  • Kathmandu Federate (640 g)
  • The North Face Aconcagua 2 (560 g)
  • The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse (775 g)

The North Face Aconcagua 2

The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse

Kathmandu Epiq

Kathmandu Federate

View at Kathmandu

Down

Down JacketThe North Face Aconcagua 2The North Face 1996 Retro NuptseKathmandu EpiqKathmandu Federate
Fill typeGoose Down & PolyesterGoose Down80/20 Duck Down85/15 Duck Down (DownTek)
Fill power550700600650
Fill weightNot statedNot stated180 g144 g
RDS certifiedYesYesYesYes

RDS

All North Face and Kathmandu down-filled jackets are made with Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down, which is the global standard in the ethical sourcing of down.

Water resistance

When down gets wet, it will clump together, which means it loses its loft and its insulating properties.

The Kathmandu Federate is the only jacket in this comparison that features water-resistant down. It uses DownTek which means it is treated to provide extra resistance against moisture.

Fill power

The fill power rating of down refers to how many cubic inches of loft is produced by one ounce of down. A product’s fill power is one indicator of its quality.

Higher numbers are better as they mean better loft which means better insulation per gram of down.

The fill power of the heavyweight jackets in our comparison range from 550 (The North Face Aconcagua 2) through to 700 (The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse).

As you would expect, the higher fill power of the Nuptse is mirrored in a much higher price tag.

The two Kathmandu jackets have a fill power of 600 and 650.

Fill weight

Fill weight refers to the amount of down in a jacket. This is important for determining how warm a jacket will be.

Unfortunately for our comparison, the fill weight is not available for the two North Face jackets.

However, we can assume from the overall jacket weight of the Nuptse (775 g) that it has more down fill than the other jackets.

The Kathmandu Epiq and Federate have a fill weight of 180 g and 144 g respectively, indicating that the Epiq is likely the warmer of the two.

Other materials

Down JacketThe North Face Aconcagua 2The North Face 1996 Retro NuptseKathmandu EpiqKathmandu Federate
OuterRecycled PolyesterRecycled NylonRecycled NylonNylon, Elastane
InnerNot statedPolyesterNylonNylon, Elastane
DWR finishYesYesYesYes
Jacket weight560 g775 g640 g640 g
Bluesign approvedYesYesYesYes

Outer and Inner

The inner and outer of a down jacket are generally made from nylon or polyester.

Both of these materials are lightweight and quick-drying, however, nylon is generally considered to be more durable and weather resistant.

Therefore, we generally find that nylon is used on more premium and high-end jackets.

There is a mixture of these materials used in these jackets. While the two Kathmandu jackets are fully nylon, the North Face Nuptse features a nylon outer and polyester inner.

In the case of the Aconcagua 2, the inner material is not stared but we presume it is polyester.

The Kathmandu Federate also incorporates elastane which we presume has something to do with the baffle fabric design. Also worth noting is the stitchless design on the Federate which minimises down leakage.

DWR finish

All of these jackets are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.

DWR finishes are designed to repel water, so light rain will roll off of the surface.

However, none of these jackets is waterproof, and DWR finishes do tend to wear out over time.

Jacket weight

When comparing down fill weight to total jacket weight, we can see the Kathmandu Federate weighs the same as the Epiq 600 (640 g) but has much less down (144 g vs 180 g).

So in terms of down weight versus total weight, the Kathmandu Epiq appears to be the better option.

The North Face Aconcagua is the lightest jacket in this category, which means it could be the best option if you’re concerned about keeping your pack weight down.

RELATED: Patagonia vs Macpac

Features

Down JacketThe North Face Aconcagua 2The North Face 1996 Retro NuptseKathmandu Epiq 600Kathmandu Federate
FitStandardRelaxedStandardStandard
HoodOptionalStowableOptionalYes
Outer pockets3322
Inner pockets0021
Soft lined hand pocketsNoNoYesYes
Soft lined chin flapNoNoYesNot stated
Stuff sackNot statedPacks into pocketYesNot stated

The Kathmandu jackets appear to have the best features, with extra inner pockets and soft lined chin flaps and pockets.

However, the North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse is the only jacket with a stowable hood.

Key takeaways

There are no clear winners or losers in this lineup, as each jacket is suited to a slightly different purpose:

  • For hiking, the North Face Aconcagua (view at The North Face) looks to best the best option, thanks to its lower weight. It’s also one of the most affordable jackets in our review.
  • For a general-purpose winter jacket, The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse (view at The North Face) and Kathmandu Epiq 600 (view at Kathmandu) are both good options. The iconic Retro Nuptse is likely to provide more warmth but also comes with a higher price tag.

RELATED: Macpac vs Kathmandu

The North Face vs Kathmandu: Lightweight down jackets

Down jackets included in this category:

  • The North Face Sierra Peak (325 g)
  • Kathmandu Heli 600 (396 g)

The North Face Sierra Peak

Kathmandu Heli

Down

Down JacketThe North Face Sierra PeakKathmandu Heli
Fill typeGoose Down80/20 Duck Down
Fill power800600
Fill weightNot stated118 g
RDS certifiedYesYes

RDS

All jackets from these brands use down that is Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified.

Water resistance

Neither The North Face Sierra Peak nor the Kathmandu Heli feature water-resistant down.

The Sierra Peak is 100% goose down while the Kathmandu Heli is 80% duck down and 20% duck feather.

Fill power

Fill power is a quality rating for down and indicates the ability of the insulation to provide warmth.

The North Face Sierra Peak has a very impressive 800 fill power rating, the highest of any jacket in our comparison.

This means the down provides a very high amount of loft per each ounce of down, meaning better insulation.

The Kathmandu Heli has a fill rating of 600, which is more in line with the other jackets in this comparison.

Fill weight

Fill weight tells us the actual weight of the down in the jacket. It tells us the quantity, whereas fill power tells us the quality.

The fill weight on the Halo is 118 g, which is in the low-mid range for down jackets.

Unfortunately, the fill weight for the North Face jacket isn’t available.

Other materials

Down JacketThe North Face Sierra PeakKathmandu Heli
OuterNylonRipstop Polyester
InnerNot statedPolyester
DWR finishNot statedYes
Jacket weight325 g396 g
Bluesign approvedYesYes

Outer and Inner

While the North Face Sierra Peak features a Nylon outer, both layers of the Heli are made from polyester.

Both of these materials are lightweight and quick-drying, however, nylon is generally considered to be more durable and weather resistant.

DWR finish

Both of these jackets are coated in a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, which helps keep you dry in light rain but doesn’t provide full waterproofing.

Jacket weight

At a mere 325 grams, the Sierra Peak is easily the lightest down jacket in our review.

This makes it the best option for activities where weight is important, such as hiking.

Features

Down JacketThe North Face Sierra PeakKathmandu Heli
FitStandardStandard
HoodOptionalOptional
Outer pockets22
Inner pockets02
Soft lined hand pocketsNoNo
Soft lined chin flapNoNo
Stuff sackPacks into pocketPacks into pocket

Both of these jackets have similar features and extras, with them both being available with or without hoods and neither featuring fleece-lined hand pockets or chin flaps.

They both also pack into an internal pocket.

Key takeaways

There’s little that differentiates these two jackets but we think there’s a clear use-case for each one:

  • For hiking, go with the North Face Sierra Peak (view at The North Face). It’s ultra-lightweight with an impressive 800 fill power and premium goose down. It is, however, also the most expensive option.
  • For a lightweight, everyday down jacket, the Kathmandu Heli is a great choice (view at Kathmandu). It comes at a reasonable price point and comes in a range of colours and designs.

The North Face vs Kathmandu Summary

The Kathmandu and The North Face line-ups include everything from affordable everyday jackets right through to technical outerwear for extreme conditions.

The best one for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

Here is our summary from this analysis:

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The Adventure Lab

At The Adventure Lab, our goal is to provide high-quality, actionable information and advice to help you plan for your next adventure. Our team of writers consists of professional mountain guides, personal trainers, exercise physiologists and more.