When The North Face flies editors and gear reviewers from around the continent to Aspen, Colorado for a couple days of ski touring, you know they’ve got some big news. Whispers of FUTURELIGHT had been circulating for a few months, but TNF was finally letting the proverbial cat out of the bag; they’d created the breathable, waterproof fabric that every outdoor clothing company is after. They’re calling it FUTURELIGHT. And we were all getting some to test.
Just over two years ago TNF’s Global General Manager of Mountain Sports, Scott Mellin, was ski touring with professional climber and The North Face athlete Andres Martin. When they finished for the day Marin turned to Mellin and said, “wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to keep changing layers all day?”
Mellin took that to heart. And with the might of The North Face behind him, they set out to create a new fabric that was highly breathable and waterproof. Using a technique called nano spinning, nano fibers can be arranged in layers with lots of holes for air to travel through, but none for water.
While TNF hasn’t released all metrics exhibiting just how much different this fabric is than say, something like GoreTex, they are claiming this fabric will revolutionize the industry. And the fact that this nano spinning can be used to customize the fabric’s breathability depending on its intended use (TNF will be making everything out of FUTURELIGHT in 2020), fabric for something like a mountaineering jacket will have different performance qualities than the fabric used in their tents. But it’s all the same fabric. There’s also the bonus fact that it’s 100 per cent recycled nylon and polyester yarns making it, as Mellin claims, “the highest performing fabric, with the lowest possible footprint.”
So how did it perform? Here’s the scenario. I’m a sweaty dude. I always have been. And as any one who’s spent any time ski touring will tell you, moisture management is key. My usual indication that I’m about to turn into a sweaty mess is when that first drip of sweat drips down my nose. That’s my cue to shed a layer. And it’s exactly what I did when we were skinning up to the 13,000 foot mark off the back of Aspen Snowmass. It was a sunny spring day, about 8 degrees C. In any other situation, I’d strip down to my baselayer, lose the toque and the gloves. So that’s what I did. The only problem was the solar radiation off the snow was heating up my black baselayer and the sweat wasn’t stopping. That’s when Aspen Expeditions’ Amos Whiting, said, “try putting the shell back on.”
The 23 ounce FUTURELIGHT Summit L5 LT jacket I had with me was a better colour for harsh sunlight for sure; it’s yellow. So I put it on. And I zipped it up, knowing that doing this with any other shell I’ve ever owned would have created that, Colin-in-the-sauna look. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the sweat slowly stopped dripping down my face. I arrived at the summit, huffing and puffing, but more or less dry. And I was amazed.
On our second day we did much the same in similar weather conditions, but I never removed, nor put on a layer. And I stayed dry and comfortable throughout. Personally, I’m pretty convinced this fabric is going to be huge for The North Face.
We haven’t had the opportunity to test it on the frigid, windy top of Mont Tremblant yet, but as it stands right now, FUTURELIGHT will definitely be my main outerwear next season. Look for yours on the shelves in fall 2019. —ML