A jacket that you never have to take off in the mountains. That offers protection against the wind, rain and wicks perspiration moisture well. That is rugged enough to be able to cope with rocks, branches, etc. A fabric that makes that possible; one fabric to rule them all.

Yesterday The North Face launched their new Futurelight material at the Consumer Electronics Show of 2019 in Las Vegas (and that with Europe’s largest outdoor fair in Munich coming up in three weeks). According to The North Face, this material will become a new standard and is a game changer in waterproof and breathable materials.

Waterproof and breathable

For years The North Face has relied on Gore-Tex for the waterproof and breathable membranes and laminates in their products. But apparently, there was a growing need or ambition to develop this material in-house. The American outdoor giant went back to the drawing board and has used a manufacturing technique of ‘Nanospinning’ in which the polyurethane-based fibers are weaved in layers at sub-microscopic levels, allowing them to apply thinner membranes to existing fabrics and for them to adjust weight, stretch and strength to what the product needs, which in turn depends on the activity for which that product is made.

What this process makes possible as well, is that there are “nano-sized” holes in the material that help air (and transpiration moisture) to move more freely through the fabric. Micro-porous membranes have been amongst us for a long time (pioneered by Gore-Tex), but with nanoporous membranes, The North Face seems to be taking porousness a step further. The North Face claims a breathability with a moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) of 75,000 g / m² / day. In comparison, the Gore-Tex Pro has an MVTR of 25,000 g / m² / day.

What the water column values are (which relate to the degree of waterproofness) are unknown to me at the time of writing. We will certainly speak to the North Face in Munich and ask about these.

Duurzaamheid

Ook op het gebied van eco-proofness / duurzaamheid legt The North Face een claim neer dat deze stoffen ongekend milieuvriendelijk zijn. Zelfs “the most sustainable three-layer garments ever produced by the brand through the use of recycled materials, non-PFC DWR, and working with partners who share a commitment to sustainability, responsible manufacturing, and eco-driven innovation,” Onder andere dus door gebruik te maken van PFC-Free DWR coatings. In onze gesprekken met Gore-Tex gaf dit bedrijf aan dat zij nog niet een extreem goed presterende PFC-Free DWR hadden gevonden, maar als we de claims van The North Face mogen geloven, dan is dit hen wel gelukt.

Expedition tested

The products and materials have been extensively tested by “climbers, skiers, alpinists, snowboarders and trail runners” from The North Face. Alpinist Jim Morrison climbed and skied three 8000-ers with Futurelight fabric, including Everest, Cho Oyu and he did the first ski descent of the Lhoste Couilor with his partner Hilaree Nelson. Fairly demanding conditions and activities, to say the least.

Available fall 2019

The Futurelight fabric will be used for the first time in products that will be on the market in autumn 2019. In addition, you will find these substances mainly in the high-end performance-oriented products of The North Face. We can not wait to test these products and share our experiences with you. To be continued!

As an after thought

I find it interesting to see how The North Face seems to have two faces; on the one hand, it is almost an urban fashion brand and on the other hand a high-end high-tech brand that continues to push the boundaries of outdoor gear. I am curious (and we will be sure to ask them) how the brand deals with that tension.

If they continue to make insane expeditions such as those of Jim Morrison possible, then we will be fine for the time being!

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Mark Stokmans
Since I can remember I have been very active in many different sports: started with baseball, tennis and riding later hockey, football, running and aikido. In addition, since twelve years old I've been into actionports: at first windsurfing, later climbing, inline skating, snowboarding, mountain biking. With the first action cams coming onto the market I've been making action sports videos. Furthermore, I've worked in the sports industry since 1990, sports marketing, media and live TV and until the end of 2016 at the Dutch Olympic Committee. Besides being partner in GearLimits I work as a digital freelancer. Based in the Netherlands, Married with Children (11 and 13 years old)

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