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The North Face reinvented rain gear with a groundbreaking performance fabric that breathes

FUTURELIGHT is soft, breathable, and waterproof—and made of 90% recycled materials.

The North Face reinvented rain gear with a groundbreaking performance fabric that breathes
[Photo: courtesy of the North Face]

One of the North Face’s best innovations was thought up in the Rocky Mountains. Fitting, right? It started when TNF athlete Andres Marin and Global GM of Performance Sports Scott Mellin were out hiking, and consistently taking off and putting back on layers as the weather changed. “You’re forced to adjust all day to stay warm and dry without sweating or overheating when the sun comes out,” Mellin says. “It can be time-consuming—and at times unsafe. At the end of our climb, Andres turned to me and asked ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to take off our shells?'”

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Two years after that conversation, TNF introduced FUTURELIGHT, a proprietary fabric developed to be soft, breathable, and—most importantly—waterproof. It consists of 90% recycled material and has a Non-PFC DWR treatment (translation: it’s made with a water-resistant coating that is a lot less bad for humans, animals, and the environment than traditional petroleum-based DWR coatings).

[Photo: courtesy of the North Face]
Traditionally, waterproof materials have forced wearers to choose one: either stay dry and lose breathability, or the opposite. FUTURELIGHT—thanks to its unique nanospinning process, which allows tiny, air molecule-size pockets to be woven directly into the fabric (but are too small to allow water to pass through)—promises to be the one fabric to truly deliver on the trifecta of all the capabilities to make long-lasting, comfortable, waterproof gear. The process also provides the North Face designers the ability to adjust the weight, stretch, breathability, durability, construction, and texture of any fabric, whether the end product is athletic shoes that can handle sloppy days in the city and weekend hikes (like the Ultra Fastpack IV FUTURELIGHT, $150), stylish urban parkas (City FUTURELIGHT Parka, $349), or the almost-too-cool 7SE jacket and pant combo ($349 and $299, respectively).

After FUTURELIGHT’S debut last fall, TNF quickly followed it by rolling out new tech and product innovations that not only improve wearer experience, but also lessen the effect of manufacturing and consumerism on the planet. The DRT collection (which stands for: Durable, Repairable, Timeless) is the brainchild of TNF snowboarder Austin Smith. The collection includes a down mid layer, shell jacket, and ski/snowboard pants—each of which is unisex, available in classic colors (khaki or red), and comes with a patch kit, so that wearers can repair their kit as necessary—instead of throwing it out and buying new.

In 2020, TNF is releasing four other new, proprietary technology and construction innovations, including Cloud Down (a down insulation—for things like puffy jackets) and FutureFleece (a full-loop fleece construction). Those pieces aren’t available for sale yet, but here are some of our favorite current TNF designs:

[Photo: courtesy of the North Face]
The Thermoball Collection
“We converted our largest product franchise—the Thermoball collection—to 100% recycled materials in Fall 2019,” Mellin says. “I am super proud of this move towards maximum sustainability.” And we can vet that these puffies are top-notch warm, comfy, and packable.

[Photo: courtesy of the North Face]
The Ventrix Collection
Meet your new favorite lightly insulated layer. It’s buttery, it has a clean look that doesn’t scream “I hike!” and it’s perfect for those in-between cold and warm days. “I never take it off,” Mellin says.

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[Photo: courtesy of the North Face]
The Summit Series
L5 LT Jacket and Pant are my personal favorite shell styles,” Mellin says. “They’re super soft, light and highly breathable.”And they’re made with FUTURELIGHT, meaning that they are made with 90% recycled material.

Looking for more all-weather apparel and gear? Check out our other handpicked suggestions.

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