New FromTNF This Winter 2014
It's new season time with outdoor brands just releasing their new Autumn/Winter 2014 kit into the wild and we've been up to see the guys at The North Face for a quick preview of what's brand, spanking new this autumn with highlights ranging from the new Fuseform technology, which allows jackets to be made from a single piece of fabric, through to revised ThermoBall insulation and even super cool retro chic jackets for around town use.
We first met FuseForm at a big European trade show early this year and it's a really cunning bit of technology. In a nutshell, cunning manufacturing technology allows TNF to create a jacket from a single piece of fabric, but featuring different grades of material in different areas so you can have a heavier reinforced weave on, say, the shoulder area, and a lighter one on the chest, but without having to have a seam joining them.
Check out the main image and you can see the different textures and the seamless join between them. It's early days for the technology and it's developing for next year, but the new Fuse Uno jacket - right - is a lightweight mountaineering shell made using the process.
It's all stamped out of a single piece of 3-layer Hyvent fabric then folded and welded to form a jacket with reinforced areas. It's cut neat and close and weighs in at a claimed 351g. There are some compromises due to the process we think - the helmet hood lacks a proper rear volume adjuster for example and while there are two 'invisible' hand-warmer pockets, the small chest pocket is tiny and triangular.
Design is reckoned to be pack and harness friendly with neat touches like hidden draw cords for hem adjustment, It sells for £300 and to be fair, it's a bit of a statement jacket to showcase the technology. There's also a snowsports jacket called the Fuse Brigandine which looks blindingly good and next spring, the range is going to include sub-300g lightweight shell using 2.5-layer fabric and with a fully adjustable hood.
Point 5 NG Pant - Winter Legwear
The North Face supplied instructors at Glenmore Lodge with kit and has been working closely with them to improve and optimise gear to work in typically British conditions. One of the first beneficiaries of the process is the newly revised Point 5 Pant, a mountain shell pant made from Gore-Tex Pro.
Mods include more articulation at the knee to make high step-ups on winter routes easier. An inch has been added to the inseam, but the cuff of the pant has been reshaped so it's shorter at the front and curves over the top of a mountaineering boot - see images below - so it sits on the boot rather than bunching up.
There are also internal zipped gaiters designed to work with different sized winter boots thanks to a cunning Velcroed gusset panel which will fit anything from normal winter mountain boots through to full-on plastic ski mountaineering footwear.
The braces - TNF calls them 'suspenders', but we're going with braces - are another neat touch. Rather than clip on awkwardly front and back and rub under a pack, the new versions clip on to artfully concealed loops at the front only then loop back over the shoulders and back under the arms. Really neat and easy to use too.
And finally, there's a new flatter waistband - comfort lined inside - with a flat-profile buckle to reduce bulk when wearing the pant under a harness or pack. They genuinely seem like really well thought-out mountain legwear that should cope well in British winter conditions with a nice cut. They sell for £280.
Victory Hooded Jacket - Warm Synthetic Puffy
New this winter, the Victory Hooded jacket replaces the longstanding Redpoint Optimus. It's slightly heavier than the Redpoint at 490g and designed to fit over a shell jacket for belay and over-layering use. The filling is PrimaLoft's Silver Eco synthetic fibre, which works well in cold damp conditions.
It's been cut, says TNF, to work under a harness as well, so you could climb in it in really cold conditions if you need to. The hood and shoulders get a PU coating to add water resistance when that ice fall gets a bit drippy… Finally it packs away into its own pocket. Price is £180.
Lightweight HydroDown Jacket
There's loads of new down and other insulation out this winter and the new Quince - Spanish rather than a fruit if you were wondering - is the new micro-baffled lightweight down jacket in the range. It uses 800 fill power, water-repellent, goose ProDown and a lightweight rip-stop Nylon outer that's Bluesign certified.
There are three versions for both men and women, a Vest weighing 295g and selling for £160, a jacket at 360g and £190 and finally a hoody at 372g and selling for £210. Looks nice, feels decently warm rather than sacrificing warmth for weigh.
ThermoBall Jackets Revised
We really liked TNF's ThermoBall synthetic jackets which launched last year. They give down-like warmth, but with synthetic practicality, but the original versions had a slightly boxy cut that meant they didn't work as efficiently as they could and looked a little less than slick too.
The good news is that for this winter - as Penny demonstrates on the right - the cut has been revised for both men's and women's versions so they're more fitted, flattering and efficient in performance. The other big change is a revised cuff design which simply makes for a neater look at the wrist and great comfort too.
Lots of options and colours, the straight jacket is £150 while the hooded version, which would be our choice for mountain use, is £190. The tagline for the range is: 'Never one place, always one jacket'. Watch out for hybrid versions coming next year.
Granular Hooded Jacket - Nice Technical Fleece
Fleece maybe gets a little bit forgotten these days thanks to the onslaught of soft shells and synthetic insulation variants, but the new Granular Hooded Jacket looks like being a cracking all-round mountaineering garment. It's made from a micro fleece with a hard face outer, which means it's harder wearing than normal fleece, slightly more wind resistant and has a reassuring smooth outer surface.
It is, says TNF, 'engineered' fleece complete with a neat 'scuba hood' designed to fit under a helmet in a ninja style, Flash Dry stretch panels in the underarm area, thumb-loops and a cracking close technical fit. You could use it as an outer layer in stiller conditions or wear under a shell when things get gnarlier.
It weighs in at 490g and retails for £130 - not cheap for a fleece, but it's a versatile and very nice bit of kit. We have one in for a look, so more to follow on this.
TNF Goes Retro
Take it or leave it, but we like it, there's a new Heritage Collection with retro-styled garments from the 60s and forwards using modern materials and construction, but with a classic look. It's designed to worn around town rather than on the hill, so you can benefit from technology without looking like a refugee from Chamonix.
The top in the pics is the 1980 Hoodoo Re-Edition Jacket which uses an outer made from 62% cotton and 38% Nylon and a down filling for proper warmth. We reckon it looks brilliant in the camel colour pictured and it sells for £260. Proper cosy warm.
We really like the European-designed and manufactured Verbera boot range - it simply has a brilliant fit and a nice mix of lightness and support in our experience - so it's good to see a new addition, the Verbera Hiker II GTX, a solid three-season walking boot complete with Gore-Tex liner and a Vibram sole unit.
Plenty of technical stuff going on, with a moulded EVA mid-sole saving weight and adding cush, toe protection, and a fit that gives a mix of forefoot room and heel security based on past experience. Weight is around 1220g per pair - less for the women's versions - and we'd definitely add them to any three-season boot shopping list.
A couple of other models to look out for include the Ultra Hike GTX hiking shoe - the black one in the images - with fabric upper and Vibram sole unit and a decently light weight of 800g per pair. And then there's the scrambling come approach shoe, the Verto Plasma complete with sticky Vibram rubber sole and plenty of underfoot stiffness. Retail is £110.
All the above new stuff and the rest of the autumn/winter 2014 range at www.thenorthface.co.uk.