The North face launched Fuseform last year with the Fuse Uno jacket. The technology uses a single piece of fabric for the whole garment, but with variable weaves giving different fabric textures and properties in different areas. The Uno, we thought, was interesting but flawed - it had no hood adjustment for example - but the new Originator Jacket is a more sophisticated version giving a waterproof mountain jacket that weighs just 270 grammes.
- £260 / 270g (medium)
- 2.5-layer HyVent fabric using FuseForm construction
- Cordura yarns for added durability
- Adjustable helmet hood with laminated brim
- Harness and pack-friendly pockets and internal chest pocket
- Adjustabe cuffs and hem
Clever technology is all well and good, but what advantages does using a single piece of fabric to make a jacket have? Well, fewer seams and welded ones at that means less seam tape and that means less weight and bulk, which seems to be born out by the headline weight of just 270 grammes, measured, for a medium test jacket. Some of which is also down to the light, but tough-feeling 2.5 Layer HyVent fabric.
The added plus of FuseForm is that you can have different textures on the same piece of fabric. It's a bit like originami, the weave varies across the sheet of fabric, then its cut with fiendish cunning so the harder-wearing areas are used on the sleeves and shoulders for example. Finally, it looks great up close with the different fabric areas merging literally seamlessly.
The jacket's part of TNF's top-end Summit Series and it's cut neat and close and a medium sort of length. A really neat fit in fact, verging on almost tight across the chest, and definitely more sophisticated than last year's version. The sleeves have neater articulation too and the hood, a real weak point on the Fuse Uno is now adjustable from a single point at the rear.
It's still not, in all honesty, the best hood out there. Snug it up over a bare head and while it grips your noggin fine, the peak does precisely nothing, just lying flat over your forehead. It's actually much better with a helmet, which fits fine and provides its own frontal protection.
Overall it means the hood's less than ideal for use in rain with a bare head unless you add a cap or a helmet. It's a shame as The North Face can do hoods well when it wants to - see the UK-friendly Point Five Jacket for evidence - but FuseForm doesn't seem to lend itself to sophisticated hood design. Fine if you're planning on using it solely with a lid though. Or maybe if you're prepared to add a cap for extra peak protection.
The other obvious question mark is over the water-resistant, plastic-toothed zip which doesn't have a back-up storm flap. We've found zips like these generally pretty good, but we'd prefer the added insurance of a flap in really heavy rain.
A slightly uncompromising jacket - it's best used by helmeted climbers, probably as a lightweight stash and deploy supplement to a mountain soft shell - that's ironically still slightly compromised by its FuseForm technology which, we think, are the reason there's no storm-flap and the hood has no real peak to speak of.
That doesn't make it a bad jacket per se, but quite a specialist one rather than a general-purpose UK mountain jacket.