This is a close-fitting mid layer designed to offer warmth without weight and also temperature regulation during high tempo activities like climbing and ski touring. Part of The North Face’s Summit Series, it’s intended as part of a multi-garment layering system, one designed to serve as a suit of armour of sorts – with wet weather protection, comfort and performance in mind.
I’ve been using this for all kinds of activities on and off the mountain, including on a ski trip in northern Italy, winter running in my local hills and just for day-to-day living.
Materials, Design and Performance
The Futurefleece has a flat face polyester knit exterior that is designed to withstand a bit of abrasion. On the inside, there’s a grid system made up of little tufts of synthetic fleece separated by channels that are designed to allow hot, moist air from your body to escape. If you’re familiar with Polartec Power Grid, this is the same sort of thing – there’s very little separating them. 50% of the polyester used throughout the garment is derived from recycled materials.
Since getting my hands on this, I’ve found myself turning to it regularly as it gives a nice insulation boost that’s really easy and comfortable to layer over. With The North Face’s mid weight Casaval synthetic insulated jacket over the top, I’ve found it creates just about the same level of warmth that I’d get wearing a junky winter coat.
I’ve also liked using it as a winter running top. I’ve found it’s the kind of thing I can complete an entire run in without wanting to remove it and, on cold and wet days, it pairs really well with a lightweight rain jacket over the top.
There are small thumb loops which are useful for those colder days, the hood has an elasticated rim and fits comfortably under a climbing helmet and there’s a small concealed pocket on the chest that will hold a smartphone. That’s about it for details, which is understandable for a minimalist-type mid layer like this.
Fit and Feel
I’m 5 foot 10, fairly slim and I nearly always fit a men’s size M across all brands. This, however, has been a little on the tight side in a medium for me, particularly under the armpits. I think it’s designed for people with quite small shoulders. As such, my advice, if you want something that doesn’t feel too tight, is to size up with this – that’s unless you have a very slim profile.
Can you wear it against the skin without a baselayer? I’ve tried this a few times and found the fleece got quite itchy and uncomfortable. I’d say your best bet is to wear it over a thin baselayer t shirt.
Aside from being a little on the tight side under the arm pits for me, my only other gripe is that the main zip is very small, a bit fiddly and it can be hard to undo at times, especially with cold hands. All in all, however, this is a versatile insulation piece that I think can genuinely enhance a day out in the hills when you’re going at high tempos.
Best for: climbing, skiing, hiking and winter running
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