The North Face launches super-breathable Futurelight waterproof range

Bang new from The North Face this October is a waterproof shell technology called Futurelight – or in TNF speak FUTURELIGHT™ fabric – which is claimed to be a ground-breaking material for waterproof jackets and other clothing that combines massive breathability with light weight and long-term durability. On top of that, it’s also reckoned to be ‘industry-leading’ in terms of sustainability with face and back layers ‘made up of 90 percent recycled materials.

Spun By PU spiders
How does it work? The membrane technology is a spun PU layer which creates ‘nano-level holes’, which in turn can be sized precisely to allow vapour to escape, but prevent liquid water from penetrating the garment from the outside. The fabric’s been in development for several years and, says TNF, has been tested for more than 400 continuous days by 15 members of the brand’s global athlete team in temperatures ranging from -45˚C up to 15˚C. The fabric’s been used on Everest and Lhotse and team alpinist, Jim Morrison climbed, and skied three 8000 Meter peaks 2018, including Everest, Cho Oyu and the world’s first descent of Lhotse Couilor with his partner Hilaree Nelson wearing Futurelight clothing.

FUTURELIGHT’s membrane is a spun PU layer


Of course we’ve been here before with all sorts of waterproof fabrics and spun PU isn’t an entirely new technology – Polartec’s NeoShell is ostensibly quite similar – though TNF predictably claims their new material outperforms similar ones. We had a close-up look at some of the evaluation garments at the ISPO trade show earlier this year – see our report HERE – and what struck us was the lightness and softness of the fabric combined with lack of obvious signs of wear.

Off the record, we’ve been told that breathability – the ability to allow steamy fug out through the fabric – is in the same impressive ballpark as NeoShell, what remains to be seen though, is whether Futurelight is more durably waterproof with heavy use. The Himalaya is one thing, North Wales in November, something else altogether.

The L5 Summit Jacket is the first mountaineering jacket to use FUTURELIGHT


Mountaineering, skiing and running
For now Futurelight is being used in clothing only, but you can expect other applications in the future. It features in TNF’s Summit Series mountaineering kit, Steep ski collection and Flight Series lightweight running ensemble and can be seen and purchased direct from the North Face web-site, from TNF own brand shops and from selected outdoor retailers.

Check out the website and you’ll find an array of clothing options including both waterproof shell jackets and legwear and insulation garments using Futurelight outer fabric. As you’d expect it’s top-end stuff with prices ranging from £225 for the lightweight Futurelight Flight jacket through to £630 for the full-on Summit L6 Futurelight Down Belay Parka.

Its high breathability makes FUTURELIGHT ideal for running, skiing and climbing


How light is it? That Flight jacket is a claimed 254 grammes, which isn’t extraordinary. More impressive is the Summit L5 LT Futurelight Jacket (£400) a lightweight waterproof shell jacket at 340g. The more featured straight L5 Jacket complete with lots of pockets and a heavier gauge 70D fabric is around 660g.

It’s all very impressive on paper – and in digital of course – and if it lives up to the claims and gives NeoShell style comfort, but with more reliably durable waterproofing and lighter weight, it could be a bit of a game-changer. We’re looking forward to seeing just how well it copes with the UK’s dismal weather conditions this winter. Watch this space.

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