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North Face’s new waterproof fabric makes Gore-Tex look downright primitive

The North Face Futurelight
Image used with permission by copyright holder

CES 2019 isn’t exactly the place you would expect a groundbreaking material designed for use in outdoor apparel and equipment to make its debut. Nevertheless, amid all of the new high-tech gadgets, television sets, and Bluetooth speakers, The North Face revealed what promises to be a revolutionary fabric that could be a real game-changer. The outdoor gear manufacturer says that the new material — dubbed Futurelight — is not only the most waterproof and breathable fabric ever created, it is the most eco-friendly, too.

Waterproof fabrics have been a staple in the outdoor industry for years, with numerous options available for helping keep hikers, climbers, and backpackers dry even in a torrential downpour. Where those garments tend to fail, however, is in the area of breathability. That’s because waterproof fabrics, such as Gore-Tex or Pertex are excellent at keeping moisture out, but they aren’t always great at allowing it to escape. As a result, when an outdoor enthusiast begins to work up a sweat, condensation tends to form on the inside of their shell jacket simply because it can’t be vented out properly. This can often lead to him or her becoming just as wet and uncomfortable as if they hadn’t worn their waterproof jacket at all. Futurelight reportedly eliminates this problem by allowing the condensation to escape, eliminating it altogether.

To achieve this minor miracle, The North Face had to completely go back to the drawing board to design and create the new fabric. The company used a technique known as nanospinning to weave the fibers that make up Futurelight on a sub-microscopic level. This technique allowed the TNF designers to attach thinner membranes to a variety of existing fabrics, giving them the ability to adjust weight, stretch, and durability to meet their needs. The process also allowed them to incorporate nano-sized holes within the material itself, creating a high level of porosity. In short, they were able to create a fabric that lets air move freely through the fibers, while remaining waterproof at the same time.

The North Face Futurelight
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As impressive as Futurelight’s performance promises to be, that isn’t the only story here. The North Face says this fabric was created using completely recycled materials and uses a non-PFC DWR (durable water repellent) coating as well, making it the most eco-friendly material the company has produced. That extends to the manufacturing process, too, which uses sustainable practices to reduce waste and the amount of water used during production. In other words, Futurelight isn’t just going to keep outdoor athletes more comfortable during their active pursuits, the fabric is designed to have minimal impact on the planet.

The North Face’s team of adventure athletes have been testing Futurelight in the field for more than a year and their feedback has been instrumental in helping the company dial in the right level of performance. In fact, mountaineer Jim Morrison used garments made from the material on three 8,000-meter peaks last year, including Mount Everest. He and climbing partner Hilaree Nelson also used the fabric on their historic first descent of the Lhotse Couilor this past summer as well.

In a press release announcing Futurelight, Nelson, who is the TNF team captain, had this to say, “During the past two years, our world-class team of climbers, skiers, alpinists, snowboarders, and trail runners has been rigorously testing Futurelight across every discipline to prove this technology in varying weather conditions and climates all over the world.” She went on to add, “In all my years in the mountains, I’ve never experienced a product that moved and performed as well as Futurelight. It is creating a new paradigm for what I expect out of a waterproof material.” 

The North Face Futurelight
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Futurelight will begin making its way into North Face products in late 2019, first appearing in its more premium Summit Series, Steep Series, and Flight Series outdoor gear. However, because the material is easily refined for use in a wide variety of applications, the fabric is expected to eventually be incorporated across multiple product lines, including footwear and tents.

For more information visit The North Face’s official Futurelight website.

Kraig Becker
Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor writer who loves to hike, camp, mountain bike, trail run, paddle, or just about any other…
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