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The North Face Unveils Revolutionary New Waterproof Fabric at CES

The North Face has announced the development and imminent release of FutureLight, a fabric they're saying will "revolutionize the future of technical fabrics." TNF plans on transitioning all of its higher-end waterproof outerwear to FutureLight, though it will still offer lower price-point items with DryVent and lifestyle apparel with Gore fabrics.  

Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson wearing FutureLight fabric on Lhotse.  Dutch Simpson photo.

Related: Beacon Fundamentals

The video doesn't really tell us a whole lot about the technology's performance. If you're anything like us, you're likely asking "How does FutureLight stack up against the competition in terms of waterproofing and breathability?"  Short answer: We don't entirely know yet.  Long answer: In terms of breathability, FutureLight will be the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market by a long shot.  However, we're not entirely sure how waterproof it will be.  If it exceeds the 20k standard (explained here), it will be an exciting fabric indeed.  

FutureLight's breathability compared to some of the top waterproof fabrics on the market (all exceeding 20K mm).  Sources: eVent, Gore Technologies, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face

Hopefully we'll get some test results regarding FutureLight's waterproofing in the near future. Here's the full press release: 

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- In Las Vegas today, The North Face unveiled FUTURELIGHT™, a new breathable waterproof material set to revolutionize the future of technical fabrics. Developed using innovative Nanospinning technology and sustainable practices, it is the most advanced breathable-waterproof outerwear material available.

"Right now, the expectation from a waterproof product is something loud, crunchy, muggy and unpackable. With FUTURELIGHT we can theoretically use the technology to make anything breathable, waterproof and for the first time, comfortable," Global General Manager of Mountain Sports at The North Face Scott Mellin said. "Imagine a waterproof t-shirt, sweater or even denim that you actually want to wear. Today we start with jackets, tents and gloves, but the possibilities could be endless."

With FUTURELIGHT technology, The North Face is also setting a new standard in sustainability through new practices in the fabric creation process. These advances have allowed the brand to responsibly create three-layer garments through use of recycled fabrics and production that cuts chemical consumption, all while being produced in a cleaner, solar-powered factory.

Pioneering Technology

The Nanospinning process used to create FUTURELIGHT fabric, has allowed the brand's designers to add unprecedented air permeability into the membrane of a fabric for the first time. The process creates Nano-level holes, allowing for incredible porosity while still maintaining total waterproofness, letting air move through the material and provide more venting than ever before.

Additionally, Nanospinning gives designers the ability to adjust weight, stretch, breathability, durability, construction (knit or woven), and texture to match athletes' and consumers' activity or environment. Designers can customize the fabric for specific usage, for example, by increasing breathability in garments for aerobic pursuits or increasing protection for harsh, wet climates. The ability to adjust these factors in fabric construction is unprecedented in apparel, equipment and accessories.

"Disruption is one of the key elements in the DNA of The North Face brand. It is what our company was founded on and, to this day, we still believe that disruption is the key to future growth," Mellin said. "Our teams are constantly thinking about the future of our product technology portfolio and how we can push the limits to create the next best innovation for our athletes and consumers, which is how FUTURELIGHT came to life and why it will forever change what consumers expect from their product."

Athlete Tested

FUTURELIGHT fabric was born in the mountains, inspired by The North Face global team of athletes looking for increased performance and breathability in their waterproof gear. The material has since been tested extensively by the brand's global athlete team and is expedition proven through use in the highest peaks and harshest environments, including the Himalayas' Lhotse and Everest.

While testing FUTURELIGHT fabric The North Face 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.

"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," Nelson, The North Face athlete team captain, said. "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."

Beyond The North Face athletes internal testing labs, the brand worked with third-party independent experts including UL (Underwriters Laboratories) a world-renowned safety certification testing organization, to push the limit of the FUTURELIGHT fabric. UL predominately tests waterproofing for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an organization that certifies first responder gear for firefighters, EMS and hazmat responders. The test methods developed were 50 percent more stringent than the current standard for the Outdoor Industry.

"The liquid integrity test for FUTURELIGHT is even more extreme compared to the NFPA testing that UL conducts, proving FUTURELIGHT is not only totally waterproof, but also fit for the harshest expeditions the outdoors has to offer," Michael Seward of Underwriters Laboratories said.

The FUTURELIGHT™ Experience: Las Vegas 2019

Unveiled at the world's largest technology show, The North Face partnered with world-renowned design agency Designworks, a BMW Group Company, to create physical and virtual reality experiences to demonstrate the array of FUTURELIGHT fabric's technical capabilities, and potential to change how humans are protected from the elements. FUTURELIGHT fabric will first become available to consumers in The North Face's Fall 2019 product line and will be featured across the brand's pinnacle performance collections.

To learn more, visit thenorthface.com/FUTURELIGHT

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