Is it too early to be thinking about what gear we’ll be in next spring? Heck no. Especially when The North Face offers us an opportunity to hang out in sunny Boulder, Colorado with some of their pro athletes who helped design the gear. So, that’s what we did.
The North Face has always had a strong expedition focus. Their Himalayan Suits and VE-25 tents are ubiquitous at base camps around the globe. But, they’re looking to expand their customer base and bring into the fold urban dwellers who get out to the mountains for recreation – weekend warriors! The North Face has also been very winter-focused. So, they approached the Spring 2017 lineup with two goals in mind: warmer season gear and mountain athletics.
The Homestead lineup, introduced last year with a shelter, sleeping bag, and tent is their attempt to draw the urban kids into the woods. Next year, they add a new tent (which we didn’t get to see) and the Snacklebox Duffel (which we saw, but forgot to photograph). The Snacklebox is about the size of a medium Base Camp duffel, but is split into two compartments. One is for gear. The other can also be for gear, but its foam insulation makes it much better for beverages. It also comes with a bottle opener. Do the math.
One of the unique features of the Homestead collection is the printed graphic patterns. TNF will offer 3-4 new patterns for 2017 so you can personalize and match all your pieces. Think of it as the technical version of granny’s luggage.
Some exciting stuff happening here. The North Face looked at the maximalist shoe movement and thought, how can we make this better? The answer is called XTRA Foam.
TNF will introduce a lightweight hiker, the Enduras Hike mid, and a running shoe, the Enduras TR. Both will feature the XTRA Foam system, which combines a low durometer foam center with a higher durometer foam outer rim. The soft core gives you max cushioning while the rim keeps everything stable and under control.
We were the only ones who got to try on the hiker. It’s surprisingly cushy, but didn’t feel unstable. It also features all of the technical aspects of normal TNF hikers, but with an updated aesthetic that we sort of like.
The North Face will introduce the Progressor lineup for 2017. It features four layers – base, mid, puffy, and shell – designed to be combined to cover all possible weather while climbing.
The base layer features Polartec Powerwool, a 30% merino blend. TNF uses a snap-henley style to avoid zipper stacking. That’s not a weird design in the picture, just a prototype. The fabric has a soft hand, but with an interesting texture on the inside which we assume is for wicking.
Over the base, TNF gives you a hard-face fleece mid-layer. Fabric is again from Polartec. This time, The North Face uses their proprietary Fuseform construction to add strength to high wear areas.
For even chillier days, there’s a puffy layer. The torso is insulated with Primaloft Gold. Arms are a stretch woven material with laser-perforated pits for ventilation. The hood fits under a helmet.
Finally, the most exciting piece. Somehow, TNF convinced Gore to allow them to create a proprietary, Fuseform face fabric. Gore simply does not do that! But, it was a good idea – TNF claims the upper section of the jacket has twice the tear strength of the lower, lighter fabric, but with no seams at the transition. You also get Gore’s latest Cknit backer.
Last, but not least, gear! Two new sleeping bags for 2017: the Hyper Kazoo and Hyper Cat. If you’re familiar with TNF’s bag lineup, you’ll recognize the Blue Kazoo and Cats Meow as their two mainstay, 20° bags that have been around forever. What does Hyper mean? It means they used Fuseform technology to eliminate the baffle seams on the Hyper Kazoo. Read that again! They Hyper Kazoo will weigh 1lb 15oz when it arrives.
The Hyper Cat takes synthetic to a new level. It will be the lightest 20° synthetic bag on the market when it arrives. The North Face used an insulation sandwich – continuous, cut, continuous – to get the stability and durability of continuous filament insulation with the weight and packability of cut fiber. Who knows if it’s true, but they told us the Hyper Cat will actually gain loft after the first wash.
We also got to see the updated version of the Cinder pack, designed with input from the illustrious Alex Honold, of Dawn Wall fame.
There are a few other things we can’t talk about yet, but trust us when we say that they’re really cool. Most of this stuff will be officially introduced at OR Summer in August. Keep an eye out!