Lightweight mountain clothing, a revived Hedgehog, award-winning approach shoes and more from TNF next year.
Latest in our previews of new kit for spring 2013 straight out of OutDoor in Freidrichshafen this month, is a look at the new stuff from The North Face with a mix of ultra-lightweight climbing clothing and equipment, some interesting new shoes - the Hedgehog gets a makeoever - and more besides.
It's always hard covering new stuff from TNF simply because the range is so huge, that it's difficult to know where to begin, but here's a quick run-through of some of the stuff we thought was interesting. Hold onto your seats folks...
Verto Climb Collection
The new Verto stuff sort of follows on from the ultra-lightweight, Quantum GL Verto emergency shell which the brand launched last year. The way it was presented at the show was as a full lightweight climbing outfit with a total weight of less than 1500g. We weren't sad enough to do the adding up ourselves by the way, The North Face did it themselves.
The outfit consists of a windproof shell jacket with hood, a soft shell pant, a hybrid, insulated hoody and a cold conditions base layer top. Of course you don't have to buy the full outfit, which would cost you, erm, a smidgeon over £700, but you could and then you'd be able to impress people with your sub-1500g back story.
Anyway, the windproof shell is called the Anti-Matter Jacket (£300) and weighs just 319g. It's made from a mix of taped Gore Windstopper 3-layer Active Shell and 2-layer Active Shell. That should mean it's 100% windproof but also also very water resistant, certainly up to moderate rain and snow.
It has a 'climbing cut' and the hood has been designed to accommodate a helmet. It also has and we quote 'huge hybrid alpine pockets which also double as pit-zips'. Not quite sure how that works, but you should be able to carry things and vent along the way too. Oh, and the jacket at the show had a peak which was both laminated and wired. Hallelulujah...
Next in the collection is the Metor Pant (£140), a soft shell trouser - because we're British here - made from Pertex Equilibrium fabric. Equilibrium's great stuff. Not 100% windproof, but super breathable and very fast wicking, so a good choice for legwear.
It has a DWR for water resistance, plus stretch woven thigh and lower leg panels plus a Keprotec kick patch for crampon protection. One nice touch is that the waist has been deliberately cut low and shaped to work optimally with packs and harnesses, it says here. Weight is a claimed 454g.
Next up is the Verto Micro Hoodie (£190) which for some reason was hidden under the jacket, so you couldn't see that it's a hybrid thing using a mix of a fabric called FlashDry in the sleeve area combined with 800+ fill power down insulation over the torso.
There's an insulated collar for comfort and warmth plus a windproof hood. The down is housed in Pertex Quantum GL micro-baffles for minimum weight, with an overall claimed weight of just 245g. In really basic terms, we'd say it's kind of a down gilet but with a bit of added arm protection and a hood.
FlashDry is apparently an own-brand TNF material that uses permanently embedded micro-porous particles to improve wicking and speed up drying times. Sounds like it works a little like the excellent coconut-based Cocona then.
Finally, the Infiesto Full Zip (£75) is a winter weight base-layer top made from Polartec PowerDry with a very fine micro-gridded texture to it and a full-length zip - in other words it's a base-layer jacket, sort of... At 379g its not particularly light, but could also probably double as a very light mid-layer top over a thinner base layer tee if needed.
Verto Plasma Approach Shoe
Also brand spanking new is The North Face's first proper alpine approach shoe designed for walk-ins, scrambling, via ferratas and lock-ins... The Verto Plasma Shoe (£115) is reasonably light at 410g per shoe, but has been designed to cope with climbing loads and wear, so you get a full rand, sticky Vibram sole unit, a stiff plate underfoot for stability and a chunky heel counter to hold things steady out back.
The rand is rubber rather than lightweight PU as on the new walking boots and we're told that the fit is nice and close. If the lasting's as good as the mountain boots launched this spring, they should be spot on.
And speaking of boots, good news for women with a women's-specific Verto S4K in the pipeline for next year too.
New Hedgehog Guide GTX
The original Hedgehog walking shoe made lots of friends and now it's followed by the Hedgehog Guide GTX, a lighter, uprated version. The uppers are seamless welded things with a Gore-Tex lining and underfoot there's TNF's Cradle Guide mid-sole platform for stability and a Vibram outsole.
The bottom lines, says the brand, is that you get the biomechanics and lightweight responsiveness of a trail-running shoe mixed with the added protection and support you need for hiking in the form of more stability and tougher materials including a rubber toe-cap.
There are men's and women's versions, weights are 384g and 325g per shoe respectively. Looks are slicker than the old Hedgehog too, which you'll either like or not we guess.
Assorted Trekking and Hiking Things
Alongside all those, there are also plenty of new general trekking and hiking items with some neat new lightweight kit. We like the look of the Sentiero Pant (£75) a stretch woven shell, erm, trouser with a nice soft feel, DWR and a UPF factor of 50.
Then there's the lightweight Casimir 36 Pack (£120) which uses something called OptiFit for optimum fit, geddit? It's actually quite a cunning system, with adjustable shoulder pads and a unique hip-belt that's joined by Velcro and can be customised by moving the two halves of the belt relative to each other to fit you better.
And the back system itself has been lightened by placing foam only in five strategic places - where it's needed for comfort and support - then leaving the rest blank to increase airflow. Interesting, particularly if you're not an average shape or build we suspect. Weight is 1021 or 1049g depending on size.
All this stuff out in early 2013, current North Face range at www.thenorthface.com.