Lightweight Gore Windstopper mountain shell with strategically taped seams that make it 'almost waterproof'.
The new for 2013 Norh Face Anti-Matter Jacket could be desribed as 'almost waterproof', which sounds ridiculous, but hear us out first...
Which Active Shell?
It's part of TNF's top-end technical Summit collection of kit and is a 305g - in a medium - mountain shell jacket that's made from Gore Windstopper Active Shell, which is the lightest Windstoppper fabric Gore produces and not to be confusd with Gore-Tex Active Shell, which is a fully waterproof fabric.
So it's a windproof jacket right? Except that Windstopper uses Gire's TPFE membrane, just like the waterproof fabrics, and the material itself is effectively waterproof. Normally though, Windstopper isn't taped, so the seams leak, but in this case most of them are taped.
Those include alll the most obvious leak points, like the side seams of the trunk, the yoke and shoulders and all the sleeve seams. But just to confuse things, the hood and its join to the main jacket isn't taped and neither are a couple of seams low down at the front.
Which is why we're going with 'almost waterproof'. The bottom line we think, is that the jacket should cope with all but really heavy rain when the seams will eventually leak and, more importantly, it should cope just fine in the high mountains where snow and wind are the issue rather than British deluge conditions.
The pay-off should be significantly better breathability than a similar fully waterproof jacket, but stilll a high level of water resistance. It should be spot on for proper mountain conditions with snow and cold, but we also reckon it could work really well in lieu of a lightweight mountain waterproof in the UK - light and packable, but breathable enough to wear as a windproof and capable of keeping off anything but really heavy rain. Or that's the theory.
The jacket itself is a neat, alpine-style sort of thing. It's cut longer than you might expect giving decent crotch protection and isn't super snug giving more internal volume than some, so should fit fine over most base and mid-layer combinations for most people.
The detailings rather nice too. There are pit-zips, water-resistant ones, which also give access to big, mesh-lined, venting pockets complete with adjuster cord pulls for the hem, with invisible 'penny' cord grips hidden away. A double zip pull means you can choose to vent just your pits - there's mesh there too to stop gaping - or just your torso, or both.
The hood is a proper, big, helmet-compatible fella with - glory be - an impressively stiff peak with wire reinforcement that feels like it should give decent protection in windy conditions and seems unlikley to invert. It also has enough adjustment to cope with a bare head too, though the rear cord release seems like it will be a bit fiddly to use with gloved hand.
Talking of hands, cuffs are adjustable too and sleeves can be rolled up over the fore-arms to allow a bit more on the go cooling.
Finally, although it's all Windstopper, TNF uses two grades. There's a tougher micro rip-stop Nylon-faced one on the shoulders and outsides of the sleeves with a tougher backer too, while the remainder is a lighter fabric with a smoother inner, which reminds us a bit of Gore-Tex Paclite's backer.
It's clearly not designed as a super-durable, Scottish-style mountain shell - if it were, it wouldn't weigh 305 grammes or use Windstopper fabric - but may well turn out to be tougher than you might expect, we shall see.
But Not Cheap
Finally, brace yourselves, for an 'almost waterproof' jacket it's savagely expensive at a suggested price of £300, but the combination of very breathable fabric, high levels of weather protection, light weight, helmet compatibility and massive venting options may well float a few boats that other jackets pass by.
Finally, there's also a women's version with the same features, spec and a claimed weight of just 289g and, you guessed it, the same price tag too.
More details at www.thenorthface.com.