Unusual mountain windproof with bells on from The North Face.
Every so often something rolls up that properly has us scratching our heads, in this case, 'something' is The North Face's new Alpine Project Wind Jacket, which is not quite like anything we've come across before...
It's Not A Jacket...
For a start, the Alpine Project Wind Jacket isn't a jacket at all, it's actually a Pullover and an unusual one at that. You're probably looking at the images and thinking, 'big deal, a windproof hooded smock with some pockets, so what?'
Except that it's a bit more involved than that. Sure, the outer layer is micro rip-stop, windproof Nylon with a water-shedding DWR treatment, but turn the thing inside out and you realise that the trunk and back area are lined, body-mapped even, with a lightweight, micro-velour - so 70s - fabric which also runs over the tops of the shoulders and adds insulation.
But It Is Bodymapped
Which is no big deal, but things get odder in the remainder of the jacket where it's composed of two layers of the windproof fabric with an air-gap between them. When we popped up to see TNF in Staveley a little while back, they implied that the double layer of fabric would trap more air, but in reality, we suspect it's partly that way to save a little weight and make the top easier to pull on over other layers with less restriction once it is in place.
Plus it's joined to the micro-velour, which probably makes construction easier and an inner jacket, outer jacket, join them together sort of way. If you really wanted more insulation in that area, you'd add some PrimaLoft to trap the air we reckon, see TNF's own lightweight Zephyrus Pullover.
Windproof On Steroids
So... what you have, is a lightish - 350g for a medium - alpine windproof with a bit of extra insulation in key areas and a helmet hood plus two big harness-friendly chest pockets and a deep, venting zip. You could happily use it for a bit of extra insulation stowed in your mountain walking pack or equally deploy it on a big mountain rock route or alpine mission as a sort of lightweight belay top. The single-cord adjustable hood sits happily over a helmet, though it may not quite fit your chin as well, but also works fine without. And the Nylon rather than polyester fabric, should make it reasonably tough too and it does feel that way.
Incidentally, the hood is pretty much the only adjustable bit opening, hem and cuffs both rely on simple Lycra to save weight and complexity.
So, unusual and interesting. We're thinking a sort of windproof on steroids scenario and right now, we have no idea how well it'll work or not particularly those double windproof areas - it's not as if they'll make the jacket twice as windproof is it.
The Alpine Project Wind Jacket - which is actually an anorak or a pullover or a smock - weighs 350g and retails for £100. It's also available in black as well as the 'Ludwig Blue' pictured.
More info at www.thenorthface.com.