What's It For?
We reckon the clue is in the name - Point Five is one of the classic gulleys on Ben Nevis - and this is a UK-friendly mountaineering shell intended to cater for our cold, damp, wet and gnarly UK conditions, more of which in a bit...
The Techy Bits
The Point Five uses Gore-Tex's top-end, three-layer Pro Shell fabric with its tough, smooth-feeling woven backer which reduces weight, increases durability and improves mobility by sliding more easily over other layers.
The seams are fully taped using ultra-narrow seam seal tape to reduce weight and bulk. Zips are water-resistant YKK - not strictly waterproof, but generally effective.
How It Performed
For years the massive resource of The North Face empire has struggled to solve the last great problem of modern mountaineering - how to create a North Face jacket with a hood peak acceptable to British mountaineers.
Year after year they promised stiffer peaks and year after year, the reality was a series of floppy visors that drooped in the face of British weather. Well not any more, the Point Five has a very stiff laminated peak which is reinforced by what at first sight looks like a wired brim, but is actually some sort of plastic or nylon rod.
Regardless, this is the first North Face shell jacket we've used with an acceptably stiff peak, which can only be a good thing. In fact the hood is all-round decent with helmet compatability and even reasonable facial side protection. It moves with your head and, we're going to say it again, the peak is good and stiff, virtually rigid in fact.
It's not perfect though, the ends of the adjuster cords aren't captive and although it didn't happen to us, we think they might give you a bit of a whipping in really high winds. There's too much cord there anyway, so you could always trim them down.
Of course there's more to a jacket than just the hood and the rest of the Point Five is also pretty good. Cut is slightly longer than the TNF norm giving decent crotch protection, fit is generous enough to fit a fleece underneath, but not billowy and the big Napoleon chest pockets swallow maps and more.
One detail we found a bit irksome were the adjustable hem and waist cords. The adjusters sit in the pockets and are identical bar a knot in one which makes it annoyingly easy to adjust the wrong one. And to be honest, the waist cord is pretty much superfluous anyway.
The pockets have stretch mesh liners so they work well for venting - sleeves roll up as well - but we know some buyers will be suspicious of the water-resistant zips, which are backed with a strip of waterproof fabric, but could seep a little in really heavy rain as the jacket flexes. We'd stress that it didn't happen to us and we wouldn't expect more than a very small amount of water ingress in the worst case.
We like the light, easy to wear, flexible fabric, though it's not quite as breathable as some. Ideally we'd like to see reinforced shoulders for heavy pack use, though it would add a small weight penalty. As it stands, the weight of bang on 500g is right in the ballpark for a lightweight-ish mountain shell.
We're still in shock at finding a North Face jacket with a peak that actually works, which means - in combination - with the decent length, state of the art fabric and middle-man cut, this is a very competent UK conditions shell jacket.
It's not without minor flaws - the hood cords for one and the confusing hem and waist shock cord adjusters - but overall it's an effective winter mountain shell that we'd happily use in British conditions. And did we mention that the hood works?
Buy if you're looking for a North Face mountain shell that has a hood with a properly-stiffened peak capable of coping with British weather.