Future Gear! Peek Inside The North Face Products Lab

On a recent Wednesday in Alameda, Calif., in a messy product “lab” at The North Face’s new headquarters campus, a work group gathered around a pile of gear. The topic was innovation as well as subtle tweaks to the company’s 2014 product line.

I got a look at several off-the-record innovations that could change the way we recreate and explore outside (stay tuned for those!) but was also given permission to share a few photos of what’s to come for next year. Take a look below for insight on what The North Face sees as the future of outdoors gear in 2014, 2015, and beyond. —Stephen Regenold

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iPad In Your Tent — Like it or not, technology is becoming ubiquitous in the outdoors. A family tent for 2014, the Kaiju 6 model (pictured above), comes with see-through mesh pockets made to fit an iPad.

You can lie down in a sleeping bag and watch a movie. Cartoon-loving kids, we are betting, will be most into this upgrade to the family camping experience. Expected retail price: $399; Release date: January 2014

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Origami Jacket Design — It looks like a standard shell jacket. But the Fuse Uno Jacket was cut from a single piece of fabric then folded and stitched into shape intricately like a paper swan. The company showed me the production pattern for the Uno — the jacket begins its life as a single, flat sheet of fabric.

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The single-ply waterproof/breathable material, which also features two yarn types for varying durability and fabric weight throughout, requires less material waste and less seam tape to make. The result? One of the most minimal shell jackets ever seen. Expected retail price: $399; Release date: October 2014

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Divergent Sleeping Bag Design — The staple mummy-style sleeping bag still has its place. But going forward look to new shapes, different insulation types, zipper-less creations, and special features built to encourage comfort and warmth.

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One bag design I saw mixed goose down with a segmented synthetic layer of fill for warmth and performance where the fluff gets pressed flat against a sleeping pad. Below-zero rated bags will offer wider designs and more room to stretch out and even sleep on your stomach or side. Expected release dates: 2014 or 2015

Inside-the-Pack Climbing Gear Stowage — A to-be-released backpack for ice climbing gives slots for axes, ice screws, a rope, runners, and other gear inside its main compartment. A separate crampon pocket keeps the sharp footwear compartmentalized and away from other gear.

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An organized rack is the result of this un-named pack’s design, as well as a clean exterior for no-fuss, no-snag hikes into a crag or frozen icefall. Expected retail price: $199; Release date: Late 2014 or 2015

Fabric Art — Look close at this camouflage-like print and you’ll see the verisimilitude of rocks, chutes, and peaks, all courtesy of a The North Face photo shoot on an Antarctic trip. A new type of printing and product design makes this subtle art possible for riders in search of extra on-slope bling.

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The North Face will use this photo-based fabric on jackets and other outerwear in its freeski line next year. Expected retail price: Varies depending on outerwear; Release date: 2014

Venting Runners Jacket — Made to better utilize the airflow a runner generates as he or she moves, this cold-weather jacket, called the Stormy Trail, has elasticized cords hidden inside its hand pockets. When tugged the cords tighten a baffle and create a “flow chamber” of sorts to vent a runner in motion.

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It works by sealing off the waist, forcing air to rise up the back as a runner strides ahead instead of passing through and fluffing out the back. An open vent on the jacket’s back then lets the air and body heat escape, keeping a runner cooler and less-sweaty where needed on the move. Expected retail price: $165; Release date: July 2014

—Stephen Regenold is the editor and founder of GearJunkie.

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