To get Conrad Anker to the top of Wolf’s Tooth in Antarctica, The North Face developed nine pieces of custom cold weather gear. Here’s the scoop on the brand’s various new adventure-tested technologies.
In December 2017, The North Face sent a dream team of athletes to climb mountains in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. The squad, captained by Cedar Wright, included all-star climbers Alex Honnold, Conrad Anker, Savannah Cummins, Anna Pfaff, and Jimmy Chin.
The goal of Expedition Antarctica was to climb as many peaks in the Fenriskjeften massif, or “Wolf’s Jaw,” as possible. They climbed 15 peaks, including several first ascents and one solo. The expedition will be chronicled in a film at the end of 2018.
Upon the athletes’ return, Expedition Antarctica became the most celebrated TNF expedition in the past five years. And, as we learned, it produced some truly advanced gear.
Climbing Antarctica: Top Tech for Below Zero
The Wolf’s Jaw presented a unique climbing arena. Temperatures fell far below the functional range of most commercially available products. The team needed to understand the climate, temperature, and rock type to create the right kit.
The North Face developed nine pieces of gear specifically for this expedition. The brand integrated new technology into garments and packs to perform at the highest level in the coldest conditions.
We chatted with TNF’s product managers and designers to learn more about this custom gear – and the technologies that might soon be implemented elsewhere.
Until the eventual release of the products between fall 2018 and fall 2020, the brand said it will continue to modify the gear based on athlete feedback. While certain technologies will remain the sole product of Expedition Antarctica, others could trickle to market this fall.
Lighter, Stronger Base Camp Duffel
A staple of the brand, the Base Camp Duffel, needed retooling because of how its fabric responds to below-zero temps.
According to equipment designer Hunter Nordhauser, “Conrad brought up an interesting point. He said, ‘The Base Camp is great – the fabric is bomber. But at negative 30, negative 40 degrees, those things become stiffer than steel. So what if we make a lightweight version?'”
Designers created one with more pliable fabric without a laminate coating. The result was a lighter and more pliable duffel that still functioned when the temperatures plummeted.
Floorless Dome Tent
The North Face had never before created a 2-meter expedition dome without a floor. This simple touch allowed the team to craft staged seating and an elevated work area, effectively increasing the room of the same tent.
The floorless dome built on the brand’s expedition base camp tent, the 2-Meter Dome. Designers reworked its setup so it was more intuitive and glove friendly. The 2-Meter Dome also has new, sturdier zipper pulls that the brand expects to integrate into all packs and tents.
Inside, the team had enough room to dry clothing, utilize a kitchen, and relax comfortably. For sleeping, they brought along extra tents.
Synthetic Puffy Bib
The L6 Synthetic Bib, pictured on Honnold (right), kept the lower portions of athletes warm at camp. The North Face made these bibs exclusively for the expedition members. A lightweight and warmth-focused product, the L6 Insulated Bib drew inspiration from the brand’s Belay Parka.
The bibs used 10-denier lining for packability, synthetic insulation, and reinforced fabric at the knees, seat, and lower legs. The puffy bibs extend high over the torso for core insulation coverage.
Ventrix Hoodie Half-Zip
One of the athletes’ favorite pieces was the Ventrix 2.0 Hoodie Half-Zip. The design modified the 2017 Ventrix, which GearJunkie awarded Gear of the Year.
The 2017 Ventrix introduced a new kind of insulation with laser-cut vents that open during movement for breathability.
For climbing harness compatibility, the new Ventrix design changed from a full-zip to half-zip. Designers also got rid of the pockets and made it lighter.
The North Face Haul Bag
The Antarctica Haul Bag used a high-tenacity 2,000-denier “super-coated” fabric to withstand abuse and frigid conditions. The team nicknamed it “Beast Camp” fabric for its burliness. It used a cinch-style opening, as found on the brand’s Cinder Pack, that could be opened with gloves when it was freezing.
Note: The North Face only makes haul bags for expeditions and “prosumers.”
ThermoBall Bootie II
A camp favorite got an upgrade for expedition members. The new Thermoball Bootie II has increased insulation, more comprehensive waterproofing, and a more robust outsole.
The Bootie II was used around camp for lounging. TNF has upgraded this model, which puts the brand’s proprietary warm-when-wet insulation, Thermoball, right on top of your feet.
Film, Antarctica Gear Coming Soon
If you’re infatuated with Expedition Antarctica apparel, The North Face is having a limited run of the line this fall, patches and all.
And the film shot during the trip will be released at the end of the year. Stay tuned!