The North Face introduced the Advanced Mountaineering Kit at the Outdoor Retailer show this winter, and it blew our minds. We got a first look at this pinnacle equipment package on a ski tour near Aspen, Colorado.
From new fabric technologies to a completely new way to design high-altitude mountaineering footwear, the Advanced Mountain Kit (AMK) from The North Face is among the most refined equipment lines we’ve seen.
At its simplest, the kit is an apparel and equipment line for high-altitude mountaineering’s elite. But that simplification glosses over 2 years of research and development. And it overlooks the integration that sees each item as critical in specific situations on the mountain.
Oh, and the whole kit costs about $15,000! That includes a tent, sleeping bag, footwear, and a suite of apparel and outerwear made for any peak on the planet.
GearJunkie founder Stephen Regenold and I traveled to Aspen, Colorado, to meet with Scott Mellin, VP of Global Mountain Sports at The North Face, and guide Nate Rowland for a test of the TNF AMK line. It was the first review by anyone outside the company. Read on for our initial impressions.
The North Face AMK: First Look Review
It’s about 2 p.m. on a Saturday, and the sun is powerful for the winter in Colorado. I’m climbing hand-over-foot up a steep summit ridge above 12,000 feet. In front of me, Regenold, Mellin, and Rowland balance their way through post-hole steps and loose rock as we near the summit.
Even though temps aren’t below freezing, Regenold wears an insulated puffy stuffed with 1,000-fill down. It’s the most versatile puffy jacket we’ve seen (more on this below). I have on a heavy fleece layer set and shell pants.
In most situations, I’d call both of us overdressed. But this is gear testing and a perfect way to get a feel for some of the claims surrounding the apparel and outerwear of the AMK.
Heading Up the Mountain
I donned several pieces of apparel for the skin track. Starting closest to the skin, I wore the AMK L2 Pullover and Pant. These fleecy, midlayer-style garments felt good on the skin and offered my main insulation for a temperate mountain day. At $400 and $300, respectively, these are likely the most expensive midlayers on the planet.
What do you get for that price? The North Face packs in some wild tech, including full-loop fabric construction made with octagonal-shaped yarns with hollow cross-sections. The point is to provide high thermal performance at a light weight.
I found the layer, which I wore against my skin, soft and comfortable. TNF designed it to quickly pull moisture to the outside of the garment and dry super fast. And I never noticed any moisture buildup from sweat (which I did a lot due to the warm temps).
We pressed TNF about the pricing. The company explained that products in the Advanced Mountain Kit use expensive manufacturing and the most premium fabrics and trims “to ensure maximum performance at minimum weight.” The limited development also means fewer efficiencies and cost benefits of bulk purchasing, adding to the overall cost of each piece.
Indeed, from the $400 L2 Pullover top on up, each piece is something of a “concept car” for the company. TNF was not going for the mass market, and price control is not the object. The fabrics and designs unveiled here push boundaries and offer a new take on what mountaineering apparel can be.
Mellin described a shift over the past few years. Mountaineers move faster in the high peaks, and in some regions, glaciers are receding and temps are warmer. Better gear, better training, and even niche products like hypoxic tents have changed the paradigm. The AMK line is a response to the new variables of the climbing world.
On the peak near Aspen, for shells, I wore the Summit AMK L5 FUTURELIGHT Jacket and Pant. They protected against wind and moisture, and both were highly air-permeable, breathable, and seam-sealed. A special make of the FUTURELIGHT fabric with more mechanical stretch was manufactured for these pieces.
They come in at a premium price of $1,000 for the jacket and $750 for the pant. The kit worked flawlessly in the mild conditions of the day. Skinning uphill, I alternated between wearing the L2 top alone and with the L5 shell. I wore the shell pants and L2 midlayer pants the whole way up. I stayed dry all day despite sweat and exertion in the sun.
We were on the mountain for about 4 hours. While this was a brief test for a kit meant for major mountain assents, our initial feedback is that the TNF AMK is indeed a dialed kit. Fit, function, and breathability are exceptional. Nothing was cumbersome, and the kit felt extremely light considering the apparel is for big mountains and serious ascents.
AMK L3 Pullover Hoodie: The Puffy Refined
Regenold opted to wear a next-level insulating piece for most of the uphill skin. The Summit AMK L3 Pullover Hoodie is not a normal puffy. It’s a lightweight insulated jacket unlike anything we’ve seen. Insulation comes from premium, 1,000-fill goose down in horizontal baffles. Its thin ripstop fabric has a metalized finish, adding thermal performance by reflecting body heat.
It gets stranger from there. The jacket’s fit and feel fall between a belay jacket and a windbreaker. Then there’s the 50/50 Down technology designed with gaps between each down tube, allowing for airflow via the semi-permeable fabric.
Regenold wore the $1,000 piece almost all day. He never overheated; the piece did its job regulating throughout a range of temperature and heart-rate zones.
Onto the Summit Ridge
We boot-packed the last few hundred yards to tag the summit. Then we transitioned to downhill mode and prepped for a steep descent to the valley floor. I took a couple falls on the way down, the variable snow snagging my edge. Mellin sliced ahead, dropping out of sight in the trees.
An hour later, we were back at the car, a steep and deep descent under our belts and smiles all around. Regenold looked down at his jacket with disbelief.
“I forgot I was wearing this puffy!” he exclaimed. Mellin nodded in agreement, noting that when the gear is right, you forget it exists.
And in many ways, our first experience with the AMK reflected success in that goal.
The North Face set a high bar with the AMK. It’s a highly focused product line for a niche of high-performing mountain athletes. And it carries a hefty price tag. But the fabrics, function, and the new approaches it offers to mountaineers make it unique in the industry.
Below are details of the AMK products as provided by The North Face. Please note that GearJunkie has not yet tested most of the line. In addition, some of these products will only be available for professional TNF athletes.
For the rest of us, the AMK line comes to market this spring. Check out more details in anticipation of the launch here.
The North Face Advanced Mountain Kit
Summit AMK L6 Parka ($1,500) & Pant ($1,000)
This is a highly insulated down parka made with proprietary Cloud Down insulation. Built with 1,000-fill ProDown, this unique technology has “discontinuous offset baffle construction, with asymmetrical inner and outer layers, creating maximum space for the down to loft while keeping the lining close to the skin.”
Paired with the Cloud Down technology, the AMK L6 Parka and Pant also have a metalized fabric finish on the lining for increased thermal performance with minimal weight.
Summit AMK L5 FUTURELIGHT Jacket ($1,000) & Pant ($750)
TNF built this waterproof-breathable shell jacket and pant to withstand extreme conditions with FUTURELIGHT technology, providing enhanced air permeability and mobility in the AMK layering system. These layers are seam-sealed.
Summit AMK L3 Pullover Hoodie ($1,000) & Pant ($700)
The first down layers of the AMK system are the L3 Pullover Hoodie and Pant. They use the new 50/50 Down technology and extremely high-end 1,000 Fill Pro-Down. The point is ultra-packable, lightweight insulation that allows for increased airflow during aerobic activity in extreme environments.
The AMK L3 Pullover Hoodie and Pant’s down tubes have a metalized fabric finish for increased thermal performance with minimal weight.
Summit AMK L2 Pullover ($400) & Pant ($300)
This performance fleece layer has full-loop fabric construction with “octa-yarns.” The octagonal-shaped yarns with hollow cross-sections give higher thermal performance than typical yarns. The Pullover has a stretch-knit buff integrated into the hood for added warmth and wind protection for the head and face in extreme conditions and a front half-zip to dump heat while on the ascent.
Summit AMK L1 Crew ($200) & Pant ($150)
This active base layer works with the climber by pulling moisture from the skin and expelling it to the outside of the garment with the use of hydrophobic inner fabric, a hydrophilic outer layer, and strategically engineered holes throughout.
Summit L5 FUTURELIGHT Down Mitt: $165
Ultralight and packable, yet incredibly warm, this 1,000-fill ProDown mitt has aluminum-treated 10-denier fabric, FUTURELIGHT panels, and extensive testing above 6,000 m.
Summit L4 FUTURELIGHT Shell Mitt: $400
The extremely lightweight 20-denier FUTURELIGHT shell mitt can be used over all AMK gloves or mitts. It can be worn on its own while wallowing or in combination with all other handwear to enhance waterproof-breathable protection.
Summit L3 FUTURELIGHT Climb Glove: $375
Combining a long gauntlet, 10-denier FUTURELIGHT shell with a leather hand, the L4 provides a balance of warmth, protection, and dexterity. For mountaineering, TNF calls this the ultimate in a single-solution glove.
Summit L2 Insulated Climb Glove: $350
With a pure focus on dexterity and tool feel, the L2 glove offers lightweight protection and maximum grip, but also an 80g insulation package on the back of the hand for warmth in colder climates.
Summit L1 Climb Glove: $300
The L1 glove offers lightweight protection and maximum grip via a new palm fabric.
Summit L5 FUTURELIGHT Down Bootie (Athlete Only)
Designed for sleeping, the ultralight, packable, incredibly warm, 1,000-fill ProDown bootie has aluminum-treated 10-denier fabric, FUTURELIGHT panels, and extensive testing above 6,000 m. TNF calls it “the ultimate for alpinists.”
Summit L4 FUTURELIGHT Shell Bootie (Athlete Only)
Designed for the base camp, the extremely lightweight 20-denier FUTURELIGHT shell mitt can be used over the Down Bootie to create an all-weather system. It can be worn on its own or in combination with the Down Bootie for added camp comfort.
Summit L3 Insulated Climb Gaiter (Athlete Only)
Designed for alpine climbing, this gaiter pulls over the Super Approach Boot for added protection, warmth, and durability. It uses FUTURELIGHT for breathable waterproofness and durability. This unique solution provides lightweight insulation on the mountain and in the camp.
Summit L2 Super Approach Boot (Athlete Only)
The Super Approach intends to address the “white space between approach shoes and light mountaineering boots,” said TNF. A unique combination of climbing feel and alpine durability, this lightweight boot provides an approach solution for high-altitude expeditions. In combination with the Climb gaiter, it will take athletes to the summit of any 8,000m peak.
FUTURELIGHT ASSAULT 2P Ultralight Tent: $1,200
Built with The North Face’s most breathable tent textile, the Advanced Mountain Kit Assault 2 is built for light-and-fast, high-alpine missions.
It uses an internal pitch design, three-layer construction (with 90% recycled fabric on the face and backer layers), and a waterproof-breathable, 20-denier FUTURELIGHT membrane from The North Face. Carbon-fiber poles ensure the Assault 2 is light and strong.
FUTURELIGHT +10F Ultralight Sleeping Bag: $1,300-1,350
The Advanced Mountain Kit Superlight 10F from The North Face combines premier design with a unique materials package. Aluminized 10-denier nylon body fabric accomplishes the same heat retention as its non-aluminized peers, utilizing 20% less down.
It’s capped with three-layer construction (with 90% recycled fabric on the face and baker layers), a waterproof-breathable FUTURELIGHT membrane for protection and warmth, and 1,000-fill ProDown insulation.
SPECTRE 38L & 55L Approach Packs: $650-750
TNF’s most advanced alpine climbing pack, the Spectre Packs uses proprietary laminated Spectra Grid Mesh. With advanced features including tool carry integrated within the compression of the pack, the Spectre 55 has already put up numerous first ascents.
SPECTRE XXL Base Camp Duffel: $300
The Advanced Mountain Kit Duffel pushes The North Face forward in technical adventure travel. Built with burly 840-denier Spectra Dimension Polyant, this duffel carries 100 L in a remarkably light bag.