Climb a mountain and never take off your shell layer. FUTURELIGHT, a revolutionary fabric from The North Face, claims to make that, and a whole lot more, possible.
FUTURELIGHT. You may have heard the name floating around social media or in hushed terms from sponsored athletes. Today, The North Face revealed a fabric that could change everything about shell jackets, pants, and a lot of other products used for outdoor adventure.
A cutting-edge fabric, FUTURELIGHT offers previously impossible levels of breathability in a waterproof shell. The “nanospun” waterproof-breathable membrane is far more breathable than anything we’ve ever heard of. It will stretch across TNF’s pinnacle apparel lines starting this fall.
This is what we know about FUTURELIGHT so far.
FUTURELIGHT: ‘Highest Performing’ Waterproof-Breathable Fabric
To understand why FUTURELIGHT is a big deal, you need to understand waterproof-breathable fabric.
In its most basic form, these fabrics are porous membranes that block liquid water but permit water vapor to pass through. Pioneered by Gore-Tex, the invention of waterproof-breathable fabrics changed the way people experience the outdoors.
But these fabrics have drawbacks and compromises.
Generally, the more waterproof a fabric, the less breathable. While not a hard-and-fast rule, fabric that can withstand a deluge often results in excess moisture on the inside of garments from sweat.
And this is where FUTURELIGHT could change everything.
Super Waterproof, Super Breathable
In partnership with Designworks, a BMW Group Company, The North Face aimed to create a shell jacket that you would never have to remove due to sweating. FUTURELIGHT is the result of years of research. The product will make its debut at CES today, with Designworks rumored to have built a demo RV camper with this fabric to show possible future uses. Stay tuned!
The North Face used a nanospinning process to create FUTURELIGHT. This enabled the brand’s designers to add unprecedented air permeability into the membrane of a fabric. How breathable?
The moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) is 75,000 g/m²/day. For context, the highly breathable eVent fabric has a top MVTR of 30,000 g/m²/day. That means a lot of water vapor can move through FUTURELIGHT products quickly.
It also allows air to move through it quickly, at a rate of about 1.5 ft³/minute. That’s very permeable for a waterproof fabric. Again, for context, eVent’s most breathable fabric has a permeability of 0.2 ft³/minute. Most waterproof-breathable fabrics are far lower, in the range of 0.07 to 0.09 ft³/minute.
How Waterproof Is The North Face FUTURELIGHT?
That leads us to one big question I haven’t gotten a clear answer on yet: How waterproof is the fabric?
TNF does call the fabric waterproof, which insinuates it should stand up to a decent water column test. We will follow this story closely and update this article with water column test results as they become available.
‘Nanospinning’ Gives Customization Options
A fascinating element of the new fabric is how it’s manufactured. TNF “nanospins” the polyurethane-based fabric by layering tiny fibers. This creates the porous structure required for breathability.
It also allows the brands to manufacture the fabric in varying thicknesses, weights, and breathabilities.
“The process creates Nano-level holes, allowing for incredible porosity while still maintaining total waterproofness, letting air move through the material and provide more venting than ever before,” said TNF in a press release.
“Additionally, Nanospinning gives designers the ability to adjust weight, stretch, breathability, durability, construction (knit or woven), and texture to match athletes’ and consumers’ activity or environment,” said the brand.
Thus, The North Face can use this same technology in an ultralight jacket for running and a heavy ski shell. The fabric can be customized exactly for the activity.
And not only is FUTURELIGHT a performance advancement, but the brand also claims FUTURELIGHT is sustainable as well.
“[FUTURELIGHT fabric composes] the most sustainable three-layer garments ever produced by the brand through the use of recycled materials, non-PFC DWR, and working with partners who share a commitment to sustainability, responsible manufacturing, and eco-driven innovation,” said TNF.
FUTURELIGHT: We Can’t Wait to Test
The North Face notes its athletes have put FUTURELIGHT through rigorous testing already. Mark Synnott, climber, writer, and The North Face athlete, seemed pretty jazzed about it on social media.
The brand states it validated its testing with more than 400 continuous days of in-field testing with its elite athlete team in the highest peaks and harshest environments, including Lhotse and Everest in the Himalayas. It also partnered with world-renowned Underwriter Labs for independent validation.
The North Face will implement FUTURELIGHT technology across its pinnacle products beginning in fall 2019. These include Summit Series, Steep Series, and Flight Series collections.
We’re excited to test this new product ourselves. The tunable aspect of the material, coupled with unmatched breathability and sustainability, is a very promising combination indeed.