Did The North Face just make the most breathable waterproof fabric ever?
The North Face might be a clothing brand, but calling it just that would be doing a disservice to one of the company's most important contributions: fabric innovation. You see, outdoor gear prioritizes function: If you're climbing Mount Everest, no one really cares if your jacket looks cool—they care that you don't freeze to death. And functional gear can always improve with more research, technology, and product options. The North Face is about to up the bar with Futurelight, a fabric that is both waterproof and breathable. The brand announced the new innovation and is demonstrating its efficacy at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
If you've ever worn something completely waterproof—not just water-resistant—you'll know that while it works, it also tends to get hot. Very hot. That's because it's hard to make something both waterproof and breathable. Think about it: If you're keeping water out, you're also keeping water (read: sweat) in. That's why you'll see things like "water-resistant" or "water-repellent" instead; with these, there's still a little room to breathe. Futurelight is, in The North Face's terms, going to change all of that.
While we haven't tested the fabric yet ourselves, it certainly sounds promising: It uses a "nanospinning" process, which creates nano-sized holes in the fabric. This allows for air to flow through without sacrificing the waterproof exterior. That could make your standard hiking, skiing, or rain jacket a lot more comfortable to wear.
“Right now, the expectation from a waterproof product is something loud, crunchy, muggy and unpackable," says Scott Mellin, Global General Manager of Mountain Sports at The North Face. "With Futurelight, we can theoretically use the technology to make anything breathable, waterproof and for the first time, comfortable. Imagine a waterproof T-shirt, sweater or even denim that you actually want to wear. Today we start with jackets, tents and gloves, but the possibilities could be endless.”