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We all know The North Face is a great outdoor clothing and gear brand, and many of us used to own one of their pastel jackets back in the days! What started off as a high-performance climbing gear company has quickly become a staple in the outdoor industry. But just because the brand has gone mainstream and is now accessible to all outdoor enthusiasts does not mean its products can’t handle the toughest technical challenges. In fact, the company created a range specifically for that purpose: The North Face Summit Series. Is the Summit Series collection really a cut above the rest? The SAIL experts help you find out.
In this article you will learn:
According to The North Face, the Summit Series was “developed for the best, when the best are at their limit”. It was designed to protect those headed to some of the most extreme places and subjected to the harshest of conditions. As such, it is the brand’s ultimate technical range of gear. Launched in 2000, it initially consisted solely of mountaineering apparel, but now includes everything from clothing to tents and boots. The collection features the best materials, the latest technology and the kind of well-thought-out design that would make any sports enthusiast go “Wow!”
Does the Summit Series really meet all the expectations of a superior technical mountaineering clothing range, or is it just an advertising claim? The Summit Series is tested both in a lab and by athletes, and the testing phase has become part of the product design process. Many mountaineers have worn the Summit Series during their expeditions, including the members of the 2019 Antarctica Queen Maud Land expedition, composed of (amongst others) climbing athletes Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, Savannah Cummins, Anna Pfaff and Cedar Wright. In addition, Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson wore the Summit Series range during their first ski descent of the Lhotse couloir in the Himalayas.
The North Face’s Summit Series has been optimized in every way possible. From waterproofing to durability, weight management and mobility, each detail has been designed with ultimate mountaineering, climbing or backcountry skiing endeavours in mind. Remember the bright yellow Himalayan suit that resembled an astronaut suit? Now discontinued, the famous product was part of the range and specifically designed to protect athletes climbing peaks over 8,000 metres in the Himalayas, or headed for the Arctic.
FUTURELIGHT™ is The North Face’s most breathable waterproof membrane to date, and many of its latest Summit Series items feature this technology. Breathable waterproofing, lightweight durability, The North Face claims FUTURELIGHT™ does it all, and naysayers will have a tough time disputing the claim. The technology was tested over 400 continuous days by a team of athletes. It is now used in mountaineering jackets and pants to offer superior protection against the elements without the usual stiffness that comes with an outer shell that restricts your movements.
In addition to designing advanced technical gear, The North Face has gone a step further and developed a niche range of items that, when used together, created the perfect kit. The Advanced Mountain Kit (AMK) was “(…) the world’s most sophisticated alpine climbing system”, according to the brand. No longer available as a whole, the full kit consisted of six layers (aptly named L1, L2, L3…), which worked together perfectly to provide optimal moisture management, warmth and waterproofing for mountaineering, snow sports and climbing athletes keen to test their limits.
The interchangeable layers were designed to perform perfectly with each other, no matter the combination, and The North Face used a total of five of its leading-edge technologies in their development. This resulted in base layers which quickly wick away sweat and trap body heat, while the lightweight mid layers provide high thermal performance without the usual bulk. The first outer layer is also quite impressive: the 50/50 hoodie, with its breathable 800-fill ProDown, packs surprisingly small, making it ideal for high-intensity winter activities. There are two outer shells; a shell jacket optimized with FUTURELIGHT™ technology for breathable protection against the wind, rain and snow, and a parka, which when worn in combination with the other layers could probably keep you warm even on top of Everest as you enjoy a glass of bubbly!
The kit was developed with athletes in mind, and its launch reminded the mountaineering market that The North Face is a leading expert when it comes to technical climbing gear. Now, mountain sports enthusiasts can use the layers available to create their own customized climbing kit based on their chosen activity.
For those who don’t quite require AMK-level gear, The North Face’s Summit Series features some great jackets, pants, base layers and fleeces, each crafted with the needs of outdoors enthusiasts in mind. As an example, many climbing jackets from the series are designed with a hood compatible with a climbing helmet, and hand pockets which remain accessible even when wearing a harness. The brand has also ditched the shoulder seams on many outer shell models to increase comfort for those wearing a backpack over long periods of time. The clothing collection is also filled with small add-ons to keep you that little bit warmer, such as chin guards with laser-cut perforations for better breathability, cuff tabs with a hook-and-loop closure to ensure they stay shut and a metallized finish inside to reflect body heat.
When it comes to staying warm and dry in tough conditions, The North Face Summit Series certainly delivers, but it’s the extra features that really set the collection apart. With its ultrathin fabrics, optimized weight to warmth ratio, the freedom of movement its products offer and their durability, it’s no wonder athletes around the world choose to take on the toughest challenges equipped with the Summit Series!