TNF Futurelight & Strange Fake Pants

Since publishing, TNF has updated their product information for weights on these items.
This past January, The North Face announced Futurelight, a new, proprietary waterproof membrane that was pitched as a revolution in “climate control.” They borrowed a page out of the playbook from the Salomon Shift and K2 Mindbender launches and fired up the Insta-spam strategy and started doling out early access samples to build buzz. Now, there are few published numbers about how these pants perform, which is the ultimate litmus test as to whether they’re revolutionary or deserve a spot in your wardrobe. In the meantime, I want to spill tea about fake pants.

Reviewers were given a pair of prototype of the The Summit L5 LT pieces and the reviews were incredibly favorable, bordering on obnoxious. (My favorite comment was that the Futurelight pants were so light that you might hit yourself in the face on accident when you pick them up.) TNF asked that journalists did not submit any garments for independent lab testing for hard stats, but reviewers compared the fabric to the swap from frame to tech touring bindings and were shocked at how their baselayers stayed, even while all zipped up in their outerwear and skinning uphill.

But the pants they love don’t exist.

A few reviewers cited the weight of their garments – 9.1 ounces for the pants (backed up by this review, which goes as far as to snap it on the scale). 11.9 ounces for the jacket (ditto here). Except when you look on site, those stats jump to 22.9oz for the jacket and 15.16oz of the pants. Yep, I checked, same name, same LT abbreviation. Does that difference matter? Fuck yes.

For context, we’ll focus on the pants. The Summit L5 LT Futurelight Pants are a hardshell mountaineering pant. They’re slightly lighter than the outgoing GTX Pro version (17.56oz) or the Arc’teryx Beta AR (18.9oz), after removing the full length zipper, suspenders, and dropping from a 112 G/M² nylon to an 81 G/M² polyester (psst. Poly isn’t as durable as nylon, so keep that in mind as you’re shopping). Lighter? Yes. Demonstrative of some wild technological advances in apparel manufacturing, no. A 9.1oz pant is lighter than the Arc’teryx Lefroy pant, their hot weather trekking pant. It’s lighter than a 12.5oz Ferrosi. Hell, Ferrosi Shorts are almost 8, likewise for a Smartwool 250 weight base layer pant. The difference between the 9 ounce pants reviewers received and the 15 ounce pants that landed on site is not a rounding error. The reviewers are raving about a vastly different pant.

The jury is still out for me on how Futurelight products perform until there’s robust, independent data. But in the meantime, I’m incredibly skeptical. If your product is really revolutionary, why not let people put the real thing through the ringer? Smells incredibly fishy that someone decided to put differentiated product in the hands of reviewers (and no, the timing and changes don’t suggest it’s a last minute tweak before starting production).

Don’t believe the hype.

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