Thursday, November 3, 2016

The North Face - Fall 2016 Review



If you are into outdoor sports, you probably recognize the name The North Face.  I have been using their gear for over 20 years.  Founded in 1966 in San Francisco’s North Beach area, two hiking enthusiasts decided to follow their passions and founded a small mountaineering retail store.  The little shop became known as The North Face, a retailer of high-performance climbing and backpacking equipment.  The North Face gets its name from the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain.  It moved across the bay to Berkley in 1968 and began designing and manufacturing its own brands gear.  The rest is history.  After over 40 years, The North Face has grown to deliver an extensive line of performance apparel, equipment, and footwear.  Their motto is “Never Stop Exploring.”

Men’s Ultra Endurance Trail Shoe
I haven’t had a chance to review any shoes from The North Face, until now.  The Ultra Endurance shoes just blew me away from the moment I took them out of the box.  They are light weight, breathable shoes that come with a really grippy outsole made by the amazing Vibram crew.  From all the reviews I’ve read, it is perfect for blazing through your next trail adventure, no matter what the conditions are.

The Ultra Endurance starts with a welded TPU and suede upper material with some overlays to add extra support to the shoe.  There is a molded TPU toe cap that provides better protection than any trail shoe I’ve seen to date.  There is a gusseted tongue that will keep dirt and small rocks from getting into your shoe and a great ESS Snake Plate that will protect the bottom of your foot from sharp rocks that could leave you in pain.  Anybody that has experienced a bone bruise can attest to how much they suck.

The collar lining has FlashDry, which is a fabric technology that was designed to feel like a second skin against your body.  It accelerates the removal of moisture and speed up the evaporating process and keeps moisture away from the surface of the fabric so you stay drier and more comfortable.  This protects against both sweat and water.

The outsole has Vibram’s Megagrip material that makes it durable and sticky regardless of the conditions.  The Ultra Endurance weighs in at 11 ounces for a men’s size 9, which is decent for a shoe built this well.  It has an 8mm heel drop and has enough cushion to make your feet happy all day without losing any ground feel that can be so important.  The Ultra Endurance also comes with the Ultra Protect CRADLE which increases heel-stability.   I normally run in a size 10 (for most shoes), but it was recommended to get a size 10.5 and it fit well, so make sure to buy this shoe a ½ size up.  The Ultra Endurance retails for $120 on The North Face website.

Pros:
The outsole is durable and grippy on any surfaces.
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Great price at $120
Protective TPU toe-cap and snake plate.
Plenty of cushion for all day comfort

Cons:
Not a negative, but buy a ½ size up

Better Than Naked Winter Jacket
The Better Than Naked Winter Jacket is an extremely light weight jacket that has been specifically designed to put ventilation ports in the right places.  The body mapped ventilation provides a quick drying interior to help keep you dry and comfortable.  To be completely honest, this is the first light weight jacket that I have run in that hasn’t resulted in overheating.  I used it on my 20-mile run last weekend while on vacation.  It was 42 degrees out so I took out the Better Than Naked Winter Jacket. It was extremely comfortable and even kept the wind out. 

It was pitch black out on the roads I was running.  I had my strobe lights and head lamp, but it was reassuring that the Better Than Naked Winter Jacket has 360-degree reflectivity, including reflective logos. 

The Better Than Naked Winter Jacket is somewhat form fitting, which is enjoyable to run in.  There are articulated elbows and cuffs that just make this jacket fit even better.  There are two hand pockets that fit your phone of gels.  The zippers make sure you don’t lose your items along the way.   There are slots for you to run your headphone cables through as well.

The Better Than Naked Winter Jacket does not have a hood and is not waterproof, but it rained on my long run and the jacket does well with small amounts of rain and mist.  This is a great jacket that will remain comfortable no matter how long you are running.  If you want to take it off, it condenses down to a very small size that could fit in your pocket or backpack.    The Better Than Naked Winter Jacket retails for $120 on The North Face website.

Pros:
Great price for a lightweight jacket at $120
360-degree reflective material
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Feels great and moves with your body
Helps Regulate body temperature

Cons:
No hood

Warm Tight
The Warm Tight is a base layer that is great for keeping you warm and dry when you want to get out in the cold, but remain warm.  It is a moisture wicking layer that stretches to provide an awesome next-to-skin fit.  This is a mid-weight tight that features FlashDry Eco fibers to wick that sweat away from your skin so you feel better and the tights dry faster. 

The waist band of the Warm Tight has The North Face logo and the tights also have flat-locked seams to eliminate the risk of chafing.  The bottom of the tights go all the way to your ankles so you don’t have any exposed areas and there is a fly opening so you can make a quick, pit stop without having to take the tights off (sorry ladies, no trap door). 

I found that the Warm Tights are best used as a base layer with shorts over them.  They aren’t going to really help keep away rain, but if it’s just cold out, they will keep your legs warm without needing to wear running pants.  The Warm Tight would also be great for recovery days, under work clothes, or just around the house.  I even read reviews that people love them to sleep in.  The fit is true to the sizing chart on The North Face's website and where you can also pick up your pair for $50.

Pros:
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Next-to-skin fit that moves with your body
Flat-locked seams prevent chafing
Extremely comfortable
Fly opening

The North Face’s Social Media Links:

The North Face makes exceptional gear and while it may cost a little more than some of the running gear out there, the quality and feel makes them well worth the price.  The North Face offers a lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship.  They will repair or replace the product at no cost to you.  All you pay is for is the shipping to The North Face.  You can pick up all of your gear from The North Face website or find a retail location near you (click here for locations).  Take a chance on some gear from The North Face and you won’t be disappointed.  Be sure to let me know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

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