Monday, April 2, 2018

The North Face - Spring 2018 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.”

Ultra Endurance II Trail Shoe

I tested the Ultra Endurance shoe in the Fall of 2016 (click here for my review).  I was really impressed with the shoe.  It was cushioned, but responsive.  It also was jam-packed with features from FlashDry fabric in the heel collar to a super grippy Vibram® Megagrip outsole.  I was excited to test out the second version of the shoe.  Let’s first look at the things that I liked so much that remained the same. 

The outsole is still made with the Vibram® Megagrip material.  This material is amazing.  It will grip to rocks, fallen trees, wet and dry surfaces alike.  It has never let me down, even in some really muddy sections of the trails.

The heel drop is still 8mm which feels great and provides a natural gait.  The heel collar still has FlashDry material to wick moisture away and help keep your feet dry.  A feature that is helpful in hot summer running.   The ESS Snake Plate™ protects your feet from sharp rocks and really did a great job in my testing.  I was running on some volcanic rock that was rather sharp and my feet felt great.

Other items that remained the same include the gusseted tongue which helps to keep the debris out of your shoes, a Molded-TPU toe cap that protects your toes from those dreaded tree stumps.  I hate when I stub my toe and a shoe doesn’t have enough protection.  Not an issue here though.  The OrthoLite® footbed is comfortable and is the same as the previous version.

I took the Ultra Endurance II out for several trail runs and was really excited.  It is my favorite shoe from The North Face to date.  The fit and comfort were great and there was plenty of grip in different conditions.  I went on a bunch of shorter runs and a longer, technical run that would usually beat up my feet.  The Ultra Endurance II kept my feet feeling happy and I never had to worry about my footing, which can be the difference between a good and great shoe.

The shoes did gain a little weight, which would be my biggest complaint.  It went from 11 ounces per shoe in the original Ultra Endurance to 11.5 ounces per shoe in the Ultra Endurance II.  The Ultra Endurance II retails for $120 on The North Face website, which is a decent price for a shoe this nice. 

Durable Materials
Breathable and moisture wicking materials
Plenty of traction on all surfaces
Cushion to make your feet happy mile-after-mile
Good price at $120 (on the TNF website)

A little on the hefty side (gaining 0.5 ounces from the previous version).
Beyond The Wall Tank

The Beyond The Wall Tank is a durable and breathable tank that was originally designed for climbers.  It is made from a light weight blend of technical polyester and TENCEL lycell fabrics that help to regulate body temperature when working out indoors.  The fabric feels very soft and a little thicker than some of the other running tops I‘ve tried from TNF. 

The BTW Tank is a standard fit, meaning that it is a little looser than an athletic fit, but not baggy.  It is durable and breathable, but was shaped to provide extra fabric to act as a barrier between your skin and climbing harness.  The extra fabric would be good at the gym when doing lunges where the bar would be resting on your shoulders (behind your head).

For a running top, the breathability and fit worked well.  It is fairly cold right now though.  I would be curious how this top would work in the 90+ degree heat that I see here in Sacramento.  It was a comfortable tank that I definitely could see myself wearing during cross training or treadmill training.  I will have to see how the shirt holds up in hotter weather.  I really did appreciate that the material was very comfortable and it really did keep me dry throughout my whole run.  The Beyond The Wall Tank retails for $50 on The North Face website.  While this may seem a little pricey for a tank top, the quality is great, as I would expect from The North Face. 

Durable Materials
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Feels great and moves with your body
Helps Regulate body temperature
Perfect for climbers who need a little more protection when using a harness.

$50 is a little steep for a tank (but well worth it)
Not sure how the shirt will hold up in hot weather

Better Than Naked Short Sleeve Shirt

The Better Than Naked Short -Sleeve shirt is an extremely light weight shirt.  Like the name would suggest, it is so light that you almost forget it’s there.  Made with FlashDry material, the BTN shirt is great at wicking moisture away from your skin and dries extremely fast.  One of my favorite features is that it doesn’t stick to your skin when it does get wet, which is not typical in most running tops.  The stich free construction reduces chafing.  The North Face uses body-mapped ventilation to specifically place ventilation where it is needed the most to keep you cooler and there is reflective material all around the shirt to keep you safe in the dark.  The Better Than Naked shirt is an athletic fit shirt, meaning that it is not baggy, but also is not super tight. 

I was really comfortable in this shirt, even when doing long trail runs or tempo workouts.  I stayed relatively cool and dry.  The shirt fits well and after looking at reviews, both on TNF’s website as well as other websites, I couldn’t find a bad review.  If you give it a try, I think you will love it too.  The Better Than Naked Short Sleeve Shirt retails for $50 on The North Face website, but you may be able to find last year’s shirt for cheaper if you look around.  It is worth the $50 though.  This is one of my favorite running tops and I keep gravitating toward it.

360-degree reflective material
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Feels great and moves with your body
Helps Regulate body temperature
Body-mapped ventilation

Flight Series Better Than Naked Long Haul Shorts

The Better Than Naked Long Haul Short is something I tested in the past and is one of my favorite shorts to run in.  The BTN Long Haul shorts have an inner compression short instead of the brief and it is great.  I haven’t used any anti chafe products when wearing these shorts and have never had an issue.  The version that I tested were a few years old and the newer version feels better and the materials have been updated. 

The shorts are made with FlashFry material, which is breathable and moisture wicking.  The BTN Long Haul shorts have 360- reflectivity and have a 7” inseam.  The really cool thing about this short is that the zippered pocket is a little bigger than many other shorts, which still fits smaller smartphones.  It also has a wide waistband with a draw cord. 

The cool think is that all around the waistband are pockets sewn in.  They are great for storing gels, electrolyte pills, an ID, or your car keys.  This is one of the most innovative features I have ever seen in a pair of running shorts.  Other companies are starting to add these pockets to their shorts too.  Even loaded with gear, the shorts feel great and move well with your body.  The inner compression liner also has pockets where you could store an ID, a house key, or some cash without it being visible.

I absolutely love these shorts.  They not only feel amazing to run in, but they will keep you stocked with gear for a training run or a race.  You can now leave your running belt at home.  I can’t tell you how awesome these shorts are.  Add the lightweight FlashDry material for reduced chafing and you have yourself a winner.  The BTN Long Haul shorts retails for $65 on The North Face website, which is absolutely worth the money.  These shorts are worth the price and I still have not found anything that I didn’t like about them, and I was looking really hard.

360-degree reflectivity
Breathable and moisture wicking fabric
Feels great and moves with your body
Zippered back pocket and pockets all around the waistband
Attached compression shorts
Feel awesome!!!

The North Face’s Social Media Links:

The North Face makes exceptional gear and while it may be a little more than some of the running gear out there, the quality and feel makes them well worth the price, especially if you can find them on sale.  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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