The North Face® FuseFormTM Dot Matrix Jacket represents a new generation of rain protection. Rain Jackets are usually judged on three key qualities – whether they are waterproof, windproof and breathable. Outdoor brands are continually looking for ways to improve upon these qualities, many of which focus on the waterproof membrane inside the fabric. The North Face, however, has completely changed tack, and focused their efforts on the way jackets are actually constructed.
Along the lines of origami, The North Face has created the FuseForm fabric construction, which takes a single piece of fabric made from a blend of different fibres, then cuts and folds it to form the jacket. This innovation cuts down on seams by up to 40%, which has numerous benefits including reduced stitching, seam tape and weight. This is important because seams are often the weakest part of a rain jacket and can lead to water leakage.
Until now, reducing seams used to have a potential downside. Seams normally allow multiple fabric weaves and weights to be sewn together like panels to give a garment more flexibility. In the Outdoor world, this means reinforcing shoulders for carrying backpacks, for abrasion resistance in rocky terrain, or adding specialised fabric where you sweat the most. The North Face solved this with FuseForm, as well, by revolutionising the weaving process to blend the multiple fibre and fabric interfaces seamlessly.
The Dot Matrix Jacket has all the typical features you’d expect from technical rainwear, with pit-zip venting, adjustable hood, hem-cinch cords and Velcro® adjustable cuffs. It also includes The North Face’s proprietary HyVent® 2.5 Layer waterproof fabric, which is a fusion of nylon for reinforcing the shoulders and polyester for breathability around the torso and abrasion resistance. There’s very little feeling of clamminess, as The North Face has added a special polyurethane (PU) coating with a print matrix on the inside of the jacket that uses a process of diffusion to transport your sweat away from your body.
We’ve been testing The North Face FuseForm Dot Matrix Jacket for several months now in wet conditions around the mountain ranges near Melbourne, as well as around the Haleakala volcano on Maui in Hawaii in more tropical conditions. It’s proven to be an exceptional multi-purpose lightweight rain jacket, primarily for activities such as hiking, trail-running, climbing, bouldering and potentially (while not tested) backcountry skiing. It can also be worn casually given the attractive design full of “dots” created by the gradual blend of different types of (very functional) fibres down the length of the jacket.
While I can’t fault the Dot Matrix Jacket for the purposes we mentioned, any waterproof jacket will leak given enough rain, water pressure and time. For big mountain adventures in persistent, heavy rains and snow, upgrade to products using a combination of FuseForm and The North Face’s HyVent Alpha fabric, a 3 layer construction used throughout The North Face Summit SeriesTM.
The North Face FuseForm Dot Matrix Jacket is available in Australia at The North Face stores and online at www.thenorthface.com.au. RRP is A$330.
Featured Photos: The North Face Media Images