By Thomas J. Ryan and Aaron Bible
With an infusion of cutting-edge technologies and the most rigorous development process ever undergone in high alpine terrain, The North Face unveiled a new take on its iconic Summit Series collection after a yearlong hiatus. The company provided an exclusive look at the collection at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market but somehow managed to keep the line under wraps until now.
View the full collection in SGB‘s sneak peak photo collage.
Highly targeted at the core mountaineering and climbing community, the collection will be available in limited quantity at 90 of the brand’s top specialty dealers.
“We launched Summit Series in the Fall of 2000 as a collection of styles that represent the pinnacle of The North Face products,” said Joe Vernachio, global VP of product, in an interview with SGB. “With new technologies and innovations developed by The North Face in the last few years we saw an opportunity to make products in a new way and thought the Summit Series collection was the logical collection to put the most innovative product.”
Some of the innovation highlights include the use of DryVent, the brand’s most breathable waterproof membrane. Five styles also utilize the unibody design/build process to reduce seams (and fabric waste).
“Unibody design means that there are pieces in the line that are made from a single pattern piece,” said Vernachio. “This reduces seams, and creates a garment that is less bulky, weighs less, and has an incredible
fit,” said Vernachio. “Additionally, we are using FuseForm throughout
the line to seamlessly engineer benefits into various garments. For instance, our L5 Shell has seamlessly engineered zones for added durability.”
Overall, the six-layer collection is comprised of layers L1 through L6, named according to the way each piece is designed to be worn.
The Summit L1 Top and Pant are base layers made from engineered fabric to provide zonal warmth and moisture management, as well as articulated construction for mobility.
The Summit L2 Jacket is a mid-layer made with Polartec Thermal Pro with Hardface Technology fleece, and has an engineered knit back for targeted warmth and moisture management.
An ultralight down mid-layer, the Summit L3 Jacket is insulated with 800-fill RDS down. The face fabric uses FuseForm construction for targeted durability with minimal seams and a digitally printed color that uses less water than traditional dyeing process.
The warmest synthetic mid-layer, the Summit L4 Jacket is insulated with ThermoBall, a synthetic, proprietary The North Face insulation released last year that retains warmth when wet. Minimal, unibody construction reduces seams and its quilt design prevents insulation migration and cold spots.
The Summit L5 Shell and Shell Pant are the most advanced shell outerwear The North Face has built, using a waterproof-breathable DryVent 3L membrane. The shell and pant have localized FuseForm construction for targeted durability with minimal seams and articulated, one-piece construction for alpine mobility.
The final layer of the line is the Summit L6 Jacket, an 800-fill RDS down belay parka that uses welded, Z-baffle construction for increased warmth and weather-resistance, and FuseForm construction for targeted durability.
All of the products were designed outside the traditional timetables of product development. Said Vernachio, “The purpose behind this unique approach is simple: to take the time, outside the boundaries of annual due dates, to create a truly best-in-class line of product.”
Including heavy involvement by its athlete’s team, The North Face RD&D team behind the collection were guided by a design ethos of: “Respect. Inspire. Evolve.” According to the brand, the line Respects the athlete’s culture and the environment that they play in; it Inspires athletes through the product design, feel and function; and it Evolves by pushing the limits in innovation and technology.
“We went directly to our mountaineering and climbing athletes to ask them what their essentials are, and the responses from everyone were very clear: they needed six essential layers that they would be able to utilize in the various conditions one finds during high-alpine pursuits,” said Vernachio.
To test the entire Summit Series, Conrad Anker, Hilaree O’Neill, David Gottler and Renan Ozturk journeyed to Langtang National Park in Nepal in February 2015. One of the results of this expedition was the groundbreaking motion picture, Meru.
“Our athletes and their sports have always been our greatest inspiration for creating innovative, best-in-class gear,” said Vernachio. “From protection to zipper placement, we’re always referencing climbers feedback on prototypes as we look to make a perfect final product, and the new Summit Series collection is no different in that regard.”
He added, “Once it was built, the athlete team was in the product and testing it in high-alpine pursuits in order to provide us the essential feedback we needed to ensure that the final product you see today is the most innovative line of mountaineering and climbing gear available.”
Conrad Anker called out the “fine-tuned FuseForm fabric” as well as the integrated system as coups for the new line. “The Summit Series is pure and simple, elegant and refined, durable and rugged,” Anker told SGB. “If you want to experience the harshest climates, this is the kit for you.” And at the end of the day, no one knows this better than Anker.