The North Face FuseForm Dolomiti 1/4 Zip Hoodie
Size Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight: 346 g (size medium)
• Midweight, smooth-face fleece hoodie with FuseForm™ construction
• FuseForm stretch and engineered knit-patterned back
• Alpine fit
• 200-weight smooth-face fleece
• Attached, elastic-bound hood
• Center front and chest pocket zips with auto-lock sliders
MSRP: $150 USD
Reviewer: 5’10”, 140 lbs
Days Tested: 25 +
Test Locations: Berner Oberland, Valais, Switzerland; Chamonix, France
Given that there are hundreds of mid layers out there, choosing the right one can be quite difficult, and can involve an annoying trial and error process to see what works best for you. But I can save you some trouble when it comes to The North Face Dolomiti — I’ve worn many mid layers of all varieties, and right now, the Dolomiti is my favorite because of its breathability and versatility.
The Dolomiti is cut with The North Face’s “alpine” fit. For this mid layer, that means that it is very slim and form-fitting. The Dolomiti uses a very anatomical pattern, and the Medium fits my slim 5’10”, 140 lb frame just about perfectly — I have enough room for a thin base layer underneath; I have full range of motion; and the sleeves hit my wrists with about 1.5” of extra fabric that facilitates overhead reaches.
The shoulders are extremely comfortable and are devoid of seams, which is nice while wearing packs.
If you’re a bigger guy or generally like more roomy mid layers, I might recommend sizing up from your normal size.
The heart of any mid layer is the fabric. The Dolomiti uses a synthetic fabric with a smooth, hard-ish face and a lofted, knit back. It also uses TNF’s revolutionary FuseForm technology. Check out my TNF L5 pant review for all of my thoughts on FuseForm, but the short version is that TNF can change the weave of their fabrics without creating a seam. This means that two weights of fabric can sit right next to each other in the weave without any seam. It’s amazing technology that can’t catch on soon enough as far as I’m concerned.
Unfortunately, the Dolomiti hardly utilizes FuseForm technology. There is only a single FuseForm “seam” on the back of the piece, where the knit lofted inner face of the fabric changes loft. It is used effectively here to increase breathability, but it could be used to further effect on (for example) the under arms.
Compare this to the L5 pants that are riddled with FuseForm “seams” — even the logos are woven into the fabric on the L5; not so on the Dolomiti.
Despite the limited use of FuseForm, the fabric on the Dolomiti is excellent, and some of the best I’ve found on a mid layer.
The face of the fabric is surprisingly hard, even bordering on a very soft soft-shell face. Given that, I typically wear the Dolomiti as an outer layer on ski tours for the way up, since it shrugs off light-to-moderate snow and light winds quite well.
Even with its harder face, the inside of the Dolomiti is still incredibly soft, with a nice, lofted knit backing. The inside is somewhat reminiscent of Polartec Regulator fleece’s lofted fleecy boxes, but the Dolomiti has a bit less loft.
The Dolomiti also breathes shockingly well. Compared to other fleece pieces of similar warmth, the Dolomiti breathes better than everything else that I’ve worn — and I think this is first due to the fact that the piece is so warm for its weight. A similarly-warm Polartec Powerfleece is definitely a bit thicker than the Dolomiti, and as a result, the Dolomiti breathes better. Second, I think part of the reason the Dolomiti is a bit warmer for its weight is because of its harder face fabric. It blocks a bit more wind and snow than other fleeces, and therefore, it can be a bit thinner without feeling thin and insubstantial.
The fabric on the Dolomiti is stretchy, but certainly not as stretchy as some other, similar pieces. The Patagonia R1 Hoodie is probably the closest competitor to the Dolomiti (and has a large cult following, for good reason). The R1 is definitely stretchier than the Dolomiti, but the Dolomiti has a harder face for better wind / precip protection. It’s a game of trade offs; I haven’t worn the R1 enough to comment on it, but I can say that I personally love the Dolomiti’s combination of “less stretch” but “more protection” in a mid layer.
This harder face fabric also makes it very comfortable to layer over, since most other fabrics easily glide over it, avoiding annoying layer incompatibilities that crop up with other soft fabrics.
The primary complaint I have about the fabric is that it really doesn’t resist odor very well. I typically have to wash it after every 1-2 days I wear it, and that gets a bit annoying. That’s partially due to the piece’s rather tight fit, but there are other fleeces that resist odor better.
There are really only two features on the Dolomiti: its hood, and its chest pocket.
The chest pocket is pretty basic — it’s big enough for a phone or energy bar, but because of the form-fitting nature of the Dolomiti, I haven’t found it to be very comfortable to store items in this pocket.
The hood however, is definitely a standout feature. It is a small hood that fits rather tightly around your head, almost like a skull cap. It is designed to be worn under a helmet, and it does so more effectively than most other hoods I’ve used.
The Dolomiti’s hood is like having a hat and face mask at your disposal at any time. You can pull up the hood and leave the zip down if your ears get cold, and you can zip the front all the way up to protect your mouth/chin/cheeks from the wind — and just as easily go back. After wearing this piece for the winter and spring, I don’t think I’ll ever again be satisfied with a mid layer that doesn’t have a hood like this.
The North Face Dolomiti FuseForm 1/4 zip hoody is an awesome mid layer. It’s incredibly breathable for how warm it is, and has the best hood I’ve seen on a mid layer. It’s my go-to piece for everything alpine, from a mid-winter ski tour, to a summer 4000 m peak, the Dolomiti is the first thing in my pack.