What is The North Face Futurelight? (Ep.74)


  • Scott’s background in product innovation (1:00)
  • Why was Futurelight designed? (4:25)
  • Futurelight vs. Polartec Neoshell (14:50)
  • “Tuning” Futurelight for different designs (16:27)
  • Durability? (25:01)
  • Athlete testing at The North Face (31:45)
  • Competing with GORE (50:37)
  • Sustainability & Futurelight (54:35)

The North Face is attempting to do something that many have tried, but few have succeeded: compete head-to-head with Gore-Tex in the waterproof / breathable fabric category.

So we talked with Scott Mellin, the Global General Manager of Mountain Sports at The North Face, about their new fabric technology, Futurelight; the ideas behind it; what sets it apart in the crowded waterproof / breathable fabric market; sustainability practices related to Futurelight; some stories from athlete testing, and much more.

For more on waterproof / breathable fabrics, testing methods, ratings, and other outerwear nerdery, see our Outerwear 101 and Outerwear 201 articles.

On Blister's GEAR:30 podcast, Sam Shaheen talks with The North Face's Scott Mellin about the brand's new fabric technology, Futurelight

9 comments on “What is The North Face Futurelight? (Ep.74)”

  1. To me it seems that TNF has a few legs up on Gore. I was not impressed by the Gore interview, neither what they do with Gore Pro (just more of the same in a different package) nor regarding DWR coating.

  2. It’s hard to tell whether this is just hype marketing talk from TNF or if it’s legitimately a bit step forward. Even if it is a game changer, I think it’s probably less because of some wunderkind materials and more because they have realized what everyone else has: that a bombproof water impermeable membrane isn’t the be-all, end-all ultimate shell for 99% of situations. I’m guessing that what makes the futurelight system as a whole perform better is just TNF realizing that it’s better to have a bunch of super breathable layers. It’s a hard sell to consumers who just want to see gear tests of people standing in the shower and staying dry regardless of the fact that they use their goretex pro jackets downhill skiing on bluebird days .

    At the end of the day water proof breathable membranes all only perform as well as the outer fabric layer anyways, so isn’t it really down to the DWR performance? Regardless of how breathable your inner membrane is, if the outer layer is wetted out you’re wearing a trash bag. And if you have a functioning DWR coating, you don’t need inner membranes that have super impermeability to H2O.

    I do like the way TNF is actually focusing on some technical gear again in the summit and steep series and it’s not just doing lifestyle gear.
    I haven’t had a north face product in years until I bought a few lately and I’m happy with them. I’m slightly miffed that I bought a shell from both last year’s summit and steep series right before they decided that goretex is trash compared to their new stuff!

  3. I’m very interested if TNF FL walks the walk in long term independent testing. Could you do that please for me and the rest of mankind, Sam?

  4. Sam,

    Do you think that futurlight could have the same issues as neoshell in loosing membrane performance over time? They sound like they are a very similar membrane (He dodged that question in the podcast)

    • Hey Henry,

      It is certainly possible, we have no evidence of that yet, but we’ll be keeping a close eye for durability and performance issues during our testing this year!


  5. It would help if you added a brief 90 seconds to start of podcast to define the acronyms uses for listeners who don’t have an advanced degree in industrial fabrics.
    Not knowing Hydro static head, CFM, and one other makes this unable to understand.

    Ask your professor/founder: If you don’t explain important terms in plain English so that your audience can understand they can’t follow along

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