To the Ends of the Earth
This Is What Technical Outdoor Gear Should Look Like
The North Face is one of the outdoor industry’s foundational pillars. Before it was a globally-recognized brand that’s just as likely to collaborate with Supreme or be spotted on the lapel of Kanye West, it was a San Francisco-based gear shop dedicated to selling the best mountaineering equipment available. Making the best outdoor gear possible has remained its focus in the 52 years since, but the company’s foray into less technical apparel gives naysayers plenty of ammo for attacks on its mountain credibility (for the record, we like outdoor lifestyle gear). It’s a battle any core brand faces when it gets big enough to be considered mainstream, but any doubts that do exist regarding The North Face can be quickly extinguished by looking to its Summit Series, which was just re-launched for the coming year.
Summit Series represents the most technical apparel and equipment imaginable. These are the tents that are used as Himalayan base camps, the one-piece suits that look as suitable for outer space as for high peaks. It’s not just marketing chatter either; The North Face outfits its ambassador athletes in this stuff so that they’re better equipped to explore the places in the world we might only see in the pages of National Geographic.
This year’s collection was put to the test in the mountains of a one million square-mile territory in Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land by a team that included Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Savannah Cummins, Anna Pfaff, Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold. It consists of the gigantic down jackets and ultralight shells that are required of any line of technical outdoor gear, but it’s also notable for an expansion of the innovative Ventrix insulation into a full-blown collection that includes a quarter-zip anorak as well as a pair of zip-off knickers.