I have read about this but had not physically inspected one until I saw this in the Denver store yesterday. The next incremental step in waterproof breathable shells?
The North Face HyperAir GTX Jacket using the new Gore Tex Active is billed as their lightest and most breathable ever. It is light. Very light. How light? IDK. They couldn’t tell me in the store and the TNF website says 53 g/m2 (squared) but I don’t know what the hell that means so I asked via the web chat feature. After 10 minutes the rep came back and wrote that he didn’t know and the product specialist had already gone home for the day. Is there really only one person at TNF who knows what this thing weighs? And since I was on the United States site, is it too much to ask that we have these figures in ounces? Jeez. Anyway, I am guessing that the size Medium I held in my hand, it was the only one they had in the store, weighed about 6 ounces. That’s pretty light. You can’t get much lighter than that unless you go to a plastic garbage bag and plastic garbage bags don’t breathe. They also make you look like an idiot because you forgot to bring a jacket.
The big weight savings comes from the technological achievements – Namely two layer construction and permanent DWR (Durable Water Resistant) which is not a conventional coating, it is actually built into the fibers.
It has a basic feature set. Three pockets, a hood, adjustable cuffs. That is about it. And really, what else do you need in a piece like this. There is only one color though, an earthy brown dark charcoal, because Gore hasn’t figured out how to dye this stuff yet. I am sure they will offer other colors later. The fabric feels kind of like Tyvek to me only it isn’t as crinkly. It is thin too. In fact, it is so thin that the sales dude told me that TNF says users are not supposed to wear a pack exceeding 20 lbs because it will wear or abrade the membrane (which is actually on the external face of the fabric). Really?
So, as with most things in life, there is a trade off folks. There is no free lunch. An ultra light weight and super breathable shell jacket is not going to be very durable. Use it for trail running or as an emergency shell and try avoid anything that might snag it because it will tear.
Hopefully, I will have some more information and field use observations for you soon.