The North Face Futurelight Waterproof, Breathable Technology. Q & A

The emergence of FutureLight technology in the world of mountaineering has been a revolution that is perhaps difficult to assimilate. Here we answer some of the common questions we often receive from our customers.

FutureLight, waterproof and breathable, guaranteed.

Is Futurelight a membrane?

We could say yes, according to the dictionary definition, but it is not a fabric or a uniform layer that is placed between the exterior and our skin to act as a barrier that is impermeable to rain and permeable to sweat... or at least not as we have known them up to now. If we listen to The North Face's explanations we begin to have some doubts about its strict placement within the term "membrane" because they rarely use that word, preferring to use the term "technology". The habit of seeing classic membranes made as a single fabric makes us cautious about using this word and we feel more comfortable talking about "system" or "technology" as does The North Face.

FutureLight fabric production

How is FutureLight manufactured?

The manufacturing process is carried out by 200,000 injectors that create microscopic threads through a process called nanospinning or nanothreading. Nanospinning creates nano-sized fibres that leave small gaps between them and allow air permeability while maintaining waterproofing. This material can be laminated in a process that maintains the flexibility, breathability, waterproofing and durability of the system.

Construction of the FutureLight fabric by means of nano spinning

Is the Futurelight material the same as in the membranes known so far?

No, we are used to seeing membranes that use ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene), i.e. Teflon stretched to create micropores of the right size to allow water vapour from perspiration to pass through, but not rainwater. FutureLight uses the same answer to the problem of achieving breathability without compromising waterproofing, but the construction of the system is done without expanding a material, but by injecting polyurethane in a multitude of nano-threads.

Nano spun polyurethane (left) and expanded PTFE (right) under the microscope

Is there only one type of Futurelight?

FutureLight is really a waterproofing system with one single material and what varies is the way it is applied. A jacket used for trail running can be adjusted to be more breathable than, for example, a jacket designed for mountaineering. The construction of FutureLight allows the density at which the material is injected to be varied to suit the activity for which the garment is designed.

FutureLight technology to guarantee breathability

What differences can be observed compared to traditional membranes?

The fact that it is not a compact fabric but a fabric formed by thousands of threads in a random pattern allows air permeability that makes it much more breathable than anything similar to what we have used so far. This gives a tremendous advantage for aerobic activities or mountain sports in warmer latitudes, where the problem of humidity could come more from perspiration during exercise than from rainfall. It also creates an incredibly more flexible material, which is appreciated in the sensations during use and durability.

FutureLight breathability lab tests

Which Futurelight features should I look for when choosing my garment?

Here it's easy: The North Face already specifies on each garment what activity it is designed for. The reasonable precautions taken to avoid giving clues to the competition in the data make it impossible to find objective criteria such as water column or RET. However, we can affirm that the sensations, subjective of course, after hours of use correspond to the characteristics advertised by the brand on each garment; that is, the garment that is advertised for trail running will be more breathable, although not as waterproof, as a garment that is used exclusively for hiking on rainy days. Thus, we recommend that you pay attention to the information and specifications of use in the product sheet of each garment offered by the brand to know that you are choosing the right equipment for each activity.

What are the advantages of this system compared to what we know until now?

Nanospinning allows, among other things, to adjust a lot of variables of the system to the characteristics we are looking for during the making of the garment: weight, elasticity, breathability and durability are modifiable and allow a great variability depending on how we make the nanospinning injectors work, creating a denser or more porous fabric, resulting in a flat fabric or a reticular structure and adapted to the features we are looking for in a garment.

Variable breathability depending on the type of nanospinning

¿Are FutureLight garments environmentally friendly?

DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment is applied to FutureLight garments.

The DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment applied to FutureLight garments is made without the use of perfluorocarbons (PFCs), chemical compounds that last a long time in the environment and are harmful to organisms. In addition, the water-repellent treatment has been optimised to reduce water consumption to a minimum, as 80% of the treatment remains in the garment after 80 washes. And there is more: FutureLight garments are increasingly incorporating a higher percentage of recycled material in their composition.

PFC free DWR treatment

Does FutureLight only apply to clothing?

No, FutureLight technology also applies to footwear. The foot contains approximately 250,000 sweat glands, the highest concentration in the human body, which can become uncomfortable when walking in hot weather. One of the best features of this system is its great flexibility, which allows it to adapt very well to the continuous movements of the foot during a hike. Given FutureLight's incredible breathability and waterproofness, it is a perfect choice for keeping your feet dry during any activity.

FutureLight waterproofing applied to footwear

Curiously, but above all as an example of the tremendous technicality that this system allows, we will also add that FutureLight is applied to a tent, the Assault 2 FutureLight in which we will finally avoid to a large extent the uncomfortable condensation that occurs when two people live together in such a small space as a tent during cold nights in the mountains.

How do I care for a Futurelight garment?

Due to the DWR treatments and their increased ability to wick away perspiration, FutureLight garments do not need to be washed as often as traditional membranes. However, when it comes to machine washing your FutureLight garment, the process is the same as for waterproof technical garments. Wash with zips closed on a delicate cycle at 40°C with liquid detergent and no fabric softener. Rinse twice if possible and with a minimum spin cycle. If you have a tumble dryer, a short programme is recommended; if you do not have a tumble dryer, iron at a low temperature without using steam and protect with a towel or cloth to reactivate the DWR.

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