The North Face Alpine Project ReviewJuly 10, 2012
- Excellent breathability.
- Excellent water-shedding.
- Good next-to-skin comfort.
- Fit is a little roomier than expected.
- Orange color picks up stains easily.
Testers were smitten with this lightweight, but still well featured shell, especially in high output activities in the rain. Breathability, thanks to Gore's new Active Shell, was excellent without sacrificing weather shedding performance and it stood up to abuse. Cut short for climbing, hikers and general users may want a longer cut shell.
It’s rare that a hood registers more than a brief comment or two, but on the Alpine Project, it sealed the deal for one tester. “The best hood I’ve ever used,” he said. With a stiff brim, helmet friendly room and hidden cord locks, it is easy to adjust one-handed and provides ample cover.
The second most positive comment was about the Gore Tex Active Shell membrane used throughout the jacket. “The breathability is noticeably better than past waterproof breath-ables, (which is the limiting factor in waterproof shells in any high-output sport, so this makes a big difference!),” wrote anoth tester. In our test, we found Active Shell to on par with Neoshell and eVent in terms of breathability. Additionally, pit zips and mesh pockets helped ditch heat when the Active Shell became overwhelmed.
At 15 ounces, it feels much more substantial than most ultralight shells, which tend to feel like tissue paper. But the four or five-ounce difference with a true ultra-light is more than made up for in convenience (like two mesh hand pockets and pit zips) and durability.
The design is simple, but a little short for all around use. It sits right at belt level, which is ideal for wearing a harness, but lunge for a hold and it gets a little breezy. A little built in stretch in the Active Shell would help.
As for weatherproof, there wasn’t a complaint despite several days of rainy use. When the weather really got nasty testers cinched down the hood and zipped up the fleece-lined collar. The front zip and pit zips are polyurethane lined to keep out drips.