CGR test the new ultralight climbing hardshell from The North Face®.
The North Face® Anti-Matter Jacket is a lightweight Summit Series windproof and hooded, helmet compatible soft shell alpine jacket.
The North Face® continue to produce their Summit Series range of clothing designed by climbers for climbers. This time they have produced a super light hardshell that is great for climbing in. In 2012 I stated that I didn’t wear hardshells for climbing in and they tended to stay in the bottom of my pack until it rained but… I have had a change of heart. There are many benefits to using a hardshell for climbing in and the new breed of lightweight shell make it very easy to do so. They are 100% windproof, they are lighter than a softshell and it’s easier to regulate you temperature when on a big multi-pitch route. I’ve found that since using a hardshell more often on mountain routes I am warmer and more comfortable.
Firstly, The North Face® pointed out that the jacket is not guaranteed waterproof, so let’s look at the materials. The jacket is made from Goretex Windstopper, it’s mostly 2 layer Windstopper with the shoulders and outside arm areas in 3 layer, these are the areas that are exposed to abrasion when climbing so you have some extra durability in those areas. This hybrid construction has made the jacket very light. The North Face® state the Anti-Matter Jacket is 319g, the trusty CGR scales weighed it in at 305g! So although the jacket isn’t guaranteed waterproof, it’s certainly showerproof to rainproof. The majority of the seams are taped, there are two areas that aren’t: in the hood where there is a folded, sen seam and in the waist area. Both of these areas are covered by firstly a climbing helmet and secondly a climbing harness. I used the jacket in a variety of showery and rainy conditions including assessing, training and group work as well as my own personal climbing and it hasn’t really leaked anywhere that I would notice. I suppose if I stood out in a complete deluge for a hour those seams might just leak through, but to be honest I’d be back at the car by then. One issue I had was that the material around the harness is the 2 layer when it could have been three layer, this would help the durability more when using climbing hardwear.
The materials make The North Face© Anti-Matter Jacket very compressible and it took up very little room in the pack, it was ideal for big days out, especially winter when space is at a premium. The styling was great for climbing in, it was an Alpine fit and there was no rise when worn with a harness. The beatheability was very good on walk ins, this was aided by the addition of pit zips that were also pockets. This was a great innovation, the shape of the zip was diagonal, it starts at the armpit then ends at position of a normal pocket. I soon found out that I needed to remember to have the zip pulls at the bottom otherwise it caused some frustration when I needed to get some gloves or energy bar. The pockets were plenty big enough to fit maps in as well as gloves, compass, GPS, etc. The hood was the best hood I have used on any jacket for a long time – it was brilliant and deserved the 5 star rating alone. This is an area that many manufacturers get wrong and I could see that The North Face® had spent time trying to get it right. It was a dream to wear with a helmet on, it’s really good to see that The North Face® have wired hood on all the Summit Series hardshells. It does make a difference and I don’t understand why manufacturers can’t use them. The peak was further enhanced by by the elasticated hood adjustment. The small elasticated ‘skirt’, when adjusted to my helmet just tucked under the helmet brim and presto! The helmet was locked in place and needed no further adjustment . The toggles are hidden in the jacket, this aids styling but makes it awkward to find them, especially with gloves on. Since I have adjusted the hood to fit with my helmet on, I’ve just left it at that and it also seems to fit without one on.
The sleeves were taped and a good length, not too long. The ends were large enough to tuck winter climbing gloves underneath them and cinched tight enough to tuck them into belay gloves. They had moulded cuff tabs, but I didn’t see any advantages to these over a material one. The zips were YKK Aquaguard, they are taped and had a good sized draft guard. They worked every time and never got caught (I am often zipping and unzipping as I keep my gloves inside my jacket and not in pockets). The chin guard and back of the collar had a laminated brushed microfleece layer to help comfort. Even though I would like to see some extra durability in the waist area and the pockets were not as easy to use as I would have liked them to be. I have no hesitation in giving The North Face® Anti-Matter Jacket 5 stars, it has performed well for me throughout the winter season. And has quickly become a favourite item of clothing, I suspect it will become my Alpine favourite this summer too.