EACH YEAR, MANUFACTURERS bring out new technology that is applied to everything from socks and shoes to packs and, in case of The North Face, outer shell jackets. TNF’s Fuse Uno outer shell is made using an all-new and innovative seamless weaving technique dubbed FuseForm. This translates to the technology allowing a combination of two materials, of different weights, to be woven together as a single fabric. Yep, it’s cool.
A major advantage of TNF’s FuseForm technology is that it means the Fuse Uno is made from one (yes, one!) piece of material, thus significantly reducing the number of seams in the jacket (The North Face claims 40 percent less seams in the Uno compared to a regular outer shell). By doing this, it not only reduces weight but also ups the overall strength of the garment; the Uno’s unique construction results in an alpine-strength outer shell that is seriously light (at 350g) and still tough.
The materials used are TNF’s three-layer Hyvent Alpha, with tough Cordura incorporated into the fabric (for the jacket’s more wear-prone sections, such as the shoulders) during the weaving process, after which the “flat” design is “folded” to make a jacket.
The finished outer shell is close-fitting without being restrictive; the articulated arms mean any hem lift is minimal when you raise your arms above your head. The material is very breathable as well; during a few long, warm but rainy day hikes, I found the jacket still quite comfortable. In terms of durability, I have not been too precious with the Uno (it has copped a few bumps and scrapes against tree branches, rocks, etc.) but it has shrugged it off with no marks/abrasions to be seen on the exterior. The only negative I could find – most obvious during this type of inclement weather – was the Uno’s lack of hood drawcords; if I was turned into the wind, the hood would balloon and water would get inside. Having said that, it is worth pointing out that the Uno’s primary focus is as a climbing shell and I reckon with a helmet inside the hood, you’d have no problems.
Other than this, I have found the Uno to be great. Just the technology itself is enough to cause oohs and aahs from other outdoor enthusiasts, but backing up that tech is the solid overall performance of the jacket. I have used it for everything from a family day at the beach in winter, through to the abovementioned day hike on a stormy day, and it has never faltered. There’s no doubt The North Face is on to a good thing with its FuseForm technology (there are now more TNF shells using this same tech) and, in regards to how it will perform long-term, well, you’ll have to wait another 12 months to find out; I don’t intend handing it back any time soon.
RRP from $359