(Photo Credit: Marko Metzinger)
Outdoor-gear manufacturers make big bones of their latest high-tech fabrics, going so far as to give them names that would be better suited to Spider-Man villains: Climalite, Spylon, Omni-Freeze. But there's only so far fabric itself can take an all-weather jacket. So they had to start messing with the seams.
Over the past decade seams have come a long way. The technology that protects them from wind and water became so nearly perfect that the only better option would be to have no seams at all.
That's pretty much what The North Face has done. The Fuse Uno alpine climbing shell ($399) is constructed out of a single piece of fabric, like a really expensive origami crane. Instead of affi sturdier fabrics at stress points, the company uses different threads when sewing different parts of the same piece of fabric, going back over the base material to weave in tough Cordura nylon.
With no more seams, there's no more need for seam tape. And with no tape, the Fuse Uno is 20 percent lighter than any jacket The North Face has made before, which should make all those zippers very nervous.
If We May… Please, a word about this fall's great lightweight jackets: Don't buy a technical mountaineering shell unless you're a mountaineer. Unlike on the Uno, the pockets of technical mountaineering jackets have been moved up so as not to interfere with a climbing harness. They're nearly nipple height, which is entirely uncomfortable to anyone who wants to put his hands in his pockets without forcing his shoulders into with his cheeks.