The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket is designed to ape a 1994-era alpine jacket, with a few period twists thrown in for good measure. The jacket is made from The North Face’s Futurelight material, which is a three-layer fabric designed to be robust, lightweight and breathable, somewhat of a flagship technology for TNF. The company claims that the face fabric here is made from 100% recycled materials to boot. So how does it compare to today's best waterproof jackets? Read on for our full North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket review.
TNF Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket review: design
The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket has quite a bit to say on the design front, not all of it entirely positive. The stiffened and broad velcro sleeve cuffs feel on the industrial side of clothing design, more fireman than hiker, while the hip and hem drawcords hang loose and with unfinished ends, waiting to snag in a zip.
A dual-storm flap adds expedition-grade windproofing, as do large glove-friendly tabs on zips - this certainly looks like the kind of jacket Reinhold Messner would have worn in his heyday.
Another 'alpine-inspired detail' includes pit zips, which originally were designed to combat breathability problems in early fabrics, and are inevitably tricky to adjust (especially by head torch in dark, sub-zero temperatures). Finally, and most overstated-ly, the hood is adjusted around the head with two substantial compression-straps, ideal for squashing luggage, arguably overkill on a jacket hood.
In other news, there’s an internal chest mesh pocket, which the jacket can be packed into ‘when the weather eases’ according to TNF. The jacket does just about fit into this mesh pocket, but not easily, so don’t be thinking this is a quick and versatile, packable option. Two exterior hand pockets complete the facilities, while the heavyweight styling continues with double-layer material sections in high wear areas.
- Best torch: illuminate your way in the dark
- Best winter coats for men: keep warm with these stylish jackets
The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket: performance and comfort
At a claimed 784 grams, The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket isn’t a light or even mid-weight jacket, and to be fair the build quality makes that obvious – there's a zip-in fleece option for colder weather that makes the positioning even more clear. The mesh liner also hints that this is more of a jacket to wear up the pub than out in the wild, as does the weight of material in the double thickness areas. Overall, this is a proper old-school parka, not a modern shell like some of the other TNF Futurelight range.
Comfort levels are pretty high, however, the robustness and scale letting you wrap this around you like a massive expedition-grade jacket, and although the pockets are too small for accoutrements like a map, you’ll get plenty of snacks in there. The adjusters all work surprisingly well, in spite of their ‘retro’ appeal, in particular the hood straps. They might look OTT but they do keep the hood exactly where you want it, even in high winds.
Similarly, apart from the weight of The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket, it performs pretty well. The Futurelight is much more breathable than the original circa 1994 fabric, so the pit zips can stay safely closed in anything up to an uphill run. It’s also very waterproof, shrugging off the heaviest downpour with ease, as one would expect given the styling and highly-visible TNF branding.
The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket review: verdict
The North Face Mountain Light Waterproof Jacket is always going to polarise opinion due to the marriage of retro styling and modern fabrics. As a highly competent waterproof jacket for around town there’s nothing to complain about, but as an outdoor jacket the weight and retro detailing play against it. That said, as a reliable heavyweight waterproof for more stationary outdoor occasions this is a solid choice, and the 90s flavour is certainly strong.