Remember the Summit Series? This isn’t a brand-new concept; after all, we’ve talked about The North Face Summit Series before, especially about the process between TNF’s designers and athlete team to improve and refine the offering. But it went away for Fall/Winter 2014, and it’s returning in a completely different format. Let’s start there.
Summit Series was originally launched (in 2000) as the absolute pinnacle of alpine climbing and mountaineering apparel. Only specialty “Summit Dealers” like Rock/Creek had access to sell these highest-of-high-end products. Over the years, though, the Summit line swelled to include dozens and dozens of styles, all top-shelf for their intended uses but perhaps less focused. The collection went away entirely last year, as the product team rethought their approach. This year, though, The North Face is putting the “core” back in “hardcore” with a super-focused, climbing-specific lineup of products.
By focused, we’re talking about a TOTAL of 16 styles, 8 for men and 8 for women, when the previous collection (Fall/Winter 2013) included 90 styles. It’s still exclusive to Summit Dealers, but now it’s also a very limited production, and at the end of the season they go back instead of being available as part of an end-of-season clearance. The North Face is drawing a clear line in the sand between this product offering and previous iterations of the Summit Series, so the word “reimagined” turns up a lot in the marketing materials.
What, exactly, are these pieces? They’re climbing-specific base layers, mid-layers, insulated jackets, shell jackets and shell pants designed specifically to be the ultimate setup for alpine climbing. The styles are named L1 through L6, based on what layer they represent; you’re probably not going to wear six layers, but the L1 is the base layer and the L6 is an outside-the-shell belay jacket. Makes sense, right? The picture is clearer when you see the collection laid out, so here are the 8 men’s styles:
The monochromatic color palette will be a matter of personal preference, of course, but The North Face says their goal was to create a system that blends tonally with the alpine environment, “system” being the key word here. The L1 is your next-to-skin layer. The L2, L3 and L4 pieces are midlayers (L2 is a light polyester fleece, L3 is down-insulated and L4 is The North Face’s synthetic Thermoball insulation). L5 is your wind/rain shell layer, and L6 is the belay jacket that goes atop your shell and harness.
It all fits together and works together seamlessly, and that’s the real story here. It’s not about The North Face trying to sell you an entire closetful of outdoor apparel. It’s about stripping out the bells and whistles for exactly what you need, in the form of no-holds-barred optimized layers with maximum versatility. The Summit L1 is an “engineered” fabric with zonal construction. The L2 is a Polartec hardface fleece with additional external seam taping, making it one of the most durable fleece layers we’re aware of. The L4 and L6 down jackets steal the FuseForm technology from The North Face’s hardshells (including the Summit L5, actually) for the best combination of durability and light weight.
Trust us, this system is dialed. We’re launching these on Thursday, October 15th and they’ll only be around until they’re gone — don’t miss out!