Gear test: The North Face Fuse Dot Matrix
The North Face's FuseForm is one of the latest and most impressive outer shell technologies and it performs well in this new jacket.
OUTER SHELLS ARE one of the must-pack items of equipment; whether windy, wet or cold conditions, an outer shell is going to keep you warmer, dryer and safer. As such, it needs to be tough and effective at both providing said protection from exterior elements, and also from interior ones. And by this I mean your own body heat and sweat. There’s nothing worse than working hard in the outdoors and in the rain, and over-heating and getting “cold” because the moisture you create from body heat cannot escape from the confines of the shell.
Numerous technologies have evolved to deal with this, and The North Face’s FuseForm tech is one of the latest and most impressive. By incorporating plenty of ruggedness into the construction of the shell’s Hyvent 2.5L fabric, via integrated nylon fabric yarn at high-wear areas such as the shell’s shoulders, and more breathable polyester in the torso (hence the FuseForm moniker, reflecting the combo of the two fabrics), the Dot Matrix addresses the issue of moisture transfer. This fabric-construction tech also means there are fewer seams – the different fabrics are woven together rather than stitched resulting in greater strength and durability, as well as less weight (the Dot Matrix weighs just 350g).
You definitely notice how light the Dot Matrix when you wear it, along with the athletic fit, which sits close to your body without feeling constrictive. The jacket features plenty of ventilation points, including pit-zips (easily operated) and a fully adjustable hood.
In cold conditions the shell has proved its worth. On one day hike – during a sudden rainstorm – I ended up jogging most of the way back to the trailhead and my vehicle, and although I was slightly sweaty inside the shell, it wasn’t excessive, and once I jumped in the car and cooled down (around five minutes) I was dry and comfortable.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flood of tech terms and seemingly outrageous claims of fabric technology these days, so it is refreshing to wear a garment that gives the impression of fulfilling the marketing hype. In Australian conditions (primarily the eastern seaboard) the combo of humidity, sudden rain and often hot weather means an outer shell is working at its maximum capacity to keep to its remit. Heading into summer I am keen to see how the Dot Matrix performs in more challenging conditions.