"Better than Naked" is a hard selling point, but that’s what The North Face is trying to convince runners of with their new line of race-ready gear.
The idea of running “naked” might not be the most enticing this time of year, when temperatures can change rapidly and staying sweaty can mean you’re chilled for a long time. In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, we’ve been having foggy mornings, sunny days, and cold nights, which means by the end of my run the weather might be completely different than when I started.
The North Face’s new Better Than Naked collection is geared toward runners who consistently hit the road or trail for long periods of time, and who are moving through variable conditions. The gear is made with FlashDry, a proprietary technology that TNF launched last year. FlashDry is a particle technology, embedded in the synthetic fabric, which pulls moisture out. Unlike other hydrophobic fabric additives, it won’t wash out of the material.
To make sure the gear holds up over long distances, TNF has enlisted a noteworthy team of ultra-runners to test out the new line. In addition to long-time big name athletes like Dean Karnazes and Diane Van Deren, they’ve added Rory Bosio, who recently won The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, and Timothy Olson, who won the Western States 100 two years in a row, to the team.
The trials have paid off both in terms of construction and temperature control. My favorite piece in the line is the BTN Split Shorts. Their three-inch inseam and lack of inner seam ensured that they were chafe- and bunch-free, and thanks to the FlashDry, they didn’t get sweaty or sticky. The line also has a men's equivalent, which uses the same material and body mapping, but has a slightly longer inseam.
The BTN Crew, which comes in a men’s and women’s version, weighs next to nothing and wicks instantly. It’s cut slightly short in the torso (I have a particularly short torso), but on long runs it never got soggy or baggy. The flatlocked seams helped to limit chafing, too.
For cold mornings the BTN Torpedo Jacket adds a wind- and water-resistant outer layer that still vents well. I’ve also happily worn it while cycling, because it has jersey-like back pockets.
Better than naked? Hard to say, but for instances where naked is unacceptable, The North Face nailed it.