With more and more advanced lightweight, waterproof & breathable shells hitting the market every season, it’s becoming evermore difficult for manufactures to stand out from the crowd. The North Face have apparently done just that, creating the worlds first (that we know of) 3L shell formed from a single piece of fabric – the benefits here at two fold (sorry…), firstly increased simplicity means increased reliability and durability. Secondly, less seams simply means less places to leak.
Comfort & Fit
When browsing through ‘comfortable’ garments, shells are generally not on the list. So compared to all the other shells we have tested how does the Fuse Uno perform? Well, the cut is excellent – allowing for a layer system whilst retaining a good range of movement, the HyventTM Alpha 3L fabric itself isn’t as crunchy and stiff as some of the jackets we have tested which is a nice departure. With excellent length in body and sleeve, our only complaint is the lack of adjustment on the hood, which was a real shame – with a helmet the fit is excellent, but without there isn’t really a way of keeping the driving rain out.
From top to bottom the Fuse Uno feels very well made – the FuseForm Hyvent Alpha 3L fabric has created a very neat and tidy garment, the lack of seams is very much apparent and the whole jacket has a rugged feel to it. The slightly fiddly pocket zippers (tricky with gloves on) are absolutely tiny, that said they haven’t broken yet – and the main zipper feels chunky, reliable and crucially doesn’t stick.
“The most technically advanced climbing shell, standing at the pinnacle of innovation with advanced design and superior protection. Engineered from a single piece of waterproof HyventTM Alpha 3L fabric, this first-of-its-kind jacket has a reduced number of seams, meaning more durability and less bulk. Revolutionary FuseFormTM technology also delivers varying degrees of abrasion resistance by combining two materials into one strengthened fabric. The overall result is a lighter, stronger and more stylish design in all areas.”
The Fuse Uno has proved durable – fending off sharp rock, branches, animals, whatever has been thrown at it. With some shells (especially super lightweight shells) the fabric feels like it could give up the ghost at any second, however the Fuse Uno’s HyventTM Alpha 3L fabric is a tough cookie without being overly heavy which is the key here, The North Face have balanced durability with overall weight quite nicely.
This is the crux for most shells – total waterproof functionality isn’t the problem (a bin bag would be waterproof), it’s how the garment breathes which dictates overall dryness. It’s no good keeping the weather out, if your perspiration cannot escape – this can lead to condensation within the jacket, and your base layers getting totally soaked. This wasn’t a problem for the Fuse Uno – during high intensity activities (which is, after all what it is designed for) the 3L fabric vented moisture very well, in-fact, it’s one of the best we’ve tested. Again, there is a compromise and limitation, no shell can breathe quite like a soft-shell, but in comparison to it’s rivals the Fuse Uno did not disappoint.
Water & Wind Resistance
It’s totally water and wind proof – with fewer seams and well sealed zippers (even the front chunky zipper kept the rain out). The only problem we found was the hood, (as previously mentioned) it doesn’t have any adjustment just some light elastic. This way, driving rain does sneak it’s way past the excellent 3L armour – it’s a shame and a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent jacket.
So with an RRP of £300, the Fuso Uno is definitely punching at the high end of shell market. The fabric and fit is incredible, but the lack of hood adjustment did let the functionality down just a bit. With that in mind, if you’re looking for an Alpine or Climbing shell – where a helmet is the order of the day – the Fuse Uno is certainly worth a consideration, for this purpose it excels and the technology in this jacket is just about the best that’s available at the moment.