Jacket: TNF Free Thinker Jacket
The North Face Free Thinker Jacket
The Free Thinker Jacket is pitched by The North Face as their premier backcountry ski and snowboard jacket. It certainly looks the business but it does it measure up in use?
The Free Thinker is super tough Gore-Tex® XCR® Enduro jacket. The Enduro part of the XCR® description refers to The North Face’s own infusion technology that allows the Gore-Tex® to be toughened up in areas of potential weakness such as the shoulders.
Any of the zips not protected with storm flaps are waterproof and bonded which as well as giving a high level of protection also gives the jacket its distinctive style.
The waterproof zips include the main front zip, two standard chest pockets and the underarm venting zips. There are two additional standard zipped pockets (protected with storm flaps) on the left arm, which are perfect for the new generation of automated lift passes.
Internally, the jacket has two large stretch mesh pockets which are intended for your goggles and a mobile phone / MP3 player. I found I could fit a walkie-talkie inside either of the pockets and as one is zippered and the other is open at the top, they are pretty versatile.
Under each arm are two large double waterproof zips for venting the jacket. The zips are again waterproof and allow the jacket to ‘breathe’ when I was slogging up hill.
The internal snow skirt is elasticated and fitted me well. However, it isn’t adjustable so it would be worth checking that you can get it tight enough to keep out the snow.
The integrated jacket includes a RECCO® reflector that can pick up the RECCO® detection system that is used in most resorts to search for buried avalanche victims.
TNF describe the hood as a ‘Drop Hood’ but it was the big disappointment for me. Courtesy of some clever design the stitching pattern within the hood allows it to drop down (behind your head) folding almost flat against your body. However, when moving really fast I could feel the wind picking at the hood, when falling over in powder it filled with snow and when ducking under branches I worried that it would get caught. In my opinion a fully detachable (or roll-a-way) hood is an absolute must on a serious ski / snowboard jacket and I’m amazed that the Free Thinker doesn’t have one.
The only positive thing I can say about the hood is that although it isn’t wired it is very adjustable and I found it to be surprisingly effective when I wore the jacket in heavy rain.
I’ve had more comments from people about how stylish this jacket looks than any other jacket I’ve worn recently. It certainly goes to show that TNF continue to make highly desirable items of clothing that look great.
The Free Thinker is almost a great mountain sports jacket but in my opinion has been compromised by the lack of removable hood.
Reviewed by Shane Ohly on behalf of planetFear