The North Face has been branching into lots of new areas in recent years, and as the brand continues to evolve some users, myself included, wonder what this means for their longstanding areas of focus. Climbing, for example, might be pushed out by aerobic endurance sports if the current trends continue. However, products like the new FuseForm Dolimiti give me hope that The North Face will continue to offer creative and reliable gear for backpackers and climbers.
The North Face FuseForm Dolomiti Features:
- Midweight, smooth-face fleece hoodie with innovative FuseForm™ construction
- FuseForm stretch and engineered knit-patterned back
- Alpine fit
- 200-weight smooth-face fleece with stretch and engineered knit-patterned back
- Attached, elastic-bound hood
- Avg weight: 7.76 oz
- Fabric: 230 g/m² 100% polyester engineered smooth-face fleece
- MSRP: $150
A balancing act from The North Face
With any insulating product that’s also intended for active use, there’s always going to be a tension between warmth and breathability. We’ve seen quite a few products recently that fall into the ‘active insulation’ category, using products like PrimaLoft Gold, Polartec Alpha or Coreloft. The classic fleece, on the other hand, has rarely been given much attention in terms of boosting breathability. In a lot of ways, the Dolomiti is a high-tech attempt to answer that problem. The North Face’s 230g/m2 hardface fleece is intended to be both breathable and warm. ‘Hardface’ just means that it’s not fuzzy, like what you think of with a classic fleece.
The basic innovation here is a special manufacturing technique where The North Face combines fabrics of different weights, blends and lofts without resulting to the use of multiple panels which all require stitching. The result is a lighter, more refined fleece for alpine assaults. You’ll find lighter weaves underneath the arms and along the back of the fleece where you’re likely to be soaked by sweat. The front is a heavier knit, helping to keep your core warm in an area that ought to see more exposure to wind and cold (unless you’re under a hardshell, then it’s a bit moot). Along with this, there are some very intriguing stitching designs, such as one that reaches 3/4 of the length down the arm and then stops. It’s very interesting, and I don’t completely understand the manufacturing process behind this high-tech hoodie. That said, the seam placements are thoughtful and I never experienced irritation from using a pack or harness.
In the mean time, the fleece is really delightfully svelte. There’s not much going on here, and that’s nice – all we’ve got is a hood, a chest pocket and that 1/4-length zipper. The zippers pulls are big and easy to grab, particularly nice for when you have gloves on. I like the hood especially well – it slides underneath a helmet and disappears thanks to the thin fabric and careful tailoring. When the zip is zipped up, the jacket provides quite a bit of protection for your chin and that’s nice, too.
I’m 5’11: and 185lbs. I was very pleased with how the jacket fit throughout – it has an athletic cut but it’s not obnoxiously slim. The jacket sits nicely at the waist, but I know some users would prefer to have an elasticized hem. As it is, there’s no stretch so larger figures will feel the pinch.
- FuseForm is creative and effective
- Fit of the fleece overall is excellent
- Hood disappears under a helmet, offering lots of protection
- No stretch at the hem will leave some people feeling pinched
The Bottom Line: The North Face Dolomiti Pullover
The North Face can still make a fleece worthy of the Dolomites – that’s encouraging to see. The Dolomiti is a great product that will quickly become one of your best friends in the alpine. Definitely the type of fleece that I don’t want to take off, so I leave it on on trail, in camp and around town.
Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com