After their founders embarked on a life changing expedition, The North Face and Patagonia became world leaders in ourdoor clothing innovations.
By James Kallenbach
In 1968, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, founders of Patagonia and The North Face respectively, drove an old van 5000 miles from California to the Patagonia region of South America. They then ascended the southwest ridge of Mount Fitz Roy, one of the world’s most arduous and technically challenging climbs. A particularly harrowing part of the adventure was spending three weeks in a snow cave waiting for deadly storms to pass.
This trip cemented the friendship between Yvon and Doug, inspired the film 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless and led to the creation of the Patagonia Land Trust. The trip also provided the namesake for the company Yvon began in 1970, and influenced the principles Doug incorporated into the business he had started in 1964. (The North Face is named for the side of mountains in the northern hemisphere that are typically the coldest and most difficult to climb.)
In the years since that fateful journey, The North Face and Patagonia have pioneered outdoor and lifestyle clothing that makes mountain travel and activities more accessible, comfortable and stylish. Both companies spearhead social and adventure enterprises, such as The North Face’s sponsored expeditions to remote regions of the world and Patagonia’s co-founding of the 1% For The Planet environmental initiative.
Patagonia introduced the idea of quick-drying and warm-when-wet synthetic base layers and insulation at a time when cotton and wool were the norm in the outdoor world. Current innovations in-store include:
• Organic cotton clothing, like the women’s Margot dress and Lightweight Climb shorts for men.
• Fleece made from recycled plastic bottles, found in styles like the men’s Synchilla Snap-T pullover and the women’s Re-Tool pullover.
• Odour deterrent socks and baselayers from Australian merino wool.
• Lightweight softshell jackets like the Adze and Simple Guide that are both wind- and water-resistant and exceptionally breathable.
• The Super Cell ultralight, breathable, wind- and water-proof jacket with Gore-Tex Paclite technology.
The North Face firsts include the iconic goose down insulated Sierra parka and Expedition Systems garments designed to perform in a variety of extreme climates. Recent innovations you will find on store shelves today include:
• Thermal Kinetic Advancement microfiber fleece that is lightweight, stays warm when damp and compresses to a remarkably small size.
• Lightweight Better Than Naked running gear with body-mapping technology for thermal regulation.
• Tadasana yoga styles with shape enhancing fits, and VaporWick fabrics that move sweat from skin.
• Ultra lightweight Alpine Project jackets that are very breathable, waterproof and windproof, and offer excellent next-to-skin comfort.
• Clothes with 100% windproof Gore-Tex Windstopper fabric like the warm and breathable Cipher Hybrid Hoodie.
While exploring the Canadian Rockies, visit the region’s outdoor clothing outfitters that showcase the latest from Patagonia and The North Face.
Interesting fact: Yvon Chouinard ascended the north face of Jasper’s Mount Edith Cavell in 1961.