The North Face offer a fresh take on the stretchy-softshell genre of jacket with the Exodus. Some very clever pattern sand computer-aided design has resulted in a garment that is cut and sewn from a single, intact, block of fabric (excluding pocket liners).
Combined with low-profile stitched and sealed seams, this approach reduces weight – it weighs 420g – and bulk, and makes it super comfortable to wear – as long as it fits your body shape.
Softshell fabrics are many and varied, and some aren’t suited to year-round use in New Zealand’s changeable and relatively warm and wet climate. Windproofness, breathability, water resistance, low bulk and ease of movement are criteria to look for. The Exodus ticks all those boxes pretty well with its proprietary high-stretch fabric.
Membrane-free, it relies on a tight weave to block wind and does this effectively, while also breathing and wicking well enough to be comfortable once you work up a sweat.
Rain beads on the surface and runs off – providing good water resistance for a soft shell – but pack strap pressure forces water through the fabric in steady rain.
The fabric is extremely tough and should handle a rough life of outdoor use. Its considerable stretch makes it a good choice for climbing. While the Exodus is aimed at rock climbers and mountaineers, I found that the relatively short torso length meant that it untucked from my harness from time to time – a slight downside, and the cut of the garment in the upper arms and shoulders is quite loose and was not so well suited to my lean limbs.
This is a good softshell for New Zealand conditions and a smart-looking all-rounder that will work for not only climbing, but tramping, cycling and casual wear.