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The North Face sucks
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Marty McClaine
(rwstripes) - F
The North Face sucks on 06/13/2008 08:20:25 MDT Print View

I feel the need to vent about The North Face. I work in an outdoors store where we sell a lot of North Face products. We sell a little bit of everything, a lot of clothes, shoes, backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. We sell a wide variety within each category as well. We sell both high end summit series products as well as everyday stuff like cotton clothes and school bags. Frankly, I’m tired of their junk.

The North Face is not the company they used to be. From what I know, about five years ago they were bought by Vanity Fair (yes, the magazine) and ever since then they have been selling overpriced vanity products. Their high end gear is often terrible. They try so hard to be cutting edge that they don’t take the time to properly test their products and technologies. For instance, they sold tents with rain flies a few years ago that could not stand up to UV rays. We had people trying to return their tents after only two seasons of moderate use. One employee said he had a Tadpole tent that was toast after about 50 nights in the bush. The fly was completely discolored from UV and was no longer waterproof. Not only that, but The North Face said it was normal wear and tear and wouldn’t replace it.

Their footwear is awful. I own a pair that was sent back on warranty after 3 months of around town use. We see a lot of The North Face shoes come back on warranty. I had one guy come in who’d bought heavy duty hiking boots. He had to cut his trip short because of them. Even after wearing them for a couple of weeks before he went to the mountains he couldn’t get them broken in properly. His feet hurt so much on the trip he had to go home. Not only that but the EVA foam they used on the sole was torn to shreds.

I’ve seen $700 sleeping bags that had seams coming apart before we’d even put it on the rack. We had a shipment of $400 down jackets that had women’s tags sewn in to men’s jackets. Even the sizes were wrong on the tags. It’s not uncommon for the cardboard tags they attach to have the wrong info. For instance, we had sleeping bags that said they had condura in the footbox but they didn’t and jackets that said they had water bottle pockets but they didn’t. I own a pair of pants that started out a beige color but have faded to almost a mint green over the last five months. How is it that a gear company that has built it’s reputation on quality and customer service can’t even make colorfast pants?

Basically, I want to discourage everyone from buying anything North Face. Their quality is terrible and their gear often lacks proper testing. I speak as both a consumer who has been completely disappointed with almost everything I’ve bought and as a sales person who sees how much stuff comes back on warranty. The only thing I can say in their defense is that their lifetime warranty is still pretty good, although you have to be careful. A lot of their trendy products only have a 1 year warranty now days.

Ryan Gardner
(splproductions) - F - M

Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
North Face's target market... on 06/13/2008 09:34:30 MDT Print View

It sounds to me like they are shifting their target market to that large segment of the population who buy outdoor equipment and never use it for its intended purpose, i.e., the wealthy and trendy businessman who buys a $400 ArcTeryx jacket to wear to work when it's a bit chilly. Similar to people who buy a Hummer to take their kids to soccer practice and go to the grocery store.

Marty McClaine
(rwstripes) - F
target market on 06/13/2008 09:44:56 MDT Print View

It's certainly true that North Face has changed their target market somewhat. What bugs me is that some of their gear is still meant for serious people. Yuppies don't buy expedition sleeping bags for example. However, the serious gear was still decent a few years ago but even it's gone downhill fast.

What also bugs me is that even the yuppies are returning their clothes. We had some jackets a couple of winters ago that were Pertex quantum and 900 fill power down. Although the down was a high fill power it was bad quality. There were a lot of pointy feathers in it that poked through the thin Pertex. The women's jackets had the calendared side on the outside to look trendy. Interestingly, the women's jackets had a lot more loose feathers. I would guess that a quarter of the women's jackets were returned.

Edited by rwstripes on 06/13/2008 10:16:05 MDT.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
The North Face Sucks on 06/13/2008 10:39:24 MDT Print View

You may not like the quality of North Face clothing and equipment, but they are owned by VF Corporation, which has nothing to do with Vanity Fair magazine.

VF Corporation also owns JanSport, EastPak, and Eagle Creek brands, among many others.

I also believe that like much high-margin fashion merchandise, there are fake North Face goods out in the marketplace.

Edited by jdw01776 on 06/13/2008 10:51:05 MDT.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
TNF on 06/13/2008 11:03:20 MDT Print View

I owned a The North Face pack a few years ago (it was called the Skareb) and it seemed to be very good quality. In the end it wasn't what I was looking for so I sold it off, but it didn't give me any durability problems. I do find that their clothing doesn't fit well and the workmanship isn't of good quality. I had a pair of fleece glove from TNF that had raw seams inside the fingers.

I don't find myself even contemplating making purchases of TNF products as there are usually much better choices of equivalent gear for my needs. But this holds true for most of the 'major label' outdoor gear makers...with the exception of maybe REI, Mountain Hardwear, and a few others. Mostly, I'm buying from cottage operations where the focus is on performance and filling a certain niche. I'm sure this is the case with most of the folks here on BPL.

I would be concerned about using expedition gear from most of the major manufacturers. If I were climbing Annapurna, I'd have to think twice about using a TNF tent.

Marty McClaine
(rwstripes) - F
Re: The North Face Sucks on 06/13/2008 11:16:35 MDT Print View

I didn't know VF Corporation owned North Face. I'm not sure how I got my facts wrong. My only guess is that someone at my store confused the VF for Vanity Fair or maybe, although unlikely, Vanity Fair own shares of VF Corporation or something.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Same Name, Different Entities on 06/13/2008 13:11:18 MDT Print View

It looks like the VF Corporation used to be called Vanity Fair Mills, until 1969, when they changed their name. It doesn't look like they have any relation to the magazine (other than a really goofy name):

Edited by rossbleakney on 06/13/2008 13:11:54 MDT.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
re: "The North Face sucks" on 06/13/2008 14:21:08 MDT Print View

I was recently in Boston and was absolutely shocked by the percentage of people wearing TNF products. I would say it was about 25%. That is, 25% of the people walking down the street had a shirt or sweater on with TNF logo. That's a phenomenal level of market penetration.

I think that when a brand starts to become a status symbol or a recognized fashion statement, the company comes to a difficult crossroads: continue trying to fulfill the original mission of the company and make modest earnings or ride the new wave and capitalize on growing mass appeal, which usually involves moving all production to China and shifting emphasis from functionality to appearance. The North Face has made its choice, and I can't blame them, but they are no longer a brand for serious outdoorsman as they used to be -- or rather, such goods make up an ever-shrinking percentage of their profit.

This could happen to GoLite and other successful ultralight brands as the movement progresses. Luckily, there will always be peripheral brands who cater to the narrow market of demanding adventurers.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: The North Face sucks on 06/13/2008 15:22:18 MDT Print View

I have never purchased TNF products. Every time something or another looks interesting, that huge THE NORTH FACE logo hits me like a ton of bricks -- knocking me clear across the aisle to other, less in-your-face brands.

Edited by ben2world on 06/13/2008 15:26:18 MDT.

Brett Tucker
(blister-free) - F

Locale: Puertecito ruins
Re: The North Face sucks on 06/13/2008 16:01:11 MDT Print View

Their casual/crossover apparel line is actually very nicely done, many of the products. I'm referring to BDU-style pants, zip-neck polos, and the like - stuff you'd wear for a night on the town, and quite possibly into the woods as well. I don't find the branding on these types of products to be objectionable nor any more or less blatant than the majority of what's out there.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
While I wouldn't on 06/13/2008 16:07:07 MDT Print View

Buy technical gear from NF, I have no qualms about buying around town clothes. My favorite fleece jacket is by them - more of a soft shell, with hoodie. Comfy and holding up great so far.
It does have its place......just not in the great outdoors so much.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
TNF sucks on 06/13/2008 16:29:20 MDT Print View

Tnf is the #1 choice of posturing poseurs. "look at me, Im outdoorsy"

didnt you know?

Brett Tucker
(blister-free) - F

Locale: Puertecito ruins
Re: TNF sucks on 06/13/2008 16:49:09 MDT Print View

>>Tnf is the #1 choice of posturing poseurs. "look at me, Im outdoorsy"<<

That may be true of the bold logo stuff like 700-fill down jackets for the "inner city adventurer." But I don't think that argument holds up for the "less loud" garments like the shirts and pants. ("Well, these go to 11.")

Heck, why should functional, aesthetically pleasing garments be reserved exclusively for poseurs?

E.g., the TNF Paramount convertible pant is popular among l-d hikers, though I've yet to have one of those embarrassing "look what we're both wearing!" moments while wearing 'em around town.

Edited by blister-free on 06/13/2008 16:58:43 MDT.

James Loy
(jimbluz) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
"TNF Sucks" on 06/25/2008 12:59:58 MDT Print View

A few years ago I purchased a North Face tent that I discovered was 14" shorter in length than the specs. Because of this disparity, my feet touched the inner wall of the tent causing my sleeping bag to get wet. When I finially did get in touch with someone at TNF (they did not return my call), they told me they really had no idea how a tent floor was measured. I returned the tent to REI who explained that TNF's quality had been slipping and that REI had to financially "bail TNF out"! Needless to say, I have not purchased any TNF items in years.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: TNF collectable shorty tent on 06/25/2008 15:37:22 MDT Print View

Wow, more than a foot short--that doesn't even seem possible. How frustrating! (I wonder if they mistook a fly dimension for a floor dimension?)

TNF is what it is. They make some good stuff and plenty of pedestrian stuff. That they exist at all is a bit of a miracle. I can't recall many details but in the late '90s there was to be a sale &/or public offering, and severe accounting irregularities were discovered that essentially torpedoed the transaction and sent TNF hurtling towards bankruptcy. VF acquired the wreckage in 2000 and that's what we have today.

Some of TNF's creative core left to start Mountain Hardware in '93.

I manage a shopping spree at the TNF Berkeley outlet a couple times a year (it has nothing whatever to do with the Pyramid Brewing down the street). They still know how to make good technical clothing and I continue to use a couple of daypacks and (old) tents. You just have to sort through a lot of boring stuff to find it.

spanky sox
(infiniteloop) - F
TNF sucks on 07/22/2008 16:35:18 MDT Print View

I just went into a North Face store - large one in palo alto, ca, to find a certain topo map - THEY DON'T SELL THEM! WEAK! That's the last time I ever consider North Face a player in any kind of outdoor activity...

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The North Face sucks on 07/22/2008 20:48:11 MDT Print View

A few months ago The North Face opened a shop in Elizabeth St, Melbourne, just down the road from the also company owned Mcpac store. Looking at the Macpac store you can see that it is a hiking supply store whilst TNF is pretty much a fashion clothing outlet, not that different from the Columbia store around the corner.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: The North Face sucks on 07/22/2008 21:46:59 MDT Print View

Take away there Flight Series and we have a good compitition for K-Mart.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
north face? on 07/22/2008 21:47:32 MDT Print View

hey man, you can wear TNF all you want. Its a poseur brand. You may not be a poseur, but TNF screams "look at me, Im outdoorsy"

Be it far from me to tell anyone what to wear. But yes, Ive seen Boston. Quite silly I think.

I'll still be seen in Moonstone, and Mt. Hardwear even if they both were absorbed by Columbia (another poseur brand)

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: The North Face sucks on 07/22/2008 22:30:02 MDT Print View

Let's go beat up The North Face!

I love my Nuptse jacket for everyday winter use, but I certainly agree they've lost any edge they may have had on technical gear, and have never really "gotten" the whole ultralight thing.

Too many brands have done this. I have an older Mongoose from when they made high-end competition level bikes. Now they're Wal-Mart fare.

Their name sure does sound extreme, though.

Edited by dsmontgomery on 07/22/2008 22:31:06 MDT.