Friday, 15 June 2012

TNF Better Than Naked Review

The Cool Shorts in action during the Terrex Swift Adventure Race

I've spent the last few weeks running around dressed in blue testing The North Face 'Better Than Naked' trail running kit and overall I have to say they've done a great job with some fairly simple bits of clothing. All the products are incredibly light and quick drying as suggested by the unusual name. In fact the only real issue I have is with the colour scheme. In a quick straw poll I didn't find any runners who would be comfortable wearing the complete ensemble or even the shorts and t-shirt. It's maybe a British quirk but the general consensus would seem to be that being colour coordinated is not a good look. They are also available as a black short and green t-shirt which I feel most UK runners would be far more comfortable wearing.

The Cool Short Sleeved Shirt is the lightest running top I currently own and has been getting plenty of use during the recent brief hot spell. There are no pockets or gimmicks but it's a great cut with plenty of ventilation (almost 50% mesh). Although predominantly blue it has a large white panel on the back. This has already started to look discoloured from my rucksack and a couple of spins on the road bike. Another contrasting panel of blue would seem a far more sensible option on a trail running t-shirt. the rest of the design has been well thought out with flatlock seams, minimal stitching on the shoulders, a low friction lining on the stitching around the back of the neck and a reflective logo front and rear.

The Cool Shorts are pretty long but with with a high side cut giving great flexibility. They feature a couple of mesh pouches and a rear zipped pocket. I usually wear compression shorts under running shorts which can cause problems with the internal brief but no issues here. They also feature a wide waistband which is very comfortable even under a rucksack waist strap.  I've given these a real hammer including the 48 hour Terrex Swift (which involved canoeing, mountain biking, caving & fell running) and they still look as good as new. For such a lightweight fabric they are proving surprisingly durable. I was a wee bit worried that the rear zipped pocket would cause a problem under my rucksack but I've never even noticed it. It's not big enough for a smart phone but would easily take your keys and a gel. I did find I had to add a toggle to the draw string as they kept coming undone and I would have liked some more reflective detail for safety but overall the best pair of shorts I've used for a whole variety of activities

Finally the Cool Jacket is another great lightweight bit of kit. A simple no frills windproof jacket with plenty of ventilation which lines up with the mesh on the t-shirt. Personally I think it has a great cut and looks pretty good due to a slim fit with plenty of stretch fabric under and down the arms. It's not as warm as a full windproof but on those days when it's just a wee bit too chilly in a t-shirt then it's a great option to throw on. An elastic hem and a snug well fitting neck help keep out the drafts from your torso but the full length zip and sleeves that can be easily pulled up mean you shouldn't overheat when you've warmed up. The jacket will stuff into the chest pocket which also has a small internal hole for your earphones. This is possibly a more specialised piece of clothing than the t-shirt and shorts which would appeal more to the dedicated runner who trains regularly. With anything other than a perfect forecast I'd want something that offers a bit more protection with me on the hill but for local trails and roads it works perfectly. Plenty of reflective logos and trim should make you visible.

Overall a great set of clothes for the trail - simple and lightweight.