Dear North Face

The following dispatch from Daniel Heimpel was originally published here. Heimpel is a correspondent and photo model for the Iceland Review.

Dear North Face,

I hit kilometer 36 of a mountain bike race in Iceland. The sky drew black. It started to rain and didn’t stop for 19 kilometers and over an hour more. ‘D_mn this sucks, I thought, ‘but I have a North Face jacket on. At least I’ll be dry.”

But twenty minutes later I felt myself all wet underneath the $220 shell I had bought on sale from the famed North Face outlet just off of Gilman Street in West Berkeley. As the water percolated through, turning my thin stretchy long-sleeved undershirt and tee shirt wet, I became angry.

Not because I was wet. Well yes because I was wet, but moreover because a vanguard of my youth, one of the only brands I firmly believed in turned out to be such a crock. But as I slogged through the rain, my wetness becoming an obsession, I managed to think back and find evidence that the North Face would fail me when I was still in high school.

Berkeley was a medium warm kind of place. It rained and got foggy, and in high school you needed a North Face otherwise ? well – you were just wearing a rain jacket. At one of your sales at the fore mentioned North Face outlet I bought a jacket for maybe $100. It was green and I loved it.

My friend Jesse coveted this jacket. And when it came time for me to leave Berkeley High School for college he gave me a proposition.

“Let me buy that off you for $75,” he said.

I though about it. The depreciation on an article of clothing over a year and a half was remarkably small, a sure testament to the firewall of good PR that surrounds your brand. But when I thought of it as I rode along, my legs burning, big brown puddles of mud splashing in my eyes, I realized why I had said yes so quickly. Sure the price had been good. But the jacket hadn’t been all that good at keeping out the rain.

But a modern Gore-Tex wonder like the one I was wearing shouldn’t have any problem keeping out a steady Icelandic rain. I started thinking of ways to remedy the situation. For this trip I was soaked. Okay. But what about the next time? It rains all the time in Iceland, and I have a sub par coat.

Maybe I should wrap myself in cellophane and then dress. Maybe I should wear a garbage bag. Maybe I should put an extra large condom over my head. Or maybe North Face should just make a jacket that does its job.

“The North Face is the choice of the world’s most accomplished climbers, mountaineers, extreme skiers, snowboarders and explorers,” was written on your website. “The North Face is committed to pushing the limits of design, so that you can push your limits outdoors — never stop exploring.”

Well that’s cool. I’ll just make sure to include Saran Wrap, Hefty and Trojan among my preferred “exploration” brands.

Here in Iceland one of my co-workers got an email. “Recently Iceland Review had an article about the start of tourist season,” wrote Sue Davis, “and it referenced the ubiquitous North Face jacket of the unsuspecting tourist.’?I’m coming to Iceland next month and my jacket just happens to be North Face? Is there something I should know that would make me wear a different jacket?”

Well yeah Sue. It probably won’t keep you dry. Even when staying dry is the only thing to save your mood in the middle of a downpour in an Icelandic moonscape.


Daniel Heimpel

2 Replies to “Dear North Face”

  1. As a ski and snowbaord instructor I can say that my North Face gear has never failed me, I ski in conditions ranging from dry powder up to 3-4 feet deep to rain, and I have never once gotten wet in my north face gear.

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