When you envision the tropics, the thought that comes to your mind may be pristine beaches and crystal blue water. The only bit of clothing you need to enjoy those places is a decent pair of trunks. But what about when you head away from the beaches into the tropical rain forests and jungles? Always keen to explore, the guys at The North Face let us test out some of their gear on a recent trip to the Philippines jungles (check out the article for that trip here). Here's our comprehensive, unbiased review of how the pieces handled the environment.
First up, it's the Wise Guy Backpack. When you first see the bag it instantly stands out. The bright green colour pops with a simple floral overlay on the top half of the bag. This meant it was perfect for transiting through the airport and the crowded streets of Manila, as there was no way you could lose sight of it.
It became our go to day pack for the trip, with heaps of room to store cameras, food and anything else we needed while out trekking. The backpack is also waterproof, so the odd tropical shower was no problem. Pocket placement was helpful in making sure there was a decent amount of separation with various pieces of gear. Overall, Wise Guy is a simple, easy to use bag when you're on the run and don't need to carry heaps.
The North Face Microbyte Backpack, is the bag that kept all our precious electronics safe while in transit. Very slim in profile, it can keep a decently sized laptop slotted in place without bulging. The only downside of this slimness is that you can't cram chunky items into the main pocket. For example, the DSLR camera we took on trip was a tad too wide for it and wouldn't even fit inside. But the Microbyte is not built for those kind of items, the idea is to keep laptops and other similar shaped items safe and padded.
Again, The North Face have integrated decent pocket separation, with plenty of places to store extra charging cables and smaller electronic items. The shoulder straps were super comfortable and well ventilated, essential when heading into the humidity of the Philippines. I daresay I emerged from the heat without the typical backpack sweat patch on my t-shirt
Clothing wise, The North Face also have it figured out. In the jungles with high humidity, unpredictable rain and general heat it is ideal to have items that are waterproof and able to dry quick. The Flyweight Hoodie and Better Than Naked (BTN) Shortswere two items perfectly suited to the conditions.
First off, the hoodie was solid and easy to carry rain jacket. When packed up and crammed into the bottom of our day pack, it weighed less than 200 grams. This comes without compromising the quality of the jacket, with all the usual features you'd find on a heavy duty version. It was perfect for sliding on when those sudden weather changes came through.
The BTN shorts were also perfectly versatile. Built primarily for runners, they still worked just as well heading up along trails and hiking. The handy positioning of pockets meant our leg movement wasn't compromised when we stowed phones away. More pockets would've been nice, but again hiking is not what they're built for. They transitioned well into the water, with excellent quick dry capabilities.
The real advantage of these shorts is their ability to handle the wet, in some cases doing it better than a pair of swimmers. They are definitely suited to places where your consistently in contact with water or sweat and our jungle adventure really put that to the test.
Fair to say, The North Face's gear really held it's own. We'd definitely recommend giving them a look before heading on your next adventure, whether that be in the tropical Philippines or your local national park.