If you've been shopping for a shell jacket this past year you've probably heard the buzz around The North Face's new Futurelight fabric. It's a three layer shell made of nano-spun polyurethane, which allows material to be constructed of smaller grids of material with correspondingly smaller holes for better breathability and weather resistance. Another advantage of the material is that it can be made in various thicknesses to accommodate different use cases, from jackets to tents to whatever.
Beyond the hype, we found the Flight to be a solid performer for weather resistance, breathability, portability and durability. Futurelight is a reliable wind and waterproof barrier, without sacrificing much if any ability to dump heat and moisture off your body when you're working hard. You can still overheat and get damp, you just have to try a bit harder. You'll find you can keep the Flight zipped up with less fiddling while you work, and that's nice for steady-state activities like running and biking, for which it's designed. Reflective accents and the ability to stuff the jacket into its own pocket and then hold it in your hand using the integrated shock cord are nice touches.
What you won't find on the Flight are any adjustments besides the hem drawcord, which they could have left off given the already snug fit of the jacket. Or any pockets besides the one in the small of your back that doubles as a stuff sack. The Flight kind of feels like a first draft. The zipper pull on the pocket/stuff sack only hangs inside the pocket, making it difficult to zip shut if you're using it to hold the jacket. Why not make one of those zipper pulls that can rotate to either side? The fit is also problematic, unless you're slimly built. The large was overly snug on a 5'10" 190lb frame and hey, we like to do cardio sometimes too. The stretchiness helps but it's still too small of a cut for normal to larger builds. Don't plan on wearing this over a layer is what we're saying.
The bottom line is to take a somewhat skeptical approach to this new wunder-fabric. Yes, it's a nice evolution in hard shell technology. No, it's not significantly lighter than other alternatives, and it's not whisper quiet like we've seen some reviewers say. It seems about as loud as any other ultralight fabric in the category. At the end of the day fit and features still matter. The Flight jacket is a solid if pricey choice for high-output activities if you've got the slim build to fit into it.