Extreme conditions need extreme gear. The First Lite North Branch system is for when things get a bit more extreme. The North Branch jacket and pants are made for colder temps and for when it gets windy and wet. The jacket and pants have some fantastic features that anyone can appreciate and they are made with the same quality that you have come to expect from First Lite. I recently ordered a set in ASAT (Fusion was backordered at the time) and I wanted to point out a few specific features in the jacket and the pants that really set these two pieces apart.
Flatlock, waterproof zippers
All exterior zippers on both the jacket and the pants are waterproof and flatlocked. This means that there is no way that the zipper will leak. This goes a long way in keeping you dry and warm because it helps to lock moisture out so that your insulating layers stay dry and do their job.
Waterproof and breathable
The North Branch jacket and pants have a 10,000 MVTR rating. What does that mean? It basically means that while they are not absolutely watertight, they will repel water very well while also being breathable to allow your body to regulate your temp. Suffice it to say the North Branch system is about as waterproof and breathable as you can get without it being dedicated rainwear. I noticed the jacket and pants were a bit noisy at first, but with a few washes they quiet down.
Seam-taped inner layer
All of the interior seams are taped for added waterproof and windproof capabilities. Seams are a common source of moisture and cold air getting in. First Lite’s attention to detail will prevent this from being an issue. This is a small detail that goes a long way.
The arm and leg cuffs are tight fitting, allowing gloves to easily slide over them as well as preventing wind and water from getting in. Also, because of this, there is no excessive movement in the fabric on your arms or legs because there is not any excess material.
High Tech Bottoms
The North Branch pants are some of the most technically advanced pants you can get your hands on. The exterior finish of the polyester is very durable and will stand up against some of the roughest conditions. The zippered vent on the pants is HUGE to the point that the back half of the pants can essentially be removed since the zipper goes from one side to the other. There are double zippers on both sides so that you can open up both sides as high as you want while still keeping the pants attached. This comes in handy when you are hiking hard in cold temps and need to dumb significant amounts of heat immediately.
The inside liner of the pants also has an elastic cuff that cinches over your boot to create an interior barrier against wind and moisture. Additionally, the integrated suspenders ensure that they don’t ride down, which is nice because these pants are pretty heavy. These pants are great. The one complaint I have with the pants is that the cargo pockets are pretty thin and not very deep. A small issue for sure, but still a bit disappointing.
The jacket is nothing fancy aside from being made of the same material as the pants. It is a jacket, nothing more. However, the nice thing about the North Branch jacket is First Lite’s Shooter’s Cut. The Shooter’s Cut implements a fitted taper that allows the jacket to fit your torso well. It also incorporates tighter sleeves and hi-cut armpits. This completely eliminates any excess material so whether you are shooting a bow or a rifle, you will not be restricted or inhibited by your jacket’s material or fit.
If you will be spending any time this year in temps that may dip (or stay) below freezing, or if you will be in windy conditions, take a seriously hard look at the North Branch line from First Lite. It is available in Fusion, ASAT, Realtree, and solid colors. In fact, I liked the jacket so much that I am planning on buying another jacket in Dry Earth to wear all winter. They are great pieces that will round out your cold-weather gear very well.