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The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT - Women's Review

An absolute home run, this stylish, breathable downhill ski shell can work hard and play hard
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $599 List
Pros:  Breathes well, stylish, well-constructed
Cons:  Off-set pocket placement, proprietary powder skirt
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Betsy Welch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 13, 2019
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Ventilation - 20% 9
  • Style - 10% 9
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab's Editor's Choice Award for women's uninsulated resort ski jackets. It scored the highest, or near the highest, in all of our comparison categories, and boasts a host of features that make getting after it in the snow even better than it already is. If you're the type of skier or rider who tends to get warm when you're crushing technical runs at the resort or hiking out of bounds, this jacket's breathable FUTURELIGHT 3L fabric will allow air to move through so you don't overheat. Its functionality assumes you'll be wearing a backpack; the pockets are off-set for access outside of the straps. You'll feel pro in the stylish design and colors, and the hood is large and helmet-compatible. If you're more into spending lots of time on the lift and taking slow turns on groomers, you might have to add a layer since the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT isn't insulated, but we found it surprisingly warm even on the coldest of days. It's not the cheapest jacket out there, but the engineers and athletes at the North Face spent years ensuring that no stone was left unturned with the design, features, and versatility of the jacket.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face tested their new FUTURELIGHT line with hundreds of mountain athletes, and the result is a product line that looks and feels great on, protects you from the elements, and allows you to charge hard without getting sweaty or feeling weighed down. The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT wins our Editor's Choice Award.

Performance Comparison


The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT has a comfy  relaxed fit  but still manages to look flattering and stylish!
The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT has a comfy, relaxed fit, but still manages to look flattering and stylish!

Weather Resistance


The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT is crafted with FUTURELIGHT 3L fabric with a DWR finish that will keep you dry in conditions from a torrential downpour to a whiteout blizzard. All of its zippers are weather protected by #5 YKK AguaGuard, including the pit zips. We felt super protected from the elements in this jacket, and water practically evaporated off the exterior when we put it through our shower test.


Although it's not insulated, the jacket has a brushed tricot backer that feels soft and lends some warmth on the inside. The air permeability of the FUTURELIGHT fabric allows air to travel in and out, so we never felt clammy when we got sweaty. We also found that the jacket had great protection from the wind, an unfortunate companion on many ski days in Colorado.

We never got wet  only happily snow-covered in the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT.
We never got wet, only happily snow-covered in the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT.

Comfort and Fit


We like the mechanical stretch of the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT's shell material; it allows us to move freely on and off the slopes. Despite how technical the jacket feels, it's also extremely comfortable and nimble. The fit is definitely on the oversized side (vs. fitted), but we didn't feel like we were swimming in it. It's slightly longer in the back, which was a nice touch.


The size small fits true to size. The wrist cuffs are oversized, which allowed us to pull the jacket on over gloves and mittens. The hood is oversized and helmet-compatible, and we were able to zip the jacket up over our chins with the hood up. The non-removable powder skirt adds some extra bulk around the hips but not enough to size up. We loved the way the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT fit and felt.

The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT gave us enough room to move  going uphill or down.
The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT gave us enough room to move, going uphill or down.

Warmth


Although this was the jacket's lowest ranking since it's not insulated, we still found the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT to keep us plenty toasty when we were ripping it up on the slopes.


This wouldn't be our go-to jacket for running errands around town on a cold day; it's much more performance oriented. Nevertheless, when we were skiing or skinning, we found that it was noticeably warmer than most uninsulated shells. The soft tricot backer felt nice against our skin and added some warmth. The fit allows plenty of room for layers of your choosing, so if you like to experiment with base layers and other tops, this jacket is for you.

Ventilation


This is where the A-CAD FUTUREIGHT shines. Because of the hype, we wanted to put it through the paces. We skied hard both downhill and uphill and found that the jacket wicked moisture incredibly. The nanostructure of the FUTURELIGHT membrane allows air to pass through for better venting and breathability without sacrificing waterproofness and durability.


Furthermore, even after we got sweaty, we never had that cold, clammy after-effect. The moisture seemed to vanish. It has big pit zips to help with airflow and dump serious heat. This jacket is a great option for someone who tends to run hot or overheats while getting after it. Sweating doesn't get punished by the A-CAD FUTURELIGHT.

The A-CAD performs supremely well going uphill due to the large and effective pit zips and breathable fabric.
The A-CAD performs supremely well going uphill due to the large and effective pit zips and breathable fabric.

Style


The North Face has upped its game in the style department, and in FUTURELIGHT series, they don't sacrifice any functionality to look great. The A-CAD comes in two super steezy color choices and boasts a flattering fit. The back of the jacket covered our backsides just enough, and the chest zippers help create nice, long lines. The oversized hood and cuffs make the jacket playful but don't minimize its subtle femininity. We thought the jacket was super stylish, from the colors to the cut to the placement of pockets and zippers.


Look at those colors POP!
Look at those colors POP!

Features


The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT jacket was designed for athletes, by athletes. Therefore, it has the features you need for charging hard on the mountain. The zippers stand out with their AquaGuard coating; having zips that open and close quickly is a feature that doesn't go unnoticed when the weather turns for the worse.


Our other favorites on this jacket were the oversized hood (helmet compatible) and oversized velcro cuffs (they can accommodate any size of gloves/mitts). The chest pockets run on the diagonal and are meant to be accessible while wearing a backpack. We find that we're doing that more and more, so this feature came in handy. It also has a pass-through pocket so you can access your inner layers. The cell phone pocket on the bottom right of the jacket was a bit snug for those of us with bigger phones. The powder skirt is adjustable but not removable.

We loved the jacket's huge  velcro-adjustable cuffs.
The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT took home our Editor's Choice award - look at that hood!

The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT's zippered chest pockets are off-set to accommodate a backpack.
The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT's zippered chest pockets are off-set to accommodate a backpack.

Value


The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT isn't inexpensive, but we felt that it was worth the cost. Its performance is top notch, from the breathability to the weather resistance. Nothing feels cheap or ill-fitting; in fact, it's the opposite. The jacket feels good on, works when it should (i.e., zippers that don't get caught and plenty of room to zip up the hood), and is incredibly well-crafted. We also felt that this jacket would withstand the test of time, both in durability and covering the bases with what we need for ski functionality.

Conclusion


The North Face A-CAD FUTURELIGHT jacket will keep up with you as you slay powder, ski bumps, or hike in the sidecountry. Its made for skiers by skiers, and the extreme weather protection and breathability are the best evidence of this. It's surprisingly warm for being so breathable, and we never felt a drop of moisture on the inside or out. It's not the cheapest jacket in our closet, but it's the best performing and most stylish. It also has all the pockets and features we need to keep our essentials close at hand. The A-CAD FUTURELIGHT takes our Editors' Choice Award for women's resort shell because of how well it works, how good it looks, and how it keeps us protected in all the right places.

We loved the style  functionality  and weather resistance of this jacket.
The North FAce A-CAD FUTURELIGHT has a nice smartphone pocket.

Betsy Welch