The North Face Ultra Fastpack II GTX

7.1
7.1 score
[Editors rating (8.8) + Users rating (2.0)] / 2 = Runnerclick score (7.1)/10

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Editor rating: 8.8 / 10
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The North Face Ultra Fastpack II GTX Review Facts
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The Ultra Fastpack II GTX is The North Face’s waterproof yet breathable trail shoe. The sturdy Fastpack off-road sneaker is also available in a mid-height boot design. The shoe is intended to provide the reliable protection you’d expect out of a hiking boot while keeping the feel of a traditional running shoe. The second edition of the Ultra Fastpack features a few tweaks including a revised lacing system, an improved outsole design, and some small aesthetic changes. Whether you’ll like the TNF trail shoe will depend on your expectations. The Fastpack features a firm sole unit and a fairly heavy construction – bulkier than a traditional running shoe, at least – which makes it a poor choice for trail running. There are better running-specific options out there. For fast packing or energetic hiking adventures, though, the Ultra is a reliable option.

Editor's Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Great protection
  • Good traction
  • Waterproof
  • Extremely durable
Cons
  • Narrow width
  • Firm feel underfoot jarring to some
Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

The Fastpack’s outsole has been tweaked slightly for improved traction and grip. It’s composed of Vibram MegaGrip material. The shoe’s multi-directional tread offers outstanding traction and sheds mud and debris easily. On wet surfaces, traction could be better, but reviewers were overall quite impressed with the Ultra’s grip ability. The outsole shows minimal wear after several hundred miles, which pleased reviewers. The outsole lacks flexibility, but users instead get excellent protection.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

The Fastpack’s midsole includes an updated Ultra Protect TPU cradle which provides excellent rearfoot support. EVA cushioning provides some impact protection, though reviewers complained that the midsole felt very minimal. The firm sensation of the sole unit didn’t suit every wearer. The hard feel is jarring, especially for running. For longer hikes, the hard midsole may start to get uncomfortable.

The shoe also features an ESS Snake plate in the forefoot for protection. If you land on the front of your foot, the plate will contribute to an even harder ride feel. When walking, the plate shouldn’t feel as aggressive, though. Either way, it offers stellar protection.

Although many reviewers had issues with the midsole feel, they did find something to like in the support and stability afforded by the cradle design. Reviewers also appreciated the protective construction of the TNF shoe. Some users also pointed out that though the Fastpack’s midsole is very stiff, the shoe is indeed more flexible than a traditional hiking boot. It’s perhaps better suited for short distance trail hikes and walks. Reviewers liked that the midfoot design provided adequate arch support. If you’re used to wearing a very bulky hiking boot for trail outings, you might find the TNF Ultra a little less stable, but in exchange, you get a much lighter footwear option.
Upper
Upper

Upper

The Fastpack comes in both men’s and women’s sizes and styles. The women’s styles in particular feature a women’s specific design that’s created to match up with the unique anatomy of a woman’s foot.

The shoe also features a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane. Embedded cables in the upper provide midfoot support, and a welded upper construction minimizes the overall weight of the shoe all while providing structural integrity and support. A standard toe cap sits at the tip of the Fastpack, and a FlashDry collar wraps around the ankle. The higher cut mid height option is a good choice for wearers who expect to brave ankle-deep puddles on the trail.

Reviewers noted that the upper felt very thick and protective and liked the solid toe cap. The Fastpack also features an improved lacing system that offers better security.
Weight
Weight

Weight

Although they TNF Ultra is pretty heavy, weighing 13.3 ounces, the shoe is a lot lighter than a traditional heavy-duty hiking boot. You still get adequate protection with the Fastpack, but the design isn’t as bulky as a big hiking boot. The welded upper design keeps the weight down without sacrificing support. The sturdy shoe is more substantial than a sneaker but the extra weight provides stability, protection, and a whole lot of durability - users reported that the outsole didn’t start to show visible signs of wear until after several hundred miles of use.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

The Gore-Tex membrane of the TNF shoe definitely cuts down on ventilation, but the Fastpack was designed to ensure that even while well-protected, wearers could hike and move along trails without their feet overheating. The Flashdry collar helps to evaporate moisture quickly, and the interior is pretty quick-drying, too. Some reviewers did, however, complain that the shoe fits a little snug width-wise and that in sweltering weather, the Ultra didn’t breathe as well as they would have liked. Still, the majority of comments regarding ventilation were positive. Just don’t expect miracles. Waterproofing and breathability don’t usually go hand in hand, but with the Fastpack you get the best of both worlds.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

There are two schools of thought, it seems, when it comes to comfort and the Ultra Fastpack. Many reviewers liked the fit and feel of the hiking shoe and were impressed at how flexible, lightweight, and comfortable the shoe as compared to hiking boots they had worn in the past. Compared to a big burly boot, the Fastpack is a lot lighter. Where some reviewers ran into issues was with the midsole feel. The stiff midsole is definitely bendier compared to a hiking boot, but for those used to the flexible feeling of running shoes, it’s a step-down. Quite a few reviewers said that the stiff midsole just wasn’t a good fit for long distance hiking. The hard sole unit makes for tired, sore feet after miles of walking. The cushioning is there, there’s a decent amount of EVA material to soften the impact, but the midsole still feels hard. The ESS Snake plate contributes to this sensation, which some described as ‘slappy.’ Concerning fit, those with wide feet described the Fastpack as much too narrow. Sizing up didn’t seem to help because the length was then too long. The Waterproof membrane does a great job at keeping feet dry, however, making the Ultra an excellent footwear option for rainy day treks.
Style
Style

Style

The Ultra Fastpack II looks similar to its predecessor with only a few minor aesthetic changes. The design is cleaner and sleeker. The women’s version of the shoe is available in both purple/grey and grey/teal. For men, there’s an attractive black style accented with neon. Overall, reviewers said that they really liked the look of the TNF Ultra. It doesn’t look as rugged and bulky as many hiking footwear options. It’s a great option for those who want a shoe that looks good on and off the trail.
Durability
Durability

Durability

Overall, the Fastpack provides outstanding durability with reviewers sharing that the shoe only started to show wear after several hundred miles on the trail. The sturdy Vibram MegaGrip outsole doesn’t just provide superb grip. It’s thick and resilient. The upper’s embedded support cables and welded design help to make the TNF a sturdy trail shoe.
Protection
Protection

Protection

While the TNF Ultra provides perhaps less protection than a built-up hiking boot, the trail shoe is designed with hiking in mind. A substantial toe cap at the forefoot is the first defense against hard rocks and logs. The outsole is exceptionally grippy with its Vibram MegaGrip material. The welded upper construction is thick and protective with a tough waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to keep water out of the shoe. A firm ESS Snake plate protects wearers from hard obstacles, and a protective heel cradle delivers rear foot support for when the trail conditions get hairy and uncertain.

Reviewers were impressed at how protective the TNF shoe was, but some reviewers did point out that the design still lets some water in via the ankle. A higher cut boot-style Fastpack model is available for those who need extra protection. The mid-height design features a tight fabric ankle collar that keeps debris from getting inside the shoe.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

Responsiveness is about average with this hiking shoe. Reviewers mentioned very little about the shoe’s ability to provide feedback and energy-return.
Support
Support

Support

The neutral trail shoe is incredibly supportive thanks to its thick, sturdy upper. Welded seams make for a lightweight construction while delivering support. Embedded cables help wrap the foot tightly inside the shoe. An Ultra Protect cradle design keeps the heel locked in place. Reviewers liked the very firm heel hold provided by the TNF Ultra Fastpack and appreciated the supportive midfoot design. The majority of reviewers described the Fastpack as a very supportive hiking shoe.

A few reviewers, however, did find the support unimpressive compared to serious, heavy-duty hiking boots. But, the TNF trail shoe provides what a heavy hiking boot cannot - a lightweight ride.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

The badass name clearly describes a shoe made for trail outings. While the TNF Fastpack doesn’t look much like a hiking shoe, it provides the traction, protection, and durability required for off-road adventuring. The outsole, made of Vibram MegaGrip rubber, provides excellent traction thanks to its aggressive multi-directional lugs. The waterproof Gore-Tex membrane isn’t just for occasional encounters with puddles. It was created to keep feet dry on rainy day hikes. The higher cut version of the Fastpack provides even better water protection thanks to its higher cut Flashdry collar. In both versions, the collar keeps debris out and rapidly wicks sweat and moisture around the ankle. The shoe also features an ESS Snake plate in the forefoot area. The plate protects any nasty trail obstacles that might pierce or poke the undersides of your feet.
Price
Price

Price

The TNF Ultra is inexpensive compared to other heavy-duty hiking boot options and delivers in all the areas it promises. For short hikes, it’s an excellent footwear choice. Comfort might suffer on longer adventures, but the durability, protection, and support offered by the Fastpack are hard to beat.
Traction
Traction

Traction

The outsole isn’t just covered with Vibram MegaGrip material. The shoe also features an aggressive tread pattern for superior grip on varied surfaces. The hiking shoe is perfectly well suited for nearly any off-road trail. Reviewers did note, however, that traction on wet surfaces wasn’t always the best. Otherwise, the outsole performs exceptionally well.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

The TNF Ultra’s sole is very stiff, according to reviewers. But, while for many the solid forefoot rock plate made the shoe uncomfortable, a significant portion of reviewers found the Fastpack much more flexible than a traditional hiking boot. The flexibility is minimal, of course, but wearers get plenty of protection in exchange.
Stability
Stability

Stability

The neutral TNF hiking shoe features a super sturdy welded upper design with midfoot cables for support. A rear foot cradle delivers heel stability and a locked in feel. Stability also comes from the Ultra’s aggressively grippy Vibram MegaGrip outsole. For wearers with narrow feet, the fit is secure while wide footed folks may find the width uncomfortably snug.
Drop
Drop

Drop

There’s no listed drop height on The North Face’s website.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features


- New improved lacing system
- Women’s specific design
- Waterproof GORE-TEX membrane for protection on wet hikes
- Embedded upper cables for midfoot support
- Welded upper design keeps down weight and offers additional support
- Toe cap for forefoot protection
- Ultra Protect TPU Cradle for heel support
- EVA midsole offers impact protection
- Cradle Guide midsole design
- Vibram Megagrip outsole is durable and provides traction with a multi-directional tread pattern
- FlashDry collar wicks moisture and dries quickly
- ESS Snake plate in forefoot

Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

The TNF Ultra Fastpack II GTX is an excellent short-distance hiking shoe. Its weaknesses are an extremely stiff midsole and a narrow design that some reviewers found uncomfortable. For those with narrow feet who don’t mind the extra firm sole unit, the shoe offers outstanding protection in a package that’s lighter than your traditional hiking boot. The GTX has a useful waterproof membrane, features a supportive, stable design, and excellent traction. The Fastpack also has an impressively durable construction.