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The North Face Summit L3 Hoody Review

This is our favorite jacket for when we need to be fast, light, and warm.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $350 List | $349.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great fit, warm, lightweight, packable
Cons:  Expensive, more difficult to fit in its stowaway pocket than other models
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2018
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Fit - 15% 9
  • Compressibility - 10% 8
  • Features - 10% 7

The Skinny

The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoody takes the lead in front of some very stiff competition, earning it our Editors' Choice Award. This jacket is light, warm, and the fit is amazing; we may even go as far to say it's perfect? Somehow the Summit L3 manages to be one of loftiest jackets in our review while still being sleek and form-fitting for layering. A few models use down with a higher fill power, but the Summit L3 makes up the difference with a hemline that extends well below the waist and a warm hood that doesn't skimp on the insulation. The thin 10D nylon shell fabric has a DWR treatment to help keep the down nice and lofty, and still stands up to a beating. We've been less than impressed with some offerings from The North Face in the past, feeling that they hold fashion above function. This jacket proves otherwise and is a remarkable performance piece for backcountry adventures.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Summit L3 Down Hoody isn't the lightest, warmest, or the most weather resistant jacket in our review, but like so many of our Editors' Choice Award winners, it has an excellent balance of all these attributes, not just by employing the latest technologies and materials, but also with thoughtful, solid design. The lightest jacket reviewed is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, the warmest is arguably the Feathered Friends Eos, and the Rab Microlight Alpine is easily the most weather resistant, but the Summit L3 is the jacket our testers fought over and always wanted to wear the most.

Performance Comparison


The Summit L3 and a Tshirt was all our tester needed to stay comfy on a chilly morning while backpacking in the Sierra when temperatures hovered in the high 30s.
The Summit L3 and a Tshirt was all our tester needed to stay comfy on a chilly morning while backpacking in the Sierra when temperatures hovered in the high 30s.

Warmth


We were unable to obtain any stats on the weight of the insulation vs. the fabric weights on this jacket. This info is usually available for down sleeping bags, and it helps us determine how much down is actually in the garment compared to the weight of the shell fabrics, giving us some hard numbers to work with when we assess the "puffiness" of each down puffy.


The 800 fill power down used in the Summit L3 isn't as high quality as the 950+ down in the Feathered Friends Eos or the 850 down in the Arc'teryx Cerium LT. Because our testers agree that the Summit L3 has more loft than the Cerium, we can guess that it has more down inside, enough to make up for the less efficient fill power and then some, and it reflects on the weight.

The high loft and perfect fit kept our tester warm in the shade at 8 000 feet.
The high loft and perfect fit kept our tester warm in the shade at 8,000 feet.

The Summit L3 is almost two ounces heavier than the Cerium. Besides the amount of down, the fit adds to this jacket's warmth. The hemline comes down almost below the butt, and all that insulation around our waists really ramps up the warmth factor. Finally, the hood is also loaded with down and fits snuggly on our heads.

The hood fits well  plus it stretches to accommodate a climbing helmet.
The hood fits well, plus it stretches to accommodate a climbing helmet.

Weight


Our sized small Summit L3 Down Hoody tipped our scales at 11.9 ounces. While respectably lightweight, it's not as light as the fragile 7.7 ounce Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisper and is almost an ounce heavier than the thermally efficient Feathered Friends Eos.


In our opinion, the extra weight is easily worth the extra warmth and comfort, and this jacket has a competitive warmth-to-weight ratio when compared to the REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoody and the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody. If the warmth-to-weight ratio is your top priority, go with the excellent Feathered Friends Eos.

Water Resistance


The durable waterproof treatment on the Summit L3 does an above average job of protecting the down insulation from a thorough soaking and complete loss of loft.


Our shower testing showed that the down retained most of its loft even after water had leaked inside the jacket through the stitching. While far from waterproof, the DWR treatment ensures that this jacket will absorb less water and have faster drying and re-lofting times. The most water resistant jacket in our review is the Rab Microlight Alpine which, unlike the Summit L3, has a hydrophobic treatment on its down.

Fit


The Summit L3 has a fantastic fit. The long hemline contributes to its warmth, and it also fits well under a climbing harness or the waistbelt of a backpack.


It's a few inches longer than the Arc'teryx Cerium LT and the Feathered Friends Eos. Long, articulated arms make sure the sleeves don't ride up, even when we reached above our heads. The cuffs are soft and stretch elastic that seals out the cold air but still fit over your gloves. The chest and back are roomy, we had no trouble bending, stretching or climbing around in this jacket, but the fit isn't bulky, so it layers well under a hardshell.

Sometimes for good climbing temps  you have to wait until its really cold. While we don't usually climb in a down jacket  its good to know we have complete freedom of mobility in this one.
Sometimes for good climbing temps, you have to wait until its really cold. While we don't usually climb in a down jacket, its good to know we have complete freedom of mobility in this one.

Compressibility


For the weight, 800 fill down is not as compressible as the feathers found in the Eos, the Cerium LT, or the Magma 850. In our real-world testing, the Summit L3 is very compressible. It stuffs down into one of its hand warmer pockets and has a clip-in loop.


For curiosity's sake, we also managed to stuff it into the small stuff stack included with the Arc'teryx Cerium, which is the most compressible jacket we tested. It took some work though, proving that the Summit L3 is only slightly less compressible than the Cerium. The Rab Microlight Alpine, the Feathered Friends Eos, and the Cerium LT are all easier to get into their included stuff sacks than the Summit L3 is to cram into its stowaway pock due to the shape of the pocket and placement of the zippered closure.

Features


This jacket has two big zippered handwarmer pockets with long zipper pulls that make them easy to operate with gloves on. Inside are the elastic cinch cords for tightening the hem.


There aren't cord locks, and eventually, the hem will loosen on its own, but the tradeoff is that there are no hard plastic bits to roll over on in your sleep. When fully zipped, the collar sits comfortably just under the nose, snug, but not too tight. Not snug enough? Pull the cinch cord (cord lock included this time) on the back of the hood when you really need to batten down the hatches against the cold.

The hood cinch ensures that the hood stays in place on heads of all sizes.
The hood cinch ensures that the hood stays in place on heads of all sizes.

Best Applications


The L3 is lightweight enough for long distance backpacking, but like other products in The North Face Summit series, it's geared towards alpine climbing. You can pack it way and clip it to your harness and pull back out for long belays. We climbed in this jacket and heard a disturbing scraping sound as the jacket rubbed against flakey virgin granite. We expected to our Summit L3 to be shredded, but somehow the thin shell fabric remained rip free. However, the 10D fabric feels fragile, so be careful. If you want a jacket that is equally as warm but more compressible, check out the Feathered Friends Eos. The Eos is just as quality as the Summit L3, but we like the fit and features on the Summit L3.

Value


At $350, this jacket isn't the most expensive jacket in our review (that accolade goes to the Arc'teryx Cerium LT), but it's pretty close. You get what you pay for, which is a warm and lightweight puffy that's backed by TNF's lifetime guarantee.

So much loft! This jacket uses 800 fill down  high quality for sure  but not the best available.  Still  we are really impressed with its loft and warmth.
So much loft! This jacket uses 800 fill down, high quality for sure, but not the best available. Still, we are really impressed with its loft and warmth.

Conclusion


We compared the Summit L3 Down Hoody to some seriously awesome down jackets, and our testers had an especially difficult time agreeing which was the absolute best. There a certainly a few models that are more specialized, but for all-around warmth and versatility, The North Face Summit L3 Hoody doesn't disappoint.


Matt Bento