The North Face Summit L3 Hoody Review
Manufacturer: The North Face
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 many of the best down jackets, it has an excellent balance of all these attributes, not just by employing the latest technologies and materials, but also with a thoughtful, solid design, making it the jacket our testers fought over the most and always wanted to wear.
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. However, we can see and feel that the down-fill is more than adequate and fully fills each baffle.
For a jacket of this quality, we were surprised The North Face didn't go with a higher fill power down for its insulation but instead opted for an 800 fill power over a 900+. This jacket must just use a couple of extra ounces of the fluff because the baffles are visually packed with it.
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. Once we cinch the hood up, it does an outstanding job of sealing out cold air, making it clearly the best hood in our test for really cold environments.
Our size Large Summit L3 Down Hoody weighs 13.8 ounces. While respectably lightweight, it's not one of the lightest by any means. However the weight is relative to its warmth, and this jacket is just flat out warmer than any of the "ultra-light" variety.
In our opinion, the slight extra weight is easily worth the added warmth and comfort for when you need a jacket to perform, and this jacket has an awesome warmth-to-weight ratio.
The (DWR) durable waterproof repellency treatment on the Summit L3 does an above-average job of protecting the down insulation from a thorough soaking, and the new ProDown technology keeps the down lofting up even if water were to make its way in through the stitching. Our shower testing confirmed that, and indeed, the down retained its loft even after water had leaked inside. While far from waterproof, the DWR treatment and ProDown fill work together to ensure that this jacket will absorb less water and have faster drying and re-lofting times if you do get caught in a surprise storm.
We would never advocate for leaving a rain shell at home if there is wet weather is in the forecast, but we love that we can trust this to not become a heavy flat mass of wet down just in case.
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.
We love that it has that longer hemline and a great hood that doesn't lack the loft needed to keep you super warm. Speaking of the hood, this one has the best designs in our test. The single pull-cord tensioner lays the elastic cord around the head and under the ears. One of our biggest gripes about some hoods in our test is when the cinch cord lays right across the ears, which is super uncomfortable when cinched up tightly or when worn for extended periods.
The hood is also awesome for fitting over a climbing helmet, giving you enough fabric to have it fit well while still allowing for a full range of movement without it feeling even remotely restrictive.
Long, articulated arms make sure the sleeves don't ride up, even when we reached above our heads. The cuffs have a flat elastic and are soft and stretchy to seals out the cold air but still able to fit over a pair of gloves. The chest and back are roomy, and we had no trouble bending, stretching, or even climbing around in this jacket, but the fit isn't bulky, so it layers well under a hardshell.
For the weight, 800 fill down is not as compressible as the fluff found in higher fill-power down garments. In our real-world testing, however, the Summit L3 is very compressible. It stuffs either into an included stuff sack or the left side handwarmer pocket, which has an integrated clip-in loop for sticking it in the back of your harness for shady belays or the off chance you, knock on wood, get benighted on the wall…
This jacket has two big zippered handwarmer pockets with long zipper pulls that make them easy to operate with gloves on, a feature so simple, yet often overlooked to apparently save weight.
It has two enormous drop-in style pockets on the inside that are great for stashing your gloves, warm hat, climbing shoes, so they stay warm while you wait your turn on the boulder.
In previous years, the dual cinch cords for the hem were located inside the pockets. This year they changed it to use a single pull on the left hem. Now when you pull it tight, the excess cord can be clipped up to either of two loops inside the jacket to keep the cord out of the way so it won't get caught on gear or tree limbs, etc.
The material is cut and assembled in a "cross-cut" fashion, which utilizes a natural (slight) stretch from the weave, something we haven't seen used on a down jacket before. Kudos to TNF for this simple yet effective design idea.
This jacket went up in price this year and is just about the most expensive jacket in our review. However, you get what you pay for, which is a warm, lightweight, and incredibly capable puffy that's backed by TNF's lifetime guarantee.
We compared the Summit L3 Down Hoody to some seriously awesome down jackets. While our testers had a difficult time agreeing which was the absolute best, this one came out on top once again. This model is highly specialized for serious adventures in the mountains, but you wouldn't be disappointed to have this for any cold, windy environment.
— Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento