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The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Review

Shoddy cuffs and an inferior hood compromise an otherwise quality hardshell
The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight
Photo: The North Face
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Price:  $450 List
Pros:  Lightweight, breathable Futurelight fabric, packs down small
Cons:  Fragile, unreliable wrist cuffs, excessively long waist drawcord
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 15
  • Weather Protection - 30% 6
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 7
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Features and Design - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Summit L5 LT Futurelight is a long name for a simple jacket. Weighing in at only 11.8 ounces for a size large, it has been stripped of all extraneous features, such as underarms vents or hand pockets. Our hard-charging testers are huge fans of this weight-savings but were disappointed with some of this jacket's other design elements. The hood, in particular, was ineffective at keeping water out of the jacket during our shower test, and the wrist cuffs wouldn't stay reliably closed when we were moving around. Both of these problems detracted from what is otherwise a pretty impressive hardshell. We hope they can get straightened out soon because we really like The North Face's new waterproof-breathable Futurelight fabric incorporated into this shell.

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Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, breathable Futurelight fabric, packs down smallLightweight, form fitting, great storm hood, superior construction quality, reasonable priceUnrivaled weather protection, decent venting options, perfect fitAwesome weather protection, fits great, very mobileSturdy, real weather protection, mobile athletic fit, pit zips
Cons Fragile, unreliable wrist cuffs, excessively long waist drawcordCrinkly and noisy, very little ventilation, few pockets, short front hemExpensive, not ultralight, mediocre breathabilitySkin pockets a bit too narrow, small ventilation zips, unreliable wrist cuffsHeavy, expensive, mediocre features for the weight
Bottom Line A quality hardshell that's undermined by a few fixable flawsStands out among some stiff competition with its simple and solid designOur favorite hardshell for serious adventuresTurns out a company known for skis and bindings also makes a great jacket for touringCasual styling and serious weather protection
Rating Categories Summit L5 LT Futurelight Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand Advanced Dynafit Radical Outdoor Research Archangel
Weather Protection (30%)
6
9
10
8
9
Weight (20%)
9
9
6
7
4
Mobility And Fit (20%)
7
7
8
8
8
Venting And Breathability (20%)
7
7
8
8
7
Features And Design (10%)
6
7
6
8
7
Specs Summit L5 LT... Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand... Dynafit Radical Outdoor Research...
Pit Zips No No Yes Yes Yes
Measured Weight (size large) 11.8 oz 11.8 oz 16.0 oz 15.4 oz 19.4 oz
Material FUTURELIGHT 3L Gore-Tex with N40p-X face fabric 3-layer 100% nylon Gore-Tex Pro Gore-Tex Pro with C-Knit backer Gore-Tex Pro 3L, 70D nylon
Pockets 1 external chest, 2 internal mesh 1 external chest, 1 internal chest 2 front, 1 internal 2 side handwarmer, 1 sleeve, 2 internal stash 2 hand, 1 internal
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Draw Cords 1 3 3 1 3
Adjustable Cuffs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Two-Way Front Zipper No No Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face currently makes two men's Summit Series L5 Futurelight jackets: a standard and a lighter "LT" version. This is our review of the LT version. We haven't had an opportunity to test the burlier standard version.

Performance Comparison


Our testers found the Futurelight fabric to be fully waterproof...
Our testers found the Futurelight fabric to be fully waterproof during wet activities like ice climbing.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weather Protection


Our testers weren't very impressed with the weather protection supplied by the Summit L5 LT. The primary issue is the hood, which features a flimsy brim and a single drawcord for adjustment. During our shower test, water poured off this brim and down into the chin of the jacket. We also dislike the wrist cuffs because the hook-and-loop closure flap is too long, leaving excessive material that can snag and cause the cuffs to open accidentally. Finally, the durable water repellent treatment on the Futurelight material seemed to wear off quickly, which caused the shell fabric to wet out before the conclusion of our three-month test.

The L5 LT Futurelight packed inside its included stuff sack with the...
The L5 LT Futurelight packed inside its included stuff sack with the inspiration for The North Face logo in the background.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weight


At just 11.8 ounces for a size large, the Summit L5 LT is among the lightest jackets in our men's hardshell review. In fact, the slight weight savings you can get with the absolute lightest model is so small that it's probably not worth considering in your purchasing decision. This jacket is also extremely packable and is one of only a couple models to come with its own nylon stuff sack.

The mobility issues we had with the Summit L5 LT wrist cuffs were...
The mobility issues we had with the Summit L5 LT wrist cuffs were more apparent while winter climbing than skiing.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Mobility and Fit


One positive thing we can say is that the Futurelight fabric feels great to move around in. It's also not noisy or stiff like some of the heavy-duty hardshells made with Gore-Tex Pro fabric. Nevertheless, the unreliability of the wrist cuffs negatively affects mobility because you can't trust the sleeves to stay in place. Fit wise, this jacket feels a little baggy in the torso. With a more athletic cut, secure wrist cuffs, and the comfy Futurelight fabric, the Summit L5 LT could be a standout in this performance area. As it stands now, however, it's a disappointment.

The hood features a single drawcord on the back for adjustment. This...
The hood features a single drawcord on the back for adjustment. This seemed effective enough but the flimsiness of the hood's brim caused water to pour in during our shower test.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Venting and Breathability


The biggest drawback to the Summit L5 LT's ultralight design may be the absence of pit zips, which reduces your options for venting when you're charging uphill. This issue is somewhat negated, however, by the above-average breathability of the Futurelight fabric. In our stationary bike test, we found this fabric to be noticeably more breathable than the Gore-Tex Pro fabric found on many other hardshells.

When tightened, the wrist cuff has a lot of excessive fabric that...
When tightened, the wrist cuff has a lot of excessive fabric that extends upward. This excess can easily catch on other objects and cause the cuff to open unexpectedly.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Features and Design


The Summit L5 LT boasts a pair of internal pockets that are great for stashing a pair of gloves or skins. It also sports a single external chest pocket with a reliable taped zipper. Beyond that, the features are fairly limited. This jacket lacks underarm vents, and the hood and waist hem both employ just a single drawcord for adjustment. The waist drawcord is particularly disappointing because it becomes excessively long when it's cinched down. Not only does this compromise your style, but it's long enough that it's likely to snag on tree branches or harness carabiners.

The waist drawcord on The North Face Summit L5 LT, seen here snagged...
The waist drawcord on The North Face Summit L5 LT, seen here snagged on a carabiner, is ridiculously long. Our testers found it embarrassing around town and annoying when climbing.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


This jacket comes with the ultralight design and propriety fabric you find on many affordable hardshells, but not a similarly low price tag. At full MSRP, it costs around average for a hardshell, which is a couple of hundred dollars more than the most affordable models out there. After factoring in its middle-of-the-road performance, we don't think it presents an exceptional value.

An ultralight hardshell is great for activities that are often dry...
An ultralight hardshell is great for activities that are often dry but you still need weather protection for emergencies. They're also great for cutting the wind on a brisk big-wall morning.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


In the competitive landscape of today's hardshell market, it doesn't take much for a jacket to fall behind the competition. In the case of the Summit L5 LT, The North Face deserves praise for their new Futurelight fabric, but the comfort and breathability advantages of this material do not outweigh this jacket's other design flaws. Our testers' chief complaints are the ineffective hood and wrist cuffs that don't provide reliable weather protection. The Summit L5 LT is still a great jacket, but there are a few other jackets that we like more.

Jack Cramer