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The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Review

Shoddy cuffs and an inferior hood compromise an otherwise quality hardshell
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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  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • 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.

Compare to Similar Products

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've haven't had an opportunity to test the burlier standard version.

Performance Comparison


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

Weather Protection


Our testers weren't very impressed with the weather protection supplied by the Summit L5 LT. A primary concern is the hood, which features a flimsy and single drawcord for adjustment. During our shower test, water poured off this hood and down into the chin of the jacket. We also dislike the wrist cuffs because the hook-and-loop closure are too long, so that they frequently open accidentally. Finally, the durable water repellent treatment on the Futurelight fabric seemed to wear off quickly, causing the jacket to wet out before the conclusion of our three-month test.

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

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 could get with the absolute lightest is so small that it's probably not worth factoring in to your purchasing decision. This jacket is also extremely packable and is one of only a few models to come with its own nylon stuff sack.

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

Mobility and Fit


One positive thing we can say is 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 does negatively impact 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, good 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 seemed effective enough but the flimsiness of the hood's brim caused water to pour in during our shower test.
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.

Venting and Breathability


The biggest consequence of the Summit L5 LT's ultralight design may be the lack 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 noticeable more breathable than the Gore-Tex Pro fabric found on a lot of other hardshells.

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.
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.

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's also got a single external chest pocket with a reliable taped zipper. Beyond that, the features are fairly limited. This jacket lacks underarm vents, and both the hood and waist hem each employ only 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 looks, but it's long enough that it's prone to snagging on tree branches or harness carabiners.

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.
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.

Value


This jacket has the ultralight design and propriety fabric you find on most affordable hardshells, but not the corresponding price tag. At full MSRP, it costs around average for a hardshell, which is a couple of hundred dollars more than the cheapest models available. After factoring in its modest performance, we don't think it presents an exceptional value.

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.
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.

Conclusion


In the competitive landscape of today's hardshell market, it doesn't take very many problems 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 can not outweigh this jacket's other design flaws. Our testers' chief complaints were the ineffective hood and wrist cuffs that wouldn't reliably stay closed. The Summit L5 LT is still a great jacket, but there are better choices currently available.

Jack Cramer