The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Review
Cons: Fragile, unreliable wrist cuffs, excessively long waist drawcord
Manufacturer: The North Face
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The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight
|Price||$450 List||$419.00 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Lightweight, breathable Futurelight fabric, packs down small||Lightweight, form fitting, great storm hood, superior construction quality, reasonable price||Unrivaled weather protection, decent venting options, perfect fit||Awesome weather protection, fits great, very mobile||Sturdy, real weather protection, mobile athletic fit, pit zips|
|Cons||Fragile, unreliable wrist cuffs, excessively long waist drawcord||Crinkly and noisy, very little ventilation, few pockets, short front hem||Expensive, not ultralight, mediocre breathability||Skin pockets a bit too narrow, small ventilation zips, unreliable wrist cuffs||Heavy, expensive, mediocre features for the weight|
|Bottom Line||A quality hardshell that's undermined by a few fixable flaws||Stands out among some stiff competition with its simple and solid design||Our favorite hardshell for serious adventures||Turns out a company known for skis and bindings also makes a great jacket for touring||Casual 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%)|
|Mobility And Fit (20%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Features And Design (10%)|
|Specs||Summit L5 LT...||Arc'teryx Alpha FL||Mammut Nordwand...||Dynafit Radical||Outdoor Research...|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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