The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Review
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.
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