The North Face Summit L3 Ventrix 2.0 Hoody Review
Cons: Doesn’t stuff into pocket, not the lightest, relatively expensive
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Summit L3 Ventrix 2.0 Hoodie is unique because of its use of The North Face's Ventrix insulation, which has movement modulated holes that open or close to either trap or release heat depending on the amount of stretch incurred by movement. Check out this interesting interview about the design process. This technology makes sense to us because it's movement that triggers the extra breathability. When we move, we are more likely to be generating heat, which needs to be released if we are to be able to continue wearing our insulated jacket. Conversely, when standing still, we usually become colder and want to trap the heat we generate, and the Ventrix's vents do not open up when we are not stretching the fibers with our movement.
Besides its interesting Ventrix insulation, we found this jacket to perform very similarly to other active insulated mid-layers made by other companies. It felt a bit warmer to us than most, and was also slightly more wind resistant than we have come to expect from these types of highly breathable layers, but also weighs a bit more. It has two drawcords to help with cinching down the fit: one on the back of the hood and another on the hem, which are both easy to manipulate and work effectively. It also features four zippered pockets: the standard double hand pockets, as well as dual Napolean-style chest pockets.
The Ventrix insulation used inside this jacket has a density of 60 g/m2, which is right in line with the majority of other similar jackets. However, this jacket is heavier overall than many, leading us to believe that there is perhaps a bit more insulation used, especially in comparison to the very thinnest and lightest mid-layer designs. The net effect is that it feels relatively warm for the type of jacket that it is. The hem and hood are well designed to be tightened down to keep out the cold if need be, but we noticed that the inside of the hand pockets are not lined, so this is one area we could feel the cold seeping in. It is more than warm enough when using it while staying active, and we think that on mildly chilly days, it's decently warm enough for use even when not too active or for using as an outer layer.
Weight and Compressibility
We tested a men's size large and found that it weighed 15.5 ounces on our independent scale. The North Face's website claims that this jacket will weigh an extremely precise 15.16 ounces for the same size large, so our figures were pretty darn close. While not exactly what we would term heavy, this jacket is indeed one of the heavier of its type.
We chose to knock a point off for this metric, however, because despite having four different pockets, there is no capability of stuffing it into itself for easier and more compact carrying on a climb or in a pack. While compressing synthetic insulation too frequently will induce it to break down faster, we still like having the option of an ultra-compact jacket that we can take on a climb.
This is easily one of the most comfortable jackets you can buy. The interior liner fabric is really soft against the skin and lacks any sort of slippery, artificial feel that quickly becomes sticky once some body oils have soaked in. The fabrics used throughout are heavy on elastane content, making them very stretchy and mobile.
We love the fit, which is close to the body to be easy to layer over, while also providing plenty of length in the arms and hemline so that they never ride up when we move about. Moving our arms overhead, as we would when climbing, reveals no tightness or restrictions, and we would have to agree with the marketing videos of Alex Honnold climbing in this jacket — it makes for an excellent climbing jacket!
There is a good chance that if this jacket had a more effective DWR treatment, it would have been a top scorer and award winner. As it is, we found in our comparative testing that when sprayed with a hose, the DWR treatment will cause very light amounts of water to bead and not soak in, but any amount even approaching a rain shower will immediately soak through the face fabrics, making it one of the poorest performers in this test. Highly breathable technologies such as the Ventrix used in this jacket are also not the most windproof. Although we felt that it was slightly thicker, and therefore perhaps marginally more wind resistant than its closest competitors, to call this a solid wind layer would be misleading. It is suitable as an outer layer in mild weather and when staying active, but add in some wind or precipitation, and you will certainly need to layer over the top.
There is no question that this is one of the most breathable synthetic insulated jackets that we tested, even more so than many competitors that are also trying to maximize breathability. Since the Ventrix insulation is sandwiched into the middle of the jacket, we weren't able to actually verify how large the modulating openings actually are, but we did notice that while running uphill on a warm day (one of our breathability tests), we were less damp with perspiration afterward than in some other choices.
This jacket comes in some interesting color combos — the yellow/black and blue/black versions present some serious throwback retro looks to North Face shells of the '90s. Honestly, we couldn't go there and instead opted for solid red with black accents, which while bright, looks nice and stylish.
While not up there with the absolute most expensive models in the synthetic jacket world, this one is still fairly close. However, we think it is a solid piece of equipment that is well worth owning and more than meets expectations, making it a good value. Budget-conscious shoppers should probably look elsewhere, however.
The North Face Summit L3 Ventrix 2.0 Hoodie is an excellent active insulated mid-layer that has some crossover appeal as an outer garment in mellower weather. It uses Ventrix technology as an insulator that makes it highly breathable for hot and sweaty activities, with a fit that is comfortable and mobile, endearing it immediately to our testers.
— Andy Wellman