The North Face Summit L5 Futurelight jacket is an excellent choice for ice and alpine climbing and backcountry skiing. It provides an amazing range of motion on technical terrain and breathes much better than other available shells.
Similar to Arc’teryx’s variants of the Alpha hardshell for severe conditions (SV) and fast and light (FL), The North Face also offers the L5 LT for when you want a lighter, less featured layer. I’ve been using the L5 Futurelight for over 40 days of climbing and skiing.
I’ve climbed ice and mixed with it in the Rockies and backcountry skied another 20-plus days in it. Right away, I was impressed with the stretchiness of the fabric and that it makes less of a swishing noise when moving than other shells.
Often, people ask me if it lives up to the marketing hype or if it’s just more marketing hysteria. The L5 is slightly heavier than the competitors, but for me, the increased breathability and freedom of movement make it the most comfortable hardshell I’ve worn.
Climbing through wet sections on ice climbs hasn’t been a problem and high winds have never penetrated. Again, the range of motion is where the L5 excels above the competitors. I’ve rarely noticed that the jacket was on when moving through steep ice and mixed terrain. The L5 is slightly heavier than fully-featured comparable shells, but offers features and a cut that they don’t.
As a comparison the approximate weight of the L5 is 660 grams and the Arc’teryx Alpha SV is around 500 grams while the comparable Rab Latok GTX weighs in at 580 grams. For the fast and light models, the L5 LT weighs in around 340 grams and the Arc’teryx Alpha FL is 315 grams.
There seems to be a pocket for everything of the L5. I’ve been using the exterior chest pockets to stash my belay gloves and the interior chest pockets for my climbing gloves. The interior stash pockets have also worked well for radios when ski touring.
There is an exterior pocket for snacks and gadgets and another zippered interior pocket that works well for essential items that you do not want to lose. The soft fabric on the interior of the coat is more comfortable on your face than an abrasive hardshell material.
The length of the L5 ensures it doesn’t ride up from underneath your harness.
Compared to other industry-leading hardshells, the price is around the same and I haven’t had any issues with durability. I’ve snagged it on trees, both walking and skiing without a problem.
This is a solid choice for climbers looking for a fully-featured hardshell that doesn’t restrict range of motion while climbing. It breathes better than a typical hardshell and if you’re concerned about the added weight of the features, then check out the L5 LT
- Stretchy, doesn’t restrict range of motion.
- Quiet when moving
- Amazing breathability
- Lots of pockets
- The arm cuffs stay done up
- A longer cut that stays under your harnes
- A little bulky
- Weight, but only slightly heavier than other comparable fully-featured hardshells