The North Face Men's L5 FUTURELIGHT™ Jacket Review
Since 1966 The North Face have been pioneers in developing new equipment and clothing that revolutionises the outdoor industry. From the iconic dome tents which are used all over the world, to the widely used Polartec thermal fabrics, The North Face have been pushing what’s possible in technical outdoor clothing and equipment.
Now, they’re back at it with a brand-new technology; FUTURELIGHT™ and with that, the brand-new Summit Series L5 FUTURELIGHT™ jacket. We took a team of eight to the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc – the perfect testing ground to put the FUTURELIGHT™ collection through its paces. We asked Marketing Assistant Andy to give us his verdict and find out if it lived up to the hype.
The trip saw us spending 3 days on the Mont Blanc Massif acclimatising before making our ascent of Mont Blanc.
You can find the full diary of the trip here: The North Face FUTURELIGHT™ Mont Blanc Expedition
What is FUTURELIGHT™
FUTURELIGHT™ is a new kind of technology.
The North Face tapped into a production method called nanospinning, which creates nanosized fibres that allow superior air permeability while maintaining waterproofness. Then they found a unique lamination process to attach those fibres to fabrics without sacrificing breathability, waterproofness or durability.
In the end, they had created a revolutionary process and an innovative fabric that can be adapted to meet the needs of any outdoor enthusiast.
INITIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SUMMIT SERIES L5 FUTURELIGHT™ JACKET
The first day consisted of arriving in picturesque Chamonix, having a briefing on the week ahead from the Jagged Globe team and our first hands-on experience with the new FUTURELIGHT™ gear from The North Face.
It's difficult to believe that this jacket is waterproof from the feel of it. The material is comfortable and stretchy with a feel that almost mimics a softshell. One of the main things that stood out for me straight away is how much quieter the jacket was while wearing it.
The style is instantly recognisable with a classic block colour that’s synonymous with The North Face, the bold red with black panelling really help to make the jacket stand out in the mountains. The hood seemed plenty big enough to accommodate a helmet with easily adjustable internal pull cords, which helped retain the sleek outwards styling and addresses any issues of toggles whipping you in the face. There are an array of pocket options across the jacket which should provide ample storage as a functional mountain jacket.
HOW DID IT PERFORM?
After waking up to glorious sunshine, day 2 began by heading through the Mont Blanc tunnel and to gain some altitude by taking advantage of the Skyway Monte Bianco.
Having dropped some overnight gear at the Torino Hut, we then kitted up in FUTURELIGHT™ for the first time and headed out on the glacier to practice some roped up glacier travel.
It's clear to see that all of the features of the jacket have been intended to be used with gloves on. Two large chest pockets and a number of smaller pockets are ideal to store everything from goggles and hats, to lip balms, maps and energy bars.
The large hood is helmet-compatible and fully adjustable while still providing a good field of view. A longer length body combined with the stretchiness of the fabric means it sits comfortably below the hip belt of a harness and prevents the dreaded 'rising-up' of the jacket.
The jacket’s shoulders are completely seam-free which helps with the comfort of wearing a rucksack.
The weight sits comfortably within the usual array of fully-featured alpine shells. Not too heavy despite the impressive number of features but also not too light to remove some of the durability needed for a true alpine jacket. Once on, the jacket never felt heavy or cumbersome.
This is where the new FUTURELIGHT™ technology really comes into its own. As the sun blazed down upon us, it was quickly apparent how well the FUTURELIGHT™ L5 jacket wicked moisture away from the skin. Given the high temperatures, it was impressive to see that not one of the team felt the need to remove their outer layer during the entire day.
During long stretches in the sun, a few of the team did find a bit of sweat on the back where backpack had been but we were amazed that with just a few minutes of resting, it had dried up completely.
The jacket feels like no other waterproof jacket on the market. It’s super soft and stretchy which allowed for exceptional freedom of movement. Combine this with its exceptional breathability and you really do have a jacket you can wear all day, from dusk until dawn.
Other features also aid in the comfort of the jacket. It’s well fitted which means there isn’t extra material where there doesn’t need to be and the softer section at the top of the zip or ‘beard guard’ is a really nice touch providing additional protection for the face.
Day 3 of our acclimatisation period on the Mont Blanc Massif, saw us take a trip along the knife-edged Aiguille d’Entrèves, an exposed traverse and one of the best granite ridge crests in the range.
This really put the L5 FUTURELIGHT™ jacket through its paces, brushing up against the rough granite with regular climbing-esque moves needed throughout the route. It’s safe to say this massively highlighted the jacket’s exceptional durability as there was not one mark to be seen by the end of the day.
The jacket comes with a handy stuff sack which allows the jacket to be easily stored and compacted, ensuring it takes up the least amount of space possible.
- Exceptional breathability
- A huge array of pockets and easy to use features
- Construction from 90% recycled material
- Possibly not the lightest fully-featured alpine jacket on the market but The North Face also produced a ‘stripped back’ LT version for the more weight-conscious alpinists out there.
Two of the main highlights that not only stood out for me but the rest of the team as well is the exceptional breathability and the quietness of the jacket. For years we’ve had to put up with the crunchiness and noise of traditional waterproof jackets but thanks to FUTURELIGHT™ you can now enjoy the tranquillity of the outdoors whilst still keeping safe from the elements.
It’s relatively easy to make a waterproof jacket but it’s a little more difficult to make one that is highly breathable, waterproof, durable and even environmentally friendly. I can say with a great degree of certainty, that The North Face really have pulled it off.
If you plan on spending any serious amount of time in the mountains and looking to tackle high altitude routes and summits, the L5 FUTURELIGHT™ jacket is certainly a worthy contender and possibly one of the best options out there.