If you plan on spending substantial time in the UK countryside then there is simply no avoiding it – you are going to get rained on! Whether you are hiking, climbing, bike riding, or even walking to the pub, you will want to invest in the right waterproof shell to cope with the almost permanent cloud we seem to be standing under. I recently got my hands on the The North Face Summit Series L5 Futurelight Jacket and put it to the test
Boasting TNF’s new Futurelight technology, this hardshell is noticeably soft and well-built. The North Face recently switched over from using Gore-Tex in their premium hardshells to an in-house Futurelight membrane. One of the most intriguing jackets to incorporate this tech is the Summit L5.
My first impression with the technology was positive overall – unlike many hardshells that can feel crinkly and rigid, the Summit L5 is ultra-soft to the touch. In fact, the jacket makes virtually no noise when you move.
Weighing in at about 370 grams for a size Large, it has been stripped of all unnecessary features, such as underarm vents or hand pockets. Despite feeling softer than a softshell, FUTURELIGHT certainly does seem to be waterproof in all the ways you need for a shell. Rain and sleet beads on the face and doesn’t wet out over time.
Put simply, the Summit L5 is an excellent breather. It feels light and airy, and I was able to wear the jacket on a wet and windy hiking trip for long stretches without overheating or feeling the need to take it off. You get what you pay for here: a cheaper multi-sport shell likely would feel plasticky and clammy when you generate some body heat, but not a premium membrane like Futurelight. That said, it’s worth noting that the Summit L5 lacks pit zips.
To make the membrane, TNF use a process called nanospinning, where more than 200,000 tiny nozzles spray a polyurethane solution into a random nanofibre matrix. This is incredibly porous, allowing sweat and air to get out but stopping water from getting in. The membrane is then sandwiched between face and backer polyester for a three-layer fabric.
Once you take it off, any surface moisture also sheds/dries quickly, which is good for winter camping or if you need a quick turnaround. It also stands up to the wind relatively well, however for exposed summits you will likely want an extra insulation layer for protection.
Though the breathability is tuned for high-intensity activity in low temperatures, the performance is decent over a range of conditions and it doesn’t seem to be a membrane which requires body heat to actively ‘push’ moisture out to be effective.
The Summit L5 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. This pocket runs the whole length of the left chest fabric panel, from the seam just below the shoulder, down to just above the waist. The small mesh pocket incorporated into the chest pocket is useful for protecting and filing something small like a mobile phone, or sunglasses that you want easy access to.
All in all, the Summit L5 is a premium jacket and exactly what you would expect in this price range. Compared to other industry-leading hardshells, the price is around the same. I haven’t had any issues with durability either – I’ve snagged it on trees and branches while walking, without any problems.
The North Face deserves praise for their new Futurelight fabric, and it will definitely become my go-to shell for hiking and backpacking trips!