The North Face’s new waterproof-breathable Summit L5 LT Futurelight Jacket is a big step forward for ice and alpine climbing. The day has finally arrived when waterproof-breathable jackets actually breathe during strenuous climbing and you don’t get soaked from the inside out!
The Summit L5 LT jacket’s breathability alone would be notable—but the jacket is also incredibly supple and agile for a waterproof shell.
The North Face has developed a new nanomembrane—Futurelight—that is more breathable than the competition, while still keeping water out. On the L5 LT jacket, the membrane is sandwiched between two other fabrics to offer extra durability.
I tested the jacket in a range of conditions this fall and winter, climbing a dozen ice and mixed pitches with it in Vail, Redstone and Telluride. The jacket moves as well as any softshell jacket, and is just about as breathable too. In the past I have often preferred to ice climb in a softshell jacket, even at the expense of getting a bit wet from meltwater—I just couldn’t climb in a traditional waterproof-breathable shell that quickly became sweaty. The Summit L5 LT jacket changes the game for me, as it’s plenty breathable to wear when working hard.
To give the fabric a real test for moisture transfer, I wore the jacket against my skin on sweaty hikes and dry-tooling routes (I wouldn’t do this normally, for the record …)—the jacket moved sweat to the outside of the fabric with impressive breathability.
The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Jacket is cut trim, with a long torso and long arms so it doesn’t rise up when climbing. The minimalist design is well thought out for alpine routes, with an easy-adjust hood that fits a helmet, a high collar coming up to mouth level, an inside chest stash pocket, and a single outside chest zippered pocket.
The fabric has just enough durability to endure the snags from ice screws on the harness and from ice tools draped over the shoulder when mixed climbing. I was careful with the jacket when shimmying up dihedrals on the Ames Ice Hose, as it’s a light fabric. It will tear, as my partner discovered when his crampons snagged his Futurelight pant leg by his calf.
With its impressive breathability and agility, the Summit L5 LT jacket is my new go-to for all ice and alpine endeavors.
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