The North Face L5 Futurelight Hoody Shell – Review

Post by blogger | June 6, 2019      

The North Face L5 LT Futurelight hooded shell jacket. It checked my boxes. Click images to enlarge.

Ever found something you immediately fell in love with? I don’t fall into those kind of relationships often. Am I jaded, or just particular? In any case, something good did come along, and I wanted to brag on her it. We’re talking clothing, specifically shell layers. Specifically the L5 LT Futurelight hoody by The North Face.

At least in my pervue, they got this thing so right for ski touring I’m having trouble publishing a balanced review with a modicum of crit. Yeah, I want dual napolean pockets, instead of one, and a pair (instead of one) drop-in pockets big enough for any size climbing skins. The groovy beacon pouch inside the chest pocket is excellent, but could close with a bit of something so there’s no chance seeing your electronics go spinning and jouncing down the mountain in a joyous imitation of rockfall. Trivial stuff for me. On to the goodness:

What it is: Minimalist shell jacket the much hyped but probably excellent Futurelight waterproof/breathable super-light super-breathable fabric.

Fit: My size medium fits my skinny, 5 foot 10 inch (177.8 cm) perfectly trim in the torso. No provision here for a beer gut. Clearly, large guts are not this garment’s demographic. The sleeves have reasonable circumference. I can wear a medium-thick puffy underneath without my biceps feeling like they’re in a sausage skin. (Be advised my arms are skinny, but the amount of room seemed fine for all but someone spending six hours a week building a set of barceps.) Sleeve length errs on the long side, they come down to my second knuckle. Fine, I’ll take anything but high-water sleevage. Hood would probably fit over a NASCAR approved helmet.

If I had the money or time, and add drop-in pockets to every jacket I use.

If I had the money or time, and add drop-in pockets to every jacket I use. They’re addictive. The L5 has one on the right that easily fits low-volume climbing skins. But it’s only one pocket, and wadding a pair of higher volume skins in there is not going to work.

Pockets: One drop-in on the inside, one napolean on the chest. No waist pockets that add weight and assume you don’t wear a backpack waistbelt. Chest pocket easily doubles as an inverse storage pouch for the jacket– always one of my wants.

Innovative. An inconspicuous pleat works in concert with the chest pockets, making them larger than you would assume.

Innovative. A small inconspicuous pleat works in concert with the chest pockets, making them larger than one would assume.

Internal stowage inside chest pocket.

Internal stowage inside chest pocket.

Other: Velcro cuffs; waist drawstring; heavy duty zipper. Weight 314 grams, size medium. Built with Futurlight fabric, which in my testing is proving to be nearly as breathable as soft-shell, super comfy. Available fall 2019.

Ever pulled a chair behind you when you got up to use the bathroom after a few brews?

Remember this? Skiing was good, you’re enjoying the apre’ bar. After a few brews you rise for the call of nature. You’re actually in a bit of a hurry, ahem. WHAM, the chair behind you falls over and nails your left calf muscle like you’ve been kicked by a mule. It’s not a bar fight, the guy with the barceps you’ve been joking about is still peacefully sipping his brew — though he did begin frowning five minutes ago. No, nothing so scary. All that’s happened is your jacket waist drawstring got caught on the chair, with the elastic providing a nicely engineered rebound effect — almost as if the drawstring was designed to hurl chairs around a lounge. The LT L5 hoody provides a tiny clip that helps stow the string. You still end up with a loop hanging down, but not so much. Hurling chair prevention system, also prevents embarrassing incidents on ski chairlifts. (The adjustment clamp is hidden inside the hem, it worked fine in my tests.)


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8 Responses to “The North Face L5 Futurelight Hoody Shell – Review”

  1. XXX_er June 6th, 2019 2:42 pm

    Pocket design on technical parkas is a pet peeve of mine, does any end user really want a parka with just one breast pocket when there could have been 2, instead of none why not put in 2 waist pockets that are huge, I guaranty nobody will complain that the pockets are so big so they can put their skins in them

    instead design seems to happen at random it always leaves me wondering if the designers use the products they designed ??

  2. Lou Dawson 2 June 6th, 2019 3:19 pm

    Xer, agree that pockets seem to always be an issue. In this case, I was thinking the design team did use the product, but perhaps not all of them ski toured. Nothing is perfect and some is a matter of taste. I don’t like waist pockets in a a hardcore technical lightweight shell, but do like two drop-ins instead of one… luckily there are a zillion choices out there. Main thing here is this thing is light, breaths like crazy, and packs small. Lou

  3. nt June 6th, 2019 3:27 pm

    A dedicated beacon pocket in a jacket? I suppose the point is that this jacket is so breathable that you’ll never take it off but I’m guessing that’s not going to be the case. Dubious.
    I’d rather have dual napoleon or drop in pockets for skins.
    Any comments on the breathability/windproofness or is it the same as the pants? Did you ever take it off on a warm spring tour?

  4. Lou Dawson 2 June 7th, 2019 7:01 am

    Nt, the only person who implied it is “dedicated” is me, I’ve not seen any PR spreech to that effect, I probably should have added the qualifier “if so desired.” Ok? As for breathability, I feel like our reviews of Futurelight have pounded that subject to death already. So again, it breaths nearly like a soft shell. I wore it during a warm tour, and as an experiment kept it on for the drive home with Lisa, who likes a warm car cabin. I got a little hot during the drive, but only as if I was wearing an extra sweater or something. It really does work. How durable? Unknown, but that should be implied considering this won’t even retail until fall.

    The pouch inside the chest pocket could also be used for a smartphone or 2-way radio, again better if it had a safety closure to prevent accidental dumping.

  5. benny June 7th, 2019 7:22 am

    i’ve got a question not related to this jacket but i couldn’t find an appropriate place to post it. let me know how i could have done this better, thanks.

    i’m looking for the name and prior descent info for the south facing couloir between challenger and kit carson, directly opposite the kirk. thanks

  6. Jim Milstein June 7th, 2019 8:28 am

    Is this the place for remarks about technical jacket design? Why not?

    I bought a Patagonia Refugitive jacket recently and was surprised to find the main zip was not two-way. Isn’t that standard? On the plus side, all its exterior zips work really smoothly and without catching, and they are “waterproof”, therefore flapless. Zipper behavior is important. Less important are the drawstrings, but Patagonia got that right with all drawstrings adjustable by one hand.

    I do not care about having huge jacket pockets, preferring to keep larger things in the pack. I favor packs with an easily reachable “crampon box” with a velcro’d door for the skins. If I used crampons, I’d have to rethink that.

  7. Jack June 7th, 2019 12:57 pm

    I like the idea of a napoleon pocket with a waterproof (like really waterproof) pocket or sub-pocket. I own a Mammut high-end shell where I would ski with a cell phone in the napoleon pocket, which was convenient. General wear and tear over 7 years led to wear of the Goretex and I killed my iPhone on a mixed-precip day. Sad.

    This shell looks great. My mammut shell is way heavier and way less breathable.

  8. XXX_er June 7th, 2019 4:10 pm

    I think big inner mesh pockets like the whole front of the jacket would be ideal, i have a lighter down jacket designed that way and its handy but i suppose ymmv

    I duno if i would depend on a pocket to be very water proof ? The neighbor and her visiting buddies were world champion type bike riders back in the day and I noticed they kept their phones & money in zip lock baggies.

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