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Waterproof Jackets

The North Face FutureLight Summit L5 Waterproof Jacket | Preview

The North Face bring in their all-new FutureLight waterproof technology to their top-tier mountaineering shell

Why We Chose The FutureLight Summit Series L5 Waterproof Jacket: Durable jacket using an exciting new wateproof tech.

The North Face unveiled FutureLight, their all new waterproof material at ISPO 2019 in Germany this year.

This technology utilises a process called nanospinning, where a polyurethane solution is turned into a web of thousands of nano fibres with holes between them that are big enough for air to pass through but small enough to block out water molecules.

It’s nothing new, other brands like Outdoor Research and Jöttnar have produced products using this method before. However, in this instance, The North Face have coupled that nanospun membrane with a unique fabric laminate that, it’s claimed, won’t jeopardise breathability performance. FutureLight therefore gives a claimed moisture vapour transmission rate of 80,000 g/m2. To put that in perspective, Gore-Tex Pro achieves 28,000 g/m2, and Polartec Neoshell is around 30,000 g/m2.

One of the other benefits of the nanospinning process over standard membrane manufacture is that it gives the potential for tweaking the weight and thickness of a membrane depending on the planned activity. For example, a very lightweight, thin membrane and face fabric can be produced for running, whilst a heavy-duty membrane can be for freeride ski use.

“In all my years in the mountains, I’ve never experienced a product that moved and performed as well as FutureLight. It is creating a new paradigm for what I expect out of a waterproof material.” Jim Morrison

FutureLight has been put through the wringer by The North Face athletes over a period of two years of R&D, most notably joining Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson on their first descent of the world’s fourth highest mountain, Lhotse, via the Lhostse Couloir – one of the most sought after ski descents in the world.

The traditional down suit has been the standard on 8,000m peaks for years, however Hilaree and Jim completed the ascent and descent of Lhotse in FutureLight jackets and pants coupled with insulating layers beneath. They proclaimed that they didn’t need to switch out or open up layers ventilation, even during the ascent – the membrane did it all for them.

“In all my years in the mountains, I’ve never experienced a product that moved and performed as well as FutureLight,” stated Jim Morrison. “It’s creating a new paradigm for what I expect out of a waterproof material.”

A single waist pocket on the right hand side is the ideal size to hold a transceiver and is positioned to remain out the way of any harness or bag straps. Photo: Chris Johnson
The hood is of course helmet compatible. Photo: Chris Johnson
This is a similar jacket to the one Jim and Hilaree used to climb and ski the world's fourth highest mountain – Lhotse. Photo: Chris Johnson

The North Face have added FutureLight to what you see here, their pinnacle mountaineering and climbing jacket called the Summit Series L5.

The nanospinning process has allowed the North Face to produce a softer, less crinkly fabric more akin to that of a softshell rather than a full waterproof shell, but with full rugged protection and, supposedly, ultimate breathability.

We say ‘supposedly’ because we unfortunately haven’t been able to properly test Futurelight out just yet. Yes, we’ve worn it, but we’re giving ourself a few months to properly explore the ins and outs of this new material and it’s benefits and potential pitfalls before we give you our conclusive review.

Looking past the fabric, the L5 itself comes equipped with two large Napoleon style chest pockets that’ll eat up an OS map, gloves, or climbing gear, and a single waist pocket on the right-hand side which is the ideal size for a transceiver. This is positioned to remain out the way of a harness or backpack hipbelt.

The L5 is available in both men’s and women’s versions and has also been split up depending on the intended use of the jacket – for example, there’s a heavier weight version suited towards ski mountaineering, and a lightweight version suited towards climbing and alpinism.

Keep an eye out for that full review.

FutureLight has given The North Face the ability to create garments that feel more like a softshell, with full waterproof protection. Photo: Chris Johnson
An articulated design to suit dynamic movement. Photo: Chris Johnson
A zipped internal pocket to keep your phone safe. Photo: Chris Johnson

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