The biggest annoyance with outdoor waterproof gear is that it’s loud and stuffy. There’s no getting around the first problem, as nearly every Gore-Tex coat and pant obnoxiously “whoosh” as you move around. For the latter issue, adventure brands encourage delayering and usually add armpit and leg zipper vents for extra air conditioning as the wearer works up a sweat.
These are, admittedly, first-world problems. But, nonetheless, they are ones that the North Face has seemingly solved this winter for the most committed (or moneyed) outdoor adventurers with “Future Light,” its newest fabric to rival, if not dethrone, Gore-Tex – the industry standard for more than 50 years.
Thanks to “nano spun” threads that block water but still allow airflow, Future Light promises twice as much breathability, half the loudness, noticeably less weight and equal waterproofing and reliability as the former. After a recent “on mountain” review of the the North Face’s lightest combo – the Men’s Summit L5 LT FutureLight Jacket ($600) and Pants ($530) – it seems the company has delivered.
Upon first donning the jacket and pants (sizing as expected), I was skeptical of the pyjama-like weight and lack of zipper vents. “Will this really keep me warm and/or prevent sweat tacos?” I asked myself. Not only did they keep me warm with the same number of layers I normally wear, I never felt the need to shed the jacket and didn’t sweat excessively. In that regard, the L5 LT is a breathing machine.
Both the jacket and pants are also ridiculously good waterproofers. They kept me as dry on the snowy mountain for three consecutive days as they did in my hotel shower for several minutes with the faucet on full blast. No leaks or penetration whatsoever. On top of that, the L5 LT jacket and pants are noticeably more quiet than the other outdoor gear hanging in my closet. Not as silent as cotton – but twice as quiet as other expensive coats.
My main criticism? When purchased together, The L5 LT pant and jacket are as expensive as a top-of-the line iPhone. Casual users need not apply. For now, Future Light is for the most devoted and demanding outdoor users – the ones actually summiting mountains (or the spare-no-expense ones pretending to).
Additionally, Future Light durability is still being tested, something Gore-Tex has long since proven. That’s not to say Future Light isn’t as reliable – only that my limited use of it and recent public release are too brief to ultimately say.