The North Face Summit L5 FutureLight Full-Zip Bibs
This year The North Face came out with the FUTURELIGHT™ line of products that utilize a new fabric that is advertised as durable, breathable, and waterproof.
I’ve seen companies try to produce a miracle fabric that fulfills these promises, and each one failed miserably. I really wanted to see if The North Face had done it this time, so I picked up a pair of Men’s Summit L5 FUTURELIGH Full-Zip Bibs to test out. They arrived just before I embarked on a fifteen-day journey of learning consisting of back-to-back AIARE Instructor Trainer Course and AMGA Ski Guide Course. My courses proved to be the perfect testing ground. I wore these bibs touring, standing around in the cold teaching, at the ski resort, through a three-day hut trip, and cat skiing on a 12” pow day. They rocked everything that I threw at them, and I think The North Face has finally produced the mythical unicorn fabric. They implemented it intelligently with these well-designed bibs.
Thermostat for your Butt
When I’m hiking uphill I run super-hot and am usually the first one fumbling for my vent zippers on the skin track. I wanted to test the advertised breathability of the FUTURELIGHT fabric, so I decided to see how long I could go without opening the side zips on these bibs. I headed to the resort and started up the hill. I felt myself warming up as usual, but as I continued past my normal “layer shedding spot” I felt the warming level off. It was as if a thermostat kicked in and started dumping heat from my legs. I was able to continue for a couple of hours at the same warm, but not hot, thermostat setting with the side zips fully done up. Fast forward 20 days of use and I still haven’t had to unzip these suckers. I found them to be more breathable than all but the thinnest softshell pants. So, they’re breathable, but are they warm and waterproof?
Yes, yes they are. They regulate comfort just as well on the other side of the thermometer. When the temps drop the thermostat kills the AC and locks in the heat. During my courses, I stood and watched many instructor demos, usually on the coldest days of the course, and never felt a chill. They’re definitely windproof and you can feel the breeze bounce off without cooling down. I haven’t had the chance to test them out in the pacific north-west’s wet conditions, but they’ve kept me dry through everything Colorado has thrown at me. I’ve dug several snow study pits and made many deep turns without moisture seeping through to my base layer.
When I buy a shell layer I expect it to breathe well, or keep the wind at bay, or be lightweight, or lockout moisture, or be durable, or be supple. If it can combine two or three traits, I’m stoked. I was blown away to find that FUTURELIGHT™ can do all of the above. As long as The North Face keeps making FUTURELIGHT™ products, they’ll be my go-to for shells.
Perfect fit for Everything
I feel equally out of place when I wear my ski pants ice climbing or wear my climbing pants skiing. Baggy pants get caught on crampons and I don’t enjoy Euro-fit ski gear (I’m just not fast enough). These bibs have the perfect fit to allow you to make them your do-everything shell without compromising on function (or style.) The cut of the fabric makes this possible, but the features that really sell this ability are the adjustable cuffs and integrated gaiters (I like to call them integraiters).
The adjustable cuffs expand big enough to fit over ski boots in tour mode. The integraiter’s stretchy fabric matches the cuff’s ability to expand. The stretchy fabric is quite thin, but despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to tear it hastily pulling it over my ski boots buckles. If you’re rocking mountaineering boots the cuff’s three size settings allow you to take up the extra fabric to keep it out of your crampons. If do end up kicking your ankle with boot knives, the Kevlar kick patch will fight back to keep your shells hole-free.
Often times internal gaiters don’t adjust, so one of my favorite features of these bibs is the adjustability of the inegraiters. They have two snap settings and hook and loop closure to match. This allows them to suck down to create a non-slip seal on mountaineering boots. If you’re a belt and suspenders kind of person, they also have metal eyelets for shock-cord stirrups.
Pockets ain’t Empty
I reaaaaally like the pockets on these bibs. The two thigh pockets have internal attachment points for avalanche transceiver leashes. Both thigh pockets can fit a medium Rite-in-the-Rain, an AIARE Blue Book, and a selection of pens and pencils. They are also bellowed at the bottom to lay flat when empty or expand to hold a bunch of stuff. The bib pocket has two internal pouches for keeping your chapstick and snack bars organized. One of my only complaints with these bibs is there isn’t a transceiver attachment point in the bib pocket.
Magic Size Finder Tool
I used the Fit Finder tool on The North Face’s website to figure out which size to order. I answered a few questions about my body metrics and preferred fit for the garment. It then told me that 70% of people who answered similarly were happy with a small/regular. As a 5’9” and 135-pound, self-proclaimed perfect model of medium, I found that hard to believe. I ordered the small as instructed, and my trust was rewarded with perfectly fitting bibs. I order most of my outdoor gear online and having a fitting tool like this is a huge help.
In Conclusion – The North Face Summit L5 FutureLight Full Zip Bibs
I’m super happy with these bibs. The features and fit are well thought out and make for a super effective piece of equipment. The FUTURELIGHT fabric is rad and I will definitely be incorporating more pieces of it into my layering system. A smart person once said “The goal of a piece of equipment is to fade away into the background.” These bibs do just that. When using them, I spent zero brain space wishing they were warmer, more breathable, or had a better design. If you’re looking for a shell for ski touring, ice climbing, mountaineering, or any combination, I would highly encourage you to check out The North Face’s Men’s Summit L5 FUTURELIGHT™ Full-Zip Bibs.
Kyle grew up in Iowa and after high school ditched the midwest to begin college at Western State Colorado University and start guiding in the summers.
Kyle says he spent his time at Western climbing, snowboarding, volunteering on the rescue team, and instructing for the outdoor program. He claims if he had spent any less time actually in class he certainly would not have graduated. Kyle’s time with the Western Mountain Rescue Team was extremely formative and revealed his passion for wilderness search and rescue (SAR). He made it his goal to make a career out of SAR. Kyle is well on his way to achieving his goal and currently works as a Ski Patroller in Colorado and a Climbing Ranger in the Pacific NorthWest.
Kyle’s certifications include WEMT-IV, Avalanche Pro 1, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. Kyle is a certified AIARE instructor and teaches Recreational Level 1, Level 2, and Partner Rescue courses. He is also an Apprentice Rock and Ski Guide through the AMGA
When Kyle has free time he climbs and skis. He’s taken the hard way to the top of El Capitan and the steep way down peaks in Colorado and Washington.
Kyle’s jobs allow or force him (depending on the weather) to work 200 days a year outside. He’s constantly testing gear in all conditions and refining his setups to make work and play easier, faster, and more fun.