The North Face L4 Jacket Review

TNF LogoThe North Face L4

Dave looks at the reformed Summit series jacket from The North Face

Part of our 2015 Summit Series™ collection, the L4 Jacket comes with articulated patterning designed specifically for alpine comfort and mobility.

CGR Rating 3

I wondered what had happen to the TNF Summit series clothing range when it all went quiet in 2014 and early 2015. Well, it seemed that the designers at The North Face had been busy giving the collection a totla face lift.

The new L series clothing is all about helping you choose which part of the layer you are looking for beginning at baselayers at L1 and going up to L6 which is the full bore exped down jacket.

The North Face L4 jacket is designed as a midlayer jacket, the sort you would own because it is so versatile, throw it in your bouldering bag, rock climbing pack, a day out in early spring or late autumn and even winter (more on that later). It should also double as a casual jacket for wearing down the climbing wall and the pub afterwards. So this type of jacket is probably going to be your most used item and it should have plenty of features to make your activity as warm as it can be.

A great throw on jacket for winter hiking.
A great throw on jacket for winter hiking.

I tested The North Face L4 jacket in a wide variety of situations to see just how warm and versatile it was. The jacket is jam packed full of the Primaloft Thermaball we first featured in 2014. This filling is great, it creates a much more dense feeling layer of insulation and still compresses reasonably OK (for a synthetic layer) although it does pack slightly bigger than a standard Primaloft type jacket – but it is warmer. So, as ever, there is always some sort of compromise and with 160g/m2 of filling it does offer a good warmth to weight ratio and I did manage to get it into one of the side pockets so it’s not overly bulky. The trusty CGR scales weighed it in at 530g against the listed 500g.

The baffling has a nice honeycomb style to it and is designed to minimise the movement of the Thermoball. The jacket has remained fully lofted throughout the whole review period, even when dried out from wet. In fact when I used the jacket as a winter belay jacket the jacket remained lofted even when damp, which was great. The honeycomb baffling also gives it a nice style effect for casual wear when out for general walk or hanging out in the pub.

The hood didn't fit so well over a helmet.
The hood didn’t fit so well over a helmet.

All the zips worked really well, even with gloves on. The main zip is a YKK Vislon and worked well in rain, snow and all conditions. The zip tags were fine to use with gloves on. The hand warmer zips were small so OK to use with light approach gloves on (the sort you might wear for a hike or run) but not so easy with full winter climbing gloves on.

There were plenty of pockets that were all placed well. Two zipped hand warmer pockets that are fine except with a harness on, an internal zipped stash pocket as well as an external chest pocket that is also zipped for when you are out and about with your phone and headphones. There is even an excellent internal mesh pocket for stowing gloves, hat or even a drink to keep it warm. This has been the first TNF jacket I have tested that doesn’t have a stow pocket to fold the jacket into so there is no way to have the jacket hanging off a harness – a bit of a flaw, seeing as it has been standard in the past.

A great mesh pocket for stashing maps, gloves, etc.
A great mesh pocket for stashing maps, gloves, etc.

The hand warmer pockets held the waist draw cords which are easy to cinch up when you want to keep the wind out and there is no draw cords to adjust the hood, which brings me onto that. Although TNF list the L4 jacket as an insulated mid-layer – I have tested as a sort of belay jacket. The reason for this is in the UK the temperature is rarely cold enough to wear a jacket like this for climbing in. I can understand that in places such as Canada and parts of the US or even Europe in the winter the L4 could be worn for ice climbing, but the UK is often too damp and warm.

The L4 worked fine as a belay jacket and was plenty warm enough for UK winter conditions.
The L4 worked fine as a belay jacket and was plenty warm enough for UK winter conditions.

The hood is listed as to be worn under a helmet and I tried this but I overheated very quickly as the hood is really warm. This then makes it too small to go over a helmet and I felt this was a real letdown as TNF hood have been top notch in past reviews. The fit was great as a belay jacket as it easily fitted over my climbing layers. The glossy looking inner material make getting the jacket on and off a breeze in dry conditions but wasn’t any more advantageous with wet clothing and the clean finish cuffs were also not so good with wet gloves as I tended to pull the sleeves inside out when taking the jacket off to climb.

Although I’ve used the jacket for winter climbing it has been great for general rock climbing, hiking and drytooling and it is very warm. I would say The North Face L4 jacket is fine for the majority of mountain sports but as a full winter belay jacket it has a few minor niggles that would be easy to sort out. A nice jacket.

There is a men’s and women’s version and sizes range from S to XL and you can have any colour you like as long as it’s Black.

SRP: £215


Dave bio shot

Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for almost 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA and an aspirant IML: working full time as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!

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