I don’t know about your part of the country, but here in the Pacific Northwest things are starting to feel like Fall. The mornings are cooler, the rain has come and, like many of you, my thoughts have naturally started to drift to seasonal concerns – like high-tech, ultralight down insulation. That’s only appropriate, since it will soon be very cold and my wimpy body will be shivering atop the skin track as I desperately pull over a layer on my sweat-soaked torso. What layer will that be for me this year? Why, The North Face’s L3 Down Hoodie, obviously.
The North Face L3 Down Hoodie Features:
- 800-fill goose down, responsibly sourced (RDS)
- Pre-tensioned, helmet-compatible hood with elastic binding and rear adjustment
- Exposed, reverse-coil center front and hand pocket zips
- Stowable in hand pocket
- Stretch knit cuff with DWR (Durable water repellent) finish
- Hidden hem cinch-cord can be adjusted through hand pockets
- 10D nylon fabric with DWR
- Weight: 13.4oz
- MSRP: $350
You’ll be glad you packed it
This review is based on field testing over three seasons in the Pacific Northwest. The L3 was my partner on numerous backcountry ski outings, some sloppy Spring outings, and then some wonderful alpine climbing throughout this summer. I’m writing the review with all of that testing in mind, with the knowledge that many folks are taking a look at their layering options for the coming winter. I’ll start by saying that this jacket has been very versatile throughout those different testing environments.
The foundation of this jacket is really its insulation. The North Face has chosen a high-loft, 800-fill weight goose down. This is an excellent insulation material; I was actually a little surprised not to see an 850 or 900-fill down in this Summit Series piece, but The North Face appears to have reserved those ultra-fine insulations for their expedition gear. In any case, it’s still a premium insulation. The North Face has taken the needed step of sourcing their down responsibly, and in that regard they are part of a cohort of industry leaders who have signed onto the Responsible Down Sourcing protocols. You can feel good about where this insulation comes from.
This insulation isn’t treated with any DWR, and that is worth a little conversation. Applying a DWR to goose down has several benefits, chief among them being the down’s ability to shrug off moisture. In practice, this looks like quicker drying times if your jacket does get wet, and the down tends to retain more loft compared to untreated down when exposed to moisture. This second piece is what justifies the claim that DWR-treated down keeps you warmer when wet. I’m not sure why The North Face chose not to give their goose down a DWR treatment, but there are plenty of other top brands who make a similar choice.
Aside from the goose down, the other foundational aspect is the fabric. The North Face chose a 10D nylon weave, which is definitely a choice that prioritizes ultralight gram-saving over things like, well, durability. 10D nylon is incredibly robust; it can fend off rocks and scrapes, and it is very down-proof. But, on the flip side, all the down jackets hanging in my closet that have holes are the ones with 10D fabric. The truth is, over time, you’re gonna pick up some damage with normal use. For me, this isn’t a huge problem. I just carry some gear repair tape and know that the patches give the garment color in return for the ultralight performance.
The jacket has a carefully selected slate of features. There are two large zippered pockets, one of which can double as a stuff sack for the jacket. The hood doesn’t have any adjustments, although it is lined with an elastic fabric. The hem does have an adjustment cord, which works just fine. The cuffs are a highlight, since they have this awesome buttery-soft fabric which I really like. This also helps keep the cuff silhouette small, so they slide easily under gloves.
The fit of the jacket is a little more generous; it doesn’t run particularly trim, and there’s extra material over the butt to add a little extra protection. I always appreciate that. I wore a size Large on my 5’10, 200lb frame and found that it was an appropriate fit for alpine activities where I will sometimes have extra fleece layers beneath my puffy. For me, that extra space works well.
The North Face has taken a couple of extra steps to make this a warm jacket for its weight. One significant contributor to this is the large hung liner which covers the inside of the jacket. This extra layer traps air and helps keep out some breezes that might otherwise come through the stitch-through baffles on the L3.
I really enjoyed using this jacket. It packs down very well, and though I wore it during some terribly wet trips that I wouldn’t have taken a down jacket on if I hadn’t been trying to test it, it served me well. The perk of the 10D nylon is that it has a certain amount of water resistivity since it’s such a fine weave. This, coupled with the DWR on the fabric, kept the down pretty dry. I also found that wind cutting through the jacket was tolerable, although there’s no doubt that the stitch-through baffles let some wind through. This shouldn’t be your outer layer in a storm, obviously.
I wish that I could quantify this jacket’s warmth for you. Unfortunately, The North Face hasn’t made available information about the weight of the down insulation in the jacket. That’s a good way to compare, since the higher ratio of fill-to-material, generally, the warmer the jacket is. The hung liner that I mentioned certainly helps retain some heat. Like most jackets these days, the baffles are stitched through; this means that there are thin spots along each baffle. That’s fine and it’s a common on ultralight climbing puffies, but know that if you’re looking for an ultra-warm puffy you’d want to find something with true four-wall baffles like the Summit L6.
Another key factor was that the hood worked well with my skiing and climbing helmet; the fit was right. That said, I’d still opt for some toggles to be able to tension the hood so that it moves with my head better. You can’t really look side-to-side without the hood obscuring your vision, unless it’s cinched down beneath a helmet or hardshell hood. The other features worked great, too. I found the zipper track to be smooth and predictable. The two big front pockets are clutch for when your cold fingers need to dump trash or half-eaten bars somewhere.
- Overall, exceptionally well-built, light weight and with top-shelf materials
- Generally the features worked well – easy to appreciate the big zippered pockets
- I loved the buttery-soft cuff material
- Responsibly sourced goose down is increasingly the gold standard in insulation, so kudos there
- Longer profile gives more protection on your rump
- Personally, I would prefer some adjustment options on the hood
- Know that any ultralight 10D puffy will wind up with holes one day
The Bottom Line: The North Face L3 Hoodie
Overall, I am happy to recommend this puffy to a select group of consumers who are looking for fast-and-light alpine gear. It’s an ultralight, technical puffy that is warm for its weight and overall offers great protection from the elements. It is expensive, but the cost is justified by the overall excellent construction and the quality insulation and fabrics. The Summit Series truly is one of the best lineups of outdoor gear available, and the L3 Down Hoody deserves its place on the summit.
Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com