When an brand like The North Face celebrates 50 years of making incredible outerwear you know they’re onto something. I had the opportunity to test the Men’s L4 Thermoball Mid-Layer one of the most unique pieces of clothing in the brands line. If you’re not familiar with the word baffle, you should be.
Primaloft Thermoball Baffles
TNF has an exclusive new weave pattern known as seamless baffles. Think waffles (like the kind you eat) now insert them into a jacket shell and you get a unique mid-later. The North Face is not the first to use this tech, however they’ve figured out how to weave one fabric through another, making a single fabric with chambers built right into its woven structure, creating seamless baffles. It sounds more complicated than it is think insulated quilts.
What that baffles deliver is warmth, and lots of it. You can easily compare the comfort and warmth rating on this mid-layer to that of a thick heavy puffy full of down. Unique to the baffle design is a slim cut fit which looks like more of a city style piece than Michelin Man puffy. So if your style conscious you may really dig the MEN’S L4 THERMOBALL™ MID-LAYER design. Hint: Guys, this is the sort of cut your lady will want to wear.
Thanks to the synthetic insulation and DWR finish, this jacket works really well at shedding moisture and retaining heat. Although I did enjoy this piece for touring it was a bit on the warm side after a few hours of heavy excursion. Best bet is to pack it down, throw it inside your backpack and then pull it out again to help re-gain heat. Better yet would be to wear this as a mid-layer for cold resort days under a shell.
Another great feature of the Men’s L4 Thermoball jacket is the hood, it fits perfectly, offers a really comfortable snug fit and can easily slide over a ski or climbing helmet.
What can be improved?
Although the L4 comes with Nylon Ripstop it’s made of mostly polyester and recycled polyester. If you plan to tour wearing this as a soft shell you may want to avoid branches as I found it easy to snag on trees. However if this piece is going to be used as intended, – as a mid-layer worn under a shell you most likely will never run into that problem.
Part of The North Face Summit series the MEN’S L4 THERMOBALL™ MID-LAYER will soon become that one piece of gear that comes with you on all your mountain adventures. Especially the really cold ones! At $299.00 the L4 Summit Series is a great investment in warmth.
One thing to remember with the L4 Mid-Layer is that the style of this piece is unique, for instance the inside of the jacket is the shiniest black I have ever seen? Odds are likely if you wear this after a big day skiing or riding you’ll clearly be stoked as you stayed warm, now que Apres ski in a place like say Aspen and well, you may need cougar spray..
If this is how TNF celebrates 50 years, we’re all in store for more progressive innovations from the brand that you can always trust when spending time outdoors. Kudos TNF this piece will go down in outerwear history.