The North Face L4 Softshell Hoodie

Gearflogger reviews the North Face L4 hoodieOne of the big questions in modern gear: hoodie or hoody? The North Face sticks with the former, sticking its thumb in the collective eye of the "sometimes Y" crowd. Yet tantalizingly, the sticker on the price card attached to the jacket says "HYBRID HDY," leaving open, perhaps, the possibility of rapprochement in the future.

The full name of the piece is the Summit Series L4 Windstopper Hybrid Hoodie, but's let's just agree to call it the L4. The Windstopper material is basically from the navel up, and then down to the elbows on the sleeves. The hood, lower arms and hem area are all a stretchy wind-resistant fabric, and the idea of it all is to allow maximum mobility and breathability while still maintaining Windstopper protection of the all-important core.

In practice it works very well, especially for high-output activities like climbing, biking and hiking. The cut of the piece is what TNF calls "arms up", meaning climbers in particular will appreciate the freedom of movement the L4 offers in the vertical realm. The hood is best worn under a helmet and functions as a nice liner that way. Zipped up all the way it provides great lower face protection, and it's comfy to boot with a full length zipper flap with a microfleece chin strip.

The L4 is nothing if not versatile. Depending on how it fits you and how you size it, the L4 can function over a thin base layer when you're exerting yourself, and then just throw a puffy vest or jacket on at the belay station or wherever you go static. Alternately you could wear it over a fleece when you need the Windstopper effect, and take it off when you need to vent. Venting is aided by the perforated inner lining that backs up the two zipped handwarmer pockets and the single chest pocket.

The beauty of the L4 is in its simplicity. The only adjustment is a single hem drawcord. Everything else just seems to fit and work the way you want it too. Any which way you can't go wrong with the L4, it's a superlight windshirt that operates flawlessly under a wide range of conditions.

$199.95 at Moosejaw



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