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The North Face Fleece Built for the Backcountry

The North Face Summit L2 Fleece works harder than you do

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Price: $250

Sizes: S-XL

Weight: 14.11 oz

Materials: Polartec hardface fleece, FuseForm fabric

Features: Polartec hardface fleece for durability, external (reflective) seam tape, FuseForm fabric and articulated patterning, one-piece construction with line bonding, Vislon front zipper with draft flap, minimalist chest and hand pocket zippers

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I’ve always been of the school of thought that a puffy is the only midlayer worth my time, and even typically wear one on uphill treks. Any deviation from this time-tested layering system is likely to start the countdown for teeth-chattering and shivering also known as misery.

My trusty security blanket–I mean puffy–wasn’t going to be given up easily. I carried it in my pack, ready to put it on at any time. The North Face Summit L2’s thin Polartec hardface fleece is designed to keep you warm but offer breathability at the same time, making it perfect for touring. That being said, I expected that I’d still be cold. I was wrong. On a blustery January day, the L2 and I got to know each other. We climbed in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park through freezing cold and wind. After a few minutes of sweating I noticed the L2 was keeping me comfortable. I didn’t find myself needing to add or shed layers. When it was time to transition, we ducked for cover in some trees where there was still plenty of wind. As I cooled down I waited for the ensuing chill, but the L2 regulated my body temp well enough that I never felt chilled.

The hardface Polartec fleece on the exterior of the L2 is tougher than your average fleece and can be worn on its own when weather hints at taking a turn for the worse and keeps it durable. FuseForm patterning and an articulated design are built for movement, and Polartec technology keeps the weight to warmth ratio low. In the end I became a believer, but don’t be surprised if you still find my security blanket in my pack.

Skiing Hot: The harder you work, the harder the L2 works to regulate your body temperature.

Skiing Not: If you plan on spending the day riding a lift, you’ll probably still need that puffy to stay warm.

PHOTO: Crystal Sagan