The REI Flash Jacket is a very thin nylon jacket that traps your body heat and prevents the wind from stripping it away. Also called a windbreaker or wind shirt, it’s much more breathable than a raincoat or a hardshell jacket, it only weighs a few ounces, and compresses down to the size of an apple. It’s an ideal garment to wear over a midlayer garment like a fleece hoody when it’s cool out or to prevent bugs from biting you during bug season when a heavier jacket is too hot. In winter, I wear one as an outer layer on 90% of my hikes because it’s so much more breathable than a rain jacket or hardshell.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 4.5 oz in a men’s XL
- Gender: Men’s and Women’s sizes are available
- Pockets: 5
- Hood: Volume adjustable at rear of hood
- Material: Recycled Nylon
- DWR Coating: Yes
The REI Flash Jacket is a gossamer-thin nylon jacket designed to trap your body heat when you’re actively hiking or exercising. It doesn’t have any insulation of its own but blocks the wind or cold air from penetrating your midlayer clothing and chilling you. You’ll be amazed at how much warmer you’ll stay when you’re wearing it.
The Flash Jacket is also remarkably breathable and wicking, meaning that it absorbs the perspiration you generate, both sweat and water vapor, and helps evaporate it without chilling you. I can literally feel dampness on the outer surface of the jacket when I’m hiking hard and climbing mountains, but I’m still nice and dry inside. While it has a mist-shedding DWR coating, it’s not waterproof like a rain jacket or hardshell.
The Flash Jacket is a little different from most windbreakers and wind shirts because it has a lot of pockets, five pockets in all. There’s a chest pocket capable of holding a full-sized Smartphone, two internal drop pockets for holding hats or mittens, and two external side pockets (unzippered) to keep your hands warm or carry extra stuff. This makes it an ounce or two heavier than many ultralight wind shirts and windbreakers, but it’s a tradeoff that provides the jacket with a lot more utility. Still, having a chest pocket for a phone is a really nice feature that I wish more windbreakers and wind shirts had. And of course, you can stuff the jacket into its chest pocket if you like.
The Flash Jacket comes with an adjustable hood, with a rear cordlock, so you can shrink the hood volume down to human size. It has elastic wrist cuffs to seal out the wind, although I wish they were a little larger so I could slide the sleeves higher up my arms when I want to release more body heat without taking the jacket off. There’s also an elastic hem adjuster so you can sell out drafts from below, along with a full-length front zipper for ventilation.
The Flash Jacket is made with thin recycled nylon. REI doesn’t publish the denier spec, but it’s very similar in texture and weight to the 15 and 20d fabric used on Patagonia’s Houdini Jacket and the Rab Vital Hoody. The Flash Jacket is also rated windproof up to 30 mph, which I can vouch for first hand on windy winter summits.
At 4.5 oz, the REI Flash Jacket is on the low end of the gear weight spectrum for windbreakers and wind shell jackets which is pretty impressive considering the amount of functionality and pockets REI was able to include. Despite those added features, it’s really quite a good buy and I’d definitely recommend getting yourself one, especially if you’ve never used a windbreaker or wind shell for hiking or backpacking.
Disclosure: REI donated a jacket for this review.
Updated January 2023.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.