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A Detailed Review of the REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket

REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket Review

The REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket is a reasonably priced ($169) 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable raincoat loaded with features that hikers will appreciate, particularly for winter hiking an shoulder-season use. It has a two-way adjustable hood with a front bill, pit zips, zippered mesh-lined hand warmer pockets, a zippered chest pocket, a high neck with a chin guard, velcro wrist closures, and hem adjusters to prevent drafts from below. The jacket is made with a stretchy recycled fabric with a soft external hand and coated with a non-fluorinated DWR.

Specs at a glance

  • Gender: Men’s (a women’s model is also available)
  • Waterproof/breathable: 2.5 Layer
  • Membrane: Hydrowall
  • Weight: 17 oz in a size medium (19 oz in a men’s XL, tested)
  • Back length: 31″
  • Pit zips: Yes
  • Adjustable hood w/brim: 2-way adjustability
  • Helmet-compatible: Yes
  • Pockets: 3 (One interior chest and two hand warmer (all zippered and mesh-backed))
  • Stuffs into hand warmer pocket: Yes
  • Hook-and-loop wrist cuffs: Yes
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Hydrostatic Head and MVTR: Not Published
  • Fit: Runs very large. I’d consider downsizing even.
  • Materials: Recycled polyester
  • External DWR: Yes (non-fluorinated)

Construction

The Flash Stretch Rain Jacket is a 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable jacket. This means it has an exterior fabric, a waterproof/breathable membrane, and a half-weight interior liner that’s thinner than a third full fabric layer but still provides good breathability and protects the membrane. In contrast, a 3 layer jacket uses a heavier internal fabric and is slightly more breathable The benefit of the 2.5-layer construction is that it’s lighter weight.

The Flash Stretch Jacket has a lot of stretch which is good for dynamic movements and comfort.
The Flash Stretch Jacket has a lot of stretch which is good for dynamic movements and comfort.

The exterior fabric on the jacket is very soft and has a lot of stretch built into it so you could also use this jacket for more dynamic sports like downhill skiing or ice climbing that require a combination of good weather protection with excellent range of motion. When you run your hand over the outside, its hard to believe that its not a softshell jacket instead of a fully waterproof rain jacket.

Rain Jacket Features

When I evaluate rain jackets for hiking and backpacking there are a few features that I look for, regardless of whether the jacket is made with a waterproof/breathable fabric or not. These include an adjustable hood (1 way or two way), pit zips, and whether the wrists have hook-and-loop closures or elastic ones. All of these features are important for weather protection, regulating your warmth level and the amount of perspiration you experience. You want to be able to manage your warmth and perspiration level across a wide range of temperatures, wind speeds, and trail conditions by zipping and unzipping openings and covering and uncovering your head and wrists.

REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket

Water Resistance
Breathability
Comfort & Mobility
Hood Adjustability
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Fully Featured

The REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket is a reasonably priced 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable raincoat loaded with features that hikers will appreciate, particularly for winter hiking an shoulder-season use.

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Jacket Hood

The hood on the Flash Jack is helmet compatible, so it’s oversized, but it also has a two-way adjustment system so you can shrink it down to human size. This includes neck toggles that let you control the size of the front opening to keep the wind out and a rear volume control cord that lets you reduce the size of the head space. These two controls are the best you can expect on pretty much any rain jacket regardless of price. In addition, the jacket has a front bill that can keep the rain off your glasses and the neck has a soft face protector to keep you comfortable when the front zipper is closed and the hood is scrunched down in bad weather.

The hood has a rear volume elastic that lets you shrink it down to human size.
The hood has a rear volume elastic that lets you shrink it down to human size.

Pit Zips

The function of pit zips is to help vent excess heat so you can avoid perspiring. Perspiration isn’t always bad, but if it’s cool outside, it takes extra energy for your skin to evaporate the moisture and can chill you in the process. The Flash Stretch has quite long and wide pit zips that you can use to open to vent excess body heat to prevent overheating and sweating. I run hot and keep my pit zips open almost all the time, except for very cold weather where I batten down the hatches to stay warm.

Large pit zips help bleed off excess heat to prevent perspiration.
Large pit zips help bleed off excess heat to prevent perspiration.

Wrist cuffs

Wrist cuffs are another important temperature regulation feature that is important year-round. The Flash Stretch has oversized hook-and-loop closures so you can seal the ends of the sleeves off. The extra large wrist tabs are good for use while wearing rain gloves or mittens.

Hook and loop wrist closures help seal in heat.
Hook and loop wrist closures help seal in heat.

I view wrist cuffs as essential for hiking in rain, particularly when used with rain gloves or mittens since you can secure them around the gauntlets to retain warmth and stay dry. The opposite is true too: you can vent heat by opening up the wrist cuffs and pulling your sleeves up your arm. You have a lot of blood flowing close to the skin in your wrists which you can use for temperature regulation and wrist cuffs give you the tools to do it. 

Rain jacket comparison table

Here are our reasonably priced rain jacket recommendations for hiking and backpacking.

Make / ModelPit ZipsAvg Weight
Patagonia Torrentshell 3LYes14.1 oz
Black Diamond Stormline StretchYes11.3 oz
Montbell Versalite JacketYes6.4 oz
Lightheart Gear Rain JacketYes6.3 oz
Outdoor Research Foray IIYes11.3 oz
REI Rainier Rain JacketYes13 oz
Enlightened Equipment VispYes5.61 oz
Marmot Precip EcoYes13.1 oz
Frogg Toggs Xtreme LiteNo7.6 oz
Rab DownPour EcoYes11.3 oz

Fit and Weight

The Flash Stretch Jacket runs decidedly large. I tested out a size men’s XL, which fit well over my colder-weather hiking layers, but would have been way too big for summer use. If you’re in between sizes you might want to buy both to get the right fit.

Recommendation

The REI Flash Stretch Rain Jacket is a fully-featured waterproof/breathable rain jacket with a soft and stretchy external fabric that makes it good for active sports use, from hiking and backpacking to downhill skiing and ice climbing. It has a helmet-compatible two-way adjustable hood, large pit zips, and hook-and-look wrist cuffs for weather protection and temperature regulation. Its only negative is its weight, which is relatively heavy compared to other rain jackets, especially if you’re like me and carry one all the time, but never get to use it. But if you’re looking for one rain jacket that can be used year-round in town, on the trails, and on the slopes, the Flash Stretch Rain jacket is a good pick if you can dial in the sizing you like. And the price, especially during an REI member sale, is right!

Disclosure: REI donated a jacket for review.

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4 comments

  1. HOW MUCH does it COST?

  2. Did you do any “wet out” test? I’ve been disappointed in some rain jackets that soaked through pretty quickly.

    • Yes. All waterproof/breathable jackets wet out on high abrasion areas like the shoulders (under the shoulder straps) and along the forearms. This jacket was no different. I’ve been using the Jacket for the past few weeks and I have seen water begin the soak the external fabric. I have yet to review a jacket coated with DWR (this is across the past 15 years) that doesn’t wet out.

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