The Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket has been a constant favorite in my pack since 2010. It is a lightweight down jacket made for moderate temperatures where a high performance/low weight insulation layer is required. Western Mountaineering is a USA based company famed for their superb sleeping bags. As I have used this jacket now on many trips in the UK with temperatures as low as -2 Celsius (28 Fahrenheit) I have often been asked if I could do a review on its suitability for backpacking.
The Hooded Flash Jacket has a sewn-through design with different sized baffles that allow the 850 plus fill power goose down to loft optimally. The baffles are sculpted on the hood while the ones on the back of the jacket are larger.
There is also full length zipper with a down filled draft tube, influenced by Western Mountaineering’s sleeping bag expertise, that prevents warm air from leaking out through the zipper coils. The down insulation is 850 plus fill power goose and an average fill weight of 3 oz/85 grams across the size range.
The hood, cuffs, hem and pockets are edged with elastic piping to hold them in tight. There are no draw cords for hood or hem adjustment: just the minimum to keep the weight low and free from failure.
The outer material is a calendared 30 g/m2 high tear-strength ripstop nylon with a DWR finish. The lining is a comfortable plain weave 20d taffeta. There are no stick on labels to wear off and faff in its detail. The Hooded Flash is a superbly made shell, purpose made to keep you warm, with little complication in the design.
The total weight of the my XL jacket is 321 grams (11 ounces).
From cold wild camps to damp highland nights under a single skin shelter, the Hooded Flash Jacket was superb.
The DWR layer on the shell shrugs off damp well if you brush up against a damp tent fly sheet. I would rate this jacket with a thick base layer good to -4°C (25 Fahrenheit).
The hood is good but I would prefer a shock cord to allow me to tighten it down very tight. Despite being only elasticized, the hood performs well, but some would find the hood a touch too large and appreciate the adjustment of a cord. Again the cuffs are ok, but if they were adjustable cuffs, you could trap heat in better and push this jacket a bit lower on the temperature scale. Wrist thickness varies on people so adjustable cuffs offer a greater control than elastic piping.
Size wise, the Hooded Flash Jacket is superb with the sleeves extending over my long arms on my 6’2 frame. There is room to allow thick layers to be worn underneath and it covers right down to the top of my backside to keep my back warm.
The material of the jacket keeps the damp out well but I have had quills poke through the outer material. This annoys me, as it is not a cheap piece of equipment.
The zipper works well and rarely snags on the down filled draft tube. The draft tube is representative of the attention to detail on this jacket.
I had not intended to use this in winter but with a synthetic top under it I am confident I would be very warm with this jacket when it is cold. On its own, this is a top jacket for warm wear in camp. If it were a bit more adjustable on the hood and cuffs it would be perfect.
The stitched through design on the baffles does not seem to be an issue so far and I have not noticed cold spots. It is not cheap to buy but the extra design features and attention to the baffle design and top down used make it worth the cost.
Comparable Lightweight Mid-layer Sweaters and Jackets
Here’s a list of comparable lightweight sweaters and jackets, with and without adjustable hoods. The weights listed are provided by manufacturers are directional, since most manufacturers don’t list the size jacket that they correspond to.
|Make / Model||Zipper||Fill Power||Weight oz.||Adjustable Hood||Price|
|Outdoor Research Baja Down Pullover||Half-Zip||800||9.2||Y||249|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody Pullover||Half-Zip||800||14.4||Volume only||249|
|Montbell EX Light Anorak||Half-Zip||900||7.6||Y||299|
|Outdoor Research Illuminate Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||11.8||Y||269|
|Marmot Quasar Nova Hoody||Full Zip||800||10.9||N||285|
|Feathered Friends EOS Pullover||Full Zip||900||10.6||N||339|
|Arcteryx Cerium SL Hoody||Full Zip||850||7.6||Y||349|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||8.8||N||325|
|Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody||Full Zip||850||10.8||N||379|
|Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket||Full Zip||850||10.3||N||390|
|PHD Yukon Pullover K||Half-Zip||1000||12||N||532|
|Rab Zero G Down Jacket||Full Zip||1000||11||N||550|
The Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket has a superb weight to warmth ratio. I would rate it a must buy. Attached hood, superb design, and low weight = top backpacking insulating jacket for three season wear.
Disclosure: The author owns this jacket and purchased it with his own funds.