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 its 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 a 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 drawcords 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 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 flysheet. 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 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|
|Outdoor Research Baja Down Pullover||Half-Zip||800||9.2||Y|
|Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody Pullover||Half-Zip||800||14.4||Volume only|
|Montbell EX Light Anorak||Half-Zip||900||7.6||Y|
|Outdoor Research Illuminate Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||11.8||Y|
|Marmot Quasar Nova Hoody||Full Zip||800||10.9||N|
|Feathered Friends EOS Pullover||Full Zip||900||10.6||N|
|Arcteryx Cerium SL Hoody||Full Zip||850||7.6||Y|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody||Full Zip||800||8.8||N|
|Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody||Full Zip||850||10.8||N|
|Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket||Full Zip||850||10.3||N|
|PHD Yukon Pullover K||Half-Zip||1000||12||N|
|Rab Zero G Down Jacket||Full Zip||1000||11||N|
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.
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A bit pricey for what you get, Me, I like comfort and function more than sufferlite,
Interesting review. This jacket is about $320 which is not so bad considering it is 850 fill. However, the review states that the temp rating is good to about 25F which is a bit surprising, since my $150 North Face jacket of 700 fill keeps me warm down to 10F/15F in fairly windy and snowy conditions. Albeit, it looks a bit bulkier than the Flash. The hood is just stowaway nylon though, no down insulation.
“Sufferlite”, never heard this term, but it seems fitting to some UL gear out there.
Martin – thnks for the review, I’ve been enjoying your posts this summer and hope you keep posting for Philip as a guest.
I also own the Flash and love it for it’s simplicity, It’s great camping jacket and a good secondary insulation layer in my UL quilt.
Down clothing is something that is on my wish list with one proviso, it must not leak down if I have a rucksack on my back. To date not one jacket or vest has not leaked after a few times of wearing. If this jacket meets my proviso I WANT ONE!
I have “Hollowfill” in my currant waistcoat and it seems to do the job just as well but is far more bulky and a tad heavier.
Most down clothing leaks. Its natural and not a reason to not get a down jacket.
I am a huge fan of Western Mountaineering. I have two of their down sleeping bags, and you cannot beat the weight to warm ratio. They also seem to be sturdy and very well made. I got a bit cheap when I bought my down jacket and went with an LL Bean one (800 fill for about $100), but I have been wondering about the WM jackets… Thanks for the review!
Nice jacket, but rotten hood. As mentioned, it’s too large and falls down and obscures my vision so much that it’s going up for sale on BPL. Might work if it had a way to cinch it down, but the way it is, I just can’t stand it, because I spend the evening tipping my head back just to be able to see :(
Just bought a Western Mountaineering medium flash jacket from Backcountry and am returning it…I own two WM sleeping bags and a flash vest so I’m used to their high quality and so is this jacket but IT DOESNT FIT!!!!I’m a typical “medium”, 5’8″, 170 lbs and the jacket fits perfectly except near the top…Cannot zip the zipper up all the way without it pressing hard against my Adams apple (I do not have a large neck) and with the hood up, impossible to zip up all the way without my chin about to burst the jacket open. Backcountry thinks that it was incorrectly built and they are sending me another so I will see…Neither the Backcountry nor the WM sites show the jacket on a human but when I searched reviews, I found pix of a man wearing it with the hood up and it looks relaxed and not at all like mine…In fact, some reviews fault this jacket hood as being TOO LARGE!!
I hope that the next one fits better as I love the jacket and would like to keep it…Barry
We’re same height and weight, haven’t had the issues you’re mentioning so must be production error.
I’ve had mine since 2010 and it’s holding up nice considering the amount of usage it’s seen – pretty much every day from september to march / april each year as a mid layer commuting back and forth to work by bike, hiking, alpine skiing, folding it in on itself in the hood and using it as a pillow when camping etc, not to mention summer trips in the mountains or just whenever it gets cold. I’m ridiculously happy with it and am considering getting a new one as the down around the neck is pretty much gone, but I’d prefer to have it refilled if possible.
Anyone can recommend a service provider for refilling down in Scandinavia / europe?