Not unlike Leonardo DaVinci painting dogs playing poker, the Western Mountaineering Flight jacket is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and supremely high quality materials being used to create something mystifyingly unspectacular. Though ultralight and filled with high quality 850 fill down, the Flight jacket has a poor warmth-to-weight ratio. This is even more disappointing given the incredible workmanship used to construct this jacket, which is far superior to any jacket we tested in this review. From the zippers to the stitching and baffles, this jacket is put together with exquisite care.
Western Mountaineering Flight Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Well crafted, excellent materials
Cons: Poor design, lacks features
Manufacturer: Western Mountaineering
Our Analysis and Test Results
Western Mountaineering's quality is legendary. Consequently our testers were eager to check out the Flight jacket. The 0.9 oz. per yard Micro-Dot Ripstop Shell Fabric used for the Flight is more than adequately durable for use in the mountains or on the slopes. Combine the ultralight fabric with high quality 850 fill down in wide baffles that eliminate the number of thin places where the cold can creep in, and on paper the Flight looks awesome. Yet somewhere in the design phase the Flight took a Back to the Future-era design turn that led it horribly wrong. Heavy on 80's cool guy fashion sensibility, the Flight misses the mark in modern times.
The down used in the Flight jacket has tremendous loft. At first you attribute its pillow-like feel to the large baffles and plush down. Eventually our testers came to the consensus that the Stay Puft look had more to do with its voluminous cut than the loft of the feathers. With all that extra space, sleeves that hover above the wrist, and a too-short overall body length, the Flight jacket can't use all that beautiful down to keep you warm. Add to that the lack of a hood and a collar that stands inches away from the neck, and the Flight has very poor heat retention capacity.
With fabric that weighs only .9oz. per yard and down fill accounting for 4.5 oz., on average the flight can't help but be light. Wide baffles keep stitching to a minimum and with no zips on the hand warmer pockets there is little else to add ounces to this jacket. With all the light weight materials used in the construction of the Flight, they could have gotten away with some features and design changes that would have made this jacket a winner. Having zips on your pockets for any activity that might happen outside (which is presumably where this jacket is intended to be worn) is critical. The addition of a hood, or at a minimum heightening and tightening the collar would have added warmth around the head and neck. Lengthening the sleeves to accommodate the need to move your arms, and the body to cover your waist would have added warmth as well. Finally, trimming down the cut of the jacket so it requires less body heat to warm up the space. You might even shave an ounce or so off with the last one.
The tightly woven fabric is slightly water resistant but soaked through very quickly when exposed to light rain. Fortunately, the high quality down recovers quickly after a soaking and showed no loss of loft.
With very little metal, plastic, or stitching, the Flight gets small when compressed. The down used in this jacket is so high quality that you'll want to store it in a closet when you're not using it but it will survive being stuffed in a pack without issue.
With a name and design presumably derived from Air Force bomber jackets, the Flight shoots for Maverick from Top Gun and hits somewhere closer to Chunk from the Goonies. Designed with a cut that could be described as bag-of-potatoes-like, the Flight looks flattering on no one. Combined with an anachronistic sense of style that is decades late, this jacket gets poor marks in the style department.
Western Mountaineering went overboard when they started eliminating features from the Flight. The super light Vislon zipper weighs almost nothing, and a couple more on the pockets would have gone a long way. There is a drawcord at the waist and elastic in the cuffs designed to keep the cold out.
The Flight would be a decent commuter jacket as long as the weather is reasonable. For most prolonged outdoor activities, check our Top Pick winner, the Arc'teryx Thorium SV.
With limited heat retention abilities and a limited range of activities that it would be ideal for, the Flight doesn't have tremendous inherent value. It is however incredibly well made with high quality materials. This jacket will last a long time if used for commuting and town days.
The Flight was put together will skill and care. Unfortunately the same attention to detail was not paid to the design of the jacket. The Flight has too few uses and too many limitations to become a favorite among our testers.
— Thomas Greene