The Genius from FlyLow is a ski resort shell jacket for a particular type of user. It is much lighter than other similar products, but the protection does not suffer for this. It attains its light weight with fewer features than any other product in our review. If you are seeking a ski shell that can tuck into a tiny corner of your luggage or backcountry pack, consider the Genius. For all-around use, a beefier shell will be more appropriate. The Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Sabre pulls no punches, while the Best Buy Outdoor Research White Room delivers strong protection at a lower price. Of course, there are all the insulated jackets we assessed as well. Check out our entire review of the whole spectrum.
Flylow Gear Genius Review
Cons: Few ski features, no powder skirt
Manufacturer: Flylow Gear
Our Analysis and Test Results
FlyLow has produced, with their Genius jacket, a ski-specific piece that is alpine climbing and hiking-inspired. It is a simple shell, with few "bells and whistles", cut to fit over ski layers and to lend ski resort fashion. Here is a unique intersection of simplicity and ski function.
The FlyLow Genius is exactly tied, overall, with our Best Buy shell jacket Outdoor Research White Room. They are also very close in price. We granted the OR the award because its list price is lower than that of the FlyLow, but it is possible that sales will change the differential. In this case, the FlyLow should be considered for its value.
Those assembling a ski resort clothing system in a layered fashion separate their insulation from their weather protection. The FlyLow accomplishes just the latter. You will need to use an additional insulated jacket to provide protection from radiative and conductive heat loss. In short, this is not a "warm" jacket, but it is not meant to be.
The Genius jacket is best compared, in terms of warmth, to the other shell-only jackets we assessed. The "3-layer" waterproof design (actually, it is three layers laminated into what appears and hangs as one) is most similar to that of the Norrona Lofoten jacket, in terms of insulation. The other shell jackets, both award winners, have a light fleece lining that indeed adds just a tiny bit of insulation.
This is what you buy the FlyLow Genius for. It is the weather protection of your layered clothing system. Polartec NeoShell is a relatively unknown shell fabric laminate. We found it to be excellent. All the gnarly weather we could find, including our indoors shower test, stayed outside where it belongs. Wind, rain, wet snow, and every combination of these tough conditions shed right off. The NeoShell backing ultimately stops the wetness, but it is the outer fabric's "durable water repellent" that provides the first line of defense. FlyLow's DWR was about average.
All our tested shell jackets and many of our insulated jackets protect against heavy weather. In fact, for all but an all-day rainy ski session, most of the jackets we tested are overkill. This includes the FlyLow Genius, and "overkill" is a good thing. When it comes to protection from wind and wetness, more is better. The hood and zippers and cuffs seal the weather out. The hood of the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre is a little more generous and protective, while the cuffs of the Norrona Lofoten better seal that interface due to the inner cuffs complemented by standard velcro covering.
In assessing ventilation we look at a few different things. We consider how the jacket can be configured before your day even begins, and then investigate the built-in ventilation options. Ventilation is essentially the ability to adjust your protection. Layered jacket systems are inherently adjustable, provided you select complementary under layers. A shell jacket like the Genius gets a leg up right off the bat. Next, we consider the front zipper and pit zip configurations. A front zipper that has two zipper pulls is great. The Genius does not have that. The best pit zips are long, with two zipper pulls, and no mesh backing. Those of the Genius are mid-length, with one zipper pull and no mesh backing. This makes them about average.
The best venting jackets in our test are the 3-in-1 style pieces. With the built-in adjustability, they provide the most control over your airflow and protection. Check out the Top Pick Columbia Whirlibird Interchange for maximum versatility. Next, let's look at the shell jackets. None of the shell jackets we tested have mesh backing to impede airflow. And all of the other shell jackets we tested have zips longer than those on the FlyLow. Of the shell jackets, the FlyLow scores lowest in ventilation.
There are virtually no ski features to report on the FlyLow Genius. Some will like this simplicity. It makes the jacket light and packable for travel and for backcountry usage. Generally, though, we look for a few amenities in our ski jackets.
The features leader in our test is the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0. With eight pockets, a removable hood, internal wrist gaiters, a powder skirt, and built-in lens wipe, the Alpha comes with almost all the bells and whistles. Of these things, the Genius has just 5 pockets. As compared to the shells, the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre has a similar pocket count and hood configuration but comes with a powder skirt and the option to attach to matching pants.
Fit and Comfort
The light and simple design of the FlyLow makes for a comfortable package. The fabric is just a little stiff and crinkly but is really not that different than the other shell jackets we tested. The sleeves are generous and the tailored fit allows for all the range of motion you might want.
Some like the super light design of the smooth inner fabric, while others dig the fleecy lining of our award-winning shells. It is in comfort that the FlyLow is best distinguished from the Best Buy OR White Room. The OR has thick fabric lined with a fleecy layer. The FlyLow is a lighter fabric, smooth on the inside. Generally, for resort applications, the thicker and fuzzy fabric is preferable. Nonetheless, there will be those of you that seek a lighter construction. For you, the FlyLow is a budget alternative to the high-end Norrona Lofoten.
FlyLow products have long led our style assessments. This company manages to produce clothing that is appealing to steezy resort riders as well as to more alpine-inspired backcountry types. The Genius is right in the mix, pleasing both of these demographics. The Helly Hansen Alpha and Spyder Leader offer more traditional ski-ready styling, but the contemporary look of the FlyLow is great. Both Arc'teryx jackets are a little more polished in appearance with a similar neutral bent.
For the discerning skier, assembling a ski resort layering system and searching for a lightweight shell, the FlyLow should be on your short list. This is a fairly narrow niche, and the Norrona Lofoten delivers a more polished product, but many will dig the FlyLow. The FlyLow has more skier-ready style, at a lower price than the Norrona.
Good ski clothing is not inexpensive. Nonetheless, there is a wide range of prices on the market. The FlyLow and its two close competitors offer a unique study in value. The Norrona Lofoten is aimed at the same function as the FlyLow, for hundreds of dollars more. The OR White Room is similar in price and overall scoring but is a very different shell jacket.
The applications of the FlyLow are fairly specific, but the execution is excellent. As part of a lightweight ski layering system, the Genius deserves close consideration.
— Jediah Porter