Flylow Gear has produced an excellent, lightweight ski shell in the Lab Coat. It is designed for those who need the versatility of a shell that can perform well both in the resort and the backcountry. We were impressed by its weather resistance, durability, and breathability at a price slightly below other models in the shell top-echelon. It has enough pockets and features to be useful, and nothing else, which keeps the weight down for human-powered missions. This jacket is also one of the more breathable jackets we have ever tested, due in large part to the eVent waterproof/breathable membrane. If you split your time between the resort and the backcountry, this jacket should be on your shortlist.
Flylow Gear Lab Coat Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, great ventilation, highly weather resistant
Cons: Provides little warmth, limited color options, thin shell material
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Flylow Lab Coat is a lightweight, waterproof hardshell that is at home in the expert areas of the resort and the backcountry. Weather resistance and ventilation are the main strengths of this jacket, but it also delivers good ski features and style.
The Lab Coat is a hardshell-only jacket that is not designed to provide much warmth. Rather, warmth comes from insulating layers worn underneath. That said, the jacket has great velcro sleeve closures and a well-fitting hood that keep warmth inside. Our testers noted that the shell seemed thin, and on a cold chairlift ride, wind penetrated the fabric more than other shell-only jackets. Still, users won't be buying this jacket to keep them warm.
Weather resistance is the main job of a shell-only jacket, and the Lab Coat performs this duty well. The waterproof, breathable eVent fabric is completely waterproof and performed well in the dreaded shower test, never wetting out. Robust sleeve cuff closures were appreciated, and the removable powder skirt can be snapped on to Flylow ski pants. All zippers are waterproof, and all seams are tape sealed.
We noted that wind seemed to penetrate the Lab Coat slightly easier than other shell jackets that we have tested, which might be attributed to its excellent breathability (more on that later) and thin fabric, which is appropriate for high-output skiing and backcountry travel.
Comfort and Fit
Overall, the Lab Coat is relatively comfortable for a shell jacket, which are often crinkly, stiff, and abrasive. The outer fabric is thick enough to inspire confidence, yet thin enough to be flexible. As such, this shell is great for users who do a lot of inbounds bootpacking and sidestepping, active freeskiing, and uphill skinning in the backcountry. The soft, fleece patch that protects the chin from the zipper closure is also very comfortable.
As with all shell jackets, the inner lining is less comfortable than other jackets that might feature a fleece lining or soft nylon. The weight savings are worth the sacrifice to those who will use the Lab Coat. Finally, we noticed that this jacket can feel slightly tight in the chest, so if you are on the fence about which size to get, go for the larger size.
This jacket has excellent ventilation. Long, mesh-free pit vents open up wide to dump heat while traveling uphill or skiing hard on warmer days. Furthermore, the eVent fabric is highly breathable, allowing water vapor to escape the inside of the jacket during exertion. This is perfect for hike-to terrain and backcountry skiing, where all of a sudden, those warm layers that keep you toasty on the downhill can make you sweat buckets on the uphill. If you are the type of skier that is not interested in moving uphill, there are other shell options that will provide slightly more weather resistance by sacrificing some ventilation.
The style of the Lab Coat is sharp and well-tailored. The cut is not too tight, and not too loose, meaning you don't end up looking like a park rat or a ski racer. The two-tone color panels look sharp and fast, and you'll stick out from a crowd. This can be a good thing, if you are confident in your skiing ability. Others will avoid the somewhat provocative styling. We wish the Lab Coat came in more color options.
The Lab Coat has just the right amount of ski features. Two handwarmer pockets and two chest pockets are all spacious and comfortable. There is a waterproof internal chest pocket that is very spacious and has a headphone port. The powder skirt works well and snaps into compatible Flylow pants, and is removable when you want to ditch the weight. We wish the jacket had a Recco reflector because its target user group is the type that might be wandering out of the gates and into the sidecountry in search of fresh tracks.
The Lab Coat isn't cheap, but it is cheaper most of the Gore-Tex shells. The high performance of this jacket for a specific user is a great value, but others who want a more robust shell for downhill performance in all weather conditions might want to explore other options. This jacket is constructed to last a long time, making it a good investment. There are thicker shells, and there are warmer jackets, but pound for pound, this shell delivers a good deal.
Looking for a high-quality ski shell? The Flylow Gear Lab Coat is definitely worth consideration. This is an excellent coat for those who split their time between the resort and the backcountry, with good weather resistance and ventilation. It costs less than most of the competition. It doesn't score the best overall, but for its target audience, it's a fantastic jacket. Our testers are fans.
— Jeff Dobronyi