Lab Coat Updates
Since our test cycle, Flylow released an updated version of this Best Buy winning ski jacket. The main change was to the chest pockets — they are now cut vertically instead of diagonally, with the intention of being easier to use while wearing a backpack. Some new colors were also introduced for the season. Check out the latest version of the jacket in the first image. The second image depicts the version we tested.
Be aware that though we are linking to the updated jacket, the review from here on refers to the model that we initially tested.
Hands-On Review of the 2018-2019 Lab Coat
Flylow Gear is one of a handful of smaller brands that has slowly but steadily started gaining market share in the highly competitive outerwear market. Over the years they've gained a bit of a cult following due to their quality products and competitive prices. The Lab Coat will still set you back a few bucks, but this shell jacket offers a similar level of performance to its more expensive competition. Testers were impressed with the weather resistance, design, and overall quality of this contender, read on to find out how it compares to the competition.
Cruising between storms while testing the Lab Coat.
The Lab Coat is a shell, so on its own, it provides little warmth for the user beyond its wind and weather resistance. As with the other shell-only models in this test, the Lab Coat is one piece in a well-executed layering system which allows the user to dictate how they choose to insulate themselves underneath it. The layer system is preferred by many people and is a very effective way to get the exact insulation configuration you need to meet your preferences or the day's conditions. Due to the Lab Coat's excellent weather resistance, it keeps you warm while wearing by keeping you and your layers dry and unaffected by the wind. The eVent fabric used in the construction is also highly breathable and air permeable, wicking sweat and condensation away from your body and layers to help keep you dry from the inside.
Most of the shell-only models in this test offer a very similar level of warmth. The Outdoor Research Skyward II and the Norrona Lofoten are dead even with the Lab Coat in this regard. Only the Arc'teryx Sabre, with its soft fleecy lining, provides slightly more warmth in a shell. It goes without saying, but all of the single piece insulated and 3-in-1 jackets offer more warmth than the shell-only models. If you seek the pinnacle of warmth we suggest the Arc'teryx Macai or the Patagonia Primo Down. The 3-in-1 models may also serve you well, like the Patagonia Snowshot or the North Face Thermoball Snow Triclimate with their zip-in insulated liner jackets.
The Lab Coat is one piece of a well thought out layering system. It provides warmth in the form of weather resistance.
Testers found the weather resistance of the Lab Coat to be top-notch. Whether standing in the shower or hunkered down on the chairlift in a wet Sierra storm, the Lab Coat blocked the wind and kept us perfectly dry. We didn't experience any wet-out either, even during the shower testing deluge. In addition to the shell's wind and waterproofness, the attached hood is helmet compatible, highly adjustable, and is easily cinched down for added protection whether you're wearing a helmet or not. The removable powder skirt performs well and can be snapped onto compatible ski pants like the Flylow Compound Pant for additional security. The wrist cuffs are low profile with a large velcro closure to make them as loose or tight as you need. The main zipper, pockets, and underarm vents all have top-quality YKK Vislon waterproof zippers, and the pocket zips have little garages at the top where the zipper pulls are stored.
The Lab Coat scores at the top of the heap in weather resistance. There is really no discernible differences between its performance and that of other shell-only competitors like the Arc'teryx Sabre and the Lofoten Norona. It is true, however, that you can zip the powder skirt of the Lofoten to a compatible pair of Norrona pants which would give that jacket and pant combo a leg up on the competition if that were the case. The Lab Coat outscores the Outdoor Research Skyward II here for their omission of a powder skirt and the wet-out that occurred on that jacket during testing. Our other highest rated models for weather resistance are the Patagonia Primo Down and the Arc'teryx Macai, both of which feel bombproof in any conditions.
Fit and Comfort
The Lab Coat is made for athletic people and therefore it has a relatively athletic fit. It is roomy without being boxy and it has a good length in the torso and the sleeves. Like most jackets, the tail of the Lab Coat also has a little drop to hang slightly lower in the back than the front. It isn't quite as form fitting as the Arc'teryx Sabre or the Norrona Lofoten, but not nearly as square in the torso as the Patagonia Primo Down or the Columbia Whirlibird III. There is still ample room to layer beneath the Lab Coat with thermals or puffy coats. The arms and shoulders are well articulated and raising your arms doesn't result in much torso rise.
Testers found the good fit of the Lab Coat to result in a high degree of comfort. It is very low-bulk and there is nothing restricting about it. Even with multiple layers stacked beneath the shell, it never felt cramped or constrictive. The durable shell fabric is a touch stiffer than some of the other models but never caused discomfort of any kind. The neck opening is a good size and the chin is protected in the front of the collar with a large patch of a soft brushed material. Only the Arc'teryx models, the Sabre and the Macai were more comfortable, with their especially streamlined and dialed fits.
The Lab Coat has a very agreeable fit and an excellent hood design.
The Lab Coat score well from a ventilation standpoint for a couple of reasons. First, they have incorporated 14-inch long underarm vents with no-mesh backing. These vents have waterproof zippers and are opened from one side only, from the sleeve towards the torso. You can open them as much or as little as you like depending on the need for airflow. When fully unzipped, these vents open wide, almost bellowing out, and scoop lots of fresh air to cool things down. The other aspect of this jacket that helps keep things cool isn't exactly ventilation, but it works in a similar way. The eVent fabric is highly breathable and air permeable, much like that on the Outdoor Research Skyward II, and it very effectively allows air to escape through the fabric away from the body.
If ventilation is a priority, we think the Lab Coat is a great option. The Skyward II takes ventilation to the highest level, however, with a highly breathable and air permeable fabric, plus their enormous Torso-Flo vents. Both the Sabre and the Lofoten have very similar ventilation to the Lab Coat. The 3-in-1 style jackets don't exactly have as good of ventilation as their shell-only counterparts, but they do offer a great range of temperature adjustability thanks to their modular designs that allow you to vary your insulation.
The large open vents keep the air flowing.
Casual yet technical is the best way to describe the style of the Lab Coat. Its got clean lines and a nice fit with somewhat bright but not overly flashy colors. Due to the technical looking fabric and zippers throughout its construction, it also never lets you forget that its a highly technical piece of ski equipment. In some ways, its appearance is very similar to that of the Arc'teryx Sabre, though it can't quite match the crisp and "looks like it just got ironed" look of that jacket.
Most people we asked thought the Lab Coat struck a nice balance between technical and understated. Be aware that the bright yellow we tested may be somewhat prone to staining.
Casual yet sophisticated? We like the looks of the Lab Coat.
Similar to the other shell jackets in this review, the Lab Coat is relatively light on ski specific features. Testers found the features it has to be worthwhile, and nobody really seemed to miss the ones that aren't present. The powder skirt is one feature that we feel we can't do without and the fact that it can be zipped off means you get to choose whether it stays or goes depending on your preference. The attached helmet compatible hood is also well executed. It has plenty of adjustability to be worn with or without a helmet, with elastic cinch cords that are easily reached on the outside of the collar and can be used with gloves on. The pocket layout is well thought-out as to not conflict with pack straps, and the chest pockets are oriented vertically for ease of access. There is one internal pocket on the right chest, and it has a small hole to route your headphone cord up through the inside of the jacket.
The powder skirt is removable and can also snap onto compatible Flylow pants.
Sure, an attached goggle wipe and a pass pocket on the sleeve are nice features, but testers didn't seem to mind their absence on the Lab Coat. If these features are something you require, then check out some of the more fully-featured models in this test like the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0, the Spyder Leader, and the North Face Thermoball Snow Triclimate.
The Lab Coat is a great all-around ski jacket that is ideal for the skier who spends time at both the ski resort and in the backcountry. This shell is burly enough for storm days riding lifts one day and lightweight enough to be stashed in the pack for a ski tour the next.
The Lab Coat doesn't exactly come cheap, although it is more affordable than its most similar competitors. It offers comparable levels of weather resistance, comfort, ventilation, and ski features to the Arc'teryx Sabre and the Norrona Lofoten, though it does so with a somewhat more casual style and at a lower price. There are less expensive options on the market, but out of our field of competitors we feel this is the best bang for your buck and we awarded it our Best Buy Award for a shell jacket.
Testers loved the Lab Coat. This is a great shell option for resort and backcountry use, and it costs less than the competition.
If you're in the market for a high-quality ski shell, we feel the Lab Coat is one that is worthy of consideration. Flylow Gear has been making quality outerwear for years, and this jacket is one of the best we've ever seen from this smaller brand. This is an excellent coat for resort skiers, backcountry skiers, or those who dabble in both. It has excellent weather resistance, great ventilation, and quality construction, plus it costs less than its most similar competition.