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 in 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 largely to the eVent waterproof/breathable membrane. This jacket should be on your shortlist if you split your time between the resort and the backcountry.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Flylow Lab Coat on March 6, 2022, with an unbiased take on value and recommendations for other products that may better suit your needs.
Flylow Lab Coat Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, great ventilation, highly weather resistant
Cons: Provides little warmth, limited color options, thin shell material
Compare to Similar Products
Flylow Lab Coat
|Price||$274.98 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$550.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$675 List||$299.95 at Amazon|
Compare at 3 sellers
$299.00 at REI
|Pros||Lightweight, great ventilation, highly weather resistant||Excellent performance in every category, durable||Completely weather resistant, good ventilation, freeride style||Strong value, highly versatile, warm, loaded with ski-friendly features||Weather resistant, good vents, plenty of features|
|Cons||Provides little warmth, limited color options, thin shell material||More snug fit than other options||Expensive, too heavy and warm for most backcountry use||Heavy, poor ventilation in combined figuration||Hanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfect|
|Bottom Line||A minimalist shell jacket with great weather resistance for resort and backcountry skiing||This excellent resort ski jacket nails all performance aspects to deserve a spot at the top of your wish list||A durable, weatherproof jacket that wins our favor among downhill ski shells on the market||This versatile and reasonably priced jacket helps you customize your layers, whether you prioritize warmth, weather resistance, or both||A high-performance shell at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Flylow Lab Coat||Helly Hansen Alpha...||Arc'teryx Sabre AR...||The North Face Ther...||REI Co-op First Cha...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Flylow Lab Coat||Helly Hansen Alpha...||Arc'teryx Sabre AR...||The North Face Ther...||REI Co-op First Cha...|
|Main Fabric||100% nylon||2-layer stretch polyester||N80p-X Gore-Tex||100% nylon||2-layer Gore-Tex|
|Insulation||None||LifaLoft synthetic||Thin flannel backer||100% Post-Consumer Recycled Polyester||Recycled polyester lining|
|Pockets||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal mesh||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 internal mesh, 1 sleeve||2 hand, 1 sleeve, 1 internal||Shell: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest,1 internal media, 1 internal goggle, 1 internal zippered sleeve. Liner: 2 hand||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 sleeve|
|Weight||1.46 lbs||2.56 lbs||1.66 lbs||2.86 lbs||1.76 lbs|
|Water Resistance||eVent w/ Direct Venting Expedition Technology||Helly Tech Professional||Gore-Tex||DryVent 2L||Gore-Tex|
|Hood||Adjustable||Adjustable and removable||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable|
|Pit-Zips||Open||Mesh-backed||Open||Yes (shell only)||Yes|
|Cuff construction||Velcro||Interior stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro cuffs||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro|
|Powder skirt?||Yes, removable||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, removable|
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. We appreciate the robust sleeve cuff closures, and you can snap the removable powder skirt onto compatible 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 can be 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 for those who will use the Lab Coat. Finally, we noticed that this jacket could 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 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 jacket 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. Suppose you are the type of skier that is not interested in moving uphill. In that case, other shell options 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.
Should You Buy the Lab Coat?
This jacket is an excellent choice for those who split their time between the resort and the backcountry, with good weather resistance and ventilation. The Lab Coat isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than most Gore-Tex shells. It doesn't score the best overall, but the ratio of performance to value of this jacket is aimed towards a specific user group – our testers are fans.
What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
For others who want a more robust shell for downhill performance in all weather conditions, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR Jacket is a very similar jacket that isn't quite as biting in the wind. For those committing to the backcountry, the Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket or award-winning Arc'teryx Rush is worth your consideration. If you're more of a casual skier – and certainly don't go uphill – the The North Face ThermoBall ECO Snow Triclimate is a 3-in-1 modular jacket that offers performance at an unparalleled price point.
— Jeff Dobronyi
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