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Columbia Flashback Review

Holding it down for the classic windbreaker, in style and function
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Price:  $40 List | $25.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, large hand pockets and hood
Cons:  Billows in anything more than a breeze, lack of features
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 8, 2020
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51
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 5
  • Breathability and Venting - 30% 6
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 4
  • Fit and Functionality - 10% 5
  • Water Resistance - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Columbia Flashback upholds the legacy of classic windbreakers. Nothing special, and yet everything you need to block the wind, this simple jacket gets the job done — just as long as that job means tackling a tailgate, and not an alpine summit. Just don't expect to secure any personal belongings on your way into the stadium, as this jacket has only one zipper, and that's down the front. Although it is not athletically-inclined, we put the Flashback through its paces to make sure it truly "Tested Tough." It might not be as performance-oriented as other jackets in this review, but it sure is hard to match if you need to pick up a simple windbreaker at an unbeatable price-point.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Our Analysis and Test Results


Rather than helping reinvent the wheel when it comes to lightweight wind jackets, the Columbia Flashback is an all-American, classic windbreaker. This jacket affords an ample fit that will easily accommodate any body type, a large hood, and deep hand-pockets to stash a hat, gloves, dog-leash, and a rain shell. The soft polyester is water-repellent, but does not sport a DWR coating, so we don't suggest wearing this jacket in much more than a light fog.

Performance Comparison



Easily stashed in the bottom of a pack without fear of damage  this jacket is a great  affordable option for bike commuters in the mild months.
Easily stashed in the bottom of a pack without fear of damage, this jacket is a great, affordable option for bike commuters in the mild months.

Wind Resistance


The Flashback does offer simple protection from the elements, but not much more than that. The lightweight polyester proved itself as a capable barrier in our lab testing, and successfully resisted any attempts at forcing air through the material. But field testing proved otherwise, when we found ourselves in the middle of a wind tunnel during an on-coming winter storm.

Cold and billowy  this jacket wouldn't be our first choice in protection against the elements in an alpine setting.
Cold and billowy, this jacket wouldn't be our first choice in protection against the elements in an alpine setting.

An overall baggy fit allows the Flashback to billow in a strong wind, and we found that air could easily blow up from underneath and chill our core. Without any zippers, cinches, or drawcords to lock this jacket down, we don't suggest relying on it to keep you comfortable in anything more than a stiff breeze.

Breathability and Venting


The beauty of the Flashback is its simplicity, and this quality shines brightest when it comes to breathability. Without any built-in venting, polyester jackets are notorious for feeling like a trash bag sweat-suit. However, the roomy fit of this shell offers an airiness that is a welcomed change of pace from other athletic wear, and we found that it was perfect for warm-up runs on the way to the gym.

Simple design  great results. The deep  mesh-backed pockets helped with inward airflow  and provide a route for heat to escape.
Simple design, great results. The deep, mesh-backed pockets helped with inward airflow, and provide a route for heat to escape.

When it comes to venting, again it's not about what was added to this jacket's design, but rather what was omitted. The large pockets are backed with mesh, and without any zippers to close them, they offer a direct line for airflow that kept our core cool when we worked up a sweat.

Weight and Packability


Although it is technically on the "heavier" side when directly compared to many jackets in this review, the Flashback still tips the scales at a remarkable weight when compared to many other jackets on the market. At a mere 5.7 ounces, this is a lightweight shell that will never break the camel's back.

Folded in on itself  this jacket packs up just fine  but could be a more manageable parcel with an added zipper or two.
Folded in on itself, this jacket packs up just fine, but could be a more manageable parcel with an added zipper or two.

Light enough to bring along for any adventure, we had to dock this jacket some points when it comes to packability — it is the only jacket in this review that does not have a zippered pocket to securely stow away at the bottom of a backpack. While we had no problem stuffing it into one of the deep hand pockets, we believe zippered pockets are a simple design addition that does not add significant cost or weight.

Fit and Functionality


Even though the Flashback is a fully polyester shell, the brushed finish is soft to the touch. The material also doesn't hug your skin, and isn't as bothersome as some other tighter fitting jackets when worn just over a t-shirt.

The deep pockets helped keep our hands warm while waiting for the bus to take us home  after running a little too far off-course.
The deep pockets helped keep our hands warm while waiting for the bus to take us home, after running a little too far off-course.

Cut with lots of extra-room, this jacket will easily accommodate any body type, but may leave smaller frames swimming. The overall baggy fit means that this jacket easily layers over anything — from a casual sweatshirt to the fattest puffy — making it a versatile jacket for when temperatures begin to dip in the fall. Again, simplicity rules when it comes to the design of the Flashback, and this jacket really has no features to speak of, with the exception of the mesh-backed hand pockets.

Water Resistance


One of the few jackets in this review without a DWR finish, the Flashback is understandably at a loss when it comes to anything more than a light fog. During out shower test, water initially beads and rolls off, but pretty quickly begins to soak into the material.

One of the few jackets in this review with a hood sizable enough to fully accommodate a helmet.
One of the few jackets in this review with a hood sizable enough to fully accommodate a helmet.

On a ski tour where a storm blew in and produced light snowfall, this jacket got damp pretty quickly under the consistent precipitation. The deep hood filled with snow, and with no drawstrings to lock up the hood or neck, our base layer was pretty wet around the collar when we got back to the car.

Value


This jacket is by-and-far one of the most affordable in our review. While we wouldn't opt to take this on our next alpine epic, the Flashback is a great option for those looking to fight off the chill of the spring and fall while out walking the dog, or running back-and-forth from the gym.

Despite its lack of conventional ventilation  we found that this jacket performed quite well when training in colder weather.
Despite its lack of conventional ventilation, we found that this jacket performed quite well when training in colder weather.

Conclusion


From football games to long walks on the beach, the Columbia Flashback keeps the legacy of the classic windbreaker alive. With standard performance for an exceptional price, this jacket is an easy choice if you need simple, lightweight weather protection.

Aaron Rice