Updates to the Flyweight Hoodie
The North Face released an updated Flyweight Hoodie this year, changing up the fabric, cut, and color options. The latest version is comprised of 50D WindWall polyester fabric and features a DWR finish. Compare the latest model (first photo) to the version we tested (second photo).
We've yet to step out in the breeze in this newest version, so be aware that the following review pertains to last year's model.
Hands-On Review of the Flyweight Hoodie
Savvy readers may notice that on the scoring charts above, the Flyweight Hoodie is ranked near the bottom of the test results. However, we must point out that this is very deceiving, as its score is within two points of the majority of players in this review, and thus offers very similar performance.
While it isn't nearly as technically refined as our Editors' Choice award-winning Patagonia Houdini, this jacket has some advantages for non-technical missions. It boasts superior wind and water resistance and clever features like hand pockets and hidden draw cords to tighten the hem and hood. These additions make it perhaps more usable in everyday situations than its pared down and lightweight competition.
The North Face Flyweight is our best bang for the buck winner because it offers great performance at a minimal price. Here testing it out on a run on the perimeter trail surrounding Ouray, CO.
We tested this jacket side-by-side with the others on a ridgeline at around 12,500 ft. in the Colorado Rockies. It kept us warmer than most in the frigid, screaming winds. This is a testament to the tightness of the woven nylon fabric, which is hard to force wind through manually, such as by mouth. This tight weave translates directly to wind resistance.
Not only is the fabric super tightly woven and wind resistant, but the designers made sure that the jacket's openings seal off to keep the cold wind out. The hem has an effective drawcord to keep wind from blowing up underneath, the pockets all zip closed, and most importantly the hood has dual drawcords around the face that allow you to tighten it down as desired. While this design isn't quite as resistant as the insulated Marmot DriClime Ether, it is on equal footing with the Rab Vital Wind Shell, our Top Pick for awesome pockets and affordability.
With sustained 30 mph winds, this high ridgeline was a great place to compare wind resistance. The Flyweight was the best one that we tested on this day and the best one in this review that isn't insulated.
Breathability and Venting
We often find that wind resistance and breathability work against each other when considering the tightness of a fabric's weave. In the case of the Flyweight Hoodie, the weave is very tight and hard for air to penetrate. It should be no surprise, then, that this jacket didn't breathe very well.
To make up for this, the designers added a strip of open-air vents beneath each armpit, sewn together in a couple of places to hold the fabric together. While we appreciate the attempt, in our testing these vents did very little to force airflow or help us cool off. To be honest, in our dedicated uphill running test, we were a swampy mess in this jacket. It doesn't breath anywhere near as well as the Outdoor Research Tantrum II, with its stretchy and far more air permeable fabric.
The tightly woven fabric used on this jacket was not very breathable at all. To compensate TNF added vents under the arm pits, under our hand in this photo, that aren't super visible, and also didn't change the breathability factor much.
Weight and Packability
Our size .edium jacket (the rest of our test jackets were size large) weighed in at 5.7 ounces. While this might not sound very heavy, the truth is that it is the second heaviest overall, behind only the insulated Marmot DriClime Ether.
Even though it's a tad heavier than the competition, this is understandable given the extra features it includes. However, what really disappoints us is the way it packs down. It easily stuffs into one of its hand pockets, turned inside out, and zips closed with a clip in loop if desired. But the entire package is loose and far larger than it needs to be. When stuffing a jacket, we want it to be as small as possible.
Its clip-in loop is sewn in off center, so it isn't balanced when hanging. Furthermore, the ends of the hem drawcord live on the outside of the stuffed jacket, where they can get caught, dangle, or pulled. Although a minor offense, we had to dock points for this poor design. We direct readers who want the smallest and most compact stuffed windbreaker to the Patagonia Houdini.
Not only is the Flyweight a bit heavier than most that we tested, but it stuffs into its own hand pocket in this ungainly package, which is neither small nor easy to clip onto a harness or pack for carrying around.
Fit and Functionality
Based on the recommendations on The North Face's website, we ordered a size medium Flyweight Hoodie, rather than our typical large, and are glad that we did. There is still plenty of room for layering beneath, and even in a smaller size this jacket borders on baggy.
You can see here the fit of the hood, which is tight and secure thanks to the draw cords on each side of the face, also shown. While we appreciated their effects, we found these buckles to be hard to dial in with only one hand.
While the fit is on the large side, we really love all of this jacket's features. These include dual hand pockets with sewn in hem drawcords. We love this setup because when pulled tight, these cords don't dangle down below our waist like they do on most jackets, and instead live inside the pockets.
This is one of the few coats that also has dual draw cords on each side of the face to tighten the hood. Although we love the versatility of these cords, the buckles are hard to manipulate with a single hand, and usually required us to use two. As you can see above, balancing awesome features with a decidedly non-athletic fit earned this jacket an okay score in the metric, not quite as good as the Rab Vital Wind Shell.
Showing the fit of the Flyweight, which we had to size down to a medium, and which was still a bit baggy on us without warmth layers beneath. You can also see the hand pockets here, an awesome feature for a shell jacket to have.
A windbreaker's primary purpose is to protect you from the wind, and these light designs rarely include much in the way of water protection. The Flyweight Hoodie is an exception, with a DWR coating that caused water to bead up and fall right off. It also has an inner chemical application that stopped water from soaking all the way through.
The inside of this nylon shell is visibly coated with a water-resistant liner, although all our efforts to figure out what this liner is called were fruitless. Regardless, it helps keep water from soaking through the nylon fabric and wetting the user on the inside, so you have added protection if it rains. By no means is this jacket waterproof, but it will keep you dryer for a little longer than the rest.
Immediately after the shower test, water droplets have beaded up as you can see here, and most have fallen off. This was the best windbreaker for water resistance that we have tested.
Due to its spacious and large fit, this jacket is an ideal choice for individuals with larger bodies. It's good for hiking or any other summer time activity, but it wouldn't be our first choice for technical use such as running or climbing.
The Flyweight works well for running, but is even better for running on the coast when rain is threatening at any minute.
At $80 retail, this is the least expensive jacket in this review. Despite not being one of the highest scorers, we think it works pretty darn well for most applications and offers a good value.
Wearing the Flyweight on a chilly day of sport climbing above this waterfall in the limestone Cascade Canyon in southwest Colorado.
The North Face Flyweight Hoodie wins our Best Bang for the Buck award, proving that it offers great value to the budget conscious. We liked it due to its awesome wind protection as well as its affordability, but warn away those who highly value lightweight, packability, or breathability in their windbreakers.
A short run brought us to Upper North Falls, one of the ten waterfalls on the loop run we did at Silver Falls State Park, OR.