The North Face's Flyweight Hoodie wins our Best Bang for the Buck Award for offering nearly award-winning performance at a price point that is a full $20 cheaper than the next closest competitor. This jacket also scores at the top of the field for wind and water resistance, making the solid argument that if weather protection is your only consideration, the Flyweight Hoodie should be your top pick. On the other hand, it is heavy, fairly bulky, doesn't breathe or ventilate very well, and fit far larger than most. (Slimmer types should size down!) While this wasn't our favorite technical outer layer, it makes a great summer wind jacket for non-hardcore uses and is a great value purchase.
The North Face Flyweight Hoodie Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very wind and water resistant, solid features, affordable
Cons: Doesn’t pack down small, not very breathable, large fit, bulky
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman