The North Face Flyweight Hoodie Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Although this simple jacket isn't as technically refined as other pricier options in our review, the Flyweight Hoodie deserves more than its fair share of praise for its well-balanced design. The North Face's proprietary WindWall fabric is constructed of 100% recycled polyester, and gains both extra wind resistance and improved breathability thanks to a recycled polyester-mesh liner.
Deftly walking the line between wind resistance and breathability, the Flyweight Hoodie fortunately does not lack in either department. These two metrics tend to be mutually exclusive, but the unique design of this lightweight shell allows it to both shed heat on the approach, and maintain an impressive windwall once you reach the summit. Even when wind chill values push zero degrees on breezy ski tours, the heavier weight polyester keeps us significantly warmer than other ultralight options.
The key to this balance — and the reason for the additional warmth — are the mesh-backed panels which cover your core and upper back. For the purposes of wind resistance, the panels around your core — which are actually the mesh hand-pockets — allow for an air cushion between your body and the shell of the jacket. This is the secret behind any quality insulating jacket, and provides an extra level of wind resistance for the Flyweight Hoodie as well. An oversized hood adequately pulls over a helmet, but a lack of drawcord makes it difficult to lock down in gusty conditions. In fact, this simply designed jacket lacks drawcords altogether, and a more forgiving fit leads it to billow in especially heavy winds.
Breathability and Venting
Despite the extra weight of additional material — or perhaps because of it — the Flyweight Hoodie does a particularly good job of managing heat, and performs well when worn for high-output activities like ski touring or trail running. Again, the secret is in the mesh-backing. While this provides extra air insulation and warmth on the summit, it also effectively manages heat and moisture when you're working up a sweat on a trail run.
This mesh-backing creates a negative space where moisture can be heated by your body, evaporating and easily escaping out the vents sewn along the back yoke — an effective ventilation design that is surprisingly only used in a few of the windbreakers we tested. Polyester is a common fabric among base layers, thanks to the lightweight material's moisture wicking and quick-drying capabilities. Indeed, the 100% recycled polyester design of the Flyweight Hoodie taps into this power for thermoregulation, making it a versatile lightweight piece as both a midlayer and a standalone shell.
Weight and Packability
Despite its lack of features and overall simplistic design, the Flyweight Hoodie is interestingly the heaviest jacket in our review. Tipping the scales at 7.6 ounces, under normal circumstances this shell would otherwise be considered incredibly lightweight. But when compared side-by-side with some of the best ultralight shells on the market, it ends up at the low-end of this metric.
Although this jacket still packs down smaller than a standard Nalgene bottle, it is the way that the Flyweight Hoodie packs down that is really disappointing. One of the oversized hand pockets doubles as a stuff-sack, but is far larger than it needs to be for the sack to packability. The stowed package ends up kind of floppy, and nowhere near small enough to comfortably hang off the back of a climbing harness without dragging or getting in the way.
Fit and Functionality
Like the balance between wind resistance and breathability, Flyweight Hoodie walks a borderline between slim-fitting and relaxed. For the 5 foot, 10-inch, 160-pound skinny mountaineer's frame of our head tester, a size medium offers a clean athletic fit. But it also offers plenty of room for extra layers underneath, which means that it affords ample space for burlier body types as well. In particular, the polyester construction makes this jacket much more comfortable to wear next-to-skin, making it a perfect companion for cool summer nights.
As we mentioned before, the Flyweight Hoodie is remarkably simplistic, even compared to more technical pieces of outerwear which are designed around specifically to suit the minimalism of alpine-climbing. Two large hand pockets offer ample storage, and are nice to tuck away your hands in when braving against a chilly wind. Instead of drawcords, designers opted for binding the waistline, hood, and cuffs with "pre-tensioned micro-elastic." While this certainly gives the Flyweight Hoodie a clean, almost streetwear-like aesthetic, it isn't the most effective in trapping warmth when you find yourself out in gale force winds.
While a windbreaker's primary purpose is to protect you from the wind, oftentimes weather blowing in carries with it light rain, so it is nice for a jacke to have a bit in the way of water resistance. Other nylon options may feel more tarp-like than the 100% polyester Flyweight Hoodie, but nylon also has the added benefit of being naturally water repellent, whereas this jacket may keep you dry enough to run for cover, but certainly won't serve as an ultralight alternative to a rain jacket.
The WindWall fabric is woven with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish which helps water roll off the front and arms of this lightweight shell. But areas that receive the brunt of rainfall — namely the hood and shoulders — quickly soak through, even after only five minutes in a light drizzle. And in our shower test, which is supposed to simulate a quick-passing but heavy rainstorm, we were completely soaked after only one turn under the shower head.
Although it may not be the lightest or most weather resistant option in our lineup, the skillful balance of wind resistance and breathability makes the Flyweight Hoodie a versatile option for everything from casual walks to long trail runs. Considering that the price point falls significantly below many of its ultralight competitors — half as much in some instances — this jacket's performance in our two highest-weighted metrics makes it more than a valuable addition to any closet.
Offering top-quality performance in wind resistance and breathability — the two attributes that count the most — The North Face Flyweight Hoodie presents an outstanding value for a windbreaker. For those seeking an ultralight, more packable and water resistant shell, then it is best to turn your attention to more technical options in our review. But for the recreational athlete looking for a versatile, lightweight jacket, there isn't a better bang for your buck.