The North Face Flyweight Hoodie offers solid performance comparable to our top-ranking options, but at a price point that is significantly cheaper. This jacket received a full-makeover — a change in fabric significantly increased breathability but lost a lot in terms of weather resistance. The changes made to the design of the Flyweight Hoodie have slimmed it down, and place it in the same category as other ultralight jackets, but with a little more weight. While this wasn't our favorite technical outer layer, it makes a great summer wind jacket and worked surprisingly well as a midlayer, thanks to a soft-fabric feel.
The North Face Flyweight Hoodie Review
Cons: Hardly water resistant, heavier than many other jackets
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
While it isn't nearly as technically refined as our Editors' Choice award-winning Patagonia Houdini, this jacket has solid merit in offering a similar balance of wind resistance and breathability. The Flyweight Hoodie does a great job of managing heat and performs well when it comes to high-output activities such as ski touring or trail running. The most regrettable result of this jacket's renovation is its loss in water resistance. The jacket receives a more simple design overall, but one that still retains hand pockets, a feature that perhaps makes it more usable in everyday life than its ultralight competitors.
Savvy readers may notice that in terms of the overall score, the Flyweight Hoodie is ranked pretty low in our review. However, we must point out that this is very deceiving — in most metrics this jacket performed within one point of the major players — offering similar performance in many ways, at a price point that is more approachable.
We tested the wind resistance of this jacket on a cold spring day, up at 12,000 feet in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, when wind chill values were pushing zero degrees. In a side-by-side comparison, the Flyweight Hoodie blocked the wind nearly as well as our top performers. It kept us significantly warmer than other heavier-weight offerings from The North Face — built with the same proprietary WindWall polyester — in the frigid, screaming winds.
This jacket includes thoughtful features that help bolster wind resistance, like a draft-flap behind the zipper. But designers opted to drop the waistline drawcord, and instead opted to reinforce all of the hems with elastic to ensure a tight fit. While this design isn't quite as resistant as the insulated jackets, it is on equal footing with more expensive options.
Breathability and Venting
We often find that wind resistance and breathability work against each other when considering the tightness of a fabric weave. While this has been the case in the past, the current version of the Flyweight Hoodie does a very nice job of balancing these two contrasting attributes.
This jacket breathes well thanks to added open-air vents beneath each armpit. We appreciate the changes in material-design, as the previous version of this jacket left us a "swampy mess" after extended, high-output activity. With the new and improved Flyweight Hoodie — at least in terms of breathability — you can look at this jacket as a solid option for trail running.
Weight and Packability
Somehow, despite losing features like pull-tabs to cinch down the hood, the update of the Flyweight Hoodie gained nearly two ounces — now tipping the scales at 7.2 ounces. Without the warming quality of additional insulation, this is nearly as heavy as the insulated jackets in this review.
Despite packing down to a size much smaller than any of the three heavier jackets, what really disappoints us is the way the Flyweight Hoodie packs down. It easily stuffs into one of its hand pockets, turned inside out, and zips closed with a clip-in loop if you want to attach it to the back of your climbing harness. But the entire package is loose and far larger than it needs to be — when packing down a jacket we want it to be as small as possible.
While the jacket still weighs less than half-a-pound and packs down smaller than a standard Nalgene bottle, in comparison to other similar jackets in this category, this is neither very light or very packable.
Fit and Functionality
The Flyweight Hoodie has gone from being on the large-side of size recommendations — previous tests referred to it as bordering on baggy — to having a very slim-fit. For a 5'10, 165 pound, skinny-mountaineers frame, we found a medium to have a nice, athletic fit for activities like trail running. But our tester commented that the cut and colorway sometimes made the Flyweight feel like a soccer club's traveling jacket.
Notably, the Flyweight Hoodie has ditched previously included features to opt for a much more streamlined design — but this jacket does still include zippered-hand pockets. This is an incredibly valuable feature when it comes to everyday use, albeit one that contributes to this jacket's increased weight.
A wind jacket's primary purpose is to protect you from the wind, and these lightweight designs rarely include much in the way of water protection. Although it does sport a DWR coating, unfortunately, the Flyweight Hoodie follows this generalization.
While it once sported a nearly leak-proof lining, the new update of this jacket forsakes this feature and opts for increased breathability instead — a trade-off that severely reduces this jacket's water resistance. In the snow, this jacket's DWR was substantial enough to keep us comfortably dry. But in our side-by-side hose test that is supposed to simulate a rainstorm, the Flyweight Hoodie soaked through completely.
The Flyweight Hoodie is certainly not the lightest, nor the most water-resistant of the jackets in this review. However, it does a solid job of balancing wind resistance with breathability — the two highest-weighted attributes out of all of our testing metrics. At a retail price significantly lower than many others in this review, this is a jacket that will perform nearly as well in most applications as its ultralight competitors.
The North Face Flyweight Hoodie offers a great value for top-quality performance in the metrics that count. For those who place more value on lightweight packability and water resistance, turn your attention to the more technical options, like the Patagonia Houdini.
— Andy Wellman