The North Face Flyweight Hoodie wins our Best Buy award for offering solid performance comparable to our top-ranking options, but at a price point that is significantly cheaper. For 2019, 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
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The North Face Flyweight Hoodie
|Price||$80.00 at Amazon||$64.93 at Backcountry|
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|$128.95 at Backcountry|
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|$75.93 at REI|
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|$99.00 at Amazon|
|Pros||Affordable, breathable and ventilated, zippered-hand pockets||Low price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coating||Lightest in the category, tiny packed size, larger chest pocket||Stretchy nylon, comfortable, very breathable||Great pocket space, neck snap for venting, brim gives some sun protection|
|Cons||Hardly water resistant, heavier than many other jackets||No feature to stow-away hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activity||See-through material, under-performing DWR fabric||Sleeves a tad short||Hood brim is goofy looking, internal pocket low, not the best breathability|
|Bottom Line||With performance close to the best in our review, but available at a much lower price, this jacket presents a great value||The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standard||An ultralight jacket purposefully built for fast and light mountain missions||A stretchy and hyper mobile windbreaker that breathes well.||A solid jacket at a great price. The pocket options were best in class.|
|Rating Categories||Flyweight Hoodie||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Outdoor Research Tantrum II||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Breathability And Venting (30%)|
|Weight And Packability (20%)|
|Fit And Functionality (10%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Flyweight Hoodie||Patagonia Houdini||Distance Wind Shell||Outdoor Research...||Rab Vital Windshell|
|Measured Weight, size M||7.2 oz||3.9 oz (size L)||3.5 oz||4.6 oz||4.7 oz|
|Material||100% 20D nylon||100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish||100% nylon ripstop, woven w/ DWR treatment (Green Theme Technology "Breathable Water Protection Technology")||100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop||20D nylon|
|Pockets||2 zip (2 hand)||1 zip (chest)||1 chest||1 zip (chest)||2 external hand, 1 internal zip|
|Safety Reflective Material?||No||No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible)||No||Yes, reflective logo||Yes, reflective logo|
|Stuffs into itself?||yes, stows in hand pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes, stows in chest pocket||Yes|
|Adjustable Cuffs?||Elastic||Half Elastic||Elastic||Elastic||Half Elastic|
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 the Houdini and similarly super-light Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell. It kept us significantly warmer than the Fanorak — a heavier-weight offering 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 Marmot DriClime Ether Hoody, it is on equal footing with more expensive options, like the Outdoor Research Tantrum II and KUHL Parajax.
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 just as well, if not slightly better, than the Distance Wind Shell, 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 2019 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 Ether Hoody.
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. We direct readers who want the smallest, and most packable wind jackets to either the Houdini or Distance Wind Shell.
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. In contrast to the simplicity of the Houdini, this jacket does still include zippered-hand pockets. This is an incredibly valuable feature when it comes to everyday use, but one that albeit contributes to this jacket's increased weight. By comparison, the Parajax Jacket also has zippered hand pockets — and still includes cinchable drawcords — in a package that weighs two ounces less.
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.
With a complete redesign, the Flyweight is a solid option for any recreational activity — so long as it occurs in fair weather. With increased breathability and venting, we thought that this jacket was great for trail running and mountain biking. But with its relatively heavier weight, and missing some important features — like cinchable drawcords — this jacket wouldn't be our first choice for more technical uses, like rock climbing.
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 of $80, this is a jacket that will perform nearly as well in most applications as its ultralight competitors.
The North Face Flyweight Hoodie wins our Best Buy award, offering 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. But for a jacket that is both breathable and wind resistant, there isn't a better bang for your buck.
— Andy Wellman