The Spyfire down jacket from Kuhl is a huge hit. Don't let its seemingly lower score fool you; this is an excellent down jacket for casual use. This review has turned increasingly competitive this year, so the Spyfire fell a bit behind the curve. It is not the best jacket for your backpacking or climbing adventures, but it will certainly fill that role in a pinch. This makes it less versatile, but no less well made and appealing as an everyday down jacket. The Spyfire is very stylish with thoughtful and fun accents. It also has most of the technical features we need in a down jacket, except for the cinching hem at the bottom—a critical omission which limits this jacket to less technical adventures. The jacket features high quality 800 fill down and durable 20 denier nylon. It is a bit heavier due to stylish features, like cool zipper pulls, and a variety of materials that make it feel cozier and sharp looking. This jacket quickly became our go-to for cool fall days in the Pacific Northwest. It earned many compliments, was easy to dress up, and kept up with the quickly changing and temperamental weather.
KUHL Spyfire Hoody - Women's Review
Cons: Heavier for the warmth, less mountain-ready features and adjustments
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The KUHL Spyfire is an excellent down jacket despite its lower overall score. It is not very well rounded, performing best as an active urban layer.
The Spyfire is not a very warm jacket, and it does not have the same athletic cut as otherwise similar jackets like the Ghost Whisperer or the Rab Microlight Alpine, so it doesn't function as a midlayer insulating jacket either. This is a standalone down jacket, more city savvy than warm, and best suited to cool climates where you can often dash in to a coffee shop if the weather turns grim, or you're otherwise not committed to long stints in the cold.
The Spyfire also falls a bit short of average in the Weight metric. It is heavier due to some of the fashion features like the fun zipper pulls. Again, this does not make it a bad jacket! It's quite awesome, actually. But it is not suited to fast and light adventures in the mountains.
We do appreciate that KUHL still uses high quality 800 fill down; it makes the jacket feel light on your shoulders even if it is out-competed for the lightest weight overall. Also, the slightly more durable 20 denier nylon is an excellent feature for a jacket that you want to hold up and look good for a few seasons around town. A more well-made jacket often looks more stylish and holds that look longer.
The adjustable toggles on the hood are also metal, adding weight, and the zipper has an extra long pull tab with a decorative metal logo piece. If you want a jacket better suited to the mountain environment, check out two of our favorites, the Feathered Friends Eos or the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer.
This jacket uses highly compressible 800 fill down, which is awesome and makes this jacket feel light on your shoulders. KUHL also used more durable 20D nylon and soft shell materials in the back and armpits which allow for improved range of movement. All of this adds up to a less compressible jacket overall. And there is no stow pocket or stuff sack to put the jacket into, also emphasizing that this jacket is not intended to accompany you on your technical climbing adventures.
For a stylish and highly compressible down jacket that flows seamlessly from town to your most aggressive climbing adventures (in milder climates), check out the Arc'teryx Cerium LT. We also love the very compressible Ghost Whisperer. But for more warmth, check out what 900+ fill power down is like in the Feathered Friends Eos.
KUHL put some careful thought into the features they included in this jacket. Overall, those features told us that this is not a jacket optimized for rugged outdoor use, but is an excellent lifestyle jacket for those who spend a lot of time walking, hiking, and commuting, and thus are outside a lot, but not scratching around on rocks or ice or backpacking where every ounce of weight in your pack matters.
The hood was a feature we loved on this jacket. It has a soft visor that keeps light rain and snow off your face, and two adjustable toggles to get a good fit. You can even wear the hood over a climbing helmet.
The jacket also has lots of pockets. We love pockets. Especially chest pockets. This one has an internal chest pocket, making it a good spot for essential papers or credit cards because it is safely stashed inside the jacket, offered resilence against light rain and pickpockets. The Spyfire has the two standard hand pockets, but it also has an external zippered pocket on the left arm, great for light, small, or flat objects. Skiers might like this for their electronic RFID ski passes.
This jacket does not have an adjustable drawcord at the bottom hem, which is a pretty big bummer; this dramatically reduces its "mountain-readiness" because you cannot cinch the bottom tighter to seal out cold drafts. This also makes it harder to adjust the fit to a range of body types. We liked the features on the Spyfire, but if they're a bit too much for your taste, you might appreciate the streamlined, thoughtful design of the Arc'teryx Cerium LT or the Rab Microlight.
The Spyfire has a lot of features designed to improve its durability, from softshell shoulders to an extra 20D nylon ripstop top sheet covering the front baffles. We appreciated these details; however, because this jacket is best suited for urban wear, we felt these extra durability features may have been a mismatch for this jacket.
This year the durability seems improved over last year—the jacket looked tidy and neat during the whole testing period whereas last year there were some issues with loose threads and fabric making it look a little sloppy after a short amount of time.
An excellent, durable jacket you might also like is the Rab Microlight Alpine.
The Spyfire performed decently in the light rain around Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The soft shell shoulders with durable water repellent (DWR) finish allowed us to brush off the water when we raced indoors. The hood also added to our comfort in precipitation—we could nestle inside this jacket and race indoors through the occasional downpour, and a light shake would be all we needed to get dry again. But we still recommend having a good rain or hard shell jacket for those seriously rainy days, as repeatedly getting a down jacket wet will reduce its life in the long term. The Spyfire is popular in the notoriously rainy Pacific Northwest and sheds enough water to perform well around town. If this is your top consideration, check out The North Face Aconcagua or either of the Arc'teryx jackets, the Cerium SV or LT.
The Spyfire is an excellent urban jacket for the active person who also wants to have a lightweight jacket to take on the occasional hike. It looks very stylish and holds up to some inclement weather, providing warmth and reasonable protection from rain and snow.
At $229, the Spyfire is a great deal. It looks cool, it is durable, and it is warm and light enough for various adventures. It's not the most mountain-ready jacket in this review, but it will hold up for many types of adventures, making it a good value, in our opinion.
The Kuhl Spyfire is an excellent down jacket for rugged urban environments. It is stylish and durable, but a little heavier and bulkier than the true ultralight backpacker would like. It is well made, holds up and looks good despite regular, daily use.
— Lyra Pierotti