Hands-on Gear Review

KUHL Spyfire Hoody - Women's Review

Price:  $260 List | $260.00 at REI
Pros:  Stylish, warm, durable
Cons:  Heavier for the warmth, less mountain-ready features and adjustments
Bottom line:  This is a very stylish jacket that will go from crag to cafe with ease; it's decent overall, but it is not the best for lightweight mountain activities.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
Down Fill:  800 fill power goose down
Main Fabric:  20D 100% Nylon ripstop with DWR treatment, stretch panels comprised of 88% nylon and 12% spandex
Measured Weight (oz):  10
Manufacturer:   KÜHL

Our Verdict

The KUHL Spyfire has been a big hit this year. When we started testing this jacket, we started seeing it all around town. It is very stylish, earning compliments from outdoors and urban types alike. The Spyfire is thoughtfully designed, with soft fabrics and a flexible brim on the hood which protects you during those blustery dashes to the coffee shop. It is a flattering feminine cut as well—a clear departure from the standard boxy down jacket form. Style and urban appeal aside, it also features 800 fill down, making it light and compressible enough to earn a spot on your next backcountry adventure. And the materials are rugged—windproof and water resistant. This was our go-to jacket for the cold and wet fall in the Pacific Northwest, both for the changeable weather and the style points. But it quickly earned a spot on more and more of our outdoor adventures.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Women's Down Jackets of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti

Last Updated:
Tuesday
January 23, 2018

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The KUHL Spyfire is an excellent down jacket that didn't perform as well as we thought it would. It scored above average in every single metric we tested, but it needed to shine more brightly in some key categories to compete with the award winners.

Performance Comparison


The Spyfire  made by Kuhl  was our top scorer in the style metric. Easy to dress up or down  it was a hit with all of our testers.
The Spyfire, made by Kuhl, was our top scorer in the style metric. Easy to dress up or down, it was a hit with all of our testers.

Warmth


The Spyfire was not the warmest model in this review, but it was definitely above average. We appreciated KUHL's use of 800 fill goose down, which provides much more warmth for the weight of the down. This is not a big, lofty jacket, which is part of the reason it is not super warm, but for its size and weight, it is just right, in our opinion. It is a great warmth for moderate west coast winters, for example.

One reason we gave this an above average score of 6 out of 10, making it a direct competitor with our Best Buy winner, the REI Magma 850, is that the Spyfire has a magnificent hood. It is highly adjustable, has a soft visor to keep light rain and snow out of your eyes, and is very cozy and warm. A warmer option that is otherwise similar in style, shape, but just a little bit more mountain-ready, would be the award-winning *Rab Microlight Alpine*. The Rab jacket is a similarly versatile jacket, but it scores just a little higher than the Spyfire in all of our metrics—except style.

Weight


The Spyfire is on the heavier side of competitors in this review but is still light enough that it could be useful for backpacking or climbing trips. We weighed our size small jacket at 10 ounces, making it heavier than several jackets that were much warmer than this one. The more durable 20D nylon ripstop and the spandex stretch panels under the arms increase the jacket's weight, and KUHL added a top sheet over the front baffles to improve durability. These are all great ideas, but not a design focused on being ultralight. If you want long-term functional durability over light weight, this could be an excellent jacket for you (but first check out the Style and Durability discussions below).

The Spyfire also sports some style features which add to the jacket's weight. The adjustable toggles on the hood are metal, for example, and the zipper has an extra long pull tab with a decorative metal logo piece. See below for our discussion in the Style metric, where this jacket stole the show.

Compressibility


This jacket uses highly compressible 800 fill down, which is awesome and makes this jacket totally reasonable addition to your backpacking or climbing pack. KUHL used more durable 20D nylon ripstop, a soft shell panel, some spandex in key movement areas (under the arms), and some thicker trim down the sides and on the hood. These are all very nice features, but they do make an 800 fill down jacket bulkier than we would have expected. It is still totally reasonable to take this jacket into the mountains for various adventures, but it is not the most compressible option we reviewed. We gave this jacket an average score of 5 out of 10 for Compressibility, also because it doesn't have an option to stow the jacket in a pocket and clip it to a harness, which is a feature we like in a lightweight down jacket. If this is not useful for you, you might disregard this penalty. The Spyfire is definitely compressible enough for backcountry use, but if you want something that truly masters this category, consider the Arc'teryx Cerium.

Features


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.

We loved the chest pocket. The zipper pulls were stylish but a bit heavy.
We loved the chest pocket. The zipper pulls were stylish but a bit heavy.

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.

A decently helmet compatible hood.
A decently helmet compatible hood.

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, making it more resilient 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, however, which is a pretty severe penalty—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 or the Rab Microlight.

Durability


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's best category was Style, we felt these extra durability features may have been a mismatch for this jacket.

The Spyfire had an unusual number of loose threads around some of the strips of soft fabrics. While we are not concerned about it having durability issues on our backcountry adventures, we did think it made the jacket look a little older and more used by the end of this review than the other contenders. Since this is an otherwise very stylish jacket, we thought this would be a relevant consideration for our readers—this is a super good looking jacket, but it may not look as sharp next winter. If you like a slightly more athletic look, and you want something that looks just as new after several months of abuse, we'd recommend the Rab Microlight Alpine, one of our award winners.

Stylish and durable  a good mix of qualities.
Stylish and durable, a good mix of qualities.

Water Resistance


The Spyfire performed very well 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 the Canada Goose Hybridge Perren.

Style


Style is the Spyfire's best category; it's a very cool looking jacket. KUHL paid attention to aesthetics with the logo detail on the main zipper, the classy adjustable toggles on the hood, and the patterns of the baffles. This was our favorite jacket for winter workdays commuting to the office or kicking around the city.

We loved this fun arm pocket. Good for electronic RFID ski passes.
We loved this fun arm pocket. Good for electronic RFID ski passes.

We do want to reiterate our comment in the Durability metric above. Some of the softer fabrics on this jacket had loose threads by the end of our testing period. This was not a sign of the seams wearing out, it was just some loose ends. But we thought for a jacket focused on style, this made it look a little less classy by the end of our review.

Best Applications


The Spyfire is an excellent urban jacket for the active person who also wants to have a lightweight option to take on the occasional hiking, rock climbing, or even backpacking trip. It looks very stylish and holds up very well in inclement weather, providing warmth and reasonable protection from rain and snow.

Value


At $220, the Spyfire is a great deal. It looks cool, it is durable, and it is warm and light enough for various outdoor 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 great value, in our opinion.

Conclusion


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.

The Spyfire  a lovely jacket  even if it was limited in its versatility.
The Spyfire, a lovely jacket, even if it was limited in its versatility.
Lyra Pierotti

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Most recent review: January 23, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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