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Columbia Flash Forward Lined - Women's Review

A good everyday jacket to keep you warm in those chilly breezes
Columbia Flash Forward Lined - Women's
Photo: Columbia
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Price:  $60 List | $39.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Hand pockets, easy to layer, comfortable, inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, doesn’t stow into pocket, relaxed style may be unflattering
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 30, 2019
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50
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 2
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 3
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Though it's unlike just about any other windbreaker we tested, we have come to appreciate the unique niche occupied by the Columbia Flash Forward. It's an inexpensive and warm, insulated windbreaker that's a great choice for a cold day. The microfleece lining keeps you warm underneath an outer layer that not only blocks the wind but also does a decent job protecting you from light rain. We think the large, lined hood is quite comfortable and efficient and we appreciate having front pockets to keep our hands toasty on chilly mornings. Though it doesn't pack into its own pocket and isn't the most form-fitting windbreaker we tested, it's comfortable to wear for everyday use and has plenty of space to add additional layers as the temperature drops. We think this jacket is a great choice for a cold and windy day out on the town.

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Star Rating
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Pros Hand pockets, easy to layer, comfortable, inexpensiveLightweight, very breathable, comfortable fit & feel, flexible, great cuffsHelmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quicklyMany pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wearVery flexible, flattering fit, long torso, comfortable cuff
Cons Heavy, doesn’t stow into pocket, relaxed style may be unflatteringSlim fit difficult to layer, not ideal for really cold windNot the most waterproof, can see through thin fabricElastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed sizeGets wet very easily, thicker fabric is heavier
Bottom Line More than just a windbreaker, this jacket will help keep you warm even when the temperature turns chillyA protective, packable, and very breathable jacket that keeps you on the move in just about any weatherA favorite for years, the Houdini is a staple whose modest $99 price tag belies its impressive performanceWith more features than we expected from a technical jacket, this windbreaker offers excellent protection in the outdoorsThis versatile jacket can take you on grand outdoor adventures or just around the town
Rating Categories Flash Forward Lined Houdini Air Patagonia Houdini - Women's Rab Vital Hoody - Women's Alpine Start
Wind Resistance (30%)
8
8
8
9
8
Breathability (30%)
2
8
7
6
8
Weight And Packability (20%)
3
9
10
8
6
Versatility (10%)
7
8
7
7
9
Water Resistance (10%)
7
8
7
8
5
Specs Flash Forward Lined Houdini Air Patagonia Houdini... Rab Vital Hoody -... Alpine Start
Weight (oz) 12.8 oz 3.4 oz 3.1 oz 5.0 oz 6.7 oz
Material 100% polyester plain weave and 100% polyester microfleece 90% nylon (51% recycled), 10% polyester double weave with DWR treatment 100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment Hyperlite and nylon outer Schoeller® stretch-woven nylon with NanoSphere® Technology
Pockets 2 hand 1 chest 1 chest 2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top 1 chest
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuffs Elastic Half elastic Half elastic Half elastic Elastic
Stuffs Into Pocket No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Safety Reflective Material Reflective logo and hood strings Reflective front logo Reflective logo on front and back Reflective logo on front and back None
Fit Relaxed fit Slim fit Slim fit Regular fit Slim fit

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Columbia Flash Forward Lined is a fleece-lined windbreaker made of 100% polyester. It features a fleece-lined hood and full-sized zippered hand pockets.

Performance Comparison


Staying warm on a windy fall day on the prairie in the cozy and...
Staying warm on a windy fall day on the prairie in the cozy and comfortable Flash Forward.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Wind Resistance


As a jacket with two layers (an outer windproof layer and inner microfleece lining), the Flash Forward is exceptionally windproof. We didn't feel the wind coming through the material of this jacket at all.

The Flash Forward features a complete microfleece lining on the entire interior of the jacket, not just the chest and shoulders. And we appreciate that this cozy layer extends all the way up to the inside of the hood, helping to keep us even warmer when we need it. The Flash Forward also runs a little large, which gives it a comfortable, relaxed fit and also easily allows you to add layers underneath if the temperatures drop, but you're not quite ready to break out your winter jacket just yet.

However, we can feel the wind come through this jacket at all its openings. The cuffs are quite loose, and the neck doesn't cinch very tightly. We solved the problem by pairing it with a scarf, but couldn't keep the wind from entering the hood. Though less wind enters the hood when you tighten the drawstrings, this makes it very difficult for the user to see out or maintain adequate peripheral vision. Additionally, the drawstrings that cinch the bottom of the jacket closed have simple plastic pieces that allow it to loosen at the first sign of tension.

The simple plastic cinch piece on the Flash Forward loosens easily...
The simple plastic cinch piece on the Flash Forward loosens easily with normal movement, allowing wind to sweep under and into the jacket.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Breathability


The Flash Forward far from our first choice for breathability, as it's a fleece-lined jacket. However, we feel that the microfleece does wick away some moisture from your skin if you are sweating. But, chances are, you've put this jacket on because it's a cold day out and the likelihood of sweating inside this jacket is minimal.

The microfleece also grips your clothes underneath the jacket. While this may be slightly annoying, as the fleece pops out the cuff when you put it on over long sleeves, we found it quite handy when we wanted to unzip this jacket a little for ventilation. The microfleece snags your underlayers to hold it in place.

The microfleece lining takes away from the Flash Forward's...
The microfleece lining takes away from the Flash Forward's breathability but does help it stay put if you choose to unzip it a bit.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Weight and Packability


This is another area where the Columbia performs the least admirably. This windbreaker is one of the only ones in this review that doesn't pack into its own pocket or an included stuff sack. With its bulky microfleece lining, the Flash Forward doesn't compact very much at all. It's also one of the heaviest jackets in this review. However, if your windbreaker will live in a closet on a hanger rather than a day pack in a stuff sack, the Columbia can do that easily. If you live in a place that has windy, chilly days, we think the added weight and bulk of the Flash Forward are worth the extra protection you get from all that extra material.

Though they add to the weight and bulk of this hard-to-compact...
Though they add to the weight and bulk of this hard-to-compact windbreaker, we appreciate the hand-warming capacity of the zippered front pockets.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


This windbreaker is reasonably versatile for what it is. As a relaxed fit jacket, it's relatively easy to layer other clothes underneath it to increase its warming potential. This loose fit also adds to its overall comfort during lots of different possible things you might do with your day outdoors. Unlike some of the other more technical and less stylish jackets, the Columbia is a style that's much more conducive to a wide range of activities and social situations. We found it just as easy to tend the garden as it was to attend a BBQ in this windbreaker. And we didn't get any of the odd looks we frequently receive while wearing some of the thin, technical, partially transparent windbreakers. However, this same fit and fleece lining also take away from some active endeavors. For example, its bulk and hand pockets don't work well with a climbing harness or backpack hip strap.

The microfleece can be challenging to layer over long sleeves in a...
The microfleece can be challenging to layer over long sleeves in a hurry. The elastic cuffs are also relatively large and may let breezes sneak inside on a windy day.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Water Resistance


Though the Flash Forward isn't DWR (durable water repellent) treated, it is constructed of "water repellent material". We had no issues staying dry through brief, spurts of rain or a drizzle, though any prolonged rain or heavy downpour eventually soaked through this windbreaker.

During our water test, we poured a cup of water onto the back of this jacket and placed a paper towel underneath. After five minutes we checked on the dryness of the paper towel and the Columbia was the only model that kept the towel completely dry. Though the back of the jacket retained a little water, the inner microfleece wasn't damp at all and this jacket dried much quicker than the rest of the windbreakers we reviewed.

That said, this isn't a rain jacket, it's a windbreaker. It will get you through little bouts of rain, but don't count on it keeping you bone dry in a hurricane. If you do get soaked, the microfleece will keep you a bit warmer than any of the unlined models. If you're after a rain jacket instead, check out our review of the Best Rain Jackets for Women.

Though it's not a rain jacket, the extra layers of the Columbia help...
Though it's not a rain jacket, the extra layers of the Columbia help it keep you dry during drizzle or intermittant showers.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


As one of the cheapest windbreakers in this review, the Columbia delivers a reasonably good value - IF it's the style and warmth you're looking for. Though it's not the most versatile windbreaker we reviewed, we found plenty of reasons to wear this windbreaker when others let us down. If "chilly days" describes what you're trying to protect yourself against, we think you'll be happy with the exceptional value of the Flash Forward Lined Windbreaker.

Stay warm as the wind blows, from walking the dog or tailgating to...
Stay warm as the wind blows, from walking the dog or tailgating to raking the lawn or car camping.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


The lined Flash Forward is a cozy jacket that can be layered or worn on its own to keep you warm. Unlike the other lined windbreakers in this review, the Columbia is 100% lined with microfleece to keep you comfortable even in a chilly breeze. What it lacks in technical attributes and packability, it makes up for with its versatile, relaxed fit that allows you to layer (or not) to the right temperature. And with a relatively low price tag, the value of this jacket is high! If you're after an easy, everyday jacket to make your spring and fall days that much warmer, the Flash Forward may be the jacket you've been searching for.

Don't be afraid to get outside and enjoy the seasons with this warm...
Don't be afraid to get outside and enjoy the seasons with this warm, cozy windbreaker from Columbia!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg