We are quite impressed with this cozy, inexpensive and warm windbreaker from Columbia, which easily became our new Top Pick for a Cold Day. The microfleece lining kept us warm underneath an outer layer that not only blocks the wind but also does a decent job protecting the wearer from light rain. We think the large, lined hood is quite comfortable and efficient and 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, the Columbia Flash Forward is 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.
Columbia Flash Forward Lined - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Hand pockets, easy to layer, comfortable, inexpensive
Cons: Heavy, doesn’t stow into pocket, relaxed style may be unflattering
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested this jacket side-by-side across the US in all kinds of conditions. From rainy days in New Orleans to windy afternoons in the plains of the Midwest. To learn how it performed compared to the rest of the windbreakers in this review, read on!
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.
Unlike the Adidas Outdoor Agravic Alpha Shield Hoodie, 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, unlike the Marmot Ether DriClime, which lacks this microfleece inside the hood. 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 felt 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.
So, as much as the microfleece lining makes a helpful contribution to wind resistance, the loose openings also allow quite a bit of that chilly wind to enter the jacket.
The Flash Forward isn't our first choice for breathability, as it's a fleece-lined jacket. Multiple layers will always detract from breathability when compared to single layers! 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. Other, more slipper jackets like the Patagonia Houdini or Rab Vital Hoody slide off more easily when unzipped.
TheColumbia isn't an overly breathable windbreaker. It's too thick to vent very well and has no additional vents to aid the cooling process. In contrast, the Marmot Ether features underarm panels to offset the warming properties of the fleece lining. For doing a bit of yard work or taking the dog for a brisk walk, we feel that the Columbia performs adequately. For more active endeavors like running or climbing, we preferred more breathable models like the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody or the Adidas Outdoor Agravic if you'd like a little bit of fleece inside.
Weight and Packability
This is where the Columbia performed the least admirably. This windbreaker is the only one 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. If being able to toss your windbreaker into your backpack or clip it to your harness "just in case," you'd be better off checking out the absurdly lightweight Patagonia Houdini or even the partially fleece-lined Adidas Agravic.
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.
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 like the Patagonia Houdini or Rab Vital Hoody, 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. If you're looking for a windbreaker for technical activities, check out the Black Diamond Alpine Start or Patagonia Houdini. If everyday wear is what you seek, the Columbia may be in your wheelhouse.
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.
It's not a surprise by now that we think the Columbia Flash Forward is best suited for chilly days and everyday wear, earning it our Top Pick for a Cold Day. It's 100% lined with cozy microfleece and has hand pockets to keep you toasty. With a relaxed fit, we think it's easy to make this windbreaker work for you and keep you outside even as those fall breezes roll in or the spring winds have yet to die down.
If you'd rather have a more technical fleece-lined windbreaker, consider the more packable Marmot Ether with underarm vents, or the partially lined Adidas Outdoor Agravic to cut down on weight and space. For an everyday jacket that keeps you warm when it's chilly out, we think the Flash Forward is a fantastic option.
As one of the cheapest windbreakers in this review, the Columbia delivers a high value. Though it's not the most versatile windbreaker we reviewed, we found plenty of reasons to wear this windbreaker when others let us down. And retailing for around $69, you'll be spending significantly less on this jacket than on almost any of the others in this review. 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.
The lined Flash Forward is a cozy jacket that can be layered or worn on its own to keep you warm, making it our Top Pick for Cold Days. 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.
— Maggie Brandenburg