New Colors for 2016
While no longer offered in the green that we tested, this jacket now comes in black and three bright new colors: Laser Red, Candy Mint, and Foxglove, shown below left to right.
The Columbia Flash Forward - Women's is made of 100% polyester. It has elastic cuffs, two exterior zippered pockets and comes in five colors. It weighs 5.6 ounces (158 g).
This jacket is best for light activity in moderate temps, but it won't protect you from the encroaching storm. Here's Jean Tucky hiking around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite, CA, on a gloomy day.
This jacket did resist light winds but it's not the ideal layer for cold, windy days. It has a drawstring hood and hem, which helps seal out the wind, but is better suited for outdoor activities in warm to moderate temperatures.
This jacket doesn't do a great job of blocking the wind, and while the relaxed fit is comfortable, the excess material tends to flap annoyingly around you.
This wind breaker lets some air in, so in that sense, it breathes well. The silk-like polyester is also soft to the skin's touch and this jacket feels great over a tank top. If your body temps run on the warm side and a comfortable fit is appealing, this jacket may be for you.
This jacket feels breathable, mostly because it doesn't really block the wind. Here's Lisa Maroti rappelling off El Capitan, Yosemite, CA.
During our water tests, the Columbia Flash Forward - Women's repelled some water thanks to its Omni-Shield water and stain repellent coating. However, it quickly saturated through and was slow to dry. The Patagonia Houdini is a much better choice if you are looking for some additional protection from the elements.
The coating on this jacket beads some moisture, but quickly saturates through in even a light rain.
This jacket was neither the lightest nor the heaviest of the wind breakers that we tested. At 5.6 ounces (158 g), it won't weigh you down or take up a lot of space in your pack, but it also doesn't provide much protection from the elements either. The slightly heavier The North Face Flyweight Hoodie - Women's offers superior protection in a similarly sized package.
Even though it doesn't technically stow in it's own pocket, we were still able to cram it in there, however, the pocket doesn't have a reversible zipper so it's hard to actually close and open it.
Because this jacket does not stow in a pocket, it is not ideal for the everyday outdoor adventurer. Also, the drawstring hood cinches down around your face and blocks peripheral views, so it's not the best choice for anything involving a helmet, like cycling, mountain biking or rock climbing. For these reasons we've given it a lower score for versatility. However, we did appreciate the full front zipper, which lets you unzip completely to help ventilate when you are hiking up steep terrain, and the zippered hand pockets are nice for holding a camera and snacks.
The large hood obstructs peripheral vision, particularly when wearing a bike or climbing helmet.
The outer lining on this model is made up of a satiny feeling 100% polyester. We've given it a low rating for durability as well, because after a few wears the seam threads started shredding. The hem around the hood and waist are only single stitch, and we question the long-term durability of this jacket if used in rugged terrain.
This jacket is best for the occasional adventurer who ventures outside in warm to moderate conditions. Because the silky fabric is comfortable next to the skin and is lightweight, this is a nice jacket to have in your day pack, travel duffel, or city satchel, as long as the going is not too tough.
This jacket has a relaxed and loose fit, which is good for layering.
At $60, this jacket will comfortably protect you in the summer winds without depleting your bank account. For the same price though, you can purchase our Best Buy winner, the The North Face Cyclone Hoodie - Women's, which performs better in colder temps and is more durable and versatile.
If you want a lightweight jacket that has a silky-satin feel and breathes with the wind, go with the Columbia Flash Forward - Women's. It fits comfortably on those with a tall build and flexes nicely with movement. However, if you're looking for a jacket to protect you from strong mountain gusts, our Editors' Choice winner, the Patagonia Houdini, is a much better choice which also keeps you dry in a light rain. To see how all of these jackets compare against each other, check out our full Wind Breaker - Women's