REI Co-op Flash Jacket - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Flash is a full-zip windbreaker with an elastic-rimmed hood that's made of a 86% nylon, 14% spandex ripstop blend. It's a hip length coat with a relaxed fit and features two zippered hand pockets, an inner zippered pocket, DWR coating, and becomes its own fanny pack.
When it comes to blocking wind, the fabric make-up of the Flash is an excellent barrier. A storm flap behind the main zipper adds even more protection without being in the way when you zip it up. The cuffs are fully elastic, adding additional wind protection, as is the "scuba style" hood that features a full elastic band around your face - though it has no brim to shield your eyes. A single drawcord on the waist hem lets you close the jacket tight around yourself, while the tall chin helps hold the unadjustable hood in place.
The crinkly, protective fabric of the Flash lacks some breathability that other models have with more permeable fabric. It does allow some moderate venting, by simply opening the zippered hand pockets, as they are made of mesh and provide a small way for a breeze to get into the jacket. The waist hem can also be adjusted to be fully open, furthering this cross breeze. Soft cuff linings also make it reasonably pleasant to push the sleeves up. However, the elastic band on the hood turns it into a small sail when you're not wearing it, which is an odd sensation. The fanny pack straps tucked away in the inside pocket are also a bit thick and awkward at first, though you quickly get used to them. All in all, the fabric of this jacket itself isn't particularly breathable, though, with a few tips and tricks, you can vent well enough for low to moderate output activities.
Weight and Packability
At 6.8 ounces, the Flash is on the upper side of average weight among models we tested. It's not nearly as lightweight or super compact as many of the other windbreakers in this review. However, it also becomes its own fanny pack, eliminating the need to jam it into another pack or clip it to yourself in some way. As a fanny pack, it also has a very small pocket on the outside to hold little items you may need (think credit card or house key). While the waist straps first appear to be on the short side, the size XS jacket that we tested fits waists up to 41". We're not sure if the strap lengths increase with the jacket size (we certainly hope so!), but 41" for an XS jacket is totally adequate without being too much extra.
The versatility of being able to wear this jacket as a fanny pack rather than needing an extra bag to carry it (or clip) when you walk out of the house makes it a great choice for many everyday functions and jaunts in the neighborhood. If you are sticking it into a day pack or clipping it to a carabiner though, this fanny feature is more of a hindrance than a help. But as the Flash is intended more for casual use, we don't anticipate this scenario cropping up too often. Made of 14% spandex, this ripstop jacket easily bends with you no matter what you're doing. It also layers over bulky tops with relative ease, making it again, a solid choice for casual everyday adventures. It's not really built for high-octane, super technical uses, but covers a fair variety of moderate walking to breezy bike riding with relative ease. We also don't think it's the most stylish option out there, favoring function over fashion.
This is one area where we're pretty impressed by the Flash windbreaker. It has a DWR coating, like so many other models we tested, that performs quite well in light rain. The zipper itself gets wet first, though the storm flap helps prevent your shirt from soaking in that extra water. In light and even moderate rain, this jacket will keep you dry for longer than most the others - though it's still no substitute for a rain jacket. In our puddling test, the Flash was one of the last ones to finally soak through to the inside.
The Flash retails on the lower end of windbreakers we tested. It offers high functionality when it comes to wind and water protection, though isn't the most breathable. For a superbly protective jacket that won't break the bank, we think this one is a solid choice.
The REI Flash is a solidly functional jacket that protects you from wind and rain pretty well, at a lower cost than a lot of the competition. It packs neatly into its own fanny pack, making it a great dog walking companion. It's a classically crinkly windbreaker that doesn't blow us away but neatly does exactly as you'd expect from simple wind shell.
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