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Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review by Martin Rye

The Western Mountaineering Flash Jacket has a non adjustable hood with elastic piping around the hood and waist seal out the cold without cordlocks.
The Western Mountaineering Flash Jacket has a non adjustable hood with elastic piping around the hood and waist seal out the cold without cordlocks.

has been a constant favorite in my pack since 2010. It is a lightweight down jacket made for moderate temperatures where a high performance/low weight insulation layer is required. Western Mountaineering is a USA based company famed for their superb sleeping bags. As I have used this jacket now on many trips in the UK with temperatures as low as -2 Celsius (28 Fahrenheit)  I have often been asked if I could do a review on its suitability for backpacking.

Western Mountaineerng Hooded Flash Jacket


The Hooded Flash Jacket has a sewn-through design with different sized baffles that allow the 850 plus fill power goose down to loft optimally. The baffles are sculpted on the hood while the ones on the back of the jacket are larger.

There is also full length zipper with a down filled draft tube, influenced by Western Mountaineering’s sleeping bag expertise, that prevents warm air from leaking out through the zipper coils. The down insulation is 850 plus fill power goose and  an average fill weight of 3 oz/85 grams across the size range.

The hood, cuffs, hem and pockets are edged with elastic piping to hold them in tight. There are no draw cords for hood or hem adjustment: just the minimum to keep the weight low and free from failure.

The outer material is a calendared 30 g/m2 high tear-strength ripstop nylon with a DWR finish. The lining is a comfortable plain weave 20d taffeta. There are no stick on labels to wear off and faff in its detail. The Hooded Flash is a superbly made shell, purpose made to keep you warm, with little complication in the design.

The total weight of the my XL jacket is 321 grams (11 ounces).

Western Mountaineerng Hooded Flash Jacket


From cold wild camps to damp highland nights under a single skin shelter, the Hooded Flash Jacket was superb.

The DWR layer on the shell shrugs off damp well if you brush up against a damp tent fly sheet. I would rate this jacket with a thick base layer good to -4°C (25 Fahrenheit).

The hood is good but I would prefer a shock cord to allow me to tighten it down very tight. Despite being only elasticized, the hood performs well, but some would find the hood a touch too large and appreciate the adjustment of a cord. Again the cuffs are ok, but if they were adjustable cuffs, you could trap heat in better and push this jacket a bit lower on the temperature scale. Wrist thickness varies on people so adjustable cuffs offer a greater control than elastic piping.

Size wise, the Hooded Flash Jacket is superb with the sleeves extending over my long arms on my 6’2 frame. There is room to allow thick layers to be worn underneath and it covers right down to the top of my backside to keep my back warm.

The material of the jacket keeps the damp out well but I have had quills poke through the outer material. This annoys me, as it is not a cheap piece of equipment.

The zipper works well and rarely snags on the down filled draft tube. The draft tube is representative of  the attention to detail on this jacket.

I had not intended to use this in winter but with a synthetic top under it I am confident I would be very warm with this jacket when it is cold. On its own, this is a top jacket for warm wear in camp. If it were a bit more adjustable on the hood and cuffs it would be perfect.

The stitched through design on the baffles does not seem to be an issue so far and I have not noticed cold spots. It is not cheap to buy but the extra design features and attention to the baffle design and top down used make it worth the cost.

Comparable Lightweight Mid-layer Sweaters and Jackets

Here’s a list of comparable lightweight sweaters and jackets, with and without adjustable hoods. The weights listed are provided by manufacturers are directional, since most manufacturers don’t list the size jacket that they correspond to.

Make / ModelZipperFill PowerWeight oz.Adjustable HoodPrice
Half-Zip80014.4Volume only249
Full Zip80011.8Y269
Full Zip80010.9N285
Full Zip90010.6N309
Full Zip8507.6Y349
Full Zip8008N350
Full Zip85010.8N379
Full Zip85010.3N390
Full Zip100011N550

has a superb weight to warmth ratio. I would rate it a must buy. Attached hood, superb design, and low weight = top backpacking insulating jacket for three season wear.
Disclosure: The author owns this jacket and purchased it with his own funds. 

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Last updated: 2019-04-25 19:45:21
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  1. A bit pricey for what you get, Me, I like comfort and function more than sufferlite,

    • Interesting review. This jacket is about $320 which is not so bad considering it is 850 fill. However, the review states that the temp rating is good to about 25F which is a bit surprising, since my $150 North Face jacket of 700 fill keeps me warm down to 10F/15F in fairly windy and snowy conditions. Albeit, it looks a bit bulkier than the Flash. The hood is just stowaway nylon though, no down insulation.

      “Sufferlite”, never heard this term, but it seems fitting to some UL gear out there.

  2. Martin – thnks for the review, I’ve been enjoying your posts this summer and hope you keep posting for Philip as a guest.

    I also own the Flash and love it for it’s simplicity, It’s great camping jacket and a good secondary insulation layer in my UL quilt.

  3. Down clothing is something that is on my wish list with one proviso, it must not leak down if I have a rucksack on my back. To date not one jacket or vest has not leaked after a few times of wearing. If this jacket meets my proviso I WANT ONE!
    I have “Hollowfill” in my currant waistcoat and it seems to do the job just as well but is far more bulky and a tad heavier.

  4. I am a huge fan of Western Mountaineering. I have two of their down sleeping bags, and you cannot beat the weight to warm ratio. They also seem to be sturdy and very well made. I got a bit cheap when I bought my down jacket and went with an LL Bean one (800 fill for about $100), but I have been wondering about the WM jackets… Thanks for the review!

  5. Nice jacket, but rotten hood. As mentioned, it’s too large and falls down and obscures my vision so much that it’s going up for sale on BPL. Might work if it had a way to cinch it down, but the way it is, I just can’t stand it, because I spend the evening tipping my head back just to be able to see :(

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