Rating: 5 / 5
I found out about the 3.5 oz. Flash vest at the Down Works in Santa Cruz. (Great place for info and help, as well as gear.) See the vest at:
So far durable, after wearing it around the house as well as trekking around and camping for a number of months (a bit of the down, like 4 or 5 feathers has popped out, big pieces so I guess that is a quality of 800 or 850 down). It has also been through the washer once, per the Down Works instructions - it came out like new and no fraying or damage.
It is warm, but it doesn't feel like or act like anything else I have ever worn or used.
Don't know how to describe that, but it feels so good I automatically put it on in the morning when I see the snow, before I go to the post office or such.
I never have had to use the reflective seams to find it, although that would be a plus in the dark because it is black.
The zipper unit tends to come apart at the bottom, it is extremely light, if I try to wear it over another top (Polartec Thermal Pro high loft) -- the bottom is tapered to fit tight around your waist so when it is over another high loft piece of gear it can stretch if you have a girth issue with it and the zipper pulls apart. So I wear the Flash under my favorite fleece top, which used to be my mid-layer when necessary. Contrary to my expectations, that increases the heat efficiencies pretty drastically IMO.
With a light or medium weight capilene or merino wool long sleeve top (Patagonia), the Flash vest, and my Polartec long sleeve deep zip pullover (Insport) I have not felt cold down to 0 F -- even in light winds at 4500 ft. in California. (W/O windshirt, I have a GoLite Ether but haven't used it once so far this year. I am waiting to try the windshirt under the vest, then over it in colder, windy situations.)
So, though I wouldn't have thought it would work the Flash vest works really well as a mid-layer, even though it is down and might be expected to compress too much to serve as an insulation layer.
Again, which is really important to me, it has also passed the washing machine test and come out great (although I don't know how to do that because my partner did it after double checking with the SC Down Works.)
I have to give it a 5 because I have worn it almost every day since the cold fall air and the winter snows first came, as a household/chores item -- it is that comfortable -- as well as take it with me everytime I go out to hike or camp for the security that I will not get cold or not as cold as I otherwise would.
I have slept in it as part of my sleeping system in the fall weather when it was starting to drop below freezing at night, no snow or weather yet at that time, and it stayed warm, didn't compress, and wasn't damaged by the treatment.
I love it for the weight, the quality, usefulness, and even if it cost a bit, it is one of the things that gets compressed into my pack everytime.