Western Mountaineering Flight Down Jacket REVIEW

Lofty, light, warm, and durable for its weight - although it does lose a few feathers at the seams.

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by Don Wilson | 2005-12-13 03:00:00-07

Western Mountaineering Flight Down Jacket REVIEW

Introduction

The Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket packs a lot of loft and a few nice features into an 11.5-ounce (measured, size large) package. It hasn't changed much since being introduced a couple of years back. Is it still among the leaders in ultralight down jackets?

What's Good

  • It's warm - 3.7 inches of double layer loft
  • It's light - 11.5 ounces, size large
  • Cozy handwarmer pockets
  • Good quality construction

What's Not So Good

  • Shell fabric leaks a bit of down

Specifications

Model Year

2005

Style

Full zip jacket

Weight

Size XL 13.0 oz (368 g), size L 11.5 oz (326 g), size M 9.9 oz (280 g) Backpacking Light measured; manufacturer's specification 10.5 oz (298 g)

Shell Fabric

0.9 oz/yd2 (31 g/m2) taffeta shell

Fill

850 plus fill power goose down

Loft*

3.7 in (9.4 cm) double layered, measured

Features

Sewn through construction, full front zipper, elastic cuffs, elastic drawcord hem, handwarmer pockets, down filled draft tube, down filled collar

MSRP

$225

* Loft is a weighted average of the maximum double layer loft in the torso and sleeves. Torso loft is double weighted.

Performance

The Western Mountaineering Flight jacket has been my constant companion in cold weather over the past couple of seasons. I've subjected it to desert sands and cactus, high mountain climbing, weeks of hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, and a lot of cold nights in my sleeping bag. About the only thing I haven't done to it is have it out in a lot of heavy rain. I've been cursed with good weather most of the time.

The Flight jacket packs 3.7 inches of loft into an 11.5 ounce package. I've been very comfortable wearing this jacket on many occasions with temperatures below 25 °F. Under those conditions I usually wear a light base layer and a synthetic vest, such as the Patagonia Micro Puff vest, under the Flight jacket. That's a very warm combination for low exertion times such as early morning and late evening. The draft tube and collar on the Flight are generously stuffed with down and are significant additions to warmth under windy conditions. Like most down jackets, the shell of the Flight jacket is essentially windproof, although wind can enter through the bottom if the drawcord is not adjusted.

I've used the Flight jacket as part of a sleep system regularly for the past couple of years. The warmth of the Flight translates very well into a sleep system. I have used the Flight with a very low loft sleeping bag (40-50 degree bag) and ventured down well below freezing. My feet get cold, but the rest of me stays toasty. In Peru this summer, the Flight jacket performed nearly as well as the Nunatak Skaha Plus in our sleep systems, primarily losing out because it lacks a hood. Other jackets tested on that trip were not as warm or comfortable as these two jackets. The light, comfortable fabric and lightweight, low bulk zippers on the Flight add to comfort in a cramped mummy bag.

Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket REVIEW
The author and his daughter, jacket testing on a cool morning at 15,600 feet in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peruvian Andes. Ausangate (20,948 ft) in the background. The author (right) in the Flight jacket and stylish Peruvian hat.

The Flight jacket uses sewn through construction, with large, lofty down chambers sewn 4 to 5 inches apart. These large down chambers are important to the loft and warmth of the jacket. The jacket is impeccably built and has been surprisingly durable in heavy use. I took the Flight along on a 5 week trip on the Pacific Crest Trail this year, using it every night to sleep in, or as a pillow. It was subjected to a lot of sand, rock, dirt, and sweat; I took care of the jacket, but I did not baby it. It still looks as good as new. Even the 0.9 oz/yd2 taffeta shell, which is not a ripstop material, has held up very well.

The fit of the Flight jacket leaves room for layering beneath the jacket, which I have done frequently, but it is not overly roomy. Sleeve length is generous and articulation is good. The Flight jacket has an angled cut on the bottom hem, covering about 5 more inches in the rear than in the front. The extra rear coverage is an important contributor to warmth in a sleep system, preventing cold lower back syndrome.

Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket REVIEW
The rear coverage of the Flight jacket is good, especially for such a light jacket on a tall frame (the author is 6'4").

Other features on the Flight jacket add to comfort and warmth, without adding much weight. The collar is 3.5 inches high and is generously stuffed with down. The collar was a significant contribution to overall warmth on cold, windy days and on very cold nights while sleeping. The shell fabric is a very light and comfortable 0.9 oz/yd2 taffeta. It has a smooth, tight weave, and like most taffeta fabrics, a slight luster to its surface. As stated above, the shell has withstood a lot of use and looks great. It is normal for down products to leak some down through the fabric, but I have noted regular leakage through the exterior shell, especially very close to the seams; not enough to be a serious issue, but more than I have seen in other test jackets.

The Flight is not meant to be used as an outer layer in inclement weather, so I always carry a layer that I can wear over it in the event of cold, wet weather. I found the elastic hem drawcord easy to use and cinch up tightly when needed. There are two drawcord pulls, one on each side. The handwarmer pockets do not have zippers and are lined with down on the inside and outside. The pockets are large enough for use with moderate sized gloves. With an MSRP of $225, the Flight jacket is not among the least expensive lightweight down jackets, but given its high loft, low weight, well chosen features and good performance in the field, it is worth a few extra dollars over most other competitive jackets. It will remain a part of my gear list for the foreseeable future.

Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket REVIEW
The author in the Flight jacket at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Mexican border fence in the background.

What's Unique

With 3.7 inches of loft at just over 11 ounces, including a full zipper and nice warm pockets, the Western Mountaineering Flight jacket offers a unique combination of lightweight performance and comfort.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is not much to complain about with this jacket. I frequently use a stuff sack with my lightweight jackets, and always appreciate it when they are included with a jacket. A stuff sack would be a welcome addition, if included. If Western Mountaineering could add a very light, removable hood, the Flight jacket would perform even better in a sleep system.


Citation

"Western Mountaineering Flight Down Jacket REVIEW," by Don Wilson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/western_mountaineering_flight_jacket_review.html, 2005-12-13 03:00:00-07.

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