Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review

Perfect balance of warmth, light weight, and performance for less extreme conditions.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

In a fairly crowded field of ultralight down insulated jackets, the Western Mountaineering Flash Jacket is a standout. The shell fabric is superb, sizing and fitting are excellent, and the jacket contains just the right amount of insulation for three-season warmth when it's needed.

About This Rating

M Find other top product reviews »

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Will Rietveld |

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review - 1
Front and back views of the Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket. The Flash is an ultralight minimalist jacket with thin shell fabric, 850+ down insulation, and an essential feature set consisting of an attached hood, two insulated pockets, and a full front zipper.

Western Mountaineering targeted the 9-ounce (manufacturer specified average weight) Hooded Flash Jacket to provide sufficient warmth in less extreme temperature ranges, like spring and fall backpacking in warmer climates, and summer backpacking in the mountains. Its 0.9 oz/yd2 shell is filled with 850+ fill power down, and the jacket has no drawcords, cordlocks, or Velcro. Rather, it's a minimalist jacket with an essential feature set consisting of an attached hood, two insulated pockets, and a full front zipper. Its quest is to achieve the perfect balance of warmth, light weight, and performance. This review evaluates how well it succeeds on that goal, and how it compares to some other minimalist down jackets.

I like the sizing of the Flash (see measurements below). I am a typical size Large (6 feet tall, 170 pounds, my arms are a bit longer than average), and the Flash fits me perfectly. It has enough room inside to layer over a thick baselayer, sweater, or vest. The sleeves are extra long, and the body extends about six inches below my hips.

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review - 2
The sculptured hood (left) fits well without any adjustors, and has room to layer over a warm hat. Side pockets (middle) are roomy and insulated. The cuff openings (right) are finished with a simple elastic piping, as are the hood, pockets, and hem.

The Flash Jacket contains about three ounces of 850+ down fill (the actual amount varies by jacket size) and has sewn-through construction. Chamber size varies in different parts of the jacket, with smaller chambers in the front, and sleeves and larger chambers in the back. The down is uniformly distributed and chambers are uniformly filled and puffy. I neglected to measure the jacket's loft when I first received it, but the measured double layer loft (mid torso and sleeves) after five months of use is 1.75 inches.


I tested the Flash Jacket over a five-month period while backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, tent and igloo winter camping, day hiking, and spring backpacking. In cold weather, I wore it as a mid-layer with a shell over it, and on warmer days I wore it on breaks and in camp. I typically wore it in my sleeping bag for extra warmth.

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review - 3
I wore the Flash Jacket on a February igloo camping/backcountry skiing trip (left) and an early May visit to the alpine tundra on snowshoes (right). In both cases, nighttime temperatures dropped to 25 F and I stayed warm with the Flash Jacket layered over a heavy baselayer and a shell over it.

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review - 4
Early spring backpacking in southern Utah (shown) and summertime backpacking in the mountains - where nighttime temperatures can drop down to freezing or below - are more typical applications for the Flash Jacket.

The Flash's lightweight shell fabric is superb (see specifications). The micro-ripstop fabric is quite durable, very wind and water resistant, fairly breathable (calendering makes it stronger and downproof at the expense of some breathability), and has a soft hand. Western Mountaineering pays extremely close attention to details in the manufacture of the fabrics used in their products.

Overall, I found the Flash Jacket to be warm down to about freezing when inactive, and warm down into the teens when active. It performs equally well as a mid-layer and outer-layer. The jacket's shell has a good DWR finish that effectively sheds snow and light rain, but it does wet through at the seams with extended exposure. The shell is adequately durable, but not bomber, and requires reasonable care to avoid snags and punctures. It's also downproof; I experienced very little down leakage, even from the seams.

It's important to note that I did not test the Flash in temperatures colder than 0 F, and that was only briefly on a cold morning at the igloo while getting ready to go skiing. On another occasion it was 9 F with a 12 mph wind après-ski, and I had to wear another jacket under the Flash to stay warm.


Is the WM Flash Jacket the perfect balance of warmth, light weight, and performance? In my opinion, it's pretty darn close for the applications I have described. For summer backpacking in the mountains and spring/fall backpacking in the desert, where it's not unusual for nighttime temperatures to drop down to freezing or below, the WM Flash Jacket is just right to provide the needed warmth with minimal weight.

Similar jackets in this category would include the hoodless Montbell Ex-Light Down Jacket (6.3 ounces, $160), Montbell Down Inner Parka (7.4 ounces size M, $160), and the Nunatak SkahaPlus Pullover (9.6 ounces size M, $325). For me, the first two, containing 1.8 and 2.1 ounces of down, respectively, are barely warm enough for mountain backpacking, except in mid-summer. The SkahaPlus, with 5 ounces of down and baffled construction, is plenty warm and very light, but it's also very pricey. Western Mountaineering seems to have done their homework well; the Flash Jacket is very close to the perfect balance of warmth, light weight, and performance.

Specifications and Features


Western Mountaineering (


2009 Hooded Flash Jacket


850+ fill power down, average fill weight 3 oz (85 g)


Shell is calendared 20d 0.9 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2) tightly woven high tear strength Dot-Ripstop nylon with DWR; lining is breathable downproof plain weave 20d taffeta


Sewn-through; attached hood; elastic binding on pockets, cuffs, front of hood, and hem


Insulated hood (no adjustors), full height lightweight reversed coil front zipper, down filled draft tube behind zipper, two insulated hand pockets


Size L tested. Front neck seam to hem 23.5 in (60 cm), rear body length 27 in (69 cm), tail dropped 2.5 in (6 cm), sleeves 35 in (89 cm)


Measured weight men's L 10.5 oz (298 g), manufacturer specified average weight 9 oz (255 g)


Unisex XS-XL (women's specific sizes and colors available in July 2009)




"Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-08-11 00:08:00-06.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review
Display Avatars
Sort By:
Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review on 08/11/2009 15:50:22 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
WM Hooded Flash Jacket Review on 08/11/2009 19:18:00 MDT Print View

I have used the WM Down Vest(XL-7oz) for years with alot of success...But I think it is time time upgrade and I will put the Hooded Flash jacket on my MUST have list for the upcoming Fall and Winter season..... Thanks for the review Will!!!

Edited by Creachen on 08/11/2009 19:18:33 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
WM Hooded Flash Jacket on 08/11/2009 20:37:44 MDT Print View

I have this jacket and I'm looking forward to trips this fall when the temperatures will warrant taking it along. It looks great in the gear closet. :)

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review on 08/11/2009 20:47:58 MDT Print View

Thanks Will, great review.

I'd be interested in how the jacket fits compared to the Montbell inner jackets... is is longer and slimmer, or pretty much the same? I find my Montbell jacket to be an ok fit, but I would prefer a tighter fit around the torso and a bit more length.

Also, I guess the flash jacket would be not as warm as the Montbell Alpine Light, but somewhere in between that and the down inner?

Thanks again, Ashley.

Edited by ashleyb on 08/11/2009 20:48:29 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Nice Jacket on 08/12/2009 11:53:12 MDT Print View

Nice Jacket, I just don't know where I'm going to get $260 from. Time to break the the piggy bank.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Flash vs Flight on 08/13/2009 12:15:50 MDT Print View

Any thoughts on how the flash might compare to the slightly heavier Flight jacket which I own. I have found that the Flight can be worn as the Flash can be worn down into the 20s easily. With my Patagonia dragonfly wind jacket over it and a 200g merino wool crew under it, I am usually warm into the low 20s when inactive.

jonathan hauptman

Locale: A white padded room in crazy town.
zip up on 08/14/2009 17:08:13 MDT Print View

The only advantages that I can see over something like the skaha plus down sweater(pocket version) are the full zipper, elastic and hand pockets. The skaha has fully baffled construction and can be gotten in epic fabric. If you could get them to make a custom skaha plus down sweater(pocket version)with full zip, elastic cuffs/waist it would probably only weigh around 11 ounces. The fully baffled construction and extra ounce of down fill would make for a considerably warmer jacket and the epic fabric would mean far better weather protection. All this would come at a minimum weight increase of about 2 ounces. I only mention this, because this review got me fantasizing about my perfect down jacket for spring,fall, and winter(aka-the real 3 seasons)use in the lower 48.
p.s., the only downside, price related heart attack$$$$$$^-^-^-^^^^^^^^^^^---------------------------------------------------------------------

Edited by 6hauptman6 on 08/14/2009 17:10:50 MDT.

Bill Poett
( - F

Locale: Santa Barbara
Flash Jacket Help? on 08/27/2009 18:25:13 MDT Print View

Anybody know a good online source for this Jacket, I have annanversary comming up and I just might have earned it ;0)



Michael Heeley
(mheeley) - MLife
On line source on 09/09/2009 10:28:35 MDT Print View

Bent Gate mountaineering carries them and last time I was in the store (couple of weeks ago) they had a full selection.

B. F.
(thrush) - F
WM Hooded Flash vs. Flight Jacket on 10/04/2009 11:42:10 MDT Print View

*bump it*

As I can't decide whether to buy the Hooded Flash or the Flight Jacket, does someone have both jackets and can compare them? Both jackets look good, but I wonder wich one keeps the wearer warmer. The Hooded Flash is a little bit lighter (arround 1 ounce) but has a hood - and I think maybe with the hood it could be lighter AND even warmer than the Flight Jacket. But, as the Flight Jacket must have a higher loft, I'm not sure about that. Can someone try to compare them? Thanks in advance,


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: WM Hooded Flash vs. Flight Jacket on 10/04/2009 12:09:42 MDT Print View


The best determination of warmth is the comparable down fill weight. The WM Flight has ~5 ounces of 800+ down and the WM Hooded Flash has ~3 ounces of 800+ down.

Another way to categorize the two garments is that the Flash is in the "Down Sweater" class and the Flight is in the "Down Jacket" class. Down sweaters are generally appropriate for inactive use to ~32F range and down jackets to ~0F range. Obviously a supplementary hat is required, in lieu of a hood, for the respective temperature classes.

The "Winter Parkas" class averages about 9 ounces of 800+ fill (-30F range) and "Expedition Parkas" class averages about 16 ounces of 800+ fill (-60F range).

Edited by richard295 on 10/04/2009 12:15:21 MDT.

B. F.
(thrush) - F
Thanks! on 10/04/2009 14:12:33 MDT Print View

Thank you, this helps. I read much about them but didn't realized that the fill weight is that much different. I will now just have to think about wich temperature range I want to cover.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket Review" on 10/04/2009 17:10:30 MDT Print View

I have the Hooded Flash but I am familiar with the Flight also, and would agree with Richard .
The hood (INMH) seems to warm up the head almost instantly, quicker than putting a hat on, but overall the Flight is a lot puffier.
Note also there are also about twice as many chambers on the HF, resulting in more "cold spots".

Darin Butler
(darinbu) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Deal on Western Mountaineering Flash Jacket on 10/15/2009 21:00:52 MDT Print View

Bought one in the Bent Gate store in Golden CO today for $213.99. (They're having a general sale.) The regular price of $260 is what shows on their website (and everyone else's). I heard that Western Mountaineering doesn't let its retailers advertise a sale on their products. Of course, there's nothing preventing ME from spreading the word! I have no idea whether they'll honor this sale price for phone sales, but it's worth a phone call. Good deal on a great jacket. They had roughly 20 of them on the rack in various sizes and colors; don't know if they had more in the back.

I bought a Large which I weighed at 296 grams (10.44 oz). I'm 6'2" and 180 lbs and it fits me well. I found that it fit me better than does the 2009 MontBell UL Down Inner Parka, which is also a great jacket, but whose Large is too small and whose XL is a bit too big for me. Also, the Flash has more down and feels more substantial (especially in its AMAZING handwarmer pockets) despite little or no difference in weight. However, the 2009 Montbell does have a very nice adjustable hem and hood and comes with a stuff sack, all of which the Flash lacks, and is cheaper besides. If you're in the market you should definitely try them both on, as their differences are large enough to make personal preference meaningful.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
WM flash jacket on 11/10/2009 14:00:43 MST Print View

I found the Flash zipper split on me several times.

Edited by anthonyweston on 01/17/2011 10:46:15 MST.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Montbell Alpine Light on 11/10/2009 14:19:52 MST Print View

I love this Jacket. I also have Montbell Ul Inner Parka and Mountain Hardwear Phantom, but the Alpine is the most versatile for me. Can barely feel it, very warm...

Jeff K
(jeff.k) - F

Locale: New York
Re: Montbell Alpine Light on 11/10/2009 14:33:44 MST Print View

Do you have the parka or the jacket?

I have decided this will be my next piece of gear, but I can't decide if I should go for the hood or not. If not I would probably get a balaclava from down works. Any suggestions?

Currently I don't use quilts, although it is something I am wanting to experiment with.