2013-2014 Flylow Lab Coat
Reviewer: 5’10”, 180 lbs.
Size Tested: Large
Front Zipper Length: 78cm / 30.7″
Blister’s Measured Weight: 790 grams
• Polartec NeoShell: Guaranteed waterproof, guaranteed breathable
• Articulated shoulders and sleeves
• Fully seam taped
• 6 pockets (3 internal, 3 external)
• Helmet-compatible hood
• Powder skirt (removable and snap connectors)
• No Bulk Cuffs
• YKK waterproof Vislon zippers
• High performance DWR (Durable Water Repellent)
• 16-inch pit zips
Days Tested: Skied ~80 / Worn ~100
One of the most important recent developments in technical outerwear has been the introduction of Polartec NeoShell. In short, we’ve been very impressed with the fabric here at Blister, and you should do yourself a favor and read Sam Shaheen’s discussion of NeoShell in his Outerwear 201 article and his review of the Westcomb Switch LT Hoody.
Flylow created their Lab Coat jacket with Polartec NeoShell, and it is has become my go-to jacket this season for everyday “resort riding,” which for me, includes daily, repeated bootpacks up to Taos’ West Basin and Highline ridge, and the fairly strenuous (and heat generating) hike up to Kachina Peak.
What might be most impressive about the Flylow Lab Coat is that I’ve been just as happy riding chairs and ripping inbounds laps as I have been boot packing around Taos and the knife ridges of the Canterbury Club Fields of New Zealand.
There’s a reason you’ve seen this jacket on the site as a Blister recommended product, and why I selected it for the Blister Holiday Gift Guide…
Fit (with comparisons to the Westcomb Apoc and Arc’teryx Caden)
I’m 5’10”, 180 lbs., and the size large offers plenty of room for me. Personally, I’m not into slim-fitting, mountaineer-y outerwear, so I tend to be a fan of Flylow’s “Freeride Fit”. They describe that fit as, “not too baggy, not too tight.” I’d put my size Large jacket a little closer to the “Baggy” side of the spectrum than the “Tight” side—which is totally fine by me. But if you do prefer a slimmer fit and you’re on the fence between sizes, drop down.
The Lab Coat is a bit wider than both the size Large Arc’teryx Caden jacket we’ve been testing, as well as the more mountaineering-oriented Westcomb Apoc. Sleeve length is similar between the Apoc and Lab Coat, while the Caden has the longest arms. As for length, the Arc’teryx Caden is the longest (80cm / 31.5″), then the Flylow Lab Coat (78cm / 30.7″) then the Westcomb Apoc (74.5cm / 29.3″).
On warm days when I’m only wearing a thin base layer benath the Lab Coat, I don’t feel like I’m absolutely swimming in it. And I can also easily layer under the Lab Coat; The North Face Thermoball hoody, Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody, and Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody – all in size large – fit just fine under the Lab Coat.
I really like the big pit zips; all of the Lab Coat’s zippers have worked well (they don’t get caught / stuck); and I love the big internal pockets on each side of the jacket. They allow me to carry a little or a lot of stuff without wearing a pack, and I don’t love wearing a pack for resort riding. The (very good) Westcomb Apoc jacket only has one small internal chest pocket, so a backpack becomes less optional for me.
Face Fabric: Hand Feel
This is one of the best things about NeoShell: for a hardshell, it’s soft. It’s noticeably softer and a bit quieter than the Arc’teryx Caden fabric, as is the NeoShell fabric of the Westcomb Apoc.
Sam Shaheen has reviewed and A/B-ed two identical jackets—one made of NeoShell, the other made of the new GORE Pro—and he concurs that the hand feel is a big difference.
Weight / Packability
There are definitely lighter and more packable coats out there than the Lab Coat. If light and packable are top priorities for you, you should check out the Westcomb Apoc, which comes in at nearly half the weight of the Lab Coat. It’s a slightly slimmer fit than the Lab Coat, doesn’t have big internal pockets or a powder skirt like the Lab Coat, and it also uses a thinner face fabric than the Lab Coat—which saves weight and takes up less room in your pack. Our size large Lab Coat weighs about 790 grams (710 grams if you remove the powder skirt), the large Apoc weighs around 430 grams.
Note: this differing thickness of fabric is interesting. Polartec is much less strict than GORE about governing the thickness / weight of the face fabrics that can be used with their laminates. So while Flylow has opted to go with a heavier / tougher fabric on the Lab Coat, Westcomb has opted to go thinner / lighter.
Flylow makes specific mention of this in their product description of the Lab Coat: “Polartec allows us to select the appropriate face fabric for our needs, so we can make this ultra technical membrane as tough as we require.”)
Speaking of toughness…