FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0 for Blister Gear Review
FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0

FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0

Size Tested: Large

Front Zipper Length: 79.0cm

Blister’s Measured Weight:

810 grams (with powder skirt)

Features:

– Polartec Neoshell
– Articulated shoulders and sleeves
– Fully seam taped
– 7 pockets (3 internal, 4 external)
– Helmet-compatible hood
– Powder skirt (removable)
– No Bulk Cuffs
– YKK waterproof Vislon zippers
– High performance DWR (Durable Water Repellent)
-14-inch pit zips

MSRP: $480 USD

Reviewer Info: 5’10”, 180 lbs.

Test Locations: Craigieburn, Broken River, Temple Basin, and Mt Cheeseman club fields of NZ; frequent trips to the Darfield Bakery & Springfield’s Yello Shack Cafe for New Zealand pies.

Days Tested: 18 (so far)

Last season, I spent about 80 days skiing in the FlyLow Lab Coat. And as I wrote in my review of the Lab Coat, I was a big fan of its fit, its features, and its fabric: Polartec NeoShell.

For a place like Taos—where the snow is dry, the sun is usually shining, and the hike-to terrain is irresistible—I argued that the Lab Coat is a pretty perfect fit.

When we heard that a Lab Coat 2.0 was coming out, I was extremely curious. FlyLow claimed that 2.0 was coming in “up to 15% lighter and more packable than the original,” by using a “lighter weight version of [Polartec’s] waterproof, breathable, Neoshell fabric.”

This was interesting, because about the only downside of the original Lab Coat is that it isn’t the most packable jacket out there. (It’s not the lightest jacket out there, either, but given that the Lab Coat is a fully-featured jacket, it’s weight of ~790 grams with the powder skirt and ~710 grams without the pow skirt isn’t out of line.)

Having just worn the Lab Coat 2.0 every day we skied in New Zealand (which included a lot of very warm days, and a good bit of boot packing), I can say that I still really like the Lab Coat 2.0, and I still regard it to be among the top picks of fully-featured ski shells.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0 for Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth in the FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0, Broken River Ski Area, New Zealand.

But there are some details that need to be cleared up:

Fit

I’ve found no significant differences in fit between the original Lab Coat and version 2.0. This is worth pointing out, because FlyLow calls the Lab Coat 2.0 an “alpinist-style jacket” with an “athletic fit.” I’d call it a “perfect freeride-style” jacket—same as the original Lab Coat. (Ok, well, the front zipper length of the 2.0 actually measures 1cm longer than the original Lab Coat’s.)

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0 for Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth in the FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0, Broken River Ski Area.

The 2.0 is not a particularly slim-fitting jacket, and it’s certainly not minimally-featured, which is how I generally think of “alpinist-style” jackets. So if what you’re really looking for is a lightweight NeoShell jacket with minimal pockets and a low weight, I can highly recommend the Westcomb Apoc jacket (review forthcoming).

The fit (and feature set) of the Lab Coat 2.0 is much more on par with a freeride jacket like the Arc’teryx Caden than it is the Westcomb Apoc. The size Large Lab Coat 2.0 has a nice, loose, unrestrictive fit on me, which is exactly the type of fit I like when I don’t have to worry about a jacket’s packability (e.g., while resort riding, single-day ski touring, or any time I don’t have to worry about stowing a bunch of stuff in a backpack).

Having said all that, I’m pretty confident that I could get away with a size Medium in the Lab Coat (version 1.0 and 2.0), since I very rarely wear thick, bulky midlayers beneath a shell when I’m skiing.

So if you’re on the fence about sizing and you prefer a less loose fit, I’d size down.

Features

The Lab Coat 2.0 has all of the same features as the original Lab Coat, plus FlyLow has added a zippered pocket on the left forearm that’s perfect for a credit card, driver’s license, season pass, etc.

The 2.0’s pit zips are said to have gone from 16″ to 14″. We measured the size Large 1.0’s pit zips at 15.5″, and the 2.0’s at 13.5″ but whatever. I didn’t notice any real world difference on snow.

As I said in my original review, I prefer not to ski with a backpack when resort riding, and the Lab Coat’s pockets are well thought out and well sized so that I don’t need to.

Face Fabric

This was the biggest surprise. The hand-feel of the Lab Coat 2.0 is not as soft as the original’s; it’s less stretchy and more hardshell-like.

For the sake of comparison, the 2.0 isn’t as stiff or loud as the Arc’teryx Caden (made of Gore-Tex Pro), but the 2.0 sits pretty squarely between the Caden and the original Lab Coat in terms of how soft and quiet it is, and there is now little-to-no stretch in the fabric.

I contacted FlyLow’s president, Dan Abrams, about this, and he said that they decided to use a 100% nylon face fabric to increase durability.

So the 2.0 got a bump in durability at the expense of softness and stretchiness.

In my eighty days in the original, I can’t say that durability was ever an issue, and I do really like the soft face fabric of the original. But I don’t want to overstate the differences here: the changes are noticeable, but relatively subtle. Still, if the feel of the face fabric is a priority for you, then you will like the Lab Coat 2.0 less than 1.0. The more worried you are about durability, the more you will likely prefer version 2.0 to 1.0.

Weight

If the 100% nylon fabric of the Lab Coat 2.0 is lighter than the original fabric, the overall weight of the 2.0 jacket is not.

With their removable pow skirts attached, the size-Large original Lab Coat came in at ~790 grams, and the 2.0 at ~810 grams. You won’t notice the difference on snow, but the Lab Coat got a tiny bit heavier, not lighter.

Packability

And I can’t say things got any more packable. Again, if you’re looking for a lightweight (~430 grams in a size Large), packable, minimally-featured (it doesn’t have a pow skirt or as many pockets) NeoShell jacket, we can vouch for the Westcomb Apoc.

4 comments on “FlyLow Lab Coat 2.0”

  1. I purchased the Lab Coat 2.0 jacket and Compound 2.0 pants to replace an Arcteryx Sabre jacket and pant combo from a few years ago. Since a lot of people love the Arcteryx stuff, maybe a little comparison will be helpful. I’m 6’1, 170lbs, with a 32″ waist. I’ve put a bunch of days on the stuff — both inbounds and in the backcountry.
    Fit:
    The Compound 2.0 pants run on the baggier side of the spectrum, even more so than the Sabre pants. I purchased a Medium, and the waist fits perfectly. I could use another half-inch in the legs, but whatever, that’s not a really big deal. I prefer slightly short over slightly long any day of the week, since I unbuckle my boots every time I get on the lift (ex-racer habits are hard to break).
    The Lab Coat 2.0 jacket fits me really well. I purchased a Large and was worried it would be too short in the arms, but it’s pretty close to perfect. Molly at FlyLow emailed me the measurements of the sleeve length, and for the Large the measurement is 38.5″ from the top of the shoulder to the top of the cuff. It changes by 1″ for each size up and down. The body of the jacket fits me well through the chest, and isn’t super boxy and wide through the body (like some other brands — Patagonia for example). If I was going to nitpick, I’d say the pants are just generally baggier than the jacket.
    Details:
    The powder skirt that snaps into the pants is great, this feature is awesome. The cross-venting on the legs is also a great idea. I’ve logged a bunch of days bootpacking and skinning, and the ability to dump heat out of the pants is great. I would have liked to see buckle loops on the gators, I did end up having one of the gators move over the top of my boot during a waist-deep bootpack, but maybe it was an isolated event.
    The jacket has a nice high collar, and the hood fits well over a helmet. One thing that is weird is that the two front pockets can be accessed from either the inside or the outside of the jacket. I hate this — I’m worried I’ll have one side open by accident and lose whatever I stuff in there. But other people may really like it.
    Performance:
    As I mentioned, I’m coming off an Arcteryx Sabre set-up, which is 3-layer GoreTex “soft shell” with a very-very-thin tricot backing. The FlyLow stuff felt just a little “colder”. That could be simply the lack of any tricot, or the fact that the Neoshell is more breathable, but either way I was reaching for an extra (light) base layer. As far as breathability goes, the Neoshell definitely seemed to breathe better than the Gore in high-exertion situations like bootpacking and skinning. For pure waterproofness, the Gore is a little better. I was out on a day in Jackson with rain at the bottom of the tram, and snow/wind at the top. I didn’t get any leaks, but I did feel like the pants were getting a bit moist on the chair at the bottom. If you ski in the rain a lot, you might want to rethink Neoshell. If you hit the bar when it rains (I should have), and prefer a little more breathability, I think Neoshell is perfect. I had no issues with waterproofness in complete whiteout conditions, just in rain conditions.

  2. EXCELLENT review. Thanks a million.

    I am 5’11” 190 with a semi weightlifter build and medium Lab 2.0 Jacket fot perfect on me. I dont like baggy ski/board clotjhing personally. Also, in case anyone care, I also got the Magnum Pro pants in medoum and they fit PERFECT on me as well.

    I think the differences between medium and large are very subtle but for people who either want a bit more loose fitting, go large or more athletic/form fitting go medium. I find thats the case on all the FlyLow I have tried on.

    Really superb review, cant thank you enough.

  3. I ski here in NY and VT. It gets pretty cold, single digits, low teens in the mornings. Anything colder I will not ski. Yet, with the proper layering underneath, would this jacket be warm enough?

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