Flylow Cooper Jacket
Reviewer: 5’10”, 140 lbs
Size Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight: 518 g
Fabric: “The Perm” 3L by Intuitive
- Articulated shoulders and sleeves
- Fully seam taped
- 12-inch pit zippers
- Helmet-compatible hood
- No Bulk Cuffs
- YKK waterproof zippers
- High performance DWR (Durable Water Repellent)
- 2 Hand (zippered)
- 2 Chest (zippered)
- 1 Interior (zippered)
Days Tested: ~15
The Cooper jacket (and corresponding Smythe bib) from Flylow are two brand-new products that feature their new “The Perm” waterproof / breathable fabric. We highly recommend checking out our Outerwear 201 article for more info on air-permeable waterproof fabrics, but the long story short is that they’re designed to offer more breathability than traditional waterproof fabrics like Gore-Tex.
While many brands have used 3rd-party air-permeable fabrics like eVent and Polartec NeoShell, Flylow is one of the first to develop their own. And we think “The Perm” moniker and the design work behind the fabric is just plain awesome.
The Cooper jacket seems to offer a rare combination of traits in the hardshell market. It combines a pretty burly face fabric with an air-permeable membrane and a fairly minimal feature set. Air-permeable membranes are typically matched with more lighter fabrics while heavier face fabrics often get paired with more robust, less breathable membranes (there are exceptions, of course).
So how does Flylow’s uncommon combination of a heavier face fabric, minimal feature set, and air-permeable membrane work while actually out skiing and touring?
The fit of the Cooper falls right in between a typical, baggier inbounds shell and a more trim “alpine” or ski-touring shell. The Cooper has a decent amount of room to layer underneath, but it certainly isn’t a baggy cut.
For my 5’10” frame, the size Medium Cooper fits perfectly. The sleeves hit right at my second knuckle and offer enough length for high reaches without exposing my wrists. The sleeves are a bit wider and not quite as long as the Patagonia Descensionist Jacket (which is likely the Cooper’s closest competitor).
The torso on the Cooper feels just about right, with enough room for a bit of layering without a large or boxy-feeling cut. I can easily fit a fleece or a light puffy like the Patagonia Micro Puffy Hoody underneath the Cooper. The cut of the Cooper’s sleeves and torso balance quite well (the torso of the Descensionist seems a bit generous for its slim sleeves).
Overall, I think Flylow nailed the fit of the Cooper. It strikes a good balance of backcountry functionality without looking goofy for resort riding. It’s a great 50/50 fit.
The centerpiece of any shell is the fabric, and “The Perm” on the Cooper is certainly a standout fabric. It’s not the most breathable (though it’s quite good), the most durable, or the lightest. But it strikes an excellent balance of functionality that make it an easy choice for a 1-shell quiver.
One thing we talk a lot about when it comes to apparel is drape — the way the piece lays over your body. The Perm fabric on the Cooper drapes nicely. It has significantly more structure than the Descensionist’s fabric, but is less stiff than a typical Gore-Tex Pro fabric. This makes for a natural drape that is comfortable, easy to put on and take off, and remains quiet while moving. There is also a bit of stretch to the fabric which helps with comfort and range of motion.
It’s difficult to match fabric weight, structure, fit, and trims (zipper pulls, tagging, etc…) to make a jacket that simply feels good. Our perennial favorite and discontinued Patagonia Knifeblade Jacket is the perfect example of when it all works right. And when it comes to drape, fit and general comfort, the Cooper comes pretty close — which is high praise.
It’s also important to note that The Perm fabric used in the Cooper is significantly more burly than many highly breathable fabrics on the market. It is heavier than the fabrics on the Descensionist and Black Diamond Helio Active Shell while not quite matching the heft of most Gore Pro layups (though The Perm is more supple than Gore Pro and has a better hand). Compared to heavier inbounds shells like the Open Wear Open One 3L Shell, Arc’teryx Sabre, and Strafe Pyramid, the Cooper’s fabric is lighter and thinner.
The only slight quip I have here with the Cooper is that its main zipper (a laminated reverse-coil YKK) is a bit stiff for the fabric of the jacket. But this is a small complaint.
The Cooper is fairly minimal when it comes to features. There are no wrist gaiters, interior drop-in pockets, bicep pockets, and no powder skirt. That said, the Cooper does have several noteworthy features.
The Cooper’s hood is 3-way adjustable, has a good, stiff brim, and easily fits over a helmet.
Its velcro cuffs adjust easily to accommodate various styles of gloves, and the hem is also adjustable with a drawcord.
The Cooper has four exterior pockets and one interior pocket. Two fairly standard hand pockets are positioned so that they’re easy to use without a pack on, but get covered by most packs’ hipbelts. The hand pockets are a bit small to fit most skins, but you might be able to fit some small, very minimal skins in there.
The Cooper’s left chest pocket is a pretty standard chest pocket with a vertical water-resistant zipper. It’s big enough to fit a phone and some snacks, or a spare goggle. The right chest pocket is less traditional, with a horizontal zip and pretty small internal volume. I’ve used it for my phone, lip balm, and other random stuff, but because of the odd shape of the pocket, I’ve never really found it particularly comfortable to put stuff in this pocket.
The Cooper has is a single interior zip pocket that is sized nicely for a phone and has a hole for your headphone cord.
The Cooper also has 12” pit zips with one-way zippers.
At 518 g for a Medium, the Cooper falls on the lighter end of the spectrum for waterproof hardshells. Below is a list of our measured weights for several notable shells in this class (be sure to note the size differences to keep things apples-to-apples).
309 g Arc’teryx Alpha FL, size Medium
364 g Black Diamond Helio Active Shell, size Medium
518 g Flylow Cooper Jacket, size Medium
544 g Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket, size Medium
563 g Rab Sharp Edge Jacket, size Medium
590 g Flylow Higgins Coat 2.1, size Large
593 g Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket, size Large
605 g Patagonia Descensionist Jacket, size Medium
610 g Strafe Cham Jacket, size Large
841 g Strafe Pyramid Jacket, size Large
848 g Open Wear Open One 3L Shell Jacket, size Medium
There are several jackets here that come in around or under 600 g, all of which make for good touring options and many of which are more fully featured than the Cooper. But the only shells here that are lighter than the Cooper are very minimally featured shells with significantly lighter fabrics than the Cooper.
The Cooper is marketed as a highly breathable shell with an air-permeable membrane. Air-permeable fabrics often give up a bit of weather resistance in exchange for increased breathability (e.g., Polartec NeoShell and the Descensionist’s fabric). However, I have found the weather resistance of the Cooper to be quite good. I haven’t had any water get through the fabric in relatively dry Colorado storms and the DWR has been quite impressive.
I haven’t had the Cooper out in any extremely wet or nasty conditions yet, so I’ll be sure to update this review if anything comes up in my continued testing this season.
The Cooper breathes very well for a waterproof shell. It’s notably more breathable than standard Gore-Tex and most brand’s proprietary waterproof membranes (e.g., Patagonia’s H2No or the Intuitive fabric on the Flylow Higgins 2.1).
That said, the Cooper isn’t quite best-in-class when compared to other highly breathable waterproof fabrics. I would put the Cooper below the (impressively breathable) Descensionist, about even with the Black Diamond Helio Active Shell (which uses a Gore-Tex Active membrane), and above the Rab Sharp Edge when it comes to breathability.
But even while the Cooper isn’t the absolute top performer in its class for breathability, it does offer an impressive blend of weather protection and breathability. This makes it a good option as a 1-shell quiver for people who split their time between the resort and the backcountry.
Like almost all shells, the Cooper is not a warm jacket. It doesn’t retain much heat on its own. It does hold in a bit more heat than the Descensionist and Helio, but in most cold conditions, expect to layer up when using the Cooper.
After ~15 days of use, the Cooper still looks brand new and I don’t expect to run into any unusual durability issues down the line. The fabric on the Cooper feels burly for how light the jacket is and has easily shed scrapes against rocks and trees. As always, I’ll keep an eye on the durability of the Cooper and update this review accordingly.
Who’s It For?
If you get along well with the feature set, the Cooper Jacket is a great option for folks looking for a jacket they can use to split time between the lifts and the skin track. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have a powder skirt and its pockets won’t fit most climbing skins.
Dedicated ski tourers who value durability and / or features over weight and maximum breathability should also give the Cooper a look. The Cooper is still pretty light and breathes better than most non-air-permeable membranes, but offers more pockets and a more durable fabric compared to many other dedicated touring jackets.
Flylow’s introduction to the world of air-permeable fabrics is solid offering. The Cooper Jacket has an excellent and comfortable drape, a pretty burly face fabric, a fairly minimal feature set, and offers a great blend of weather resistance and breathability. This is a strong contender for a 50/50 1-shell-quiver — especially if you get along well with its feature set.