Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket – Down Insulation For All Weather


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 28, 2014      
Outdoor Research's Floodlight jacket was an excellent addition to my recent trip to Chile and Argentina. Contrary to what it looks like here, the following day provided us with the ever coveted 70 km/hour sideways rain in the mountains near Refugio Frey.

Outdoor Research’s Floodlight jacket was an excellent addition to my recent trip to Chile and Argentina. Contrary to what it looks like here, the following day provided us with the ever coveted 70 km/hour sideways rain in the mountains near Refugio Frey. Click all images to enlarge.

The endless question continues to be debated; what to bring ski touring in the slightly less than bone-dry climates: down or synthetic? With numerous options coming out every season that make bringing down more and more viable (especially for those in the Pacific Northwest) it’s hard to know what is best.

It’s October and the rain is here in Washington, even though all we want is snow. Ski films are out, and people are talking about skiing like they’ve been without a hit of their favorite drug for many months. Fortunately, I am not experiencing such withdrawals and am happily navigating my days taking care of business as usual; I thank my recent trip to Chile and Argentina for that… Okay, let’s be realistic, the transition season sucks, so let’s talk about stuff that will keep you stoked for the upcoming winter.

I had the opportunity to put Outdoor Research’s Floodlight jacket to the test during my six weeks in South America, where we experienced everything from frigid bluebird pow (what a list of buzzwords) to 70 km/hour wind and rain that threatened my love for “winter”. Thankfully I had an 800 fill down jacket to insulate my soul from such threatening notions. Normally, the words “down jacket” and “70 km/hour wind and rain” are the antithesis of things that go well together. However, after multiple experiences like that, I think that the Floodlight jacket has the potential to be a bonding element.

The Floodlight jacket is insulated by untreated 800 fill down which gave me hesitation when there are numerous dry down technologies out there. OR has stuffed all of these feathers into a Pertex Shield fabric. Initially I was interested to see how well this would hold up and remain waterproof (especially with the lack of coated feathers), and my lack of experience with the Pertex Shield fabric. My first impression was that the fabric is very light, which often translates to lack of durability in my mind. I ran the arm under the sink and the water shed off as I was hoping it would. So without further speculation I hopped on a plane to ride in the windy, rainy, “winter” of Patagonia and put this thing to work.

Settling in for the night and watching the "dew-nami" pour in from the valleys below. We went sans-shelter in Torres del Paine, a notion only considerable (and still a moderately foolish one) with a dry-down sleeping bag and the Floodlight jacket.

Settling in for the night and watching the “dew-nami” pour in from the valleys below. We went sans-shelter in Torres del Paine, a notion only considerable (and still a moderately foolish one) with a dry-down sleeping bag and the Floodlight jacket.

Here you can see the sealed baffle construction and the overall fit and style of the Floodlight .

Here you can see the sealed baffle construction and the overall fit and style of the Floodlight.

The Floodlight jacket was an ideal addition to the kit for a number of reasons. For it’s 800-fill warmth and burliness it weighs in at around 20 ounces (for a size medium), a reasonable weight for what it offers, but definitely not the lightest down jacket on the market. The Pertex Shield fabric is definitely a contributing factor to keeping the overall weight down, while providing the ever coveted waterproofing. After six weeks in South America and two more weeks working a mountaineering course for Outward Bound in the PNW fall, the speculation is over and I am impressed with the Pertex Shield fabric. I did not have a problem with the delicate down feathers getting water logged. Instead of stitching to close the baffles in the jacket, OR has sealed them on the inside, thus eliminating the common exposure of the seam to water penetration. This seems to be an effective construction.

The Pertex Shield fabric seems to be an effective material. This is after only a few months of heavy use.

The Pertex Shield fabric seems to be an effective material. This is after only a few months of heavy use.

Compressibility of the jacket.

Compressibility of the jacket.

The fleece lined pockets (a HUGE plus) are positioned high enough to be well out of the way of a harness.

The fleece lined pockets (a HUGE plus) are positioned high enough to be well out of the way of a harness.

One major benefit of a down jacket is its compressibility, and as big and lofty as the Floodlight jacket is, I am pleased with how small it compresses and how reasonable it is to bring on a day tour. Another feature that I found to be a major plus is the two hand pockets. They are positioned high on the sides in order to accommodate a harness over the outside of the jacket. The pockets are fleece lined and are extremely comfortable. I’ll never complain about a little fleece on the hands.

A few qualms I have with the Floodlight jacket are in the zippers and the cuff closures. With all of the effort put into making this a stormproof, rain-defying down jacket, it unfortunately does not come with waterproof zippers as a feature. I feel like that would further add to its credibility as a truly wet-weather worthy layer. That being said I haven’t experienced any major issues with this yet. The velcro on the cuff closure is showing slight signs of de-lamination, but it appears to be only superficial at this point for such a high use area of the jacket.

Detailed view of the sealed baffle construction as well as the zippers.

Detailed view of the sealed baffle construction as well as the zippers.

Overall, Outdoor Research has included several worthy features to the Floodlight jacket making it a viable layer to bring into the backcountry regardless of wet weather in the forecast. With large mesh/elastic goggle or glove pockets on the inside and a wire brimmed hood, to name a few more. I hope to see more companies developing waterproof solutions to down insulation, because it truly is the most comfortable, compressible, and lightweight insulation in relation to the warmth and protection that it provides.

Men’s (and women’s) OR Floodlight jacket available here.



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Comments

12 Responses to “Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket – Down Insulation For All Weather”

  1. Dave Duddy October 28th, 2014 9:50 am

    Thanks for the review. I have been very interested in this jacket but none of the shops where I live carry them. Any thoughts on the warmth of this jacket? Some of the pictures of it look as though it is fairly thin? Thanks

  2. Lou Dawson 2 October 28th, 2014 10:55 am

    Dave, I evaluated this as well, it’s pretty interesting and quite warm due to the two layers of totally windproof fabric. I’d like it to be thicker. My main concern with it is if it did get wet, I’m not sure how you could ever dry out the down. But perhaps it never gets wet… Coop certainly put it to the test… Lou

  3. Tuck October 29th, 2014 9:17 am

    Speaking of wet down…

    Have you guys tried the Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket? They’re making some pretty interesting claims about it.

    I bought one over the weekend (I’m a sucker for new tech) but all I can report is that it was excellent during the nap I took while wearing it. 🙂 Never felt sweaty/overheated.

    I haven’t had any cold weather yet to try it in…

  4. Dabu October 30th, 2014 9:10 am

    Tuck, I’ve been wearing the Nano Air hoody in Afghanistan for the last month. Just last night I was thinking about the first time I wore softshell ski pants. I knew right away that a revolution was afoot. If the Nano Air is the future of insulation, then this is similarly revolutionary. Light and compressible like a puffy but stretchy like a fleece. Fantastic layer. Buy one and don’t look back. However, if you decide to wait I predict every major apparel company will have a competing product very soon.

  5. Lisa Dawson October 30th, 2014 9:27 am

    Good review Coop! Amazing that you stayed dry during all that nasty weather on your SA trip. Did you also wear a shell over the Floodlight on the really wet days?

  6. Nick October 30th, 2014 9:51 am

    Tuck and co.,

    Similar in vein to the Nano Air (air permeable insulation with stretch) is Polartec’s Alpha insulation that one can currently find in a variety of pieces on the market. I personally owned and used Rab’s Strata Hoodie (no affiliation btw) for all of last fall/winter and can attest to it doing most of what the marketing claims. I used it as an outer layer and as a mid layer for a variety of activities here in SW Montana, such as ice climbing and ski touring.

    If I recall, Alpha has does not have as impressive CFM numbers as NanoAir but face fabrics are often the limiting factor in this air permeable insulation game. Hopefully, someone with the data can chime in. I looked briefly and only can find 40CFM for NanoAir.

    I have found, however, that a 60g/m^2 Alpha piece does not *seem* as warm as a comparable 60g/m^2 primaloft piece. Anecdotally, friends using Alpha and NanoAir jackets have volunteered similar feedback. Part of this, I imagine is due to heightened air permeability allowing for both better moisture management but also a cooler microclimate around the body. Adding a wind shirt or shell into the equation was one way I found to help mitigate this.

    My take away: Like a lot of what we use for our outdoor recreating, a quiver-of-one can always be argued for while those with the quiver-of-one often look on at those with a larger quiver in envy. We’ll call it the tool-box theory. (I still have a proper belay jacket in addition to my Alpha).

  7. Andy October 30th, 2014 10:12 am

    Back the Floodlight, which is much different than the Nano Air. As Lou said, I’m assuming the wp/b barrier on the Floodlight would help it retain warmth better than a standard tafetta/nylon outer shell, and therefore make it feel a bit warmer than it’s thickness would indicate. Coop: Is that your experience? Is it warm enough for standing around in single-digit temps?

  8. Plinko October 30th, 2014 11:56 pm

    Outdoor Research has a jacket similar to the Nano-Air called the Superlayer Jacket that some buddies are in love with. Anyone know of other manufacturers/products that are similar?

    http://www.outdoorresearch.com/en/catalog/product/view/id/44349/category/2208/

  9. Tyler October 31st, 2014 8:40 pm

    Plinko – There are lots of products hitting the market. Patagonia is sourcing their insulation from someone, but not naming names. But every other major manufacturer is using either Primaloft Alpha (which is more expensive) or Polartec Silver Hi-Loft. The latter is what the OR Superlayer uses. OR said they did mock ups of the Superlayer in both insulations and couldn’t tell the difference.

  10. Plinko October 31st, 2014 9:52 pm

    The Rab Strata and Westcomb Echo and Tango, Marmot Isotherm , REI Venturi Hoody, are some others that use Polartec Alpha. Found this, (not very specific though): Brands adopting Alpha insulation in jackets, according to Polartec, are numerous, including 66 North, Eddie Bauer, Eider, Mammut, Marmot, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab, Ternua, Terry Cycle, The North Face, Trangoworld, Vaude and Westcomb. Arc teryx Argus is another.

    Black Diamond has several products using PrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft.

  11. Tuck November 3rd, 2014 11:54 am

    “FullRange Insulation is a multi-denier synthetic fill insulation made from several different types of polyester fibers, developed by Toray Mills in Japan.”

    “PATAGONIA DEBUTS REVOLUTIONARY NANO-AIR™ JACKET AND HOODY WITH FULLRANGE™ INSULATION”

    http://www.patagoniaworks.com/press/2014/9/4/patagonia-debuts-revolutionary-nano-air-jacket-and-hoody-with-fullrange-insulation

    So I wore it on a run this morning, temp right around freezing. It was a lot more than I’d normally wear on such a run, but it breathed extremely well. If I’d worn a down sweater I would have expected to dehydrate via sweat, but it breathed well enough so that I was never in danger of that…

    Given that I’ve taken to wearing wools sweaters while skiing of late for similar reasons, and that this is both lighter and (hopefully) less absorbent than wool, I’ll probably keep it around.

    The notion of having one garment to wear going up and going down is certainly appealing!

  12. Brett September 15th, 2015 10:42 pm

    Quit hijacking this thread with your Patagonia nano-air BS.

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