Flylow is a relatively new ski outerwear brand founded in Colorado with the goal of creating “Freeride apparel for the modern skier” by combining the performance of technical mountaineering clothing with modern freeride features and fit. This was exactly what I was looking for when shopping for outerwear in autumn 2012 and was stuggling to find from more established brands at an affordable price. I had spoken to one of Flylow’s founders at the ISPO trade show the previous winter so got hold of him directly for a few questions about options and sizing (very helpful) and settled on their two hardshell pieces, the Quantum jacket and Stash pant (2012/2013 models being reviewed). I’ve now had about 120 days in the jacket and 140 in the pants, plenty time for a long-term review.
- Proprietary 3-layer nylon dobby fabric (20k/20K rating) with fully taped seams
- 15″ underarm vents
- Removeable power skirt
- 7 pockets (2 hip, 2 chest, one inner chest, two large inner hip)
- Proprietary 3-layer nylon dobby fabric (10k/10K rating) with fully taped seams
- 16″ outer and 9″ inner leg vents
- Adjustable waist tabs
- 6 pockets (2 hip, 2 rear, 2 cargo)
I’m 6ft4 but a skinny 80kg with a 33″ waist. I like a baggier fit and need the length so went for XL in both the jacket and pants. The jacket’s body length, sleeve length and shoulder width are just right for me but there’s too much space at the chest and belly especially when wearing a backpack but I’d rather have too much fabric there than not enough length so I’m OK with that. The pants are a little too big for me at the waist but the velcro adjusters work well and I added an elastic belt to get the best fit and don’t notice it at all. Otherwise these are the best fitting pants I’ve ever had; loose through the thigh and lower leg but not too wide and the length is just right to fit over my ski boots without hitting the ground/bindings.
The 2013/2014 Quantum jacket is meant to be a little slimmer in the torso than the 2012/2013 version and tall lengths are now also available in the Stash pant.
The Quantum jacket is rated at 20K/20K and Stash pant at 10K/10K, but I’ve had good performance from some 5K pieces in the past and bad performance from some 20-30K so I don’t pay much attention to ratings. The overall quality/durability and features are my main concerns and the quality of the fabric’s DWR waterproof coating plays a big factor in the overall performance.
Both items performed perfectly to start with, never showing any sign of letting water in even on some very wet and heavy storm days in the trees, and water would bead up on the fabric’s surface perfectly. After about 75 days I noticed a sharp drop in the fabric’s performance on wet days as the DWR seemed to lose its effectiveness and the face fabric saturated completely quite easily (especially on the jacket’s shoulders and bottom hem and on the pants’ crotch and cuffs) and although the only place where water actually leaked through was the inner leg vents, everything would just feel pretty soggy. Before the following winter started I gave both garments a wash and reproof with the usual Nikwax products which got the performance was back to how it should be but only for about 25 days when I noticed the face fabric getting wet on some days again. I’ll reproof both items again soon which should get me through to the end of this winter but it always seems that once an item’s factory DWR is done it’ll never get back to its original performance.
The breathability of the jacket and pants are both as good as I’ve had from any 3 layer shell, but really the vents will always be the best way for a hardshell to breathe on warm days. Very large pit zips on the jacket do an excellent job and the pants’ are even better, with outer vents from the hip to knee and inner ones at the knees to get a good cross-breeze going. All vents are free of any mesh backing which I like so they can open up wide and do their job; just watch out for one sunburt leg from long spring bootpacks!
I’m never too concerned about having a powder skirt on my jackets but I’ll use it if it’s there. The Quantum’s is a little loose on me but still works, plus it’s removeable and can attach to the pants’ waist loops.
Pockets on both items are excellent. In addition to standard small hip, chest and inner chest pockets on the jacket there are two very large inner hip pockets that can hold a skin in each (not comfortable while bootpacking, so not useful for how I tour) or can fit gloves and goggles easily while not being bulky when empty.
Both items use a tough 3-layer fabric; not too lightweight but built to last. I’m not too careful about looking after my clothes and never try too hard to avoid small tree branches, and everything has held up well with just a few small bits of loose stitching at the bottom hems of both items which were easy fixes.
The only slight issue with the jacket is that the bottom of the zip has started opening on its own sometimes (heavy crash/etc), otherwise all good.
Unfortunately the fabric of the pants started to deteriorate after around 100 days, going slightly fuzzy on the crotch, at the front of the thighs and at the the cuffs. Combined with the saturation of the face fabric this often means a lot of snow sticking to these areas on wetter days. Flylow currently lists the 2013/2014 version of the Stash pant as using a ripstop fabric, so this is potentially no longer an issue.
The cuffs of the pants are reinforced with the toughest fabric I’ve ever had (Cordura) – just 6 small cuts from ski edges is very good for 140+ days’ use. However, the panel doesn’t seem to be attached to the pant cuff very well as I tore the right one off 6″ and the other almost completely on separate days while using crampons. Again, an easy fix (Evo Stik Serious Glue, better than Seam Grip) and if I used crampons more often I would get pants with a slimmer cuff.
I’m still pretty happy with these Flylow products despite being let down a little by their long-term performance in wet conditions. At $380/€380 for the Quantum jacket and $260/€260 for the Stash pant they represent an affordable alternative to Gore-Tex Pro Shell garments by the likes of Arc’teryx, Noronna, Haglofs, etc and if used just for a few weeks per winter they will perform well for years.
Flylow has a full range of jackets & pants in hardshell, softshell and insulated varieties so have a look at flylowgear.com or their European shop at eur.flylowgear.com. Check out their gloves too:
Leather work gloves can be seen on the hands of a lot of most guides, ski patrollers and lift staff around here as they’re cheap and tough. Flylow offers the half leather/half fabric Tough Guy glove and the all-leather Ridge glove which I went for. Only S/M/L were available in 2012 so I went for L (I’m normally an XL); the length is a little short on me as expected but they’re pretty wide, not a big deal though.
The leather is pig skin (very, very tough) with a light synthetic pile lining which is warm enough for me all winter combined midweight merino liners. Flylow bakes the gloves multiple times with Sno-Seal waterproofing which does an OK job but I mostly wear these on drier days when this isn’t as important and have reproofed them with a Nikwax product once. They breathe well and best of all they’re only $40/€40 so no need to try to look after them too much when handling ropes or climbing rock, but after about 70 days’ use they show very little wear anyway. A great product, check them out.