Lowe Alpine Flash JacketPosted By Mark on Jan 2 '08
|Cinch Cords:||Hem & Waist||Insulation:||None|
|Cuffs:||Velcro & Elastic||Pit Zips:||Yes|
|Napoleon Pocket:||No||Handwarmer Pockets:||2|
|Sleeve Pockets:||None||Zipper Type:||Storm Flaps|
|Chin Abrasion Guard:||Yes||MSRP:||$230|
Fabrics utilized: Triplepoint Ceramic
The Lowe Alpine Flash utilizes Triplepoint Ceramic, Lowe Alpine’s proprietary waterproof/breathable material. Lowe Alpine no longer uses this fabric, having switched to eVent, and now Gore-Tex, but it is a solid membrane, and the jacket itself is one of the most fully featured, complex jackets out there, even for a mountaineering shell. It’s not for lightweight jaunts through the park in spring drizzles, but it does what it was made for very well: extreme wet weather and cold protection, even up on the mountain.
The Flash has five pockets: two accessible from the interior, one on the left side, between the storm flap and zipper, and two, larger pockets accessible from the exterior. The first interior pocket is nothing to write home about: it’s actually a mesh water bottle holder, with a drawstring at the top. The second interior pocket is a security pocket, good for keeping valuables secure. The third pocket, which is situated between the main zipper and the left storm flap, might most accurately be called a map pocket. It’s about the size of the interior security pocket, and can be accessed without unzipping the shell. The two exterior pockets are very large; they’re about nine inches long, and the storm flaps extend for more than a foot, from the seam near the shoulders to the side of the jacket. Not only are they large pockets, but they can also function as core vents, in a pinch, aside from the main core vents, the pit zips.
The zipper pulls on the two exterior pockets, main front zipper, and pit zips all have good-length fabric, with a sturdy piece of plastic, at the end. The main front zipper has two pulls, so once you’re zipped up, you can open the zipper from the bottom, to increase maneuverability. It is a parka, after all, with a fairly long cut. The main zipper is not coated to make it “waterproof,” but it is equipped with dual, Velcro storm flaps, and even the second storm flap is stitched at certain points so as to make a sort of gutter, where in the unlikely event that rain does get in, it is channeled to the bottom of the jacket. Sweet.
The hood is a magnificent piece of engineering. The designers thought of everything. The hood is fully adjustable, from the rear to adjust volume, and from either side on the front, to cinch it down. It is rather large, but the idea is that you could wear a helmet underneath. Extending out from the front is a brim with a superb metal wire sewn in, allowing for nearly limitless adjustment of how the brim sits. When it stops raining, you can stow the hood under a flap of mesh and nylon that resides inside the jacket, and Velcro it to the base, at the collar. And in the interest of supreme waterproof integrity, Lowe Alpine even gave the Flash little “gutters” to put the front hood adjustment drawcords, to ensure that no water whatsoever gets in.
Because the Flash is a parka, it has adjustments at the waist and hem, with dual spring clasps for each of the two adjustment points.
The entire jacket is lined, with mesh at the for the sleeves, hood, and upper body, and smooth, soft nylon for the lower body; that is, from the waist adjusters to the hem.
The cuffs are a good combination of elastic and Velcro; the superb Velcro tab is made from a strong rubbery material, and are über-durable.
The jacket itself is made of Triplepoint Ceramic, but two different, shall we say, levels of strength. The main body, lower arms and hood are composed of the weaker fabric (known as TPC 1200) of the two. The seamless shoulders and upper arms are composed of the stronger fabric (known as TPC 1600), to increase durability and strength. The numbers don’t mean a lot, but they provide a basic standard: basically, the shoulder fabric is stronger.
The pit zips are quite remarkable. They extend from about halfway down the torso to about the elbow. That in itself is not particularly amazing, but the two-way zipper is guarded by not one, but two storm flaps, to ensure you won’t get wet. In addition, one of the storm flaps is equipped with two parts of Velcro, to make sure that when you open the pit zips, they’ll stay open, secured to the side with the Velcro. See pictures for better comprehension. The storm flap with extra Velcro also applies to the two large, exterior pockets.
This jacket was treated with an excellent DWR at the factory, and it could be the fabric itself (see fabric website), but it has been awesome in keeping precipitation from causing the fabric to “wet-out,” which means that the water has penetrated the DWR, reducing breathability noticeably.
There are three main issues I had with this jacket. The first is the problem of mating Velcro, anywhere on a jacket, with a mesh lining. If you’re not careful, the Velcro can get caught in the mesh, and proceed to slowly deteriorate it. The Velcro ensures that there are secure storm flaps, equaling an easier-to-use zipper, but Lowe Alpine could’ve used metal snaps. The second issue, one that is always going to be a point of contention for longer jackets, is the second, bottom zipper pull on the main front zipper. In order to zip it up, both of the pulls have to be interlocking securely at the bottom, before the zipper can be started. It can be a little difficult at times, but it’s better than some others I’ve tried. Finally, the pit zips have dual storm flaps, which is great for keeping out the rain or snow, but what if you actually want to use them? It can be annoying to have to go through two layers of Velcroed flaps just to open the core vents. But I generally use the jacket in colder weather, so it’s not a huge deal.
On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a long-sleeved T-shirt, and 10 an expedition-quality mountaineering suit, I’d rate the Flash a 4. It’s not exactly lightweight, and the mesh lining and parka cut definitely aid in thermal retention.
Absolutely. The Flash is equipped with seamless shoulders, full seam taping, a gutter on the main flap, and dual storm flaps throughout. Precipitation will not get in.
If you seek a lightweight rain shell for staying dry in warm, wet weather, you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for something you can count on to give you features, features, and more features, and to keep you dry in really nasty, cold wet weather, look no further. The Lowe Alpine Flash is superb. Aside from the minor quibbles, like difficult-to-access pit zips, and mesh-catchy Velcro, the Flash is an extremely well-thought-out parka, and is durable enough to last a long time. Highly recommended.
The Verdict: 9/10