Here is my field report. Thank you for taking the time to edit these!
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9 Jul 2013
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've used the flow jacket on three backpacking trips and a few day hikes and camping trips, totaling 13 days and more than 30 miles of backpacking.
Apr 17: Old Caves Crater, Arizona. I did a few day hikes around the cinder hills, each about 3 mi (16 km) long. The elevation change was 1,400 ft (427 m). The wind was very strong, gusting at times to 40 MPH (64 km/h), with temperatures around 40*F (4*C).
May 17-18: Walker Lake, north of Kachina Peaks. Elevation was 8,000 ft (2,438 m) with overnight temperatures in the 50s*F (10*C). I did about two miles (3 km) of day hiking.
Jun 4-8: Whitehorse Lake and Camp Raymond Boy Scout Reserve. I spent a week out with my family doing some car camping for various summer camp events. Conditions were dry and hot with temperatures in the lower 90s*F (30s*C). I completed a 2 mi (3 km) day hike and accumulated about 5 mi (8 km) of hiking on various events.
Jun 14-15: Oak Grove Trail, Southern Utah. I went on a backpacking trip with my nephews and mom in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness in the Dixie National Forest up the Oak Grove Trail. Elevation was around 8,000 ft (2,440 m) and the temperatures ranged from 90s*F (30s*C) to 50*F (10*C). This was a short 4 mi (6.5 km) trip.
Jun 21-22: Sycamore Rim Trail. I completed a 12.4 mi (20 km) backpacking trip with the troop. Elevation change was 1,400 ft (427 m). The daytime temperatures remained a mild 85*F (30*C), but overnight it dropped to a chilly 35*F (2*C).
Jul 2-3: Mount Timpanogos, Utah. I completed a 14 mi (22.5 km) backpacking trip with my son and nephew up and down the mountain. Elevation gain was 4,389 ft (1,338 m) up, and 4,900 ft (1,494 m) down. During the day it was a cool 85*F (30*C), and overnight it maintained a comfortable 50*F (10*C) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Appearance - The jacket has maintained a pristine look, in spite of some rugged use. While on the appropriately-named Oak Grove Trail, we had to wade through chest-high brambles of oak and other scrub plants that grabbed and pulled at the jacket. I feared a few times that I had snagged or ripped the jacket, but thankfully it has held up fine. The zippers have performed well, although I remain cautious. I've only snagged the main front zipper twice, but I easily unjammed it.
Weather Resistance - I've only been in a light sprinkle with the jacket and it has been fine. Where the Flow really performs is in the wind, where I hardly notice the gusts when I'm moving. However, when I'm stationary, I can feel heat loss on my arms and sides where the jacket lacks insulation.
Comfort/Warmth - As the temperatures have warmed, I've only been able to tolerate the jacket in the early morning and late evening. I find that this jacket works best between 40 and 50*F (5 to 10*C), otherwise I get too hot. The jacket is comfortable to my skin and it feels great to wear, but its temperature comfort range leaves me wanting more. For me, it has a small window of optimal use. It's not warm enough for me while hanging at camp when temperatures are below 45*F (7*C) and I find I need additional insulation.
The neck remains a problem for me. When fully zipped, the jacket is tight against my neck and it bothers me over time.
When I'm hiking, the front chest vents haven't really done much for me. In order to properly vent, I need to remove the jacket. On the Sycamore Rim, I wore the jacket in the morning to stay warm (my only insulation layer) and after 30 minutes of hiking, I was sweating and had to remove the jacket.
Weight/Packing - Where I'm really disappointed with this jacket is its weight and bulk. In combination with the warmth range, the heavier weight and bulk compared with down jackets makes it hard to recommend this jacket when I'm backpacking. In fact, in order to use this for "evening wear," I need to bring along an extra insulation layer so I feel comfortable at night or the cool mornings. On the Sycamore Rim Trail, I was absolutely freezing in the morning with the jacket and I had to move around a lot to get warmed up. I wasn't expecting the big dip in temperature, and all I brought was the Flow. Had I brought a down jacket, it wouldn't have been a problem.
Ironically, when I backpacked up Timp, I brought both the Flow and a down jacket, playing it safe as I expected cool temps at elevation. I never had to use the down jacket, and the warmer temps were just perfect for the Flow. However, the Flow took up much more room than the down jacket in my pack and weighs nearly twice as much.
The synthetic insulation in the Flow doesn't compress as much as down-filled, as expected, so this jacket takes up more room in my pack for less insulating ability.
FIELD USE SUMMARY
I've really had a difficult time finding a "sweet spot" where I would use this jacket backpacking. I believe in layering, but as a mid-layer, it doesn't have enough insulation, or insulating power, to justify the added weight and bulk that could be achieved with other options, such as a down jacket and a wind shell. Even a fleece or merino wool mid-layer would be more modular with other layers than the Flow in my opinion.
That said, the Flow works well at staying warm (possibly too hot) while moving about in moderate effort.
PRO--Great wear, good fit, and look.
CON--Heavy and bulky compared with down jackets and not as warm. Not great for warmth with low activity, such as around camp in the evening.