The clocks have gone back and the rainy season has arrived so if you're after a waterproof hi-viz jacket then dhb's Flashlight Compact XT fits the bill. dhb is online store Wiggle's in house brand and over the years it's focused on value for money, quality garments for racers and recreational riders alike. The Flashlight range itself is designed for winter training rides and year round commuting. That's pretty much where my season is right now so let's see what it has to deliver.
For its £69.99 asking price there are a fair amount of technical details going on with this jacket. It's a 2.5 layer waterproof, which means it has an outer layer coated with some form of water repellencey followed by a breathable membrane. The membrane has thousands of tiny holes which are too small for water droplets to get through but allow sweat to escape as vapour.
The two main questions, then, are is it waterproof and is it breathable.
Is it waterproof?
Yes is the short answer. The Flashlight is rated at 10,000mm, the height of a water column needed to force water through the fabric. That means it should keep out moderate rain and road spray before getting overwhelmed and this is exactly how the Flashlight performed. On wet days where it is just that constant rain or drizzle it'll keep the water at bay for a good couple of hours. If things turn heavier, like a thunderstorm with torrential rain for instance, it will start to let the wet in after twenty minutes or so which is to be expected for this rating level. The seams are all taped and the YKK zips have covers behind them termed Aquaguard, all these little things help.
What about the breathability?
This is where the Flashlight XT lets itself down; it doesn't have any form of venting at the front. The majority of waterproof jackets have pit zips or holes under the arms to allow a through flow of cooling air from the front to remove warm air via the back. Without this the heat just builds up causing you to sweat more and you end up wetter on the inside than you do on the outside.
To put this in perspective, I did a 12°C, hour long ride at a decent but not flat out pace wearing the jacket and only a mesh summer baselayer. It was absolutely soaked. Wear anything thicker, like a merino base, and it gets overwhelmed in minutes leaving you cold once you stop moving.
It's described as a commuter cut so it's roomier than a full on tailored race jacket. The shape is good though, with decent length arms even when stretched out on the hoods. The tail is dropped a little too, though a little shorter than most.
The XT gets a few upgrades from the standard Flashlight with Velcro cuffs and an adjustable hem which let you tweak the fit a bit. You get two pockets on the chest which are ideal for keys and a mobile plus an extra deeper one at the rear.
The two main highlights of the Flashlight XT are the amount of reflective on display and how small it packs away.
Starting with the reflectives you'll find loads on the arms and the side of your torso. The majority of cycling accidents occur at junctions so plenty of distinctive patterns here are welcome. You also get some on the front and rear of the jacket. We've got the fluoro yellow here which is ideal if you ride in light and dark conditions. If you don't want to go down the day-glo route, Wiggle do blue and charcoal versions with the same amount of reflectives.
The Flashlight will easily fold down to fit in a jersey pocket which makes it a very good option for changeable weather especially considering its breathability issues.
Overall the Compact Flashlight XT is a decent waterproof that is really let down by poor breathability; it is just going to be too hot in pretty much all conditions unless you ride at a very sedate pace.
As far as the price goes I think it's asking too much especially when you take a look at the B'Twin jacket we reviewed recently for less than a third of the cost.
It is good quality, though, as we've come to expect from dhb and it should last plenty of seasons so you would get your money back in the long run.
Well-made and waterproof but lack of breathability is a real issue
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Flashlight Compact-XT Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Medium - Fluo
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Wiggle claim htat the Flashlight Compact XT is for year round commuting and winter training rides. I think it makes a good jacket for sedate commuting but is nowhere near breathable enough for fast paced training rides. It's best used as an emergency wet weather jacket.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*2.5 layer Jacket that provides full rain protection
*3M™ Scotchlite™ reflective prints and logos
*Fully seam taped
*Two storage pockets at the chest and lower back with YKK Aquaguard® zippers
*Velcro adjustable cuffs
*Adjustable hem with dropped tail
*Fleece lined collar for comfortable, abrasion free neck coverage
*Packable, will pack into a jersey back pocket or rucksack pocket.
*Full length YKK zip with chin guard
*Teflon™ water repellent finish on outer fabric face
*Waterproof rating of 10,000mm
Well put together with a good finish.
Good waterproofing with regards to its rating but seriously struggles with breathability
Material feels hardwearing.
315g is pretty good for a waterproof.
Comfortable to wear unless you've riding hard, sweat turns cold quickly inside.
The price seems expensive for the overall quality, technicality and performance of the jacket.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good in the wet but poor breathability is a big problem. I'd rather get wet from the rain than my own sweat.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The high visibility patterns stand out well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
As an emergency rainproof to fit in your jersey pocket the Flashlight does a good job although I needed to keep it undone to keep cool. The majority of waterproofs struggle with breathability by the nature of their design but it is really poor here and makes the jacket unpleasant to wear if you ride at a hard pace. It doesn't really excel in anything enough to justify the price tag.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.