Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $13 - $30 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros: Nice price, good thickness, cozy fabric feel, simple construction.
Cons: Poor seam quality, weird sewn-through label patch, loose threads, no zipper guard, Made in China.
Best Uses: Low to moderate exertion in cool weather.
The price point offering in this review comes from Columbia, a company more known for their budget garments than flashy adventures in far away places. The Columbia Steens Mountain Full Zip provides sufficient warmth for weekend activities, surprising comfort and a simply constructed design. This Columbia fleece is enough for most folks who aren't thrashing their gear super hard.
This one is warmer than the Patagonia R3 Hi-Loft - Men's or Arc'Teryx Caliber Cardigan - Men's. But heavier, less fashionable, less functional and less durable. The Khumbu is about twice as much (but still only $80) and a much better all-around jacket. For windier climates, grab the Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Tech Jacket - Men's, pony up the extra bucks and give away some warmth and coziness. If you're headed out for a serious expedition and need a heavier weight fleece, North Face Denali Jacket - Men's is a more rugged option that's going to hit your wallet harder, weigh more, take up more space and last longer.
View our complete Men's Fleece Jacket Review to see how this product compared to others.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is the least expensive fleece in our review but it still has thick enough fabric to be decently warm. The fabric feels comfy and cozy to the touch, just like more expensive models. One upside of a low-budget fleece is they didn't waste a bunch of time and materials on sewing the thing off a wetsuit pattern with seams running every which way.
Sometimes "you get what you pay for" is a true cliché. Overall, the fit and finish were lacking on Columbia's offering. Poor seam quality and alignment, loose threads and a strange-looking fabric backer on the label give an overall impression of cut corners and low wages. Not surprising given the Made in China label, although some other fleeces with the same label have very high construction quality. No zipper guard means a cold chin and some preventable wind penetration.
Ready for a burn on the Generator Crack in Yosemite? Hoping to do some high-quality groveling in the Cascades, bushwhacking for days? Need a work fleece that might get thrashed?
It's hard to admit, but this one went to work with me. We're supposed to give these all back after the review and in pristine condition. But time was short, my Carhartt jacket was in the wash and we had a big oak removal job on a windy hilltop. So I snuck it out for a day, figuring that if I accidentally fed it into the chipper I could afford another and nobody would be the wiser. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it did. In the morning it was still and cold and I overheated as soon as I started dragging brush. In spite of the chintzy-looking seams and whatnot it didn't snag and tear. It kept the wind off at lunch when it got shady and nobody pointed and laughed when we grabbed pizza on the way home.
A worthwhile buy if it's all you can afford and need to get outside and play. May last a long time if cared for well.
Columbia Fast Trek Full Zip Fleece
— Kevin Swift
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 9, 2011
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