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Hands-on Gear Review

Marmot Reactor Review


Fleece Jacket

Marmot Reactor
Best Buy Award
Price:   Varies from $70 - $95 online  —  Compare at 5 sellers
Pros:  Lightweight, easy to layer, breathable, drawstring hem.
Cons:  Not very warm, no hood.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Marmot

Overview

With the price of technical fleece jackets soaring (some models in this review cost $200!), some people might be left out in the cold, so to speak, if they can't or won't shell out that much money. This is why we always include some lower priced models in our testing to see how they compare to the heavy hitters. Hopefully we find something that performs almost as well for a fraction of the price. In the case of our fleece jacket review, the Marmot Reactor decidedly earned our Best Buy award. This lightweight jacket surprised our testers with how warm and comfortable it was. The thin fleece material also allowed the jacket to breathe well and dry quickly when wet. It's doesn't have a hood or many bells and whistles, like our Editors' Choice winner, the Patagonia R3 Hoody, but for half the price it's a great deal for a high-performing fleece.

RELATED: Our complete review of fleece jackets - men's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Kenny Barker
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 15, 2016
The Marmot Reactor is made of Polartec Classic 100, which is 100 percent polyester microfleece. The flat lock stitching adds comfort and dexterity. It features a regular fit that works for different body types, and has two zippered hand warmer pockets along with a zippered left arm pocket. The elastic drawcord hem is a great feature that allows the wearer to adjust the amount of airflow and temperature quite easily. The flap behind the zipper blocks out the wind and also attaches to a chin guard for added comfort. Current color options: Black, Cinder, Denim, Surf (shown in main photo above), Alpine Green, and Dark Crimson.

Performance Comparison


Out in the alpine during another freezing cold climbing day. This affordable and lightweight jacket did a great job of keeping us at the perfect temperature while we were on the move.
Out in the alpine during another freezing cold climbing day. This affordable and lightweight jacket did a great job of keeping us at the perfect temperature while we were on the move.

Warmth


Even though it was the lightest jacket we tested this year, the Marmot Reactor kept us quite warm. We used it as an outer layer on crisp fall days, and it even kept us warm during a short hike through the snow in the mountains, although a longer hike would have required another layer. This jacket works even better when used as a mid-layer during cold winter months or high up in an alpine environment. While it's not the warmest fleece we tested, we don't think you'll find anything much warmer with the same weight and thickness. It's an excellent option for stashing in your pack on days when you're not sure you'll need an extra layer, but would appreciate having one if the weather turned on you.

Weather in the mountains can change in an instant. A warm morning back at camp can turn into a frigid afternoon on the summit of a peak, and when your day hike gets extended into night due to an injury or wrong turn, having an extra layer with you can make a huge difference. A lightweight fleece like this one doesn't take up much room or add much weight to your pack, but is nice to have along for many scenarios.

This jacket is made with a basic 100 weight fleece pile. While not as warm as a heavier fleece  it did keep us surprisingly toasty given how thin it is.
This jacket is made with a basic 100 weight fleece pile. While not as warm as a heavier fleece, it did keep us surprisingly toasty given how thin it is.

Comfort


This fleece jacket has an athletic fit, but was roomy enough for our testers with broad shoulders; they didn't experience any tightness or pulling across the back. The Polartec Classic 100 microfleece material is soft and light, and felt cozy on our skin. This caught our attention and was one reason why we'd reach for this fleece over The North Face Khumbu 2 Jacket most of the time. The collar gently wraps around the neck and creates a warm, comfortable layer that helps keep the elements at bay. There are, however, a few downsides that we noticed. While wearing it throughout day to day activities, we had to keep adjusting the sleeves so that the seam did not rub over the elbow. Due to the flat lock construction of the seams this was not uncomfortable more just a little annoying at times. The zipper would also bunch on the lower half of the jacket when sitting, which again was not too uncomfortable but a tad annoying. Other than these few things, we loved the comfort of this jacket.

This jacket was comfortable for every outdoor activity we used it for  and it looks pretty good on too.
This jacket was comfortable for every outdoor activity we used it for, and it looks pretty good on too.

Breathability


Due to the thin construction of the Marmot Reactor it was quite breathable. During the many activities we used this fleece jacket for, we found that it did not restrict the movement of moisture and allowed it to quickly evaporate. Our testers wore this jacket during many different hikes with temperatures ranging from below freezing to around 50 degrees F. When cooler air enters the jacket it is quickly equalized to a comfortable temperature. This is also helpful when the wearer becomes too warm and the fleece expels some of that extra heat.

The elastic hem drawstring is a great accessory for keeping the chilly breeze at bay. It can also be fully loosened when the chilly breeze is welcomed.
The elastic hem drawstring is a great accessory for keeping the chilly breeze at bay. It can also be fully loosened when the chilly breeze is welcomed.

Layering Ability


When it is just a little too cold, windy or rainy to use this fleece as a stand alone jacket, it did well as a mid-layer. As with most mid-layers that lack thumb holes, there was a little bit of bunching at times in the sleeves. Once layered, its lightweight comfort was quickly noticed and appreciated. Even though the Patagonia R1 Hoody is superior when it comes to its layering ability, the Marmot Reactor still does a great job and is a more economical option.

Ease of Movement


This fleece jacket feels more like a sweatshirt than a tight baselayer or fitted jacket. It casually adjusts with every movement of the body, and while out hiking and climbing the jacket was barely noticeable other than the times the zipper would occasionally bunch. It also did well hiding our testers' lower backs when stretching after a long bouldering session.

This jacket was a welcomed layer while out late night bouldering with the lights of Las Vegas illuminating the sky. This jacket felt like a comfy sweater in the chilly desert air.
This jacket was a welcomed layer while out late night bouldering with the lights of Las Vegas illuminating the sky. This jacket felt like a comfy sweater in the chilly desert air.

Wind Protection & Water Resistance


Since this fleece is such a thin lightweight jacket, it definitely lacks in the wind and water resistance category. In a light mist it does keep the water out for a short period of time. The same for a light breeze, but in heavy winds it is best to layer this with a wind stopper like the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody or Patagonia Houdini to keep bone chilling wind at bay. Once the fleece is wet, the drying time is much quicker than with most of the thicker fleeces we tested, such as the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man 200.

This thin lightweight fleece gets saturated with even the smallest amount of water. Because it is so thin it dries quickly and still kept our testers warm during the drying time.
This thin lightweight fleece gets saturated with even the smallest amount of water. Because it is so thin it dries quickly and still kept our testers warm during the drying time.

Weight


One of the reasons the Marmot Reactor has won our Best Buy award is because it is so warm and comfortable for such a light fleece. While it's not nearly as warm as The North Face Denali Jacket, at 12.7 ounces it is half the weight. There aren't a lot of extras on this model adding unwanted weight, which makes it perfect for someone looking to buy a bare minimum kind of fleece.

There aren't a lot of extras on this model  but that helps keep the weight down. It does have zippered hand warmer pockets  which do a good job of keeping your fingers warm and also help regulate your body temperature.
There aren't a lot of extras on this model, but that helps keep the weight down. It does have zippered hand warmer pockets, which do a good job of keeping your fingers warm and also help regulate your body temperature.

Best Applications


This fleece jacket offers a number of different uses. It works well as a lightweight stand alone jacket for any spring and fall activity. It is also a great layering piece when it becomes cold and/or windy. We found the lightweight nature of the jacket was great on long hikes and for packing into backpacks.

Here is a close-up of the left arm pocket. This pocket is great for stashing a key for a chilly run  or a phone or iPod for musical purposes. There's even a slot on the inside for your headphone cord to run up your arm.
Here is a close-up of the left arm pocket. This pocket is great for stashing a key for a chilly run, or a phone or iPod for musical purposes. There's even a slot on the inside for your headphone cord to run up your arm.

Value


There is a reason why this fleece won our Best Buy Award this year. If you are looking for a great product at a low price look no further. This bare bones jacket works amazingly well as a mid-layer, especially since it is quite inexpensive compared to some other models. The $95 dollar price tag is not much for what you get for such a versatile fleece. It may not be the best product of its kind, but it is the best we tested for the price.

Conclusion


Our Best Buy Award winning Marmot Reactor is the lightest, best bang for your buck fleece jacket we tested this year. The lightweight breathable material may not keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures, but it is a nice layer under a warmer shell. Its streamlined structure is comfortable and great for many different outdoor activities. Grabbing this jacket for around town chores is another great way to utilize its versatility. If you are in the market for an economically priced, all-around jacket, then this fleece is the way to go.

Other Versions


Reactor Vest
  • $75
  • 9.4 ounces
  • 2 hand warmer pockets and one chest pocket
Kenny Barker

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 15, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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Helpful Buying Tips
Which one will fit you and your needs best? We tested eight different models to help you find the best one.
 How To Choose The Best Fleece Jacket

by Kenny Barker & Eric Schnepel


Unbiased.