The Best Fleece Jacket for Women Review

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The Patagonia Better Sweater has a sweater-like exterior and a soft, fleecy interior.
Credit: Meg Benedik
We took our previous fleece review and updated it by testing seven more top-of-the-line fleeces. We tried out some of the industry's best technical fleece jackets and cuddled up in some of the fleeciest around-town pullovers the gear world has to offer. We wore these fleeces constantly and tested them while doing intense outdoor activities and while hanging out at our favorite coffee shops. Finally, we put them to head-to-head tests to measure warmth, water resistance, and breathability. Read on to learn how each of these fleeces measured up.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Fleece Jackets - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Patagonia R2 - Women's
Patagonia R2 - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's
Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's
Read the Review
Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's
Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Mammut Aconcagua Hoody - Women's
Mammut Aconcagua Hoody - Women's
Read the Review
Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's
Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards    Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $59 - $169
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Varies $85 - $179
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Varies $111 - $159
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Varies $92 - $100
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Varies $79 - $127
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Overall Score 
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1 rating
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Pros Lightweight, compressible, super breathable, cozy for a technical fleece.Offers wind and water protection, abrasion-resistant, lightweight, built-in hood w/balaclava, well-fitted.Super breathable, compressible, light, built-in hood w/ninja-like balaclava, thumb loops.Comfy thumb loops, hood, abrasion-resistant fabric, soft fleecy interior.Lightweight, breathable, scuba hood.
Cons No hood, no wind protection, short torso and short sleeves.Not as warm or breathable as other technical fleeces, balaclava doesn't zip as high as R1.Thumb loops too tight, torso not as long as men's R1 hoody.Sleeves quite long, heavy for a technical fleece, not super breathable.Not the warmest mid-layer.
Best Uses Backcountry skiing, cardio activities on cold days.Mid-layer for alpine climbing, skiing, or other winter pursuits, around town, as a light stand-alone jacket.Rock climbing, extra layer to toss in the pack, cardio on cool days.Rock climbing, hiking, less cardio-intensive outdoor activities.Best for use in high heart rate activities, such as running or hiking.
Date Reviewed Feb 20, 2013Feb 20, 2013Feb 13, 2013Feb 13, 2013Feb 20, 2013
Weighted Scores Patagonia R2 - Women's Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's Mammut Aconcagua Hoody - Women's Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's
Style - 5%
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7
10
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7
10
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5
10
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4
10
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7
Wind Protection - 5%
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2
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6
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4
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3
Water Resistance - 5%
10
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5
10
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6
10
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4
10
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4
10
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6
Breathability - 15%
10
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10
10
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9
10
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10
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7
10
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10
Comfort And Cozyness - 20%
10
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9
10
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8
10
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7
10
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8
10
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5
Warmth - 25%
10
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7
10
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6
10
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7
10
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7
10
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5
Layering Ability - 15%
10
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9
10
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10
10
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10
10
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8
10
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10
Ease Of Movement - 10%
10
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8
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10
10
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10
10
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9
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10
Product Specs Patagonia R2 - Women's Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's Mammut Aconcagua Hoody - Women's Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's
Style/Design Straighter cut, short sleeves and torso, stylish Athletic, stylish, well-fitted Minimalist, athletic, lightweight layering Athletic, long cut in sleeves and torso Lightweight layering, all mountain
Main Fabric Recycled Polyester, Regulator Insulation, Polartec Power Stretch Polartec Wind Pro w/Hardface Technology, Polartec Power Dry Polartec Power Dry Regulator Grid Polartec Power Stretch Polartec Corduroy fleece
Unique Features Super touchable fabric for a technical fleece Partial Deluge DWR finish Built-in balaclava, thumb loops Comfy thumb loops, cut low in back Built-in hood
Color Selection More than six colors Rubellite Pink, Curacao, Black Rossi Pink, Sky, Black Eight colors Coffee Bean, Morning Bud, Morel, Purpura
Weight 10.2 oz 10.1 oz 10.2 oz 13.1 oz 11 oz.
# of Pockets 3 (1 chest pocket) 3 (1 chest pocket) 3 (1 chest pocket) 2 hand pockets 3 (1 arm pocket)
Hood Option? No Yes Yes Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Marmot Flair Hoody
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Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover
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Patagonia R2 - Women's
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Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's
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Patagonia Better Sweater - Women's
$139
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Women's North Face Osito Jacket
$99
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North Face Khumbu - Women's
$80
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Mammut Aconcagua Hoody - Women's
$169
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Arc'teryx Covert Hoody - Women's
$199
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Comfort and Coziness

It's hard not to love a fleece that's super comfy and cozy. In fact, this is one of the main reasons that we would buy a fleece over a normal outerwear jacket. We reviewed a handful of ultra-plush fleeces perfect for lounging or just feeling snuggly, including the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman, the Marmot Flair Hoody, and the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover. These touchable jackets also earned some of our top ranks for warmth, but didn't score so well in breathability and other technical performance metrics. For this reason, we grouped many of the cozier fleeces into our around-town category, meaning that these fleeces are awesome for everyday use and light physical activity, but not the best choice for intense adventures. wo of the exceptions to this rule were the Patagonia R2 Jacket and the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Grid Jacket, which are a highly technical layer made of soft high-loft fabric.

When evaluating for comfort and coziness, we also considered each jacket's details, like whether the zippers scratched our skin and if the pockets were lined with fleece. We paid attention to how fit affected our comfort and recorded which fleeces had cozy thumb loops and hoods. Finally, on the jackets that stood out for their lack of coziness, like the North Face Windwall 1 - Women's and the Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip - Women's, we took note of the qualities made them less comfortable.

Warmth

We found that fleece warmth comes down to four things: fabric type, fabric thickness or loftiness, coverage, and the ability to seal in warmth. We reviewed fleeces made of Regulator insulation, Polartec Thermal Pro polyester, and Raschel fleece. While some fleeces were made entirely of one type of fleece, many combined different fleeces to maximize warmth and performance, for example our Editor's Choice winner, the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody, uses Polartec Wind Pro with Hardface Technology and Polartec Power Dry fabric. However, the fabric on this fleece is not very thick, which caused it to lose points on warmth. One of the warmest fleeces was the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Fleece, whose soft Phur is both lofty and thick.

We also tested a number of jackets and pullovers with hoods and several fleeces with thumb loops. We found that these features drastically increased the fleece's warmth. Both the Piton and the Patagonia R1 Hoody have snug hoods that zip up to form balaclavas. Although this feature will definitely make you look like a ninja, your head and face will stay super warm. We found that these features, which increased total coverage and really sealed in warmth, made these pieces more versatile for outdoor activities where the weather can suddenly shift.

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Although not everyone loves a jacket with a hood, we found that hoods made our fleeces more versatile by sealing in warmth and keeping our ears toasty. Here is the Mammut Aconcagua Hoody, which zips up to the chin.
Credit: Meg Benedik

Style and Fit

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A comparison of women's fleeces fit and style. From left to right: Piton Hybrid, R2, R1, Better Sweater, Re-Tool Snap-T, Flair, Aconcagua, Benton Springs
Credit: OutdoorGearLab

Many women wear fleeces as casual around-town jackets, so we polled our friends (both male and female) and asked them to weigh in on their favorite stylish pieces. We'll note here that we rated style *by fleece standards,* recognizing that fleeces are not the sexiest piece of clothing you'll ever wear. One of the classier fleeces that we reviewed was the Patagonia Better Sweater - Women's, which looks like a casual sweater on the outside and feels like a soft sweatshirt on the inside. This piece is sleek and could easily be worn to a casual office. The cuter fleeces, like the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover and the Marmot Flair Hoody, also won extra style points. And even though some fleeces like the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody have some techy elements, they also received fairly high style ratings because they were so flattering.

Many of the fleeces that we reviewed were "slim fitting," meaning that they are tailored at the waist and designed to flatter your body, rather than swallow it. While many of the fuzzier fleeces are still flattering, their fabric is bulkier and not quite as slimming as pieces made of thinner fabric. While we didn't rate the jackets based on their fit (since fit is different for everyone), there were significant differences in the way that some of the fleeces were cut, even within a single brand. The Patagonia R2's sleeves and torso are both over an inch shorter than the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody. The sleeves on the Mammut Aconcagua Hoody are the longest of all the fleeces; the shoulders on the Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip Jacket are the tightest; and the arms of the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket run quite tight. To compare the different fits, check out the composite image, which includes photos of each fleece on one model.

Breathability

For this review, we paid close attention to breathability, which is the ability of a fleece to wick away moisture and regulate body temperature. During cardio-intensive activities, a breathable fleece will keep you from getting swampy and overly hot as your activity ramps up. The Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody - Women's, the Patagonia R1 Hoody, and the Patagonia R2 all earned top points for breathability. The R1 pullover has a unique interior grid design that effectively wicks away moisture and a deep V-neck zipper that increases air flow. Like the R1, the R2 is made out of Regulator insulation, but the R2 has a short-sheared, high-loft fleece on its torso that miraculously lets you breathe while really trapping heat. We found that this phenomenon also applied to the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid Jacket, which was surprisingly breathable.

Many of the thicker, warmer jackets we reviewed, like the Monkey Woman, Denali, and Marmot Flair didn't breathe nearly as well, which kept them from being super versatile, technical jackets. Generally speaking, we also noticed that the fleeces that ranked higher in breathability were also the most compressible and packable layers, making them perfect for tossing into a pack on a chilly day.

Layering Ability and Ease of Movement

When gearing up for outdoor activities in cold weather, layering and ease of movement are key. If you're using a fleece for a technical winter activity, usually you'll be wearing it underneath a shell or, in really cold weather, underneath a down coat. So we tried on these fleeces under a tight-fitting soft shell, a down jacket, and a tucked into a climbing harness. Not surprisingly, the lightest and thinnest pieces that offer the best breathability made the best mid-layers. These included the Arc'teryx Caliber Hoody, the Patagonia R1 Hoody, and the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody.

These thin, light jackets also allowed us to move easily and none of their hoods restricted our vision. The Mammut Aconcagua was also one of the top-rated jackets for ease of movement since it is made of a super stretchy fabric. On the other hand, some of the stiffer, bulkier, around-town jackets like the Patagonia Better Sweater and the Women's North Face Osito Jacket scored much lower in our ease of movement category.

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We tested out how the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover, the Patagonia R1 Hoody, and the Patagonia R2 Jacket layered up at the Ouray Ice Festival.
Credit: Skiy Detray


Wind and Water Resistance

Most of the fleeces that we reviewed provided very little protection from the wind and rain. Although we often use our fleeces in conjunction with a shell, if you're looking for a do-it-all fleece we do have some recommendations for you. Both the North Face Windwall and the Mountain Hardwear Mistral - Women's are designed to cut the wind, keeping you significantly toastier on a blustery day. We also noticed that these fleeces repelled water the best.

The Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody, which is a unique blend of fleece and shell-like fabrics, also ranked well in both of these categories. A new addition to the Patagonia line, the Piton has a body-mapped design that features a Deluge DWR (durable water repellent) finish on the torso, shoulders, elbows, and top of the hood. These panels repel water, protect you from wind, and provide better abrasion-resistance. Additionally, the interior of these fabrics still feels soft and fleecy and the non-DWR panels allow the jacket to breathe more effectively. Although this jacket is not designed to keep you entirely dry in a heavy rain, it is more versatile in the elements than many of the other fleeces we reviewed. The Piton, Caliber, R2, and R1 will also dry quickly after a sudden shower.

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One of the few water-resistant fleeces we reviewed, the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody features a Deluge DWR finish that makes water bead up and roll off.
Credit: Amanda Fenn


The Bottom Line
Editor's Choice
Although the Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's and the Patagonia R2 - Women's tied for the top score in our review, we decided to name the Piton our Editor's Choice Award winner. If we had to buy just one jacket to do it all - from coffee shops to alpine summits - it would be the Patagonia Piton. While this jacket isn't quite as warm or cozy as other fleeces we reviewed, it does provide some wind and water protection (keeping you warmer when conditions are bad) and at 10 ounces it's the lightest jacket we tested. In addition to being super packable for mountain missions, the Piton also has a flattering, tailored fit that looks great around town. Its feminine lines and fabric combinations earned it extra points in our style metric.
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The hood on the Piton will keep you smiling, but we wish the balaclava zipped up over the nose like the R1's balaclava does.
Credit: Skiy Detray

Top Pick
The Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's came in just one point behind the Piton and R2, scoring well in warmth, breathability, layering, and ease of movement. The competition for the Top Pick was steep between the R1 and R2, but in the end we decided to highlight the R1 because it has an awesome hood and because the new R2 has an odd fit. The minimalist R1 Hoody doesn't have many stylish qualities or bells and whistles, but it you'll be psyched you have it from the moment you first take it outside. The hood on this fleece makes it far more versatile as a mid-layer. Add to that the fact that the hood zips into a balaclava that reaches up over the nose and you're in heaven. The interior grid fleece design breathes beautifully and the pullover features thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place (although, we must say these thumbies were a little too tight). The R1 will move with you, keep you warm, and regulate body temperature, even during heavy-duty cardio activities.
With its thumb loops and hood, the R1 kept us warm, while wicking away...
With its thumb loops and hood, the R1 kept us warm, while wicking away sweat on this steep uphill hike.
Credit: Skiy Detray

Best Buy
In this review we tested both top-of-the-line technical fleeces and amazingly cozy around-town fleeces. Many of the technical fleeces will run you upwards of $150, a price well worth paying if you need a high-performance piece. However, if you're looking for something cozy to curl up in at your favorite bookstore at a more affordable price, we highly recommend the Marmot Flair Hoody. At only $100, this cozy jacket made of plush Raschel fleece will keep you warm and comfy without breaking the bank. The Flair Hoody falls at the hip and has a flattering cut that won't hide your figure. We also loved the super soft interior of this fleece's hood, which felt ultra-cozy against our cheeks and ears.
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The Marmot Flair's mesh pockets help increase breathability in this thick, non-technical fleece.
Credit: Skiy Detray

Amanda Fenn
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