Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great hood design, handwarmer pockets, water resistant
Cons: Not as warm as other jackets, not as breathable as jackets with gridded fleece
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody has a full-length plastic tooth zipper and is constructed with flatlock seams that lie flat for added comfort. It features one zippered chest pocket and two zippered handwarmer pockets, and the scuba-style hood hugs the head to trap in the heat. The hood also has an integrated neck gaiter, which lies at the back of the hood when not in use. It's made with Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology (88% polyester, 12% elastane), which has a great blend of properties that are relatively warm but also are quite weather-resistant for when the conditions don't want to cooperate.
This fleece is thin, relatively lightweight, and lacks the lofty fur-like characteristics of its warmer more-breathable counterparts. If you're going to wear the Fortrez in super cold climates, it will need to be paired with a thicker insulating layer. Fortunately, the sleek cut and the smooth "hard-faced" fabric makes for fairly easy layering underneath most rain or wind shells.
The neck gaiter/balaclava feature is nice when the wind picks up, and you want the extra protection from the elements. Our lead tester, who initially scoffed at what appeared to be a gimmicky feature, used it constantly on cold mornings while backpacking. The thin material sits comfortably under your neck, and can easily be pulled up over the face, even with a helmet, gloves, and multiple layers on. It's much easier to use than the traditional zip-up face mask on other lightweight fleeces in our review.
The Polartech Power Stretch fleece material is full of tiny, fuzzy hairs that felt great against our skin. The cut is long enough to accommodate wearing a harness without riding up, but the handwarmer pockets can get caught or bunched under the harness or a waist belt if the fit isn't just right, rendering them uncomfortable and inaccessible. On occasion, the metal zipper pull would be painful under our backpack waist belt, which docked it some comfort points.
The hood moves with your head well and is low profile enough to fit pretty well under a ski or climbing helmet, but the stiffer fabric made for a bulkier fit than some of the lighter weight options with grid-based fleece.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody has a tough time breathing well due to the hard-faced exterior fabric. We found under normal conditions, as soon as we started working hard, we needed to unzip or take the jacket off completely.
On super cold days, however, the lack of breathability (i.e., wind resistance) meant we were able to use this as a stand-alone piece that managed our temperature reasonably well. If you are looking for a breathable, lightweight fleece for layering, there are better options, but the Fortrez is an excellent fleece that has a place in any fleece quiver.
This fleece's trim cut and smooth fabric exterior help it to slide easily under a puffy or a shell. Though it doesn't have thumb loops, the snug sleeves and cuffs stay in place well without bunching up or feeling too tight. It doesn't layer as well as fleeces without handwarmer pockets, but the low-profile zippers and micro cord zipper pulls help make it a decent layering piece.
While the outside has a smooth face fabric conducive to layering, the interior fabric conversely has tiny hairs that do not like to slide smoothly over other materials and, therefore, not ideal for layering over anything other than a lightweight base layer or t-shirt.
This jacket shines in the weather resistance metric. In our rain tests, mist and light rain beaded up on the outside of the jacket exceptionally well, where we could easily shake it off, leading to much faster drying times. If this fleece sees more than a brief misting, however, water will make its way right in.
The Fortrez was one of the most wind-resistant fleece jackets in our lineup due to the Powerstretch fabric with its hard face exterior. We used this on long cold backpacking trips and windy days at the crag, and this protected our testers against light winds better than most. If the temp drops or the winds get too gusty, you are going to be reaching for a wind layer, but for mildly breezy conditions, this was one of the best performing jackets we tested.
Being a more weather resistant type of fleece, the Fortrez Hoody is slightly heavier than many of the other lightweight options. The full-length zipper and handwarmer pockets make it bulky, but if pockets are your thing, you'll hardly notice the extra weight. We found that we enjoyed this for an all-around cool weather fleece, but for the weight, others have a better performance ratio.
The quality workmanship we've come to expect from Arc'teryx comes at a higher price. If this fleece has the features you are looking for in a jacket, then this jacket may hold a high value to you, but we found the price a bit high, especially considering what else you can get for that amount of dough. Don't get us wrong, Arc'teryx jackets have a certain level of attention-to-detail unmatched by other brands, but we feel there are better options for the price.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody makes a great versatile jacket for cool days in dry climates like the Sierra and the Utah desert. The neck gaiter is extremely useful. We never noticed it when it was tucked away, but as soon as the wind picked up or the temps dropped, that thing came out and was much appreciated. Though not a standout piece for layering or breathability, this model is a solid choice for the discerning climber or skier looking for a weather-resistant jacket.
— Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento