The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody is a thoughtfully designed, super comfy technical fleece with a unique balaclava feature and slim, climber-centric fit. The wind resistance offered by the "hard face" fabric was helpful on gusty belays and windy summit hikes, and we loved the water-resistance as well. No fleece will take the place of a rain shell, but light rain will bead up on the surface of this one. This midweight fleece is ideal for cool weather or heavy activity in colder temps.
Looking to Ditch the Hood?
Arc'teryx also makes this award-winning fleece without the hood. Check out the Fortrez Jacket if you're looking to cut down on bulk in your layering system.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Full Zip Hoody is a midweight and semi weather-resistant fleece built for adventuring in the mountains. This fleece was one of the better options for those looking for a stand-alone piece that offers a decent blend of warmth, wind protection, and adequate breathability. Our testers, however, were endlessly frustrated with the main zipper that would frequently get stuck on the fabric chin protector when trying to zip up the last few inches of the fleece. With unique features like a built-in balaclava and gusseted arms that keep your overhead movements from being restricted, the design team at Ar'teryx created a fleece to keep up with the demanding needs of climbers and skiers.
The Fortrez Hoody is one of the warmest fleeces we tested. It incorporates "hard faced technology," which is referring to the outermost layer of fabric. This layer of fleece was designed to be more abrasion and wind-resistant. Due to this finish, the outermost layer is less permeable, inherently making it a better insulator.
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. While on the warmer side of performance fleece, this jacket is still fairly lightweight and will need to be combined with additional layers when it gets anywhere close to freezing, and your movement is minimal.
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. This docked it 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 could use this as a stand-alone piece that managed our temperature fairly 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 a much faster drying time. 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 temps drop or the winds get too gusty, you are going to be reaching for your wind layer a wind layer, but for mildly breezy conditions, no other fleece performed as well.
Tipping the scales at 17 ounces, the Fortrez Hoody is heavier than many 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 Fortrez has a slim cut and a techy look that works well in mountain towns, but elsewhere could come off as a little too much. However, we found it more versatile in the style metric than the classic R1 Hoody with its patchwork appearance of having two colors and fabric weights. This fleece overall has a fine style that doesn't stand out too much in the front-country (i.e., town), but if you want something to be more for casual use in town, check out our other options.
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.
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