Take the sweet ninja style balaclava from the Arc'teryx Fortrez and combine it with the lightweight grid fleece and thumb loops of the Patagonia R1 Hoody, and you've got the breathable, functional Arc'teryx Konseal. The outdoor clothing company from the great white north has an excellent take on the classic half-zip, and while we've enjoyed many Arc'teryx fleeces in the past, this particular design is a tester favorite. In light of some recent changes to the fit of the R1, a few of our testers are jumping ship on their loyalties and reaching for the Konseal first.
Arc'teryx Konseal Hoody Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Breathable, awesome balaclava feature, great fit
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Putting this fleece pullover toe to toe with the R1, the significant differences are a shorter zipper, a shorter hemline, and the addition of face mask, a feature that we feel provides way better and more comfortable coverage than the R1's just "zip it up to your nose" strategy. If you're looking for a similarly weighted fleece with a full zipper, check out The North Face Proprius.
For the weight, you get a nice amount of warmth from the Konseal. We give the R1 just one more point in the warmth metric because it has a longer hem, but in terms of fleece thickness and insulating abilities, the Konseal and R1 are almost neck and neck. Speaking of neck, the neck gaiter/face mask feature is awesome for skiing, be in at the mountain or in the backcountry. The face mask flips open from behind your head and doesn't interfere with the strap from your helmet, like the R1. For a warm (though sorely lacking in breathability) fleece, have a look at The North Face Campshire or The North Face Denali II.
This form-fitting mid-layer isn't nearly as snug as the most recent iteration of the Patagonia R1, making it arguably more comfortable than our Editors' Choice Award winner. The new R1 is tight fitting around the waist, making it less likely to ride up, but also making it feel restrictive to one tester who said, "wearing the new R1 is like wearing a hair tie".
The Konseal is breathable when pitted against your average fleece. However, in our review, we test some of the most breathable fleece jackets ever made, and the Konseal comes in slightly behind the Outdoor Research Deviator and the newest R1. The Deviator has a hybrid construction of super light, stretchy fleece in the back and synthetic insulation in the front, while the R1 jacks up the breathability level with thin panels underneath the arms and a ¾ length zipper.
This fleece earns top marks for layering due to its near perfect fit; no extra material to fold or crease and feel uncomfortable under an insulated jacket and a hardshell. One of our testers commented that the arms are a bit long and baggy, but our ape index endowed testers found they fit just fine, and the thumb loops make sliding underneath multiple layers even easier.
Arc'teryx describes this fleece as a "hardface", but compared to their own Fortrez Hoody and the Patagonia R1 Techface, the Konseal has a soft feel and offers little resistance to rain; even a light drizzle will soak through eventually. It does seem to have a tighter weave than the R1, the Marmot Preon and The North Face Proprius Hoodie, but none of these lightweight fleece should be relied on when rain is forecasted. You'll want to bring a dedicated waterproof layer.
At 12.4 oz, the Konseal isn't going to raise any eyebrows among ultralight folks, but if the jacket fits well and you dig the balaclava feature, we doubt the extra 2 ounces the Konseal has on the R1 will affect your choice. If your scale is an important part of your packing process, the Outdoor Research Deviator has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios among the lightweight fleece.
Nothing too offensive here, and while you'll get a look if you wear your filthy dirtbag fleece layer on your next Tinder date (duh), a squeaky clean Konseal is unobtrusive compared to the stretchy paneling of the newest R1 or the screaming loud euro colors of The North Face Proprius. The Konseal is available in two low-pro colors- Pilot II (gray) and Infrared.
$169 is within reason for such a well-constructed fleece with great features, about $10 more than an R1. We didn't go out of our way to destroy our Konseal, but we certainly did enough bushwacking, scrambling, and crack climbing to be sure that this jacket isn't going to fall apart anytime soon.
When you're moving hard and fast in the mountains (or even in your neighborhood), you'll need a lightweight fleece layer that will keep the cold a bay, but still breathes well. The Konseal is up to the task.
For those seeking an R1 alternative that doesn't have a super long hem and want the advantage of a built-balaclava on powder days, look no further than the Konseal.
— Matt Bento