This jacket is in the same league as other style fleeces like the Patagonia Performance Better Sweater, the warmer The North Face Denali 2, and our favorite, The North Face Campshire Hoodie. You're probably not going to go hard in the mountains in any of these models; they don't breathe well, and they're heavy. However, they're all great for staying warm and looking good around town.
This fleece is for hanging out, camping out, but not hanging it waaay out on backcountry missions.
This fleece is on the low end of the warmth metric, especially when compared to the other style fleeces. These jackets are warmer in general than performance fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody because they're designed for hanging out, not for sprinting up hills or activities where you'll generate your own warmth. The Norse Peak isn't as warm as the TNF Campshire or the Performance Better Sweater. Think "cool fall afternoons"; not "bitter cold winter mornings".
This jacket offers more wind resistance than most of the fleece in our review, but that makes it score poorly for breathability.
The men's small Norse Peak we tested fits as it should, relaxed, but not constricting. The arms are the perfect length, and the hemline isn't super long like the R1 or the Arc'tery Konseal, so it's not great under a climbing harness, but it looks better with a pair of jeans. The hood…doesn't fit as well. A drawstring to secure it to your head would be nice since the hood tends to flop around to the point of impairing your vision, a problem for one of our testers while is zipped around town on his bike. Two zippered handwarmer pockets are ready to keep your frigid mitts out of the cold or stash whatever you need without fear of it falling out, plus a chest pocket for all those chapsticks.
Our testers don't like the way the hood fits. It's too loose.
The hardface fleece just can't compete with more air permeable gridded fleece used on the R1, the Arc'teryx Konseal, and the Marmot Preon. The Patagonia Performance Better Sweater is your best option if you're in the market for a breathable fleece that can also withstand the rigors of date night, thanks to stretchy breathable panels under the arms.
Retro - check! Functional - sort of! The cuffs are snug enough to stay in place underneath heavier layers, but we prefer a thumb loop option.
This fleece is designed to be seen, not to be hidden underneath an insulated jacket and a hardshell, and the relaxed fit doesn't lend itself to integrating with the layering system since the fabric bunches up. You'll be fine when a roomy waterproof layer over this jacket, but it's not appropriate for your backcountry skiing kit, or anytime you need a lightweight, breathable fleece.
Though it's described as "hardface", there isn't durable water repellent treatment on it like the very weather resistant Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody. When precip hits this jacket, it soaks through quickly. It does offer better wind protection than light fleeces like the R1.
Our men's small-sized Norse Peak weighs 16.5 oz, putting it solidly in the mid-weight category, though it doesn't feel as warm as other mid weights like the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T or the Kuhl Interceptr. This jacket doesn't have a good warmth to weight ratio like the loftier, higher pile fleece.
Surprisingly heavy, and not coming along on any lightweight backpacking trips.
The ribbed elastic cuffs and hemline illicit a retro look; think Adidas in the late 80s. If that's your thing, you can embrace the nostalgia in five different colors: Racer (red), Nightfall Blue, Dark Army, Manta Gray, and Void.
This fleece is well constructed and fits great, and while it doesn't knock it out of the park in the performance sense, it's still a great value at only $90.
The Norse Peak is a good choice for city folks who need a little more than a cotton hoody for their next hike or day a the crag, or for mountain folks who are looking to up their style wise around town.
$90 is a screamin' deal for a full featured fleece jacket. Looking to save a few bucks but need performance for climbing and skiing in the backcountry? Check out the Best Buy award winning Marmot Preon.