We're guessing that the Arc'teryx Covert Cardigan got its name from the fact that it's a fleece jacket masquerading as a wool one. The fleece fibers are knitted and look very much like a wool knit, but the inside is brushed fleece and much softer than most wools. This jacket is warm and very stylish, but also expensive and not the best option for the mountains. It's not that breathable nor does it layer well. It does look great on though, and it's an excellent option for casual wear, be that at the office, heading out on a cool night, or other non-aerobic pursuits. If you're looking for a great option for layering while hiking, skiing, or any other active pursuit in cold weather, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Patagonia R1 Hoody.
Arc'teryx Covert Cardigan - Women's Review
Cons: Expensive, not very technical or breathable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Covert Cardigan is made with "alpenex" fleece, which is a knit polyester designed to mimic the appearance of wool. It has two hand pockets with taped seams and a small pocket on the upper left bicep.
The Covert is a warm layer, and it received an 8/10 score for this category. It's not quite as thick or warm as The North Face Denali 2 and Osito 2 jackets, but it comes close and in a less bulky package. There's no hood, which would make it even warmer, but perhaps less stylish or casual as well.
This isn't the coziest fleece in our test group. The brushed inner fleece is comfortable against your skin, but the outer material is a little stiff and not as soft as the plush hi-loft fleeces, like the Patagonia R2. There is a soft microfleece lining the collar, which we appreciate.
This jacket lacks a little in the breathability department, particularly when compared to the high-performance fleeces that we tested. The material is a little thick, and there's no option for venting, like micro holes or grid lines. As such, when hiking in this layer, we quickly overheated and then got sweaty. The Covert isn't the jacket you want to wear while moving fast in the mountains, but it still works well as a summit layer. If you are looking for a highly breathable option, check out the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody.
Layering Ability and Ease of Movement
We are also a little less psyched about this jacket's performance in these two categories. The cut is a bit tight in the shoulders, which is fine for a casual fleece but not the best if you intend to move in it a lot. We couldn't fit more than a thin baselayer underneath it, and it didn't feel comfortable under another layer, like a rain jacket. The material doesn't have that much stretch to it, and we didn't get great range of motion in the shoulders or arms.
The flat and non-porous material does a better job of blocking the wind than the gridded or hi-loft fleeces, but water still absorbs right into it. If you are hoping to find a fleece that also protects from the rain a little, the Fortrez Hoody, also from Arc'teryx, does just that.
Of all of the fleeces that we tested in our review, we gave this one the highest marks for style. The knit material looks like anything but fleece, and we didn't feel out of place wearing this in non-outdoorsy situations. The taped seams on the pockets make it look high-end, which, because of the price, it is, and the fit is nice and contoured. We will add a caveat though that if you have pets or your hair tends to shed a lot you might not like the look of this jacket after a day or two. It's a hair magnet!
The Covert Cardigan is a casual fleece that's best for around-town wear. It's not as high-performing as some of the more technical models, like the Patagonia R1 or Rab Nucleus jackets, but it's still a warm layer for walking the dog or to the office.
This jacket retails for $179, putting it on the higher end of the price spectrum. You would think that the purpose of a fleece jacket designed to look like wool would be to reduce the price a little (wool is notoriously expensive), but this is about what we'd pay for a wool sweater also. The Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover is also a more casual option, and it retails for $120. If you need a plain outer layer that won't break the bank, there's always the REI Co-op Fleece, which costs only $50.
We like the Arc'teryx Covert Cardigan a lot. It's not the most technical fleece that we tested, and it didn't win any awards as such, but it's still a great jacket. It's stylish and warm, and we like the different look that the knitted material gives it. Like most Arc'teryx pieces, it's a little expensive, but the quality of construction does help justify the price a little. Pick this one up if you already have a closet full of technical fleeces and want something for more casual wear.
— Cam McKenzie Ring