The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody is made with Polartec Power Stretch fleece (88% polyester, 12% elastane) with "Hardface Technology." This treatment creates a smooth outer surface that is still flexible but causes water to bead up and is supposed to help block the wind. It has a balaclava style hood with optional neck and face-gaiter, two hand-warmer pockets, and an arm pocket, all constructed with flat seams.
This technical fleece is a great option for alpine pursuits where blustery conditions and occasional rain is bound to get you.
The Fortrez Hoody is fairly warm for a light fleece jacket. The "Hardface Technology" helps block the wind from stripping away your warmth, as does the balaclava hood. However, it's not the right layer for sedentary pursuits in cold weather, and we wished we had another jacket to throw on top of it as a belay jacket on cold days.
Trying to stay warm at the belay in the Fortrez. It's warm enough for active pursuits, but when standing around in 50-degree temps we were wishing we had our puffy jacket on instead.
The inside of the jacket is a soft brushed fleece that is comfortable against the skin, though it does not have quite the same comfort as the hi-loft models. The flat seams do lie nicely under a harness or backpack straps, though. We appreciate the handwarmer pockets that are compatible with both a harness and a backpack hip strap. The arm pocket is large enough to put a key or small snack into, adding to the overall comfort of this jacket. The balaclava hood is perfect for especially windy conditions where your jacket may not provide you with the protection that you need.
Nothing like a hood and neck gaiter to help you feel warm! The gaiter can fit at the back of the hood if not needed, and the thin material fits well under a helmet.
In many cases, the addition of a membrane or treatment to block the wind and rain also makes a fleece less breathable. This is not the entirely the case with the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody, and it is a fairly breathable layer, perhaps due to the thinness of the material overall. However, we still got fairly sweaty hiking with this jacket on, and it's not the best for super aerobic adventures.
Layering Ability & Ease of Movement
The fit on this jacket is called "trim" by Arc'teryx, and they are not joking. It's a tight fit, particularly across the shoulders, which leaves little room for a base layer underneath. If you have broad shoulders or plan on wearing a heavy base layer or two under this jacket, you'll want to size up on this one. The upside to layering for this piece is the smooth coating on the surface - there is no catching of the material when you wear it under a shell or other fleece jacket. The stretchy fabric also moves reasonably well, though again, we felt some constriction in the shoulders.
This trim fit is great for certain applications, like pairing it with a helmet or wearing it under an outer layer, but you can't fit much under it.
The Fortrez Hoody excels in wind and water protection, for a fleece that is. It doesn't provide the same protection as an impermeable rain jacket, but it stops the elements more than some of the lighter, porous models that we tested. For rain, we saw water bead up and roll right off similar to a shell treated with a DWR coating, but when sprayed with a water bottle repetitively, the material eventually soaks through. While the "Hardface" coating does provide more wind protection than even the thickest jackets in this review. The material itself is not that thick, and we could still feel strong winds ripping through it on a very windy day.
Water beads up and rolls off this jacket similar to a rain jacket, though it still saturates through over time.
This jacket is expensive, to say the least. You could argue that this fleece would replace a fleece layer and a windbreaker, or that it will last a long time thanks to the flat outer face which is resistant to pilling, but it's still a lot of money to spend on a fleece.
Climbing near the Continental Divide at 10,000 feet. The Fortrez excels in Alpine environments where weather can turn on a dime and the wind never ceases.
This jacket is an award contender, and it's loaded with cool features. It's a must-have for some activities if you can afford it, but for your average outdoor enthusiast, it's probably a little overkill. If you're an ice climber or looking for a fleece that can provide some rain resistance and protection from the wind, the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody truly stands out.