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Patagonia Better Sweater - Women's Review

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Price:  $139 List | $68.93 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Classy sweater-knit exterior, fleece-lined pockets plus interior pockets, stylish tailored fit.
Cons:  Stiff zippers, not technical, a little bulky.
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Amanda Fenn ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 13, 2013
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64
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Comfort and Coziness - 20% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Layering Ability - 15% 5
  • Ease of Movement - 10% 6
  • Style - 5% 9
  • Wind Protection - 5% 5
  • Water Resistance - 5% 3

Our Verdict

A non-technical fleece with a heathered sweater-knit exterior, the Patagonia Better Sweater has a casual wear-it-to-the-office look. While not extremely versatile, this jacket has the main benefit of looking classy…by fleece standards. Although it has a soft interior, it doesn't compare in coziness to the other plush "around-town," fleeces we checked out, so if you want a super touchable fleece like the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover, then the Better Sweater may not be the piece for you. This full-zip jacket comes in five colors and has five pockets, including two hand pockets, a sleeve pocket, and two interior drop-in pockets without zippers. Patagonia does not make a hooded version of this fleece, but with its dense fabric, it will still keep you quite warm. While this fleece is great for casual use, we didn't find it to be a good fit for outdoor activities where breathability or packability are key. If you are looking for a technical jacket that still looks nice around town, consider the Patagonia R2 Jacket - Women's or the more techy-looking Patagonia Piton Hybrid Hoody - Women's.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Although we preferred the flattering Better Sweater for around-town use  it also performs moderately well during less intense activities like hiking.
Although we preferred the flattering Better Sweater for around-town use, it also performs moderately well during less intense activities like hiking.

Warmth


With its warm, dense fabric, the Patagonia Better Sweater will definitely keep you toasty on a cool day. This jacket has a stand-up collar and wind flap under the zipper. One of the only fleeces we reviewed that had fully-lined hand pockets (no mesh), this jacket will also keep your digits from getting tingly. For an even warmer jacket that's much cozier, check out The North Face Osito 2.

This model is made of bulkier material  making it warmer  but less breathable and less easy to move in.
This model is made of bulkier material, making it warmer, but less breathable and less easy to move in.

Comfort & Coziness


A casual, around-town fleece, the Patagonia Better Sweater Jacket has a snuggly interior that feels like the inside of a new sweatshirt and a soft exterior that feels like a knit sweater. These two textures combine to make the Better Sweater fairly cozy, but sleeker than the other around-town fleeces we reviewed like the Marmot Flair Hoody. We loved the jacket's warm micro-fleece-lined zippered hand pockets, but found that the zippers (on the hand pockets, the upper left sleeve pocket, and the main one down the front) made the jacket quite stiff and significantly reduced its coziness factor.

This model has two interior drop-in pockets and a soft fleecy interior that feels like a brand new sweatshirt.
This model has two interior drop-in pockets and a soft fleecy interior that feels like a brand new sweatshirt.

Breathability


Like many of the around-town fleeces we evaluated, this one sacrifices breathability for warmth and style. It's not a great choice for regular outdoor activity. However, in comparison to the other non-technical pieces we tested (like the Marmot Flair Hoody), it did provide a bit more breathability.

Layering Ability & Ease of Movement


Since this piece has a slim, tailored fit with thicker fabric, it doesn't lend itself well to layering. The fabric has some give, but we wouldn't call it stretchy, plus its stiffness makes it a little harder to move in comfortably.

Amanda Fenn tests out the warmth  breathability  and wind resistance of this fleece on a steep uphill hike to Green Mountain summit in Boulder  CO.
Amanda Fenn tests out the warmth, breathability, and wind resistance of this fleece on a steep uphill hike to Green Mountain summit in Boulder, CO.

Wind & Water Protection


Although the Patagonia Better Sweater's dense fabric makes it harder to layer, this feature does increase the amount of wind protection the fleece provides. Like most of the fleeces we reviewed, we still wouldn't call it wind-resistant, but it does provide a little relief on gusty days. This fleece is not water-resistant.

Style & Fit


This flattering fleece has a hip-length cut and slimming feminine lines. The heathered exterior adds interest and makes this jacket seem more like a sweater than a techy piece of outdoor gear. It has a more classy, mature look to it (for a fleece, that is), especially in comparison to the fuzzy Marmot Flair Hoody. Although Patagonia specifically states that the fabric's exterior is designed to resist pilling, we talked to several long-time Better Sweater owners who said that their pieces starting pilling after about a year or so. However, after two months, ours still looks great.

With its classy sweater-knit exterior  this piece is perfect to wear to a casual office (even if your office is at home!).
With its classy sweater-knit exterior, this piece is perfect to wear to a casual office (even if your office is at home!).

Best Applications


As a non-technical fleece, this model is best for around-town use or light physical activities. It would be a great jacket to wear into a casual workplace or for everyday errands and activities.

Value


Like the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover and the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Fleece, the Patagonia Better Sweater does not offer as much versatility for your dollar. However, if you're looking for a warm, non-technical fleece jacket with a sleeker, classier look, instead of a fuzzy, mega-comfy piece, then the Better Sweater is a very nice option.

We loved the fleece-lined pockets for increased hand warmth.
We loved the fleece-lined pockets for increased hand warmth.


Amanda Fenn