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REI Co-op Fleece - Women's Review

One of the cheapest fleece jackets on the market that doesn't have much technology or features to it.
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Price:  $50 List | $34.89 at REI
Pros:  Warm, inexpensive
Cons:  Not breathable, bulky, difficult to layer it under a shell
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 5, 2019
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 13
  • Warmth - 20% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Breathability - 20% 4
  • Layering Ability - 20% 4
  • Ease of Movement - 15% 5
  • Weather Resistance - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Fleece is a basic midweight fleece jacket that retails for half the price of the next cheapest model in this review. There's not a lot of styling going on in this jacket, and the fit is boxy with bulky pockets. It's also not a performance fleece designed for breathability or ease of movement. Instead, this model is more of an outer layer meant to keep you warm. For the price, it's hard to beat. If you are looking for a plain outer layer for cool nights while car camping, the REI Co-op Fleece is a good deal.

New Version Available

The REI Co-op Fleece has been replaced with a new fleece in their lineup. Read on!

September 2019


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award    
Price $34.89 at REI$169.00 at REI
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$139.99 at Backcountry
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$124.93 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Warm, inexpensiveBreathable, durable, helmet compatible hood, awesome thermoregulation, high valueBalaclava hood with neck gaiter, good wind and water protection for a fleeceLightweight, breathable, full-length zipper and a hoodSuper cozy materials, stylish, lightweight, warm
Cons Not breathable, bulky, difficult to layer it under a shellNot weather resistant, expensiveNot very breathable, expensiveNot very warm, no weather resistanceExpensive, not the most breathable, zipper slips
Bottom Line One of the cheapest fleece jackets on the market that doesn't have much technology or features to it.The reigning champion that simply can't be beat for versatility.A technical jacket for alpine and ice climbing, or other active sports in colder climates.This light fleece is a high-performance layer that is breathable and comfortable.The lightweight and stylish fleece is built for town and leisurely hikes.
Rating Categories REI Co-op Fleece - Women's R1 Full Zip Hoody Fortrez Hoody Rab Nucleus Hoody - Women's Kyanite Hoody
Warmth (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
8
Comfort (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Breathability (20%)
10
0
4
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
Layering Ability (20%)
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Ease Of Movement (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Weather Resistance (5%)
10
0
8
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
6
Specs REI Co-op Fleece -... R1 Full Zip Hoody Fortrez Hoody Rab Nucleus Hoody... Kyanite Hoody
Type Midweight Midweight Lightweight Lightweight
Main Fabric Midweight Polartec PowerGrid(93% recycled polyester/7% spandex) Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology (88% polyester, 12% elastane) Thermic fleece & Power Grid Nylon, polyester
Unique Features Polyester Hidden zippered pocket, balaclava hood fits under a helmet, brick-patterned insulation balances breathability and warmth Balaclava hood with neck gaiter Close fitting hood fits under a helmet Stretchy, abrasion-resistant fabric, gussets for movement
Weight (ounces) Foreward shoulder seams to combat chafe from pack straps 11.9 11.9 11.2 11.2
# of Pockets 14 2 (hand), 1 hidden zippered pocket (right hand) 3 (2 hand, 1 arm) 2 (hand) 2 hand
Hood Option? 2 (2 hand, 2 internal drop-in) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

REI's New Groundbreaker Fleece


REI no longer makes the exact fleece that we tested here, instead offering the Groundbreaker Fleece. The Groundbreaker is a similar and inexpensive fleece jacket in REI's lineup, and though we haven't tested it, we expect it to perform fairly similarly to the model tested here. Compare the two versions below, with the Groundbreaker shown first followed up by the model we tested.


Please be aware that we are now linking to the Groundbreaker, but the review to follow tells our account of the REI Co-op Fleece we tested previously.

Hands-On Review of the REI Fleece


The REI Co-op Fleece is made with a flat pile with no grids or loft. It comes in XS to XXL size options. We tested the small size, and it weighs 14 ounces. Note that this a bulkier fleece jacket that takes up a lot of room in a pack. If you are looking for a summit layer that will pack down small into your daypack, check out our synthetic jacket review.

We hiked this one up to the top of a peak  but it took up most of the room in our day pack. It's a warm layer for the summit  but not breathable enough to wear while hiking even in cold weather.
We hiked this one up to the top of a peak, but it took up most of the room in our day pack. It's a warm layer for the summit, but not breathable enough to wear while hiking even in cold weather.

Warmth


This fleece is one of the warmer models that we tested, and it felt similar to the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover. Only The North Face Denali 2 and Osito 2 models felt warmer to us.


The thick pile does what a fleece jacket is supposed to do, trap your warmth against your body. It's not quite as thick as the Denali jacket, but it came close and is a toasty layer. This is a great option to wear on cool nights when walking the dog or for hanging out around camp.

Hiking around Bryce Canyon on a blustery and cold day. We appreciated the warmth we got from this fleece that day.
Hiking around Bryce Canyon on a blustery and cold day. We appreciated the warmth we got from this fleece that day.

Comfort


Unfortunately, this isn't the most comfortable option, and we only gave it a 5/10 for this category.


While the fleece on this jacket is on the soft side, it isn't nearly as cozy as the hi-loft fleece on The North Face Osito 2 jacket. It also isn't as comfortable as the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody, which we loved to wear all day long. The pockets on the REI Co-op are thick on the outside and bulky, and they didn't feel comfortable when sitting down or when wearing it under a backpack.

The pockets on this jacket are on the bulky side and weren't our favorite feature.
The pockets on this jacket are on the bulky side and weren't our favorite feature.

Breathability


This is one of the least breathable models that we tested. The thick fleece doesn't have any venting to it, and as such, we overheated quickly when trying to hike or do other active things in this jacket.


Part of why this jacket is so inexpensive is because it uses a basic fleece pile fabric. Polartec engineers a lot of "fancy" fleece fabrics these days with grids patterns for ventilation, like on the Outdoor Research Deviator and Patagonia R1. Another option is to have lots of micro holes like on the Patagonia R2. The REI Co-op Jacket has no such venting options, which makes it hotter and less breathable (though more wind resistant — see below).

Layering Ability


This jacket doesn't have the best layering ability, either. There is plenty of room under the jacket for layers, but it doesn't work so well as a mid-layer because of the boxy cut and thick material.


When we tried to wear this jacket under a rain jacket or wind shell, we felt constricted. A lot of women's outer layers have tapered silhouettes, but this one doesn't, so when you try to wear it under a tapered jacket, it feels very constricting. Some fleece jackets are designed to be outer layers, while others work well as part of your layering system. This one is more of an outer layer than a mid-layer.

This jacket is a little too boxy and bulky to wear comfortably under a day pack.
This jacket is a little too boxy and bulky to wear comfortably under a day pack.

Ease of Movement


We didn't have outstanding ease of movement in this model. As we mentioned above, the bulky fit is constricting under another layer, and it isn't comfortable to wear it under a backpack's hip belt.


REI says that the shoulder seams are moved forward so as not chafe under pack straps, but the straps still go over the seams, so we are not sure that design is very effective. It's also not the kind of performance layer that you would wear while hiking anyways, as you'd quickly overheat due to the lack of breathability. The whole jacket moved with us when raising our arms, and there isn't great mobility in the shoulders. If you need something for really active pursuits that use your upper body, like when rock climbing or paddling on cold days, look to the Rab Nucleus Hoody or Patagonia R1.

We felt rather constricted in the shoulders  and the arms rode up on us.
We felt rather constricted in the shoulders, and the arms rode up on us.

Weather Resistance


Because it is so thick, the REI Co-op Fleece has decent wind resistance for a fleece jacket. Many of the more breathable models also let the wind rip right through, but this one offers some protection from gusts. There isn't much happening in the way of water resistance, though, and water-soaked right into the fleece pile. Look to The North Face Denali 2 for a more water resistance jacket layer (the shoulders have a nylon shell that offers some protection from a light rain).


Most fleece jackets have little to no water resistance, so keep in mind that the above scores are their water-resistance relative to each other, and not, say, compared to a dedicated rain jacket.

Water didn't even bead up on this jacket  though because it is so thick it'll take a bit longer to soak through than a thinner layer.
Water didn't even bead up on this jacket, though because it is so thick it'll take a bit longer to soak through than a thinner layer.

Style


This jacket is our testers' least favorite model when it comes to style. Style is a very subjective metric, though, and some people prefer a plain look over something that is flashier or with a strong outdoor esthetic to it.

The boxy cut is not very flattering, and the flat pile is plain and comes in only basic colors like black, charcoal heather, and blue. If you are looking for an outer jacket with a little more flair, check out The North Face Osito 2. It has a more tapered silhouette and comes in a variety of colors.

This fleece is fairly plain and cut on the boxy side.
This fleece is fairly plain and cut on the boxy side.

Value


Did we mention that this jacket retails for only $50? That's a pretty impressive price point, all things considered. We appreciate how affordable it is, and it doesn't get much cheaper than this. You won't be able to use it for the same variety of activities as you would the Patagonia R1 Hoody, but it's still a great choice for times when you want a warm outer layer.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Fleece is anything but fancy and hi-tech. However, sometimes all you want is a basic option for cold days or nights. We think this is a great option, particularly if you are looking for a "workhorse" model that may see some hard use, like outdoor chores or when camping.


Cam McKenzie Ring