After careful research, we selected and purchased 8 of the best fleece jackets from the top manufacturers, then put them on our brave testers and set them loose into wilds of the Eastern Sierra, desert southwest, and a cold, damp New England fall. We climbed, hiked, ran, and skied our faces off in each of these fleeces, pairing them with our favorite hard shells and puffy jackets to learn how well each one functions as part of a layering system. We brought these jackets along on all of our adventures. Finally, we took them on a five-week epic family thru-hike of the Vermont Long Trail in the peak of the fall season.
After our testing phase, we rated each model in six different categories: warmth, comfort, breathability, layering ability, weather resistance, and weight. Some of the ratings were determined solely through field tests, and for others, we did some extra product-specific testing. For example, for wind protection, we stood in front of a fan in one jacket after another to compare how much air was getting through, and for water resistance, we sprayed each fleece with a water bottle to see how quickly it soaked through.
We researched, compared, and evaluated each layer, polling our friends and climbing partners for what they look for in a fleece, and rolled it all up into this review. We even considered how well each model did doing work around the house or wearing into town to run errands or heading to the bar, all to bring you the best fleece jacket review possible.