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Best Fleece Jackets of 2022

We tested fleeces from Patagonia, Arc'teryx, The North Face, and more to uncover which will serve you best
Best Fleece Jackets of 2022
The Outdoor Research Full Zip Vigor offers one of the best values of any fleece currently on the market.
Credit: Buck Yedor
Thursday June 2, 2022
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Over the past ten years, our teams of apparel experts have tested more than 45 of the best fleece jackets on the market. After surveying the market, we independently purchased 10 of the most popular fleeces available for side-by-side testing. Our experts assessed each model for warmth, comfort, breathability, layering ability, weather resistance, and material weight. We took these fleeces on backpacking trips, dragged them up granite walls, chopped wood, hung out around campfires, and took them out on the town. Whether you're looking for a cozy standalone piece to wear on cold mornings or for a technical fleece to be used in a more robust layering system, our expert recommendations will help narrow down your selection so that you can choose the right jacket for your needs and budget.

Our outdoor experts have tested all sorts of jackets and layering pieces. We have you covered – literally – with in-depth reviews of the best gear, ranging from down jackets to base layers. If you're on a tighter budget, check out our selection of wallet-friendly fleeces.

Related: Best Fleece Jackets for Women

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $99 List
$99.00 at Backcountry
$99 List
$109.95 at Amazon
$159 List$189 List
$124.99 at Backcountry
$179 List
$179.00 at REI
Overall Score
86
81
79
71
79
Star Rating
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Pros Cozy, athletic fit, breathable, lightweightBreathable, lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable for athleticsPerfect fit for most active uses, ideal weight for many conditions, great hood designWeather resistant, good stretch, breathable, looks goodIncredibly soft brushed fleece interior, athletic fit
Cons Poor weather resistance, no thumb loopsNot incredibly warm, poor weather resistanceNot as warm for its weight as some high-loft modelsBaggy fit doesn't work well as a mid layerExpensive, no thumb loops
Bottom Line A warmer and more comfortable version of the classic R1, it's warm and versatileThis lightweight and breathable fleece offers the same or better performance than many of the more expensive optionsAn ideal fleece for almost anything you can think of, you'll never want to take it offThis isn't your typical midlayer fleece jacket, it is cut loose to fit well over other layersAn extremely comfortable and well built fleece that’s ready to accompany you as far into the mountains
Rating Categories Patagonia R1 Air Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Patagonia R1 TechFa... Arc'teryx Kyanite H...
Warmth (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Breathability (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Layering Ability (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
Weather resistance (10%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
10.0
7.0
Weight (15%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Patagonia R1 Air Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Patagonia R1 TechFa... Arc'teryx Kyanite H...
Type Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Midweight
Weight 9.7 oz 12 oz 11.1 oz 14.4 oz 13.97 oz
Main Material 100% recycled polyester Grid-back fleece: 94% polyester, 6% spandex 6.9-oz polartec power grid 93% recycled polyester 7% spandex with Polygiene permanent odor control Regulator fleece Polartec Power Stretch Pro - 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
# of Pockets 1 3 1 3 3
Unique Features Hollow-core fabric is highly breathable for high-output activities
offset shoulder seams
Balaclava style hood, thumb loops Balaclava style hood, thumb loops, Polygiene permanent odor control, longer length to stay tucked under a harness Adjustable hem, scuba hood, thumb loops Scuba hood, stretchy fabric
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall Fleece Jacket


Patagonia R1 Air


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weather resistance 7.0
  • Weight 9.0
Weight: 9.2 ounces | Type: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
Extremely soft and comfortable
Slim fit for easy layering
Good warmth to weight ratio
Great breathability
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor weather resistance
No thumb loops

Patagonia's R1 series has been a longtime favorite of our testers. Emulated by many, the grid fleece technology has become a staple in most people's active cold-weather layering system. Somehow, Patagonia has created an even better version with the release of the R1 Air. Built from a proprietary "hollow core" fabric produced from 100% recycled polyester, this piece brings a new level of comfort to performance fleece wear. The material looks and feels more cozy than technical, but don't let that fool you — this fleece means business. Whether heading to the crag or the coffee shop, this fleece was the one our testers would always grab first. The low weight combined with the amount of warmth it provides make it ideal for high-intensity activities like climbing and hiking in the cold. The highly breathable "zig-zagged" pattern helps shed moisture and keeps you from ending up a sweaty and shivering mess.

The crew neck version of this fleece is equipped with only one chest pocket, so if you're using it as a standalone piece, your storage options are limited. This lack of bulk made it great for layering but less versatile. While this fleece is more wind-resistant than the original R1, it is still a lightweight fleece that will cut right through a strong gust. All in all, this fleece is a highly comfortable and warm layer that is best suited for anyone looking to upgrade their performance fleece wear.

Read review: Patagonia R1 Air

best overall fleece jacket
The breathability, comfort, and warmth offered by the R1 Air Crew make it the perfect fleece for days spent outside in dynamic environments.
Credit: Buck Yedor

A High Performing and Well-Priced Option


Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weather resistance 6.0
  • Weight 9.0
Weight: 12 ounces | Type: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
Breathable
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Low warmth
Poor weather resistance

The Outdoor Research Vigor Full-Zip is a lightweight fleece that is easy to layer over, highly breathable, incredibly comfortable, and is being offered at a fraction of the cost of many of the other comparable options. This jacket is entirely reminiscent of Patagonia's original R1; both have similar scuba-style hoods, thumb loops, and general aesthetics. Our testers, however, actually found the Vigor to be more comfortable and a full ounce lighter than the R1 Full Zip Hoody. The cut is athletic and accommodating to wide-set shoulders. This jacket offers a terrific range of motion, including overhead movements, making it an ideal choice for climbers, hikers, or skiers. Additionally, the thin fabric and minimal bulk made this an easy piece to layer over.

The lightweight and breathable nature of this fleece did come at the cost of warmth and wind resistance. This fleece was fine for sustained athletics, but if you are going to be hanging around in the cold, you will need to layer up. In a similar vein, the breathable nature of the material doesn't take to the rain very well, and you'll find yourself needing a rain layer for all but the lightest of drizzles. All in all, this is a high-quality fleece that is perfect for adventuring in the mountains and is offered at a tremendous value.

Read review: Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip

fleece jacket - a high performing and well-priced option
No matter the conditions, the OR Vigor Full Zip will keep you feeling warm and psyched.
Credit: Buck Yedor

A Classic Hooded Model


Patagonia R1 Hoody


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weather resistance 6.0
  • Weight 9.0
Weight: 10.8 oz | Type: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
Slim fit for easy layering
Balaclava-style hood
Thin, stretchy underarm panels increase breathability
Extra-long hem fits well under waist belt strap or a climbing harness
Thumb loops
REASONS TO AVOID
Little weather resistance
Techy style

The Patagonia R1 Hoody is a staple in our outdoor clothing arsenal. It's not just one of our favorites, but the top choice of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts for years now for its untouchable performance. It incorporates all the most important aspects of a mid-layer with its breathable grid fabric, perfectly-fit balaclava hood, chest pockets, and thumb loops. The fleece backing is packed with hundreds of raised squares with breathable venting channels throughout. With the added breathability, it'll keep you warm when it's cold, and cool when it is warm. Simply unzip when you're on the move and or pull the hood under a helmet when you're stuck at a cold belay. This fantastic layer is one of our favorites and has been for a long time for its excellent functionality and performance.

The R1 has very few shortcomings. When it comes to fit, function, and performance, it's hard to beat. But with as often as it will get worn (every day), it'll show its wear eventually. Though its smooth face won't pick or pill and layers nicely, it may eventually get holes; just the nature of the grid pattern creates thin, weak sections of fleece that eventually will fail. The fit is also more fitted, with a longer hem than in previous years. Some will like this, but some may find their favorite fleece doesn't quite have the same fit they are used to. Aside from that, it's next to perfect and one we'd wholeheartedly recommend - the price is reasonable too.

Read review: Patagonia R1 Hoody

fleece jacket - a classic hooded model
The highly versatile classic R1 3/4 zip remains a top seller and classic for a reason.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Best Midweight Fleece


Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Breathability 7.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weather resistance 7.0
  • Weight 8.0
Weight: 13.97 ounces | Type: Midweight
REASONS TO BUY
Extremely comfortable
Provides an excellent range of motion
Warm
REASONS TO AVOID
Less breathable than models with grid fleece
Expensive

The Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody scored exceptionally high marks in every metric we'd expect in a top-performing midweight fleece. It has a great weight to warmth ratio and most importantly, is incredibly comfortable to wear. The brushed fleece lining feels great against the skin, and while the cut is slim, it accommodates wide-set shoulders without creating any hotspots in the armpits or shoulders. Our testers loved climbing, skiing, and hiking in this piece. The scuba-style hood fits underneath climbing helmets and does a great job at keeping cold air out while trapping hard-won body heat inside.

This piece really only has a few downsides. For high output activity in the spring and summer, this fleece might not offer the breathability you want when early morning and evening temps are rising. Our only other complaint is the lack of thumb loops built into the cuffs. Using this as a standalone piece is inconsequential, but when you're sliding it underneath other layers, thumb loops keep things from getting all bunched up. This fleece hoody is ideal for cold-weather pursuits where thinner gridded fleece just won't cut it.

Read review: Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody

fleece jacket - best midweight fleece
The scuba style hood excels at keeping out the wind.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Best for Casual Comfort


The North Face Campshire Hoodie


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9.0
  • Comfort 10.0
  • Breathability 5.0
  • Layering Ability 5.0
  • Weather resistance 6.0
  • Weight 4.0
Weight: 22 ounces | Type: Heavyweight
REASONS TO BUY
Like wearing a blanket
Warm, thick hood
REASONS TO AVOID
Long fleece fibers collect dirt and sticks
Too heavy for backcountry trips

The North Face Campshire Hoodie became an instant tester favorite this season thanks to its supreme blanket-like comfort and high pile fleece. For hanging out in camp or cooking around the campfire, this hoody can't be beaten. A large kangaroo pouch with a Velcro closure secures all sorts of camp amenities; gloves, headlamps, lighters, and snacks all disappear into the gigantic front pocket. For your cold hands, there's a big handwarmer pocket behind the kangaroo pouch. Top it all off with a noggin-encompassing hood, and you're ready for late nights at the fire with your friends.

The downside of all this luxury? The Campshire is heavy and nowhere near as packable as one of our test group's mid or lightweight options. For long expeditions into the backcountry where every ounce matters, the Campshire needs to stay at home, but it will be there for you when you come in from the cold and need to get cozy.

Read review: The North Face Campshire Hoodie

fleece jacket - best for casual comfort
This jacket gets high marks for style.
Credit: Matt Bento

Notable for Weather Resistance


Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoody


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 6.0
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Breathability 6.0
  • Layering Ability 7.0
  • Weather resistance 10.0
  • Weight 8.0
Weight: 13.8 ounces | Type: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
More durable than the original R1
Water-repelling DWR coating
Generous stretch for mobility
Room to layer underneath
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as good an insulator as the original R1

The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is a weather-resistant jacket with a DWR finish and a brimmed hood. What really sets this hoody apart from other fleece jackets is that we could actually stand in the rain and stay relatively dry. This piece bridges the gap between fleece and softshell. The face fabric does a decent job keeping out the wind. The combination of wind and rain resistance makes this fleece an excellent option for those that want a standalone piece that will keep them comfortable in rapidly changing conditions. We also love the remarkable amount of stretch in the arms and body, making it an excellent option for full-body activities like mountaineering, climbing, hiking, or even running. The hood is sized to fit over a helmet, and the wider cut of the jacket easily accommodates warmer mid-layers underneath.

While we love the functionality of this fleece, it isn't quite as warm as the original Patagonia R1. Aside from that, the Patagonia Techface is a versatile piece that stands up to the difficult and variable conditions found in the mountains.

Read review: Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody

fleece jacket - the r1 techface hoody is a good fleece for variable weather days.
The R1 Techface Hoody is a good fleece for variable weather days.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
86
$99
Editors' Choice Award
A well rounded and highly versatile fleece that offers a great warmth to weight ratio in a surprisingly cozy package
81
$99
Editors' Choice Award
It is hard to beat the value of this high performing and cost effective fleece
79
$159
Top Pick Award
A perfect layering piece that regulates body temperature so well you'll leave it on from summit to sleeping bag and everywhere in between
79
$179
Top Pick Award
A fleece built to withstand the serious demands of adventuring in the mountains
73
$109
Offers a decent combination of performance and style, which makes it a versatile option
71
$180
This ¾ zip pullover offers a DWR coated synthetic outer, with a cozy merino wool lining that is great for all-day comfort
71
$189
An odd entry in the R series, but we came to love this model for its weather resistance
68
$150
Top Pick Award
This is the perfect fleece for hanging out around the campfire or lounging around the house
55
$179
A true classic, it's perfect for staying cozy around town or while on casual day hikes
52
$119
This fleece is a staple of mountain towns everywhere, but is more at home in a coffee shop than the backcountry

fleece jacket - a full zip hoody offers excellent protection from the wind.
A full zip hoody offers excellent protection from the wind.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is crafted by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Buck Yedor and Adam Paashaus. Buck has been playing outside for most of his life and has been working in the outdoor industry for just about half of it. From long cold days spent ski touring in the alpine to frigid belays on El Capitan, Buck knows what to look for in quality fleece wear. Adam loves being a member of the outdoor community and appreciates having the ability to help others find the best gear for their next adventure.

Searching for the best fleece started with scouring the internet, talking to industry experts, and researching the market to see which were worth ordering for field testing. We have tested more than 45 fleece jackets over the past 10 years, and considered over 65 different models from various manufacturers before carefully selecting and purchasing the top products to highlight in this review.

Our in-depth testing of men's fleece jackets breaks down into six rating metrics:
  • Warmth (25% of overall score rating)
  • Comfort (20% of overall score rating)
  • Breathability (20% of overall score rating)
  • Layering Ability (20% of overall score rating)
  • Weather Resistance (15% of overall score rating)
  • Weight (15% of overall score rating)

Testing is mainly comprised of field use during late fall, winter, and spring in the Eastern Sierra, the mountains of New England, and the deserts of the Southwest. Fleece jackets are a comfortable, casual way to add some warmth to your layering system — much of our focus is on the Warmth metric, which makes up 25% of the overall score. Each fleece undergoes five specific tests to judge warmth: we hike, run, climb, kayak, and bike in cool and cold weather to assess how these jackets keep us warm in environments ranging from shady river beds to windy mountain tops. For this comprehensive review, our experts put these fleece jackets through 170 individual tests to help you find the best option for your needs based on value and performance.

Under a layer or on its own, the Arc&#039;teryx Kyanite Hoody is...
Under a layer or on its own, the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody is comfortable and warm.
The simple design of the Patagonia R1 Air crew makes it easy to wear...
The simple design of the Patagonia R1 Air crew makes it easy to wear under a harness or under more substantial layers.
The Outdoor Research works as base, mid, or standalone piece...
The Outdoor Research works as base, mid, or standalone piece depending on conditions.

Analysis and Test Results


A fleece jacket is a versatile part of any outdoor layering system. It can be worn as a standalone piece in moderately cold and dry weather or easily layered under a puffy, rain shell, or both, depending on how extreme the conditions are. There are many different types and weights, with varying levels of warmth and breathability. But fleece jackets are typically stretchy and built to move, making them ideal for climbing, hiking, skiing, or any outdoor activity you need an unrestricted range of motion.

fleece jacket - there are a lot of different choices you can make when it comes to...
There are a lot of different choices you can make when it comes to picking a fleece. The weight, fit, and specific features will ultimately determine which one is right for you.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Value


Purchasing a fleece jacket often involves a series of tradeoffs. If you are looking for something super toasty, it may not be the most breathable or packable, and if you want it to have some additional weather resistance, it may cost you in weight and coziness. While a bigger price tag doesn't always correlate to better performance, the more expensive models typically use newer materials that are lighter and/or more breathable while still providing warmth. Some higher-priced models will have a slimmer fit with articulated sleeves for a better range of motion and easier layering.

For those looking for a great price on a quality fleece, the Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip offers a reasonable price and good performance. It's built with comfort in mind and can easily perform in the backcountry. It doesn't score as high as some but has a great bang for the buck.


Warmth


Warmth is one of the critical things to consider when buying a fleece jacket; the purpose of this layer is to help trap and retain our body heat in chilly conditions. For our test, the warmth rating accounts for 20 percent of the overall score. The warmth is often determined by the thickness of the material (thicker is usually warmer), but many other features can add or detract from it. Cozy hoods, thumb loops, elastic cuffs, drawstring hems, and tighter weaves that help block the wind all add up to additional warmth, warranting a bump in the score. Keep in mind that if you want to use your fleece as part of a layering system, then a jacket can be too warm, so warmth might not be your top priority.


One of the warmest models that we tested was The North Face Denali 2 Hoodie. This is a heavyweight layer, and its 300 weight fleece did a great job of trapping and retaining our body heat. If you need a warm and toasty outer jacket and prefer fleece to a synthetic or down jacket, then this is the one for you. However, it was also the heaviest and bulkiest model we tested and did not perform well for active use.

fleece jacket - the campshire is perfect for hanging around the campsite relaxing or...
The Campshire is perfect for hanging around the campsite relaxing or doing a few (but not too many) chores.
Credit: Matt Bento

The North Face Campshire Hoodie uses a dreamy high lofted 300 weight fleece, keeping our testers comfy and almost as warm as the Denali. While not quite as warm as the Denali, it does feel softer and less boxy. While it's a superb fleece for chilling in, it's too heavy and doesn't layer well enough to earn a spot in our packs on backpacking trips or ski tours. The Patagonia R1 Air Crew is lightweight and breathable but not the best insulator. This style works best for active backcountry use, where ventilation is crucial.

fleece jacket - when you&#039;re not sure what conditions you&#039;ll be encountering, a...
When you're not sure what conditions you'll be encountering, a quality fleece will help you stay adaptable.
Credit: Buck Yedor

The Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T was the only thick fleece in the group that didn't have handwarmer pockets. Most of the lightweight fleeces we tested also forego hand pockets, presumably to reduce weight and bulk.

fleece jacket - the arc&#039;teryx kyanite has almost the perfect blend of comfort...
The Arc'teryx Kyanite has almost the perfect blend of comfort, warmth, and versatility.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Comfort


Fleece is, by nature, is a plushy material, and it typically makes for very comfortable jackets. While all the models that we tested are made with materials that are quite comfortable, some stood out from the rest. The soft and warm The North Face Campshire Hoodie was our favorite fleece in terms of comfort with its high pile, fur-like fleece. While warm,The North Face Denali is made with a "scratchier" and harsher fabric that is noticeably less cozy. Comfort is not only differentiated by the texture but also by the fit.


The Patagonia R1 Hoody has a longer hem and uses a snug lightweight fleece to keep it from riding up while reducing bulk in areas where layers overlap. The Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody, on the other hand, was incredibly comfortable on the skin and had a wonderfully athletic fit that didn't compromise range of motion at all.

The Patagonia R1 Air Crew was both soft and well-fitting. With its athletic cut and innovative fabric, our testers would happily wear it all day long. Figuring out the right fleece for your body type is the key to comfort. A well-fitting jacket will provide full coverage when you lift your arms above your head. The sleeves should stay in place, but we appreciated some stretch in the cuffs that allowed us to pull the sleeves up.

fleece jacket - not every fleece we reviewed was intended to be highly technical...
Not every fleece we reviewed was intended to be highly technical. The loose fitting hood on the Smartwool Hybrid Hoody offers causal comfort.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Breathability


Whether you are using your fleece jacket as an outer layer or a mid-layer, its ability to breathe or vent your perspiration to the outside is an important aspect to consider. Rigorous activity produces heat within the body, which then sweats to cool itself, but that sweat has to go somewhere, or else you end up a soaking mess. In general, fleece material is superior to other options, like cotton, in that the material is hydrophobic and won't absorb your sweat. However, the fleece's thickness and the tightness of the weave will affect how much air and moisture can move in and out of it. It's also worth mentioning that sweating in a fleece can feel downright gross against your skin, especially as it starts to cool.


The most breathable model that we tested was the Patagonia R1 Air Crew. The Patagonia R1 Air series is made from a new proprietary hollow-core fabric. Its zig-zag weave offers more warmth retention and increased breathability. Both the R1 and R1 Techface models from Patagonia use Polartec Power Grid fleece. This fabric is a tried and true option used in performance fleece wear. It offers one of the best warmth to breathability ratios. These are light enough layers to wear for just about any aerobic activity in cold weather, from running and hiking to climbing and ski touring.

The grid-style pullover fleece jackets are great even on mild days, and their breathability was so effective that we never felt uncomfortable or sweaty. When it warmed up, we took advantage of the long zippers, some of which came down past our belly buttons! The new Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is thinner and even more breathable than the original R1, but it doesn't make for a cozy mid-layer like its sibling, the standard ole trusty R1.

fleece jacket - the gridded fleece on the outdoor research vigor is highly breathable.
The gridded fleece on the Outdoor Research Vigor is highly breathable.
Credit: Buck Yedor

The Techface R1 is breathable but is a heavier weight than the R1 and is not as suited to aerobic activities. While these jackets are made of a tighter, more weather-resistant weave, they are so thin that they still vent fairly well.

fleece jacket - the grid fleece pillows are thin on the techface, resulting in a...
The grid fleece pillows are thin on the Techface, resulting in a less than toasty layer, but one that protects well from the elements.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

In addition to the weave and thickness of the material, some other features can help a jacket breathe better. As already mentioned, some fleeces that are pullovers may sport a super long zipper that comes down past the belly button, which can help vent excess heat. Some jackets have pockets lined with a thin mesh instead of fleece, which can be unzipped for added airflow.

fleece jacket - nothing layers as well as the r1, period.
Nothing layers as well as the R1, period.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Layering Ability


A fleece is an essential part of a layering system, usually residing between a light base layer and a less breathable insulated jacket or down puffy.

Related: How to Layer Clothing to Keep Warm


We tested each model with various other jackets and base layers and rated them on how easily they layered and their level of comfort. Thinner models, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody, and the Arc'teryx Konseal, layered easily under everything we tried them with. The thumb holes were also a bonus, as we didn't have to worry about the sleeves riding up when pulling on another layer.

fleece jacket - our favorite way to layer the r1 techface is over the standard r1...
Our favorite way to layer the R1 Techface is over the standard R1 Pullover Hoody.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

fleece jacket - the lightweight synchilla is not a great layering piece and fairs...
The Lightweight Synchilla is not a great layering piece and fairs better as a stand-alone garment.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

The models that didn't fare so well were the heavier and bulkier ones, like the Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap T, The North Face Campshire Hoodie, The North Face Denali 2, and the Smartwool Merino Hybrid. These models are thicker, with a boxier cut and long arms that bunch around the cuffs. While we had no trouble putting them on over another light fleece layer, they were not very comfortable to wear under another jacket like a shell or winter puffy jacket. The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is cut larger than the normal R1 Hoody and works best as a weather-resistant outer layer.

Weather Resistance


Weather resistance only counts for 10% of our scoring. Fleece isn't traditionally known for its water-resistant properties, and we don't expect a fleece jacket to keep us dry. Unlike cotton, synthetic materials retain a significant amount of their insulating abilities when wet, so if you do manage to get caught in the rain without a shell, you'll be in much better shape than if you were wearing a cotton hoody. While none of the fleeces we reviewed are waterproof, some fleece is certainly more weather resistant than others.


Weather resistance is vital if you're looking for a fleece you can use as an outer layer, or you don't want to carry other layers around town with you. Often, the more weather-resistant a fleece jacket is, the less it breathes. The thicker and heavier models, like The North Face Denali 2, were better at blocking the wind than others.

For good weather resistance, we like the Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody. This thin fleece is wind resistant, has an effective water-resistant DWR treatment, and even a brimmed hood like you would find on a rain jacket. Keep in mind that DWR treatments don't work as well when your jacket gets dirty, and even the Techface will "wet out" in heavy rain. Pair a breathable fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody with a dedicated wind or rain shell, and you have the ultimate alpine setup.

As far as protection from precip goes, The North Face Denali 2 is one of the more water-resistant fleeces in our roundup. Not only is this fleece thick, it has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment, causing light rain to bead off this fleece, like water off a duck's back. However, even the Denali 2 will eventually soak through and become a heavy mess in a massive rainstorm. The breathable Patagonia R1 soaked up rain like a sponge, so you'll want to keep a waterproof layer handy when cruising around in the mountains with this jacket.

While no more water-resistant than any of the other fleeces, the Smartwool Merino Hyrbid is made from a blend of Merino Wool and standard synthetic fleece. The high percentage of wool used in this garment means that it will retain even more of its insulating abilities than the fully synthetic options when it gets wet.

Weight


Weight is something to consider if you are hiking long distances or heading for a "fast and light" mission in the alpine. While a few ounces here or there might not seem like much, when you shave ounces off of all of your gear, those weight savings start to add up. The breathable R1 Air Crew is the lightest fleece we tested, weighing in at a featherweight 9.7 ounces.


On the heavier side, TNF Denali 2 weighs 27.1 ounces, twice as much as the lighter models, making it too heavy and bulky to throw in your pack when heading for a long hike; ditto for the supremely comfortable TNF Campshire Hoodie. If you just need a layer for car camping, though, and weight is not an issue, you'll appreciate having a warm layer like the Denali 2, Campshire, or the Lightweight Synchilla Snap T when hanging around the campfire at night. The Kuhl Interceptr 1/4 Zip is another option that is a little too heavy to use for long missions into the backcountry, but it is a perfect midweight choice for wearing around town and the occasional hike.

fleece jacket - there is a fleece for every occasion. hopefully, you have a better...
There is a fleece for every occasion. Hopefully, you have a better idea of what it is you need for your next adventure.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Conclusion


The variety and number of jackets on the market can make your head spin, and without the actual jacket in hand, deciding on something by looking online can seem overwhelming. In general, we buy these jackets for their primary function — warmth. However, as technology grows and designs improve, the added features modeled into a fleece can be what seal the deal. Like almost all gear, it depends on how and where you're planning to use it.

Buck Yedor & Adam Paashaus


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