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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
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
Friday August 26, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Over the last 10 years, our teams of apparel experts have tested more than 45 of the best fleece jackets. After researching the top models available today, we independently purchased 10 of the most popular fleeces and put them through a series of side-by-side tests. We assessed each model for warmth, comfort, breathability, layering ability, weather resistance, and weight. We put each one through the wringer, taking them along on backpacking trips and dragging them up granite walls. We also chopped wood, hung out around campfires, and took them out on the town. Whether you're looking for a cozy stand-alone 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

Editor's Note: We purchased and tested all of the models you see in our fleet, publishing the review on August 26, 2022.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $169.00 at REI
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Overall Score
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77
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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 designHigh performance, solid fit, breathable, solid featuresIncredibly soft brushed fleece interior, athletic fit, incredibly comfortable
Cons No thumb loopsAverage weather resistanceNot as warm for its weight as some high-loft modelsDifficult to add many layers under, not as warm as other modelsNo thumb loops
Bottom Line Patagonia made the classic R1 warmer and more comfortable with this versatile pieceHighly featured and even higher performing, this cost-effective option provides a hard-to-beat valueA perfect layering piece that regulates body temperature so well you'll leave it on from summit to sleeping bag and everywhere in betweenBuilt for the athlete, this model provides warmth, as well as a highly functional pieceAn extremely comfortable and well-built fleece that’s ready to accompany you as far into the mountains
Rating Categories Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Mountain Hardwear S... Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Warmth (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Breathability (20%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Layering Ability (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Weather resistance (10%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Patagonia R1 Air Fu... Outdoor Research Vi... Patagonia R1 Hoody Mountain Hardwear S... Arc'teryx Kyanite A...
Type Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Lightweight Midweight
Measured Weight 12.5 oz 13 oz 11.4 oz 13.3 oz 15 oz
Main Material 100% Polyester 94% polyester, 6% spandex 93% polyester, 7% spandex 100% polyester 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
# of Pockets 3 3 1 2 2
Unique Features Slim-fit hood, quick drying Thumb holes, UPF 30, 3-panel hood with binding Balaclava hood, odor control, thumb holes Raglan sleeves, thumb holes, three-piece fitted hood Scuba hood, stretchy fabric
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall Fleece Jacket


Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody


86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Weather resistance 8.0
Weight: 12.5 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
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 Patagonia R1 Air Full Zip Hoody. 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, it's one our testers always grab first. The low weight, combined with the amount of warmth it provides, makes 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.

In previous reviews, we tested the R1 Air Crew and loved it. In this review, we tested the hooded version and found it even better, thanks to the pockets and well-fitted hood. While this fleece is more wind-resistant than the original R1, it's still a lightweight fleece, and you'll want to prepare accordingly if you expect poor weather. 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 Full Zip Hoody

best overall fleece jacket
The R1 Air provides solid warmth while moving in the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Credit: James Lucas

Best Bang for the Buck


Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip Hoodie


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Weather resistance 6.0
Weight: 13 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 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 than the R1 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 want 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 of tremendous value.

Read review: Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip

fleece jacket - best bang for the buck
No matter the conditions, the OR Vigor Full Zip will keep you feeling warm and psyched.
Credit: James Lucas

A Classic Hooded Model


Patagonia R1 Hoody


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Weather resistance 6.0
Weight: 11.4 ounces | 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 the 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, thanks to its remarkable performance. It incorporates all the most important aspects of a midlayer 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, noted 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. If worn every day, it will show its wear eventually. Though its smooth face won't pick or pill and layers nicely, it may eventually get holes; the nature of the grid pattern creates thin, weak sections of fleece that eventually can fail. It's a bit 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 R1 is a great layering piece that comes in handy every season. It is fairly lightweight and great for use as an athletic piece. It is less than ideal as a single piece for staying warm while it's cold out.
Credit: James Lucas

Best Midweight Fleece


Arc'teryx Kyanite AR Hoody


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Breathability 7.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Weather resistance 7.0
Weight: 15 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 AR 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. It is one of the most comfortable fleeces we reviewed, 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 stand-alone 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 AR Hoody

fleece jacket - best midweight fleece
The Kyanite Hoody has an unmatched level of comfort and an incredible fit.
Credit: James Lucas

Best for Casual Comfort


Kuhl Interceptr 1/4 Zip


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 8.0
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Breathability 7.0
  • Layering Ability 7.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Weather resistance 8.0
Weight: 15 ounces | Type: Heavyweight
REASONS TO BUY
Less "teched out" aesthetic, large chest pocket
Thumb loops
Large chest pocket
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Poor breathability

The Kuhl Interceptr 1/4 Zip is a tester favorite thanks to its clean silhouette and good performance. The jacket mixes fashion with function, making it easy to wear while at the campfire, out hiking, while running errands, or for apres ski or cragging. The jacket had a solid level of warmth that kept our testers warm while wearing it. It feels smooth and comfortable against our skin. The 1/4 zip allows for a bit more breathing room for users, and the thumb loops make layering with the jacket easier. The mountain chic vibes of this fleece helped push it forward.

The downside of this jacket? The Intercepter is heavy and not as packable as many of the more technical pieces in this review. Its breathability is not exceptional and is not our first choice for climbing or heavy cardio workouts. It has a single chest pocket. For heading out on longer trips into the backcountry or climbing where weight and performance matter, we would choose a different model.

Read review: Kuhl Interceptr 1/4 Zip

fleece jacket - best for casual comfort
The Interceptr was less than ideal in terms of breathability. The thickness of the fleece made exercising in it difficult.
Credit: James Lucas

Notable for Performance


Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7.0
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Breathability 9.0
  • Layering Ability 9.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Weather resistance 8.0
Weight: 13.3 ounces | Type: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
High performance
Solid fit
Highly breathable
Plenty of features
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as warm as some

The Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip is a great athletic jacket with all the features needed to make it stand out. What sets this hoody apart from other fleece jackets is the high functionality. Its heat-trapping grid pattern ensures it breathes well, wicks away moisture, and retains warmth. When our testers were climbing hard, they could maintain a balance of staying warm without overheating, making it perfect for heavy activity or as a single garment during intense hikes. Additionally, the raglan sleeves, three-piece fitted hood, and thumb holes gave this fleece a strong ability to move well, adding to its ability to perform in intense situations.

While we love the functionality of this fleece, it isn't quite as warm as some of the other models in this review. Aside from that, the Stratus is a versatile piece that stands up to the difficult and variable conditions found in the mountains.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip

fleece jacket - the fit of the jacket keeps it from bunching too much under another...
The fit of the jacket keeps it from bunching too much under another layer while still being able to fit lighter-weight shirts underneath.
Credit: James Lucas

Compare Products

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Score Product Price Our Take
86
$169
Editors' Choice Award
A well-rounded and highly versatile model that offers a great warmth to weight ratio in a surprisingly cozy package
82
$110
A technical jacket with an athletic fit and great performance
80
$110
Best Buy Award
This lightweight and breathable fleece offers excellent performance at a price that's hard to beat
79
$169
Top Pick Award
An ideal layer for almost any adventure, you'll never want to take it off
77
$179
Top Pick Award
This model is built to withstand the serious demands of adventuring in the mountains
73
$119
Top Pick Award
This versatile model offers a combination of performance and style
72
$105
Basic and lighter weight, it's an all around high-quality competitor
65
$50
Simple, basic, and inexpensive, it's built for less technical adventures
63
$65
This basic fleece jacket is soft and comfortable on your body and on your wallet
54
$179
A true classic, it's perfect for staying cozy around town or while on day hikes

fleece jacket - the kyanite ar is a full zip hoody offers excellent protection from...
The Kyanite AR is 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 James Lucas, Buck Yedor, and Adam Paashaus. James has been a long-time climber, writer, and photographer who spends every free moment he has in the mountains outside of his house in Boulder, Colorado. From early morning runs up the First Flatiron to late nights hiking out of Rocky Mountain National Park after running, James has put the fleeces to the test. 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 (20% of overall score rating)
  • Comfort (20% of overall score rating)
  • Breathability (20% of overall score rating)
  • Layering ability (15% of overall score rating)
  • Weather resistance (10% 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, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, 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 20% of the overall score, as well as the Comfort and Breathability metrics. 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.

The Arc&#039;teryx Kyanite is an ideal layer for chilly days at the crag.
The Arc'teryx Kyanite is an ideal layer for chilly days at the crag.
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 stand-alone 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.


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, Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip offers exceptional value and is one of the highest performing in our fleet. The Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip also offers a reasonable price and good performance. It's built with comfort in mind and can easily perform in the backcountry.

fleece jacket - the outdoor research full zip vigor offers one of the best values of...
The Outdoor Research Full Zip Vigor offers one of the best values of any fleece currently on the market.
Credit: Buck Yedor

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 is 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.

The Kuhl Interceptr uses Kuhl's Alfpaca Gold fleece, keeping our testers comfy and almost as warm as The North Face Denali. It's not quite as warm as the Denali, but 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 is lightweight and breathable but not the best insulator. This style performs 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. Pictured here is the Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Most of the lightweight fleeces we tested still had hand warmer pockets which kept them heavy but also added some function and warmth.

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

Comfort


Fleece is, by nature, 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 Arcteryx Kyanite is our favorite fleece in terms of comfort with its 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, is incredibly comfortable on the skin and has a wonderfully athletic fit that didn't compromise range of motion.

fleece jacket - the comfort of the r1 comes in part from the hollow core fabric.
The comfort of the R1 comes in part from the hollow core fabric.
Credit: James Lucas

The Patagonia R1 Air 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. The Outdoor Research Vigor Zip and Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip are also high scorers in this metric. Not only do they feel comfortable on the skin, but the hoods are nice additions that increase their level of comfort.

fleece jacket - no matter the conditions, the or vigor full zip will keep you...
No matter the conditions, the OR Vigor Full Zip will keep you feeling warm, comfortable, and psyched.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Breathability


Whether you are using your fleece jacket as an outer layer or a midlayer, 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. 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.


One of the breathable models that we tested is the Patagonia R1 Air. 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. The R1 uses Polartec Power Grid fleece. This fabric is a tried and true option used in performance fleece wear, and 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.

fleece jacket - the lack of thumbholes makes layering this piece less than ideal...
The lack of thumbholes makes layering this piece less than ideal, but the fit still allows it to be a good choice for putting under a hardshell.
Credit: James Lucas

While these fleeces are made of a tighter, more weather-resistant weave, they are so thin that they still vent fairly well. The grid-style pullover fleece jackets are great even on mild days, and their breathability is 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!

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 Outdoor Research Vigor and Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range Full Zip rank alongside the R1 models and allowed us to regulate our temperatures without overheating.

fleece jacket - the mountain hardwear stratus full zip is highly breathable and kept...
The Mountain Hardwear Stratus Full Zip is highly breathable and kept us cool during aerobic activities.
Credit: James Lucas

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. Most of the jackets we tested have full zippers that allowed for an increased level of breathability.

fleece jacket - it&#039;s hard to beat the layering of the classic r1 hoody.
It's hard to beat the layering of the classic R1 Hoody.
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 Mountain Hardwear Stratus Range, 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 - the thin material, slim fit, and thumb loops make layering over the...
The thin material, slim fit, and thumb loops make layering over the OR Vigor an easy and comfortable experience.
Credit: Buck Yedor

The models that didn't fare so well were the heavier and bulkier ones, like the Columbia Mountain Steens, REI Groundbreaker, and The North Face Denali 2. 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.

fleece jacket - 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.
Credit: Buck Yedor

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 are 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.

fleece jacket - the interceptr&#039;s articulated arms keep you from feeling restricted...
The Interceptr's articulated arms keep you from feeling restricted, despite the slim fit. It also provides a good level of weather resistance.
Credit: Buck Yedor

For good weather resistance, we like the Patagonia R1 Air. This fleece more wind resistant than the regular R1, and has a well fitted hood that stays dry. has an effective water-resistant DWR treatment, and 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. Pair a breathable fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody with a dedicated wind or rain shell, and you have the ultimate alpine setup.

fleece jacket - this stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers...
This stylish jacket has a nice around-town look and kept our testers quite warm. It earns the highest score in our weather resistance metric.
Credit: James Lucas

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 it — which we recommend doing with any fleece, particularly if you're expecting poor weather.

fleece jacket - the soft fleece of the reactor makes it a cozy, weather resistance...
The soft fleece of the Reactor makes it a cozy, weather resistance choice.
Credit: James Lucas

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 Marmot Reactor is the lightest fleece we tested, weighing in at a 10.9 ounces, followed by the Patagonia R1 Hoody.

fleece jacket - the r1 is a great lightweight layering piece that comes in handy...
The R1 is a great lightweight layering piece that comes in handy every season.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

On the heavier side, The North Face Denali 2 weighs 17.1 ounces, making it too heavy and bulky to throw in your pack when heading for a long hike; ditto for the supremely comfortable Kuhl Interceptr. If you just need a layer for car camping, hanging around the campfire, or errands around town, where weight is not an issue, you'll appreciate having a warm layer like the Denali 2, or the Interceptr. The Arcteryx Kyanite 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.

James Lucas, Buck Yedor & Adam Paashaus


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