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Best Budget Fleece Jackets for Women of 2021

We purchased and tested budget fleece jackets from The North Face, Amazon Essentials, Columbia, and more to find the best
Photo: Amber King
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday November 1, 2021
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Looking for the best budget fleece jacket for women? In this 2021 update, we purchased 9 of the market's best options at a lower cost. Our team of experts wore each while exploring the great mountains and deserts of Colorado. We wear each backpacking, climbing, and hiking while sweating up a storm and shivering through variable weather. We get into the details, examining fabrics, pocket architecture, fit, comfort on the skin, and breathability, for example, to determine which offer the best comparative performance. We offer our results, which is a combination of objective tests, for unbiased recommendations to help you save money on an excellent fleece at a lower cost.


1

Best Overall Fleece Jacket


The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Lightweight
Breathable architecture
Stretchy materials
Lightweight and easy to pack
Super soft materials
Lighter construction lacks standalone warmth for very cold weather
Restrictive sizing for the broad-shouldered
Lacks pockets

The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip - Women's balances breathability and warmth, making it an excellent budget fleece jacket for recreating outdoors in cool weather. The materials are thinner but still offer standalone warmth on cool days. The fabrics are breathable, with wicking properties that can take on light rain or snow. The elasticized cuffs and hem keeps materials in place and moves well with the body. It has a stylish appeal that can go from the trails to a casual restaurant in town.

While we appreciate this jacket's performance, we wish it had pockets. The fit is also narrow, best for a slim body, and feels a little restrictive across the chest and shoulders. You might find it hard to layer over base layers for this reason. Since this is a lighter construction, it's not built for the coldest of days. If you're looking for a performance fleece for cool, active days, this is our top recommendation.

This thinner fleece provides good breathability and mobility. The...
This thinner fleece provides good breathability and mobility. The material is stretchy and feels amazing on the skin. A versatile option suited for both casual wear and wearing on the trail.
Photo: Amber King

2

Best Bang for Your Buck


Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Light to Midweight
Thin and breathable design
Many cute color options
Great pockets
Soft and cozy materials
Interior seams are not flat and can feel abrasive against the skin
Shorter arms for longer limbs

We love to gush about the value, and the Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece is gush-worthy. We love the cute design and colors, and performance while on the trail. The full-zipper design provides excellent breathability, while the fabrics are soft and cozy on the skin. The two zippered handwarmer pockets are ample with two interior drop-in pockets. The interior volume of the size small we tested layers easily. It's a jacket you can move and relax in while looking good — all for an excellent price.

Our only qualms are less comfortable interior seams that aren't flat. They poke out, and if you have sensitive skin, they may feel abrasive. While this jacket provides ample coverage for those with short or medium-length limbs, the arms feel a bit short for those with longer limbs. Movement is also good but does ride up when arms are overhead. Caveats aside, this jacket scores the highest in our testing and is offered at a relatively low price, making it a high-value contender that should be considered.

We are impressed with the low-priced AmazonBasics Full Zip fleece...
We are impressed with the low-priced AmazonBasics Full Zip fleece that provides excellent functionality at a great price.
Photo: Amber King

3

Best Lightweight Comfort With Pockets


Columbia Fast Trek II - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Lightweight
Cozy and lightweight
Great handwarming and arm pocket
Warm construction
Durable construction
Not windproof
Lackluster style

It's hard to find anything wrong with the durable Columbia Fast Trek II. It's light, cozy, and exceptionally versatile; this is the jacket we reached for on cool fall days when performing chores around the house. The full-zip design allows you to easily vent heat if you're moving, while the pockets offer ample storage. It features two handwarmer pockets with zippers, a zippered pocket on the arm, and interior drop-in pockets for stashing items like a bar or sandwich. The polyester construction wards off water during light rain, while the plush option will keep you warm when the temperatures dip outside.

This is a solid jacket with next to no caveats. The only ones we can think of are it's not wholly windproof and has a less stylish look. The material is porous and thin, making it breathable enough for cold days on the move, but you will still feel a wind cut through the fabric. The style looks good but doesn't have any bells or whistles to speak of. If you're looking for a lightweight budget fleece jacket with lots of ample storage in a cozy design, this is the one to take a serious look over.

The Columbia Fast Trek II is built for hiking and exploration in the...
The Columbia Fast Trek II is built for hiking and exploration in the great outdoors. The fleece is soft and cozy with just enough breathability for cool Fall days.
Photo: Amber King

4

Best Weather Resistance


Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Heavyweight
Soft, silky, and super-plush interior lining
Weather-resistant
Very warm
Bulky and harder to layer under a jacket
Not very breathable

Seeking a super-plush, silky interior with incredible weather resistance? The Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece may be what you're looking for. This hooded budget fleece jacket is completely lined with a super-fuzzy interior, and it's one of the most cuddly jackets to wear while lounging or working from home or at the office. What's more, is it's water-resistant. After performing our water tests, we were impressed with its wicking ability. So impressed, we tried it in the shower; surprisingly, while the materials saturated, we stayed relatively dry. In wind, the multiple layers kept us warm and protected too. As a result, we deem it the most weather-resistant of any option we've tested in this review. The two handwarmer pockets have a smooth interior liner that'll also protect your belongings and stay dry, even when soaked.

While the name of this jacket infers complete waterproofness, this claim simply isn't true. Yes, the jacket will keep you dry, but the materials themselves will still saturate when wet, and it takes a long time to dry. The bulkier design isn't very breathable either, even though you can unzip it to vent heat when needed. Functioning as a jacket for colder weather, you can easily stack a layer underneath, but its bulkier construction is harder to layer under a coat. The sleeves are big, and the arms are also a bit short for longer-limbed ladies. If you're seeking a super-cozy product that feels like you're wearing a blanket and will keep you well protected from the elements, this is it.

A water resistant shell with a superiorly fluffy interior. Comfort...
A water resistant shell with a superiorly fluffy interior. Comfort and protection, all wrapped into one affordable package.
Photo: Amber King

5

Best Stylish Pullover


Columbia Benton Springs Pullover - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Midweight
Super cute style
Warm
Weather resistance
Durable construction
Hard to vent heat while moving

The Columbia Benton Springs Pullover won't just keep you warm in cold weather, but it'll look good while you have apres drinks with friends. This super-functional and stylish budget fleece jacket had an impact on our testing team. We found ourselves reaching for it to wear to work, out on the town, and while hiking in cold weather. We love the contrasting and diverse color pallet that got many compliments from friends and even strangers around town. The materials keep water and wind out while keeping you warm and cozy on cool days throughout the year.

We wish this jacket came with a kangaroo pocket — or any pocket for that matter; which would have significantly improved its utility and earned more points in our testing. We also found that with its thicker, midweight construction and ¼ snap design, it got hot quickly when hiking or wearing on warmer days. This contender is best for women seeking a stylish pullover that doesn't need pockets and isn't planning on being too active while wearing it. It's best for less involved activities like doing chores around the house, lounging, or heading out to the store.

Stylish and ready for a hike. A beautiful combination that we...
Stylish and ready for a hike. A beautiful combination that we reached for more often than not.
Photo: Amber King

6

A High Quality Full Zip


Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip - Women's


Materials: 100% Polyester | Weight: Midweight
Durable construction that resists pilling
Vents heat well with the full-zip design
Very warm and comfortable
Fabrics aren't very breathable

Our testers have been wearing the Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip for two years now, and they are still impressed with its performance. This workhorse has withstood daily chores, including chopping wood, gardening, cleaning the house, and more. After washing over 50 times, it still shows no signs of pilling or significant wear. We prefer wearing it on cooler days of the year when warmth and comfort are required. The huge pockets come in handy for storing items and keeping hands warm on cold days. The fit is quite roomy and true to size, easily fitting another sweater or base layer underneath.

Unfortunately, like most midweight or heavy fleeces, it is not very breathable for high-output activities. While it'll do for a leisurely walk, it's not one we'd wear, even while winter running. Since the design is a little bulky, you almost might have trouble fitting it underneath a tighter-fitting shell. If it's quality that you seek, this is one we'd highly recommend as it's been doing us good for over a year now.

Plush and thick, this durable fleece will last a long time and has...
Plush and thick, this durable fleece will last a long time and has been deemed a workhorse after testing it over the years.
Photo: Amber King

7

Classic Stylish Cotton Hoodie


esstive Ultra Soft Fleece Hoodie - Women's


Materials: 80% cotton 20% polyester | Weight: Light to midweight
Comfortable and stylish
Softer interior
Very breathable
Lacks weather resistance
Lacks warmth when wet

The esstive Ultra Soft Hoodie is a cotton-blend hoodie with many color options and a comfortable design. The interior is lined with a soft fleecy material that feels great against the skin. As a lightweight contender, it offers excellent breathability, decidedly best for warm to cool days while leisurely hanging out or performing chores around the house. Our testers appreciated the many color options and its stylish appeal that's at home for school or wearing out with friends.

Like any cotton-blend jacket, it doesn't stay warm when wet and doesn't offer a whole lot of insulation for cold days. This isn't the jacket we'd recommend for hiking or skiing in cold weather, for example. It's best for those seeking a great deal on a casual cotton-blend fleece jacket with a simplistic and classic style.

A cute classic suited for casual and everyday wear.
A cute classic suited for casual and everyday wear.
Photo: Amber King

8

Super Soft and Cozy


Amazon Essentials Quarter-Zip Polar Fleece - Women's


Materials: 100% polyester | Weight: Heavyweight
Ultra-soft and plush materials
Very warm and cozy
Layers well
Bulky and doesn't pack down
Not breathable

Want to wrap yourself in a blanket for the day? The Amazon Essentials Polar Quarter-Zip takes the cake when it comes to comfort. This uber-thick blanket-like jacket will swallow your torso, leaving only cozy comforts and warmth to savor. Its thick design is soft to the touch. When we pulled it out of the package, we were instantly rubbing the thick fleece against our cheek, looking forward to wearing it on cold, chilly days. The interior liner is a thinner fleece material that offers easy layering with many pockets for functional storage. If warmth and comfort are your priority, this thick and well-priced jacket comes highly recommended.

Unfortunately, it isn't very breathable and pills easily after washing. While it's great for hanging out, it's not the fleece we'd choose for active activities, like hiking, for example. It is a wonderful option for those seeking a super cozy and comfortable fleece.

Thick and soft, with a large kangaroo pocket. A perfect option for...
Thick and soft, with a large kangaroo pocket. A perfect option for those seeking a casual, thick polyester fleece.
Photo: Amber King

9

A Thicker Cotton Hoodie


Amazon Essentials Thermal-Lined Hoodie - Women's


Materials: 60% cotton, 40% polyester | Weight: Heavyweight
Large, zippered pockets
Large hood
Warm
Not breathable
Very bulky
Fit is not very flattering
Low-quality zipper

The Amazon Essentials Thermal-Lined Hoodie is for ladies who prefer thicker cotton construction and a roomy fit. This heavier jacket offers warmth on cold days, whether you're riding your bike or taking an Autumn stroll. The large hood and zippers are roomy, as is the volume of the jacket. There are many color options to choose from.

The fit on this jacket is large. The arms are incredibly long, as is the torso. Additionally, given its cotton construct, there isn't much insulation if you get wet while outside. This low-priced contender is great for ladies that prefer a baggier fit and thicker cotton construction.

A larger fitting cotton fleece with plenty of space and storage.
A larger fitting cotton fleece with plenty of space and storage.
Photo: Amber King

Why You Should Trust Us


As an avid boater, snowboarder, climber, outdoor educator, and gear tester, Amber King knows what goes into a good fleece jacket. Not only has she been reviewing them for over four years, but she's been testing over 30 categories of gear for seven years. You can typically find her clinging to the sides of cliffs, running trails, and teaching kids at her outdoor school, Treeline Education, all while wearing a fleece. She also gives each jacket to friends and family to get additional feedback for a well-rounded review, specifically for women.

Our selection begins with researching the best budget fleeces on the market. We look at the most popular options at a reasonable price before selecting nine to test side-by-side. In addition to wearing each daily, we spray them with water, stand on windy summits, climb during hail storms, and take each hoody hiking. After putting them to the test against the elements, we also evaluate important features like pockets, fit, comfort, and relative warmth. Our recommendations are hinged on being unbiased and in-depth, so you can find an excellent budget fleece jacket that won't empty your wallet.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


This budget fleece jacket review for women features lower-priced jackets, ranging in utility from loungewear to workhorse chore crushers to hiking compadres. We chose options with and without hoods that are currently the most popular on the market. After testing, we rate each using important metrics; then, we can help you determine which budget fleece is best for your needs and wallet.

A look at the budget fleece selection tested over the last few months.
A look at the budget fleece selection tested over the last few months.
Photo: Amber King

Warmth


When the temperatures drop and pumpkin spice lattes flood the streets, you know it's time to get out your favorite fleece. We evaluate jacket warmth by looking at materials and wearing each when temperatures drop in the mountains, where our main tester lives. Not only do we look at standalone warmth, but we also consider warmth in a layered system.

Thick and furry, these two options are some of our favorites when...
Thick and furry, these two options are some of our favorites when warmth is a priority. Look for 100% polyester construction with a thicker design to keep you warm on cold days.
Photo: Amber King

Jackets built with polyester in a thicker construction are most definitely the warmest out there. In our tests, the Amazon Essentials Polar Fleece Quarter-Zip is the warmest. It features a 100% polyester construction with super plush and warm materials. It has multiple layers of insulation, making it the warmest tested. The Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece is a close second, with a slightly thicker construction. The super fuzzy liner is probably the most comfortable we've tested, efficiently generating warmth. Given the thicker construction of both, each is best for cold weather and not designed for high output or sweaty activities.

Of the midweight jackets, both the Columbia Benton Springs Pullover and Columbia Benton Springs Full-Zip offer sufficient warmth for the coldest days of winter. They are both thinner than others mentioned above, making them a good option for daily chores around the house.

The Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece sports a super fuzzy interior...
The Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece sports a super fuzzy interior that feels amazing on the skin.
Photo: Amber King

Of the lightweight jackets, we are most impressed with the The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip and Columbia Fast Trek II. Both breathe much better than the options above, keeping you warmer while you're on the move. For standalone warmth, both will keep you toasty when layered with appropriate base layers and jackets; however, as a jacket on its own, they're both a little thin for cold weather.

If you're seeking warmth and plan on sweating while wearing your jacket, avoid any option with cotton in its make-up. Cotton does not wick moisture from the skin and will eventually cool and condense, making you very cold. For this purpose, wear only polyester or merino wool.

Comfort


How cozy is your jacket? To test this metric, we simply wore each for a few months while working, hanging out in town, and during apres drinks on the ski hill. During this time, we were able to note significant comfort features and which have the coziest construction. Those with ultra-fuzzy liners, large pockets, and a nice fit do best.

What do you prefer when it comes to comfort? Big pockets, fuzzy...
What do you prefer when it comes to comfort? Big pockets, fuzzy interior, soft liners? We love it all. The Columbia 1/4 zip fleece is super comfortable, so much that we took a break on our hike through the woods.
Photo: Amber King

If you're seeking the coziest and most comfortable fleece, the Amazon Essentials Polar Fleece Quarter-Zip is by far the thickest and softest option out there. Its soft fabrics feel incredible on the skin. The Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece is another one of our favorites, with great pockets for storage and a superiorly fuzzy liner. Its thicker construction is warm, making it a great option for all types of cold-weather activities.

This massive kangaroo pocket offers plenty of storage, which adds to...
This massive kangaroo pocket offers plenty of storage, which adds to the comforts of this volumptious jacket.
Photo: Amber King

The The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip offers the softest materials tested for its thinner construction. It articulates well with skin, offering superior comfort but lacks features like pockets. The Columbia Fast Trek II and Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece are two other full-zip fleeces with excellent pockets and storage.

We also like the Columbia Benton Springs, with either a full zip or ¼ button option. The full zip is a little more functional and versatile, while the ¼ zip jacket is more stylish. The full zip, though, comes with large pockets, while the ¼ button does not. The esstive Ultra Soft Fleece Hoodie is a soft cotton hoody best for women looking for a comfortable and casual jacket.

Breathability


A jacket that provides great thermoregulation translates to enhanced comfort and warmth, especially if you sweat during the year's cold months. To test this, we took each jacket on a run just to see how well the fabric vented and/or diffused heat from the body. We also assessed the material and thickness of its construction.

We take a quick jaunt with The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip. Thin...
We take a quick jaunt with The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip. Thin and breathable, right through the fabric for colder days.
Photo: Amber King

Jackets with thinner polyester or cotton construction — with a more porous textile — are far more breathable than thick and tightly knit ones. The The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip is the thinnest fleece jacket tested, offering the best thermoregulation. It would only be made better if it were a full-zip to fully off-load heat, like the Columbia Fast Trek II or Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece. All these fleeces are great recommendations for winter wear, where you might be skiing or building up a sweat throughout the season.

The Amazon Essentials Polar Fleece is thinner; it has a full-zip...
The Amazon Essentials Polar Fleece is thinner; it has a full-zip design, which easily vents heat when temperatures go up.
Photo: Amber King

The esstive Ultra Soft Fleece Hoodie is another casual cotton hoodie that is also quite breathable. The materials are thinner, with a cotton construction that translates to good airflow. This is a great option to wear throughout the wear, even in warmer weather. However, not one we'd recommend for super cold days or winter travel as it's not very warm.

Layering


Is layering easy peasy or a wrestling match every morning? To test this metric, we layered clothing over and underneath each jacket to see how easily each could be pulled on and off. Those with smoother liners and shells typically do better in this metric as there's less friction for the jacket to get stuck to. Those with a lightweight construction also do better in this metric.

The Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar is a great choice for layering;...
The Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar is a great choice for layering; it's easy to slip on over layers.
Photo: Amber King

Many of the jackets tested feature an exterior face that is fuzzy, and unfortunately, stick to layers. However, some do better than others. The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip is our favorite with a very tightly knit but thin construction. It's very easy to slide another layer on top. You can do the same with any base layer if you get the right size and it's not too tight.

The jacket cut of The North Face 1/4 zip Glacier has no hood, which...
The jacket cut of The North Face 1/4 zip Glacier has no hood, which makes it easy to slip under a jacket.
Photo: Amber King

Roomier jackets like the Columbia Benton Springs options are super easy to layer over top thicker layers. The Columbia Fast Trek II and Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece are two lightweight jackets that can easily be layered as well. Those that didn't layer well were bulkier or had a very fuzzy exterior or interior.

Mobility


We took each out on an adventure to see how it moves with the body when assessing mobility. We took them climbing, hiking, and even did yoga in each. We also wore each while climbing on our homemade indoor wall to see how it moves with the body and stretches.

We test the mobility of each fleece while climbing on our home gym...
We test the mobility of each fleece while climbing on our home gym. The North Face 1/4 Zip proves to offer the most stretch and moves well with the body while climbing.
Photo: Amber King

The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip is a highly mobile fleece. This ultra-stretchable jacket hugs the body and offers lots of movement, making it a good choice to wear for sports. The Amazon Essentials Full-Zip Polar Fleece is another lightweight fleece jacket that stretches and moves well with the body but isn't as stretchy as the Glacier ¼ Zip. The Columbia Fast Trek II and Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece are both quite stretchy and can move well with the body. The Outdoor Master is thicker, so we didn't love using it for sports as much as the Columbia Fast Trek II or Amazon Essentials Full Zip Polar.

Heavier jackets like the Columbia Benton Springs ¼ button and full-zip also move with the body but in a different way. Both are bulkier than the lightweight options, so they hang off the body, more than stretching and moving with it. You could run or hike in this fleece, but just know that the material is a little more rigid as it's thicker, but it'll still stretch more than heavyweight options.

Weather Resistance


To see which budget fleece jacket could stand up to the worst weather, we got out in it all — sleet, rain, hail, and rain. We also poured water over each to assess how the material absorbed or repelled water. We did this when we got each jacket out of the package and after wearing each for weeks.

The Outdoor Master proves to offer some of the best water resistance...
The Outdoor Master proves to offer some of the best water resistance tested with its thicker construction and outer layer to beads water well.
Photo: Amber King

The most wind and water-resistant are those composed of several layers and materials with water-resistant properties such as polyester or Merino wool. Our favorite weather-resistant jacket is the Outdoor Master Waterproof Fleece. Not only did it keep us dry-ish in a complete downpour, but it won't allow wind to penetrate its thicker layers.

Other thicker fleeces, like the Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip, and Columbia Benton ¼ Snap, also bead water well. Unfortunately, the snaps and zippers are not waterproof, so make sure you're carrying a shell if you happen to get stuck in a downpour. Most jackets did pretty well in this metric. You can assume that all made from polyester will wick away water. However, cotton-constructed options like the esstive Ultra Soft Fleece Hoodie and Amazon Essentials Thermal-Lined Hoodie do not do as well in water. Thinner options like The North Face TKA Glacier 1/4 Zip will bead and wick away water, but it won't protect as well against a super-stiff breeze.

Leisurely fall hikes are the best time to sport a fleece. While...
Leisurely fall hikes are the best time to sport a fleece. While there are many on the market, we've done the hard work to see which are the best of the rest. We hope we helped you find exactly what you're looking for.
Photo: Amber King

Conclusion


We've taken the time to find the least expensive and high-performing budget fleece jackets on the market. It turns out that less costly jackets typically don't perform as well as tech-fleecy jackets, but there are a few diamonds in the ruff. We hope that our recommendations will help you find a great fleece that'll get you out exploring the world — with a wallet that's a little heavier.

Amber King

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