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Cancel your subscription any time. It's free shipping made easy It's your key to free shipping. In addition to hoods, a snug hem can make a difference for warmth.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody had a unique hood with a built-in neck gaiter that helped keep us warm up top, but the loose bottom hem with no cinch cord let cold winds rip right up the jacket. Elastic cuffs, like those on the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody , also help trap in the warmth. Finally, hand warmer pockets are another addition that helps keep you warm when your hands start to freeze over.
Either way, pockets will help keep your hands warm at a moment's notice, and every model that we tested except the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody , and the Synchilla Snap-T had them.
The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody has cozy hand warmer pockets without zippers. The lack of zippers keeps the jacket light and comfy, but make sure you store anything significant in the zippered chest pocket.
Fleece is by nature a soft material, and it typically makes for very comfortable jackets. While all of the different models that we tested were made with materials that were quite comfortable, some stood out from the rest. The soft textured micro-fleece lining on the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody also had a cozy and soft texture, particularly compared to The North Face models which are made with a scratchier and harsher fabric that was quite noticeable and much less cozy.
However, comfort is not only differentiated by texture, but also by the fit. Finding the right model for your body type is part of the solution, but where the manufacturers choose to place seams, cuffs and zippers also plays a role.
Ease of movement is another important factor when considering comfort. When you put on a fleece, how does it feel when you twist, turn, or reach above your head. Do you feel restricted? Does the jacket ride up when you lift your arms above your head and expose your vulnerable flesh to the cold? Ease of movement mostly dictated by the fit or cut of the jacket. Some folks will want a jacket to fit loose like the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T , while others will prefer a tighter fit like the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody for layering.
When it came to fit, the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody was a little short for the torsos of most of our testers. A shortcut is problematic because shorter jackets tend to ride up over a climbing harness or a waist belt on a backpack. The Patagonia R1 Hoody has an ideal cut, with long enough lengths in the arms and torso.
The Better Sweater because of its stretchy side panels that allow for increased ease of movement and breathability. The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody scored well in the comfort metric but lost a point for being a little tight across the shoulders.
We like the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody — the fleece was soft, and the basic and slim-fit design suited us well. Whether you are using your fleece jacket as an outer layer or a mid-layer, its ability to breathe or vent your sweat 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.
But the thickness of the fleece and the tightness of the weave will affect how much air and moisture can move in and out of it. As we tested a variety of weights and types of jackets, it was no surprise that some were more breathable than others and better suited to aerobic activities, while others worked better for more sedentary pursuits. The most breathable model that we tested was the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody.
The Coefficient Hoody combines an ultra-thin fleece with a Polartec insulated torso, This makes the extremely breathable, while still locking in a little warmth around the core. The Patagonia R-Series use Polartec's Power Grid fabric, which is made of hundreds of cubes of fleece separated by thin channels.
The cubes keep you warm, while the channels offer a virtually non-existent barrier for your moisture to vent through.
This technology is used in both their R1 and R1 Techface models. The R1 is a light enough layer to wear for just about any aerobic activity in cold weather, from running and hiking to climbing and ski touring. Climbers are notorious for climbing without a shirt even in the most frigid conditions, as many can't stand to feel the slightest bit hot or sweaty when trying to "send.
But we kept the R1 on even on mild days, and its breathability was so effective that we never felt uncomfortable or sweaty. While the Coefficient Hoody is slightly more breathable due to being so thin, the R1 is a warmer, more comfortable fleece. 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 our old favorite.
The same goes for the "hard-faced" Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody. While that jacket is made of a tighter, more weather resistant weave, it is so thin that it still vented well. In addition to the weave and thickness of the material, some other features can help a jacket breathe better. The stylish Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody has thin panels on the sides and under the arms to mitigate to the tight fleece weave on the rest of the jacket.
Other jackets have pockets lined with a thin mesh, as opposed to fleece, which can be unzipped for added airflow. As your fleece jacket typically is worn both over and under other clothing, its ability to pair well with other layers is another crucial consideration. You don't want it so tight that your under layers are bunching up, but you want it slim fitting enough so you can slide a wind, rain, or puffy layer on top of it. You can learn more about layering systems with our Introduction to Layered Clothing Systems article.
We tested each model with a variety of 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 Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody 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 putting on another layer. However, you can't wear more than a thin baselayer underneath these slim fitting jackets. They have a boxier cut, long arms that bunch around the cuffs, and are made with a thicker material.
While we had no trouble putting them on over other fleece, they were not so comfortable to wear under another jacket like a shell or winter puffy jacket. The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is sized much bigger than the insulating R1 Hoody because it works best as a weather resistant terminal layer.
Fleece jackets have never been known for amazing wind protection or water resistance. When we shop for a fleece, we're more concerned with how warm a fleece feels and how well it breathes.
Therefore, weather resistance only accounts for 10 percent of how these jackets were scored. The chart shown here details which jackets came out on top in the Weather Resistance metric. 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, and the "Hardface Technology" on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody also helped block the wind.
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. Pair a breathable fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody with a dedicated wind layer, and you have the ultimate alpine setup. You can check out our Wind Breaker Jacket Review for more information on that type of layer. As far as protection from precip goes, The North Face Denali 2 is by far the most water resistant fleece in the lineup. Not only 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, in a massive rainstorm, even the Denali 2 will eventually soak through. The Arc'teryx Procline takes light Polartec fleece and binds to a thin Toyano shell fabric on the chest, arms, and shoulders, making it more weather resistant at the cost of breathability.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez also offers a little defense regarding weather resistance. Though not as thick as the Denali , it was the only other fleece that could resist light rain for more than a few minutes.
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 these jackets. You can find a great option over in our Rain Jacket Review. 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. On the heavier side, TNF Denali 2 weighs almost 25 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. If you need a layer for car camping though, then the weight is not an issue, and you'll appreciate having a warm layer like the Denali 2 or the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T when hanging around the campfire at night.
As much as we obsess over the performance details of our gear, we still know it's important to look good! We did our best to balance our general impressions of each fleece with feedback from our brutally honest friends and family to assess each jacket for style points. What works the best in the mountains doesn't always look the best for a night on the town. The Better Sweater combines a sleek fleece knit weave for style with breathable side panels, so you're not totally out of luck on a strenuous hike.
The Patagonia Crosstrek Hoody by maintaining some urban styling while being more breathable than the Better Sweater. The Patagonia Synchilla Snap T is available in many patterns and colors with new styles coming out seemingly every season. The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody has a great fit and all the features you want in a technical fleece like a hood and a chest pocket but has a low-key, casual look.
The North Face Denali also scored well in the style metric. Though not a favorite of our testers, its classic look is loved by many, and these jackets continue to sell like hotcakes year after year.
The Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody lost points due to its super extended cut, which works great when tucked under a harness, but we thought it looks awkward over a casual pair of jeans. The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody was also dubbed a date night no-no due to its techy look and its scuba-like hood. Remember, style is subjective, and if a jacket fits you better than it did our testers, feel free to throw our fashion advice out the window.
The plethora of jackets in the "fleece" category on the market today can make one dizzy for sure. In general, we buy these jackets for their primary function, warmth.
However, as technology grows and designs improve, the added features modeled in most fleeces today can be what seal the deal. Like almost all gear, it depends on how and where you're planning on using it.
We hope our review of these products will positively assist you in your search for your new fleece. If you need further help in your search, be sure to check out the tips we provide in our Buying Advice article.
The Best Fleece Jackets of Displaying 1 - 5 of Updated May Springtime calls for varying conditions from scorching heat to dumping snow, so it's time to layer-up with a fleece jacket. We've brought 8 new contenders to the table: Some new Top Picks and a great new Best Buy Award winner emerged from the newcomers, but once again, the classic Patagonia R1 Hoody remains our favorite fleece of all time.
See all prices 2 found. Perfect fit for most active uses. Not as stylish as some other fleeces for around town. See all prices 4 found. Athletic fit for layering. With so many contenders, the competition is fierce!
Analysis and Test Results
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