When you think of fleece what comes to mind? In most cases words like warm, cozy, and fuzzy jump into your mind. You would not be wrong. But…the term “fleece” actually covers a LOT of ground in the outdoor world. You can have a high loft fleece or a tightly woven fleece — the high loft is the cozy you think of; the tightly woven provides a sleeker look. Here are a few other great things about fleece:
Fleece is Breathable…Usually. If you plan to use a lightweight fleece jacket you will have a very breathable jacket, it is one of the biggest perks to the lightweight and tightly woven fleece. However, if you opt for one of the jackets that feel fuzzy and cozy you will be sacrificing some of [or most of] the breathability.
Fleece is Water Repellent…but Not Waterproof. Fleece is made from a petroleum base, therefore it is water repellent. Water cannot be absorbed into the individual fibers that make up the fleece material. This allows a fleece jacket to stand up against light rain or the damp dew of an early morning. However, water can soak between the fleece fibers and eventually soak the entire jacket so always pack a rain jacket!
Fleece is Warm…but Has Limits. Yes, fleece is the warm material that you think of! It is the material used to make cozy blankets, so of course it is warm. How much warmth you get from a fleece jacket will depend upon how heavy the fleece is and how the fleece is woven — but as a whole, fleece is warm! However, the lightweight fleece offers less warmth than the thicker options.
Now let’s jump into the ins and outs of a few amazing [yet very different] fleece jackets.
**Sizing Note** For reference we have measured each jacket for sleeve length and back length while the jacket was laying flat. The sleeves were measured from armpit seam/fold to the wrist cuff. The back was measured from the collar/hood seam to bottom hem.
Eddie Bauer High Route Grid Full Zip
The Eddie Bauer High Route Grid jacket is a lightweight fleece made with a HeatFree material with a polyester/spandex blend. It has a grid pattern in the tightly woven fleece that creates a fuzzy waffle pattern on the interior. This allows for both warmth and breathability. There are also thumb holes and a comfortable hood/zipper tab that allows you to snuggle down. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 22 inches and the back is 27.5 inches long.
What We Loved: The jacket as a whole fits very well and allows you to move while layered up. The hood fits nicely without cutting off your vision. Overall, this jacket is spot on!
What We Would Change: This may be a trend…I will never not ask for longer sleeves, a request I make for every long-armed woman out there! Beyond this minor request this is a great lightweight jacket.
Fit, Feel + Function: The Eddie Bauer High Route jacket has a slim fit that does fit over a thin baselayer. It is a comfortable jacket to wear that has a bit of extra stretch [hey-o spandex] that allows you to keep your full range of motion when layering. It does fit true to size.
Pockets + Packability: There are two outer zipper pockets and two inner pouch pockets. It does not pack down into a pocket but it does roll up nicely into its hood!
The North Face Osito Jacket
The North Face Osito Jacket brings the “fuzzy” into fleece! It is made with a silky soft high loft fleece that provides both warmth and water resistance. Even with the fuzzy look and feel of this jacket, it is a very lightweight option for the trails. It will not pack down into the pockets but it does provide the warmth and protection you’ll need for the trails or around town. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 20 inches and the back is 27.5 inches long.
What We Loved: The overall feel [literal feel, not just “vibe”] of this jacket is so cozy and warm. It is the kind of jacket you’ll want to have hanging next to the door, easy to grab for any outing.
What We Would Change: It would be nice to see cuffs on the sleeves to add a bit of length as well as keep them in place over your layers. One concern I do have is the durability of the “silky soft fleece” after a lot of use and multiple washes — will it lose its fluff?
Fit, Feel + Function: The TNF Osito Jacket fits comfortably over a thicker base layer and can still be wriggled under a rain jacket or hardshell when needed. It does fit true to size.
Pockets + Packability: There are two zipper pockets at the waist as well as two pouch pockets just inside the jacket. It does not pack down into a pocket but you can roll most of it into the pouch pockets if you do need to stash it.
Icebreaker RealFleece Descender Jacket
The Icebreaker Descender Jacket is made with RealFleece, a brushed merino wool that works to trap your own heat while still being breathable as needed. Thed material has a soft fleece rib pattern on the interior and a tight-knit exterior. The cuffs have thumbholes as well as mitts that can be flipped over your fingers when they get cold. There is also a fitted hood and breathable panels down each side. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 21.5 inches and the back is 26 inches long.
What We Loved: The wide cuffs with the mitt-flips are borderline genius. The overall fit of the jacket is comfortable but fitted. It does allow you full range of motion when you’re on the move.
What We Would Change: This jacket is very lightweight, so plan accordingly when packing it. Beyond that it would be nice to have a little more length at the waist or a more secure cuff to keep the cold out.
Fit, Feel + Function: The Icebreaker Descender provides a comfortable fit over a thin base layer or tank top. This also makes it very easy to fit under a puffy jacket or more protective outer jacket. It does fit true to size.
Pockets + Packability: There are two zipper pockets at the waist. The jacket does not pack down into any pockets but it does roll into the hood.
Mountain Hardwear Keele Ascent Hoody
The Mountain Hardwear Keele Ascent Hoody is designed as an ascent/climber’s jacket but it has some serious value on the trail even if you won’t be using a harness. It is made with a waffle pattern on the interior fleece and DWR [Durable Water Resistant] coating on the exterior. There are thumbholes at the cuffs and the hood fits snugly around the face. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 21 inches and the back is 25.5 inches long.
What We Loved: The Keele Hoody fits well without taking away any of your movement. It can easily be layered under a rain shell or simply worn as your main jacket.
What We Would Change: A little more length in the back would be great, especially since an exposed bum is so quick to get cold!
Fit, Feel + Function: This jacket is “slim fitting” but it still fits comfortably over a long sleeve base layer [ie: free range of motion in the arms even when layered]. It does fit true to size.
Pockets + Packability: Two exterior zipper pockets, two interior pouch pockets. This jacket is not designed to pack down into a pocket but it does roll into its own hood nicely.
Arc’teryx Delta LT Hoody
The Arc’teryx Delta LT Hoody is a very lightweight fleece zip-up that is designed to layer under a hardshell or as a standalone lightweight layer. The material used is Polartec with a tight grid pattern that provides warmth by also promoting breathability. It is the kind of jacket you’ll want tucked in the bottom of your run pack, just in case. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 21 inches and the back is 26 inches long.
What We Loved: This is a very lightweight jacket that can easily be packed along for any adventure. The hood is also very lightweight and fits nicely under a helmet [ski, bike, or climb!].
What We Would Change: This seems very minor but the zipper pockets create a space that seems to be an inner pouch pocket…but there is no seam along the bottom so you end up dropping things through a nonexistent pocket by habit.
Fit, Feel + Function: The Delta LT fits close to skin but can be worn over a next-to-skin base layer. It also fits well under a puffy jacket or rain/hardshell. It fits true to size.
Pockets + Packability: There are two zippered pockets at the waist and one small zipper pocket on the left sleeve. This jacket is not designed to pack into a pocket, but it does fold/scrunch down into a very small space in your pack!
Cotopaxi Teca Fleece
The Cotopaxi Teca Fleece is made with a repurposed fleece that is both thick and cozy. The material is “high loft” with a very soft feel, providing all the warmth you’ll need when using this jacket as your only layer or with a hard shell. There is no hood, but the inside of the collar is lined with a repurposed polyester taffeta that is actually quite comfortable. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 20.5 inches and the back is 26 inches long.
What We Loved: This jacket has the “traditional” feel of fleece that is thick and cozy. When zipped up into this Cotopaxi Teca jacket you feel all bundled up and warm, ready for a hike or wander through town.
What We Would Change: It would be great to see slightly longer sleeves [or maybe cuffs?] on the women’s jacket, otherwise you’ll be depending upon your inner base layer to keep your wrists warm.
Fit, Feel + Function: The Cotopaxi Teca jacket has a loose fit that layers well over a thicker base layer. You can definitely wear it under a rain jacket or hardshell, but those outer layers will need to be loose fitting as well. It does fit true to size.
Pockets + Packability: There are two outer pouch pockets and two inner pouch pockets. This jacket does not pack down into any pockets or pouches and overall is not very packable.
Title Nine Crash Jacket 2.0
The Title Nine Crash Jacket 2.0 is made with Polartec material to create a solid, dependable mid-layer. This layer offers up both warmth and breathability for nearly any adventure. There are thumb holes in the cuffs and all seams/edges are soft with the fleece material rolled outward to expose the softness. There are phone-sized [unless you have the palm-sized cellphone] pouches near the side seams and a hood that fits over low profile helmets [skiing, climbing, biking, etc.]. In a size medium, the sleeves measure at 21 inches and the back is 25 inches long.
What We Loved: This jacket has a fuzzy soft interior with an exterior you’re inclined to trust against wet weather. The sleeves are long and have comfortable thumbholes.
What We Would Change: The hood fits well, unless it is a windy day. It is designed to fit over a helmet [which is capable of] but is too loose to stay put against too much movement or fit *under* a helmet.
Fit, Feel + Function: The Title Nine Crash Jacket fits comfortably as a mid-layer jacket, and it will fit nicely over a thin baselayer and easily under an outer shell jacket.
Pockets + Packability: There are two side pouch pockets, two zipper pockets at the waist, and two pouch pockets on the interior. It does not pack into any pockets but it does roll into the hood.