10 Best Fleece Jackets Reviewed
The fleece jacket is a staple piece of apparel which nearly every backpacker or outdoors enthusiast seems to own and love. Many things go into finding that perfect fleece which properly suits the outdoor and sports environments. Most of us go with our favorite brands or styles that tend to work best for the environment we spend the most time in. Some require a specific fit or features for activities such as rock or alpine climbing or even trekking through varied or extreme conditions which call for the need to layer up or down. Aside from comfort, warmth and fit, the best choice will usually be one that will stand up to whatever you throw at it.
- PATAGONIA BETTER SWEATER FULL-ZIP
- THE NORTH FACE DENALI
- COLUMBIA FAST TREK 2 FULL-ZIP HOODIE
- BLACK DIAMOND COEFFICIENT
- ARC’TERYX FORTREZ
- ARC'TERYX COVERT CARDIGAN-JACKET
- PATAGONIA RE-TOOL SNAP-T PULLOVER
- MARMOT REACTOR
- THE NORTH FACE OSITO 2
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH TRANSITION HOODY
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. PATAGONIA BETTER SWEATER FULL-ZIP
Bluesign and Fairtrade certified
The Patagonia Better Sweater offers exceptional softness and warmth, while the Bluesign and Free Trade certifications mean you'll feel good about the positive impact your purchase is making.Read more
The knitted fabric and high fabric weight (283 g/m^2) make this jacket thick and warm like a heavyweight without being overly bulky. The hand pockets are zippered to keep cold air out and keep your fingers from getting numb. In fact, you may not even feel the need for a base layer in colder temperatures, which can simplify your routine.
With super-soft fleece, the Patagonia Better Sweater is designed to be so comfortable you'll want to wear it all the time. The special dyeing process is designed to use less water and chemicals, making this great for those who are sensitive to dyes.
Sizes range from small to 3XL, and it runs true to size. The overall fit is very classic and rustic; kind of makes you think of cozying up to a fire in a picturesque cabin. It also comes in a wide range of color options, so you'll be able to find something that suits you well.
Unlike other fleece jackets, the Patagonia Better Sweater is made to not pill after repeated washes, so it'll retain its fluffiness. You'll find that this jacket is just as soft and fluffy after repeated washes as it is on the day you get it.
2. THE NORTH FACE DENALI
Very warm Polartec 300 fleece
Nylon overlays provide abrasion resistance
Drawcord bottom hem helps to retain body heat
Compatible with shells and other outerwear from TNF
Available in a large amount of colors
A bit expensive
Too bulky for sports like rock climbing or others which require a lot of movement
The North Face Denali is a classic. This thing hasn’t changed a bit, and doesn’t need to. The Denali is a heavier fleece that the two featured above, but certainly a bit warmer as well. This isn’t a ultra-lightweight, hyper engineered performance jacket. This is a well constructed, long lasting fleece which performs well for many different uses and environments.Read more
This is probably the warmest option on this list. The Polartec 300 fleece material is great for most cold environments, especially those where you tend to stay active and move around more. The high collar and zip cord adjustable bottom hem also help out a bit with keeping the warmth trapped inside the jacket. For even harsher elements, the Denali is compatible with some outer shells from The North Face. There are snaps on each cuff which are used to secure the jacket inside of a compatible outer shell. However, these snaps are only meant to work with other products from this company. I have used this version as a stand-alone fleece jacket for a majority of the time, and was able to stay fairly warm in some pretty cold weather.
This is a heavier fleece, so you’re probably not going to wear it while lounging around the house. But, it is one of those kinds of things that you don’t mind, and even may not like to take off. One feature that is a plus, some found as a bit of an irritation at times as well. The drawcord in the bottom hem tends to ride up when climbing, backpacking or other activities which required a lot of movement. Also, this model seems to be a bit on the shorter side. As it works great for people of a shorter stature, the same doesn’t seem to be true for the taller folks. When bending and reaching, the jacket tends to follow quite a bit, exposing the wearer.
The Denali is much bulkier than the Arc’teryx Fortrez and Patagonia R3, so it may not have the same kind of performance with activities such as rock climbing, ice/alpine climbing, or some others which require less bulk and more maneuverability. This fit much looser, and tends to get caught with backpack straps and interfere with movement and accessibility to you gear while loaded down. However, the Denali jacket is an excellent choice for those hikes during the cooler seasons, as well as camping. Really, this one is a great choice for an everyday fleece to wear around during your daily errands.
It is pretty well constructed. This model features overlays made with a durable nylon material, which covers the shoulders, chest and elbows. This provides some added abrasion resistance to keep the jacket lasting longer. Most people who have picked one of these up can tell you that it will last for quite a while. Some people wear them for years before finally giving into purchasing something new.
3. COLUMBIA FAST TREK 2 FULL-ZIP HOODIE
Lots of pockets
True to size
Sleeves can run long on larger sizes
Columbia has been around since 1938, and they've learned a thing or two over the last eighty years in regards to what people want out of their products. The Women's Fast Trek 2 is no exception; it has a warm and lightweight construction, lots of pockets to keep things nearby, and a stylish fit that looks good whether you're out on a run or staying inside.Read more
The lightweight fleece inner is great at providing insulation and heat retention without being too bulky or cumbersome. This is a mid layer jacket, and as a result, may need some extra layering in the event of temperature extremes. This aside, if you're looking for a stylish and lightweight jacket that will keep you warm, this will serve your needs very well.
Made from a 4-way stretch polyester outer and a fleece interior, this jacket was made with comfort in mind. The stretch fabric allows for a more relaxed feel, and the fleece inner is unbelievably soft. In addition to its durability, this jacket is made to be comfortable enough for just lounging around.
The Columbia Fast Trek 2 comes in sizes ranging from extra small to extra large, and typically run true to size. The cut is flattering, and when fully zipped the collar comes quite high to keep your neck safe from the cold. The semi-fitted style can be layered over with comfort and ease without being cumbersome. It also comes in a wide range of colors, from basic black to bright reds and pinks.
The outer material is 100% polyester, making it both long-lasting and easy to care for. It won't shrink or fade in the wash, and you won't have to worry about the inner or the outer pilling over time.
4. BLACK DIAMOND COEFFICIENT
Full length zipper
Sleeves are too long for some
Black Diamond has been around since 1957 and is a leader in the rock climbing and skiing gear world. With offices in three continents, each product is well evaluated and tested out by the outdoor-loving employees. This fleece is a slim-cut and lightweight (367 grams) option. Reviewers boast the versatility of this jacket and use it as both a base and a mid-layer.Read more
The PolarTec Power Dry fleece of this jacket will keep you warm in the Alpines and not overheat you on a sunny winter day in Denver. The inside is soft and the grided interior keeps the heat close to your body and still fresh feeling. Added features such as an under-the-helmet hood and thumb loops work together to hold in warmth as well. The full-length zipper is perfect for dumping heat and controlling your body temperature.
Reviewers rave about the comfort of this fleece. The most loved feature of this jacket is its versatility and breathability. It is a perfect weight to wear on the slopes, under a shell, or running errands around time. It is lightweight and compressible, making it incredibly portable. The inside of this jacket is soft and feels great against the bare skin if you plan on using it as a base layer.
This is a slim fit jacket. It is thin and compact, but still well insulated. Most reviewers agree that this fleece fits true to size. However, there has been one stand out complaint that many people agree on. The sleeves of the jacket are long. While this is an important factor, we definitely prefer a slightly longer sleeve than a shorter sleeve. However, this jacket features thumb loops and those will not function to their full potential if the sleeves are hanging down past your hands. This jacket is available in S-XL and in 3 different colors, including black, rust, and denim.
As with all of Black Diamond's products, this jacket is strong, tested, and true. Whether you choose to believe in this or not, you will definitely be convinced by Black Diamond's warranty. If you are not satisfied with your item, they will replace, refund, or repair it.
5. ARC’TERYX FORTREZ
Hardface material provides some resistance against light rain
Thinner construction makes it ideal for layering
Snug fitting hood does not create an obstruction
Neck gaiter/face mask adds extra defense from the elements
The thin design provides less warmth than some others
Not a cheap option
Our list wouldn't be complete without a few jackets from Arc'teryx. As a brand who mostly sticks to putting out performance geared outerwear, their Fortrez falls right in line. It really does have a sleek design that goes along with what you would expect to see from this brand. To me, one of the appealing factors is it’s simplistic yet functional design. Although not a cheap option, Arc’teryx tends to be worth it.Read more
This one works really well as a mid layer, although it isn't quite as warm as some others on our list. However, if you tend to stay active, the body heat retention is still really quite good. the neck gaiter that we mentioned above, which can be used as a face cover, does make a huge difference with blocking wind, as well as retaining some of that heat.
Even though there are options out there which offer thicker material and a bit more warmth, we feel like the Fortrez performs just as it was intended to. Perhaps this is best used as a level in your layering system.
This fleece is actually really comfortable, with a very soft fleece lining. The seams are flatlock stitched for reduced rubbing and discomfort, which is especially helpful when wearing a backpack or carrying extra gear. There were some who slightly annoyed with the sleeve seam that runs right down the center of the elbow, however, if you are looking for a softer, higher pile fleece, this is not the one for you. The Fortrez is constructed of the Hardface material which Arc’teryx uses to help block wind and protect against light showers. Although this is a comfortable jacket, it is designed more for function and performance.
Although this appears to be a tight-fitting or slim jacket, it actually fit pretty comfortably. The non-bulky design does make it more useful when it comes to layering up. If you size it correctly most should be able to fit a thinner base or mid layer underneath. The cuffs aren’t tapered too much, but they are fitted enough to stay out of the way and not become bulky with layered with a heavier jacket or shell.
The hood looks almost like a wetsuit for scuba diving, but that is a good feature, especially if you plan to pair with heavier hooded outerwear. The hood also seems to fit just right, not to obstruct peripheral vision too much, an issue found with many hooded jackets.
One of the great things about this jacket is that it seems work really well for layering, without the problem of bunching up underneath, which is extremely annoying. Also, because it is so thin, the Fortrez doesn’t take away from your ability to move easily when wearing layers. This makes it a perfect lining layer for a rain jacket.
The Fortrez is an ideal choice to layer with for alpine climbing. It features some great technologies such as their Hardface material, which will repel light rain. This material won’t do much under heavy rain, but it really helps quite a bit with blocking wind and minor elements. Like many newer models, this jacket is constructed with seams with flatlock stitching, which does make a big difference in comfort, especially when you have a bunch of gear hanging off of you. There are two zippered hand warmer pockets, and one zippered chest pocket. The jacket also has a neck gaiter/face covering, which can be tucked into the back of the hood and out of the way. And as a bonus, this jacket also looks good, making it ideal for everyday use, trips to the store, sports events, etc.
This brand is known for quality products, as their outerwear is designed to stand up to a beating and keep taking more. The Fortrez is no exception. This fleece was made for rugged activities such a rock climbing, ice/alpine climbing and treks through rough terrain. I think this one will last a while before the elbows start to give out.
6. ARC'TERYX COVERT CARDIGAN-JACKET
Stylish and durable
Good Front Zip System
Mid Range Fleece
Can be worn as layer clothing
Comfortable tailored style
Casual or Performance wear
Not for extremely cold climates
This great fleece has multiple uses, wear it to ski as an under jacket, a hiking trip, or even as a casual stylish jacket. When your out camping, this is the jacket to slip on during a chilly evening while you are sitting by a nice campfire.
The cardigan-style jacket has stretch qualities but certainly not over stretchy, it comfortable and warmly hugs the body. If you like the comfort and warmth given by fleece you will certainly be happy with this lightweight fleece cardigan styled jacket. A clear-cut nicely tailored design, this jacket is a solid performing cool weather jacket without the weighty bulk found in similar versions.
The jacket is cut to hug the body while allowing some flexibility and looseness, you have two choices on how to wear it. Because of its fleece mid-weight construction, it is not a jacket to wear on its own in extremely cold weather but it can be worn under another jacket in very cold conditions to provide an insulating double layer of warmth.
For medium cold or less, the jacket is ideally comfortable and gives a fair degree of protection from the chill. You get the warmth you require so long as you are selective about the types of weather conditions in which you wear it.
If you choose to wear the jacket as a layer under another clothing item, the body-hugging fit ensures that the materials will not ripple or bunch up and cause discomfort.
Very comfortable fit, the design hugs the body while allowing a nice level of flexible body movement. The full zip feature pulls up nice and high to keep in body warmth for your comfort and if you feel too warm you can use the zip feature to give the jacket ventilation capabilities, too warm then just adjust the zip to allow in more air, too cold and adjust to keep in body warmth. Stay comfortable and protected against moderate rain and chilly winds. If you're carrying a backpack, this will sit well on the jacket without rubbing or shoulders strap movement due to the figure-hugging contour of the jacket.
A nice performance jacket with casual functionality as and comes in at 18.70 ounces, so it’s light and not cumbersome, the fleecing sits at mid-weight, you get two secure pockets for carrying whatever you need.
A clean cut design without frills or gimmicks and deserves to be seen as a good all-purpose jacket for singular use or for wearing through layering for warmth and protection. This jacket is tailored to sit close to the body, tapering a little at the waist, the collar can be folded down or be put up and zipped for protection around the neck. Fit feels close but the stretch factor is present which allows for flexibility.
The sleeves are close fitting and the cuffs narrow down for a closer fit around the wrists.
A durable product, fleece has good durability so long as the material is treated respectfully, the jacket is designed for durable longevity.
7. PATAGONIA RE-TOOL SNAP-T PULLOVER
Reinforced snap closure
Wide range of colors
Shorter arm length
Made of up to 51% recycled polyester the Patagonia Women's Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover is an eco-friendly choice that will keep you warm while providing decent breathability, and is reinforced with nylon for extra durability.Read more
Made of thick polyester fleece and features a snap closure instead of a zipper, the Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover is designed to offer insulation and warmth while still providing decent breathability, which can be difficult to find in fleece jackets. The snap closure keeps heat in and cold air out, as does the stand-up collar. The fleece itself is a mix of long-fiber standard fleece and raschel to provide warmth without looking too Muppet-like.
The fleece is soft against your skin, and the fit is quite roomy and forgiving. The high collar is also loose-fitting as well, and the front opens enough that it doesn't feel constricting.
Sizes range from extra small to extra large, and this jacket fits true to size for the most part, though based on user reports the sleeves are a little on the short side. It's available in a wide range of colors as well, from black to pink and everything in between. It has that classic 1980's style without looking boxy and unflattering.
The snap closure is reinforced with nylon for extra durability, and the polyester material is designed to not shrink or fade in the wash.
8. MARMOT REACTOR
Easy to layer
Could be warmer
The Marmot Reactor is an inexpensive fleece for an adventurer who needs a warm mid-layer without any frilly extras. This jacket steps in as an efficient lightweight fleece with very good breathability, you get a slim style which gives nice Body-Fit. It is mostly designed for climbers but not restricted to use for a broad range of other outdoor activities.Read more
This is a pretty light fleece compared to others on our list. But it's definitely not the lightest. For how lightweight it is, you may be surprised how warm it is. For the weight, it is an excellent insulator, great for cold mornings and thrown in your pack when it warms up (it won't take up much space). Because of the surprising warmth and it's lightweight feel, this makes it an excellent mid-layer. It will keep you warm without making you feel bulky.
The minimal weight of this jacket makes it incredibly comfortable for the outdoors and indoors. It also features Angel Wing Movement, allowing you to raise your arms without lifting up the bottom of the jacket.
Because this is the lightest jacket on our list. It fits well, and won't make you feel bulky when layering. The only feature lacking is a hood. While most reviewers agree that this jacket runs true to size, others recommend to size up.
No fleece is expected to hold up against heavy conditions like rain or snow because they are primarily meant to insulate. But, the Marmot Reactor fares better than most other jackets on our list when it comes to repelling mist and light rain. Anything more than that and you'll want to put on a hard shell or rain jacket.
9. THE NORTH FACE OSITO 2
Soft raschel fleece
Fleece lined pockets
Not very breathable
A staple of college campuses in New England, The North Face's Osito 2 is one of their most popular jackets, and for good reason too. The fleece is soft and warm, made to last, and the overall design is very stylish.Read more
The North Face used fleece for both the outer shell as well as the interior, providing proper insulation, though breathability is limited as a result. The lightweight material and roomy fit make it great for layering without feeling cumbersome.
The fit is feminine yet roomy and runs true to size. Both the outer and interior are made of high-pile raschel fleece that's soft on your skin. The pockets are fleece lined as well to keep your hands toasty, and a zipper guard keeps the zipper from being against your face when fully zipped.
The Ostio 2 is designed to be both fashionable and functional. The outer is made of high-pile raschel fleece, giving the jacket its signature "fluffy" look without looking like a Muppet. The waist is structured for a feminine fit, and the cuffs stretch to accommodate gloves if necessary.
While this jacket isn't water resistant, the thicker material means it'll take a bit more time for it to get wet than some thinner fleeces. Caring for this jacket is easy as well as it's machine washable and dryable, and the polyester fleece means it won't shrink either.
10. OUTDOOR RESEARCH TRANSITION HOODY
Great for layering
Robust balaclava style hood
Full front zip
The hip pockets might be better if they had zippers for security
If you are looking for a snug trim fit, this jacket may be the perfect choice for you. Looking at this nice styled fleece top we see potential for use in sports, outdoor activities and daily casual wear.
Take into consideration that it can be worn through three different seasons in conjunction with thoughtful layering, and you have a fleece lined jacket which can be used for at least 3/4 of the year. The style of the jackets is described as "easy wear" the options of how and when it is appropriate are endless; Light skiing, snow-shoe walks, cycling, hiking, orienteering, outdoor tennis or even around town. The transitional qualities of this top are really what makes this fleece stand out.
This transition jacket style hoody can be very flexible, wear it against the skin, wear it between garments or wear it outside. Even in very cold environments, it can double up with a thin pullover/sweater and ensure you are comfortably warm. Layering for warmth is the key. It works above or under shirts, other hoody tops, under jackets, and is constructed from good stretchy material in high wear locations such as the hips, neck back, back and upper arm areas, it does not overstretch or lose hold or shape.
We like the Polartec Power Grid system which serves for moisture or heat wicking. Between each grid square, we note a discrete channel which enables moisture or heat to be expelled and also accelerates wick functionality.
However, it is important to note that worn on its own, it will not give solid protection against water or strong wind. In rainy or snowy conditions, it will best serve as mid layer. Wearing this as an outer layer in the rain you will leave you wet and cold.
This hoody has design features which serve to dump or disperse heat. Because of this, there is a level of moisture control and the jacket will dry out very quickly if it does become sweaty or wet. Reviewers agree that this jacket is ideal for transitioning from very cold to less cold environments. As a mid layer, you'll probably keep this layer on until you are home and cozied up next to the fire.
This jacket boasts a good trim fit and can be worn comfortably under puffy jackets, shell jackets. It has just the right amount of loose factor, and combined with the stretchiness, also ensures a comfortable fit if you wear a shirt or thin sweater underneath it.
With full-length sleeves, you get full motion flexibility for the arms, stretch out or rotate your arms and you won't find the sleeves riding up your forearm. Secure fit continues through the nice thumb loops built into the cuffs.
The hood features are impressive as well. If you choose to wear a helmet or beanie under the jacket, the hood will stretch over and hold in place. The balaclava style hood closes securely at mid chin when the front zip is fully up and this serves as a solid defense against chilly drafts.
Generally, the fit of this fleece is very good and really flexible.
You get durability as the top is constructed from reliable Polartec fabric which is proven to have long-term durability while also being comfortable and soft against the body. The zip system proves to be quite durable and there have been no complaints about the integrity of the zipper.
In terms of lifetime durability, this can be seen through natural wear and tear, if you wear it more as an outer top then it will be subjected to more wear from the environment.
All in all durability factor for this fleece top is good.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is really the biggest reason you are buying a fleece. We want to be sure that the best and most suitable choices provide an acceptable, if not exceptional, level of warmth to the wearer. Whether you intend to wear as a layer, or as a stand-alone, it needs to do the main job it is designed to do, and do it well.
We looked for features such as a fairly secure waist, well-fitting collar or hood, and snug fitting cuffs. These are a few things that help greatly in retaining body heat. We also look at the material. We want to know whether it is high-quality fleece or poorly made fabric that allows the wind to breeze right through.
This one is pretty obvious, but still good to mention. Who wants to spend a bunch of money on a jacket that is uncomfortable?
But, we don’t just pay attention to whether it is only comfortable as a stand-alone piece of outerwear. We also want to know how comfortable and adaptable they are when paired with other garments, forming a layering system. We want to know if the jacket bunches up when worn underneath a hard-shell, whether the cuffs are too tight, whether there are portions of a jacket which seem to fit too snug or too loose, not matching with the fit of the rest of that jacket. We like to know if this is comfortable around the house and daily errands kind of jacket. If you go out and spend your money on something, you ought to be able to wear it wherever and whenever you want.
This has less to do with overall comfort, and more to do the functional fit, especially when performing specific activities such as rock climbing, alpine climbing, and even intense trekking. You don’t want to have bulky material hanging from the sleeves, an extra loose fit that tends to bunch up under the rest of your gear. We really look at whether or not the best choice really is designed with a fit which is truly suitable for the uses it is intended.
We also took note of reviewer's thoughts about the fit. Whether or not it runs true to size and if they felt confident in the jacket.
You are doing this research because you are looking for a strong, functional jacket that is worth the money. Whatever you choose, it has to stand up to anything that you intend to throw at it. The stitching should be strong, the material should be durable enough for the environment and elements you may find yourself facing. We also look into whether a particular jacket holds up to the quality track record of the company.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you know that you will be adding and removing layers throughout the day, look for a fleece with a full zipper. Especially in cold weather, you don't want to be lifting your arms over your head, and possibly exposing your stomach to the cold, every time you change climates.
Fleece works best as a mid-layer. Having a comfortable, lightweight shirt at the bottom of your layers is perfect. Depending on the weather, you could have anywhere between 3 and 10 layers. The fleece works best in the middle because of the material's natural insulating properties. A bulkier jacket is best to wear on the very top of your layers.
Other Factors to Consider
Depending on the person, color options or an oddly positioned zipper could be a deal breaker for an otherwise perfect jacket. It is important to not compromise your personal style for the sake of features. I have made this mistake many times and ended up only using the product once and regretting the purchase. Continue to research until you find a jacket that meets all of your needs and that you will feel confident wearing.
While this is a less important feature for some jackets, it sure is convenient. Some fabrics are naturally moisture wicking and others are treated with a DWR finish. If you know that you will be spending a lot of time in a cold and rainy environment, check the materials and finish of the jacket. However, this didn't make our main criteria because many of the jackets on our list are thin enough to be layered and it would be simple to throw a rain jacket over your fleece lined jacket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fleece is popular because it has a high insulation value, it’s very comfortable against the skin, has good durability.
Yes, it is if you know how to manipulate the zip system. When a jacket is fully zipped up and closed, your body will not only retain more heat but depending on the breath-ability of the fabric, the heat inside the jacket will build up and you can start to sweat and feel overheated. By using the zip system to adjust and open your jacket you allow heat to escape and air ventilation so that your body temperature can stabilize.
Jackets which have been treated with wax coating do have less breath-ability but the makers design in other features to promote overall breath-ability to compensate for this. Once again, heat build-up due to less breath-ability can be balanced by manipulating the zip system.
Shell jackets work through adding mid layers of clothing along with base layers. The jackets do not have built-in insulation and are designed to protect from wet and wind.
It depends on what the jacket will be used for and in which environment? Waxed coated materials are highly resistant to wet and wind because it forms a more penetrable barrier. Very tightly woven synthetic materials are making strong inroads into going for 100% protection against water and cold chilly wind getting to you inside your jacket. Even as I write this answer, technology is evolving and I suspect that what we now know as extremely protective will continue to be updated as tech moves forward.