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 of us go with our favorite brands or styles that tend to work best for the environment we spend the most time in. Although many of us prefer the most cost-effective option for our budget, we also want quality and durability that will last through whatever challenges we put our gear through. 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.
Many things go into finding that perfect fleece which properly suits the outdoor and sports environments. Aside from comfort, warmth and fit, the best choice will usually be one that will stand up to whatever you throw at it. There are literally countless styles and brands to choose from when it comes to fleece jackets. Nearly any company that manufactures coats or outerwear will most certainly have fleece jackets in their lineup. As our whole purpose is to present our readers with the very best outdoor gear and apparel manufacturers have to offer, we have done the research and put together a list of the top ten rated fleece jackets currently available on the market today. We have dug deep and come up with the pros and cons to criteria for the top rated choices among users from all over.
- Champion Eco Full-Zip
- Columbia Women's Fast Trek 2
- Lots of pockets
- Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece
- Abrasion resistant nylon overlays
10 Best Fleece Jackets
Champion Eco Full-Zip Hoodie
The beauty of fleece is that it's almost always as comfortable as it looks, if not more so. Champion used ultra-soft brushed fleece for the lining, and the overall fit is casual and roomy so it won't feel cumbersome, even when layered over or under.
One thing that's always important with clothing is how true to size it is. Some products may run small, some may run large. The Champion Full-Zip hoodie runs true to size, and sizes range from small to 3XL. Coming in a wide range of size and color options, you're sure to find a product that fits well and looks good. The fit itself is casual and roomy, and looks good enough to wear every day!
The outer is made of a basic cotton and polyester blend, ensuring average durability without driving up costs. Caring for it is easy; it can be machine washed and dried, and the fabric is made to not shrink or fade, though it may pill over time.
The Champion Eco Full-Zip Fleece Hoodie is simple. It doesn't have much in terms of fluff and additional features, but what it does have is a casual fit perfect for layering, excellent heat retention, and a wide range of sizes and colors, all for a price most everyone can agree with.
True to size
Brushed fleece for comfort
Fabric may pill over time
Columbia Women's Fast Trek 2 Full-Zip Hoodie
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.
The Lowdown: The Columbia Women's Fast Trek 2 is a great choice for a lightweight jacket that's easy on the wallet without compromising on warmth and durability. While it isn't ideal for very low temperatures, it can still be used as a solid midlayer in these conditions.
Lots of pockets
True to size
Sleeves can run long on larger sizes
Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece
Featuring fleece both on the inside and outside of the jacket, you won't have to worry about cold air or wind getting in, and the insulation provided will retain your own body heat to keep you nice and warm. The hand pockets are fleece lined as well.
Coming in a wide range of sizes, this jacket will easily accommodate any body type, though some users report that the jacket does run a little bit on the small side. The inner fleece is somewhat rough at first but will soften after a few washes.
The Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece jacket comes in sizes ranging from small to 3XL, though some users report that it runs a tad small. It only offers four color options: black, tan, and two variants of green. This is considered a tactical jacket, though, so a wide range of colors isn't a priority for this product.
What is a priority in the Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece, however, is durability. The outer shell is made of 100% polyester with oxford reinforcement. Nylon abrasion-reinforced fabric makes up the collar, shoulders, and forearms to ensure that this jacket can take a beating. Care is simple, as this can be machine washed in cold water and tumble dried on low. Polyester also resists shrinking and fading, so this won't be an issue for you.
This jacket is a bit on the expensive side, but given its qualities, we feel that it is very much worth the investment.
Wide range of size options
Lots of pockets
Easy to care for
Reinforced collar and sleeves
The North Face Osito 2
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.
If you're looking for a nice lightweight jacket that's both warm and easy to layer, the Osito is a great choice.
Soft raschel fleece
Fleece lined pockets
Not very breathable
The North Face Denali
The bottom hem features zip cord adjustment to help block out the cold and keep the heat from escaping. Additionally, there are nylon overlays in different areas to reduce the effects from abrasions. The Denali comes in a lot of different color choices, and is even available in a hooded version.
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.
The Denali jacket from The North Face is a solid no nonsense fleece which is incredibly warm, built with quality and will last for quite a while. It probably isn’t going to be your first choice for high tempo activities, or things that require a lot of continuous movement, but it does have its own great qualities. This jacket is really more suited for camping, day hiking and lower tempo functions. It is also ideal for everyday casual wear.
- 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
- Durable construction
- A bit expensive
- A bit to bulky for sports like rock climbing or others which require a lot of movement
Patagonia Women's Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover
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.
If you're looking for something that's warm and soft while reducing your environmental footprint to boot, the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover is the way to go. It has a comfortable fit and comes in a wide range of color and size options.
Reinforced snap closure
Wide range of colors
Shorter arm length
Patagonia Men's Better Sweater Full-Zip
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.
Bluesign and Fair trade certified
Arcteryx Covert Cardigan-Jacket
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 your 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.
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 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.
The Run Down
A nice performance jacket with casual functionality as and when required, 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.
For the top all-around fleece on the market, we give the nod to the sleek Covert Cardigan from For everyday casual use it is comfortable and has a good style which is pleasing to the eye, however it is fine for hiking in upper cooler climates and will serve purpose for providing warmth and protection.
Stretch factor is not as high as in similar fleece jacket models because the design is more for hugging close to the body which is why this fit style means the jacket can easily be worn as an under layer.
Stretch for flexibility is there for the wearer its just not as pronounced as in some other fleece jackets.
To sum up, this jacket feels nice to wear, it looks very nice and its a good multi purpose fleece jacket. In terms of cost it does cost a bit more than some other brands but you do get a sound investment.
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 jacket steps in as an efficient lightweight fleece with very good breath-ability, you get a slim style which gives nice Body-Fit.
Mostly designed for climbers but not restricted to use for a broad range of other outdoor activities.
Take in our review for more specs on this very nice fleece jacket.
This is a pretty light fleece compared to others on our list. But it's definitely not the lightest. For how lightweight it is, it might be surprising 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.
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.
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.
This is a really affordable fleece, especially compared to others on our list. The Marmot Reactor will keep you warm and save you some money for you to spend on more adventures.
- Easy to layer
- drawstring hem
- No hood
- Could be warmer
This one works really well as a mid layer, being that it just isn’t quite as warm as the R3 from Patagonia. 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, so not quite as soft as the R3 above.
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 you ability to move easily when wearing layers. This makes it a perfect lining layer for a rain jacket.
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.
The Fortrez Hoody from Arc’teryx is a great piece of outerwear, which may even work better as an outstanding mid layer. Although it is thinner and slightly less warm than the Patagonia R3, the Fortrez provides things like protection from light rain showers and built in, stowable neck gaiter which also works to cover the face. And, if you do intend to use this jacket for layering, the fit and material is such that it moves very well underneath heavier layer without challenging your movement. Although this is a rather expensive article of clothing, we think it is well worth the price.
- 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 means less warmth than some others
- Not a cheap option
Criteria for Evaluation
We apply a few categories of criteria while searching for the best picks. The style is great, but the function is even better. For that reason we looked beyond the seasonal trends, digging just a bit deeper to see what would be an ideal fit for real outdoor use. Some of the searches revolve around suitable features for particular environments, comfort, fit, durability and most importantly level of warmth provided.
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.
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.
Q; Why is fleece so popular?
A: Fleece is popular because it has a high insulation value, it’s very comfortable against the skin, has good durability
Q: Layering is effective but why?
A: Studies by the military found that thin layers of clothing worn together are more effective than one layer of thick clothing. The main reason for this is because each layer traps small amounts of air which serve towards added insulation.
Q: I have read comments in which front zip systems are described as good for body heat control, is this really true?
A: 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.
Q: Which types of jackets are known for less breath-ability?
A: 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.
Q: What are the advantages of shell jackets?
A: 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.
Q: Which materials are best at preventing water and wind penetration for jackets.
A: 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.
Really, the fleece jackets that people choose are completely up to their own particular needs, as well as budget. Though most of the options in this buying guide tend to run a bit higher in price, we believe they are well worth the cost if you intend on really putting your gear to the test. We researched more angles than simply what would meet our set criteria. We also paid a lot of attention to what previous customers and current users had to say about the options we picked for our list. Now you can decide which of the top ten fleece jacket options suit you best as well as your adventure.