Best Fleece Vests
If you live in a colder climate or want an extra boost of warmth for your outdoor adventures, then you probably want to consider purchasing a something to bring along with you on your adventures. This type of vest can add an extra layer of clothing for any outdoor activity you might perform when the weather gets chilly, but not chilly enough for a winter jacket. These are ideal for fall and spring and not only provide your body with protection for the cold but also can be quite stylish. There are hundreds of options available on the market today, so determining which one is best for your outdoor adventures can be a difficult pursuit. To help you make your choice, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten best fleece vests on the market today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Easy to wash
Top 10 Picks
1. Patagonia Better Sweater
Easy to wash
Short in the torso area
The Patagonia Better Sweater Vest is a nice option for casual wear and also provides a boost of warmth during your cold-weather outdoor adventures. Patagonia designed this vest for core warmth to provide comfort and extra weather resilience.Read more
Because this vest is made out of polyester, it dries quickly when moisture hits it, and works well as an extra layer of protection.
The Patagonia Better Sweater Vest comes with a stand-up collar to help keep your neck warm, and also has a vertical chest zip pocket and two zippered hand pockets to help keep your items safe. It weighs in at 13.7 ounces and is designed to help hikers and campers perform their outdoor activities.
Patagonia’s Better Sweater Vest is Fair Trade Certified, and the fleece fabric used on the vest is also Bluesign approved. Made with a regular fit, this fleece vest has a plush-like interior that is very comfortable and feels broken-in, with a durable knit pattern resembling wool.
Patagonia’s Better Sweater Vest is made with 100% polyester knitted fleece, which is dyed in a way that helps decrease the use of dyestuffs, energy, and water use associated with other dying methods, making this an environmentally friendly product.
2. White Sierra Sierra Mountain
Not as fancy as other vests on the list
The White Sierra Mountain Vest is added to this list for a couple of reasons: it's very reasonably priced, and it is also warm. It's a great option for those budget-friendly shoppers out there.Read more
Like any fleece item, this jacket is highly breathable. Additionally, it is an incredibly fast-drying material, making it great for travel or hiking.
Not only is this vest warm, but it is comfortable, too. With stretch binding fabric at the armholes, comfort is maximized, so that the vest should fit anyone with ease. There are two front zippered pockets so that you can store your keys, snacks, or any other little goodies you might need while enjoying the outdoors.
Overall, this vest doesn't offer as many bells and whistles as others on this list, but it certainly does the basic job of keeping you warm, adding a layer of fabric to colder outdoor adventures, and can be customized with the drawcord inner.
This jacket is a heavyweight fleece made from polyester, so it will keep you warm on a chilly camping night or cold weather hike up a mountain.
3. Columbia Steens Mountain
Reputable name brand
Fleece can peel if not taken care of
The Columbia Men's Steens Mountain Vest is a real winner for anyone seeking a quality brand that knows how to produce tried and true outerwear.Read more
Thanks to the polyester fleece, this vest is comfortable, moisture-wicking, and breathable.
Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece Vest is made in a number of colors, such as deep maroon, blue, grey, black, brown, green, and light brown. Having a selection of colors is a refreshing option. To make life super convenient for you, it is machine washable. However, you will want to check on the label to see if the dryer is an OK option.
This vest is built for the trail, and it is also versatile in the fact that it looks great and can be worn for a day of lingering downtown on cooler days.
This vest is made from 100 percent polyester, and it will keep you adequately warm on cooler nights and days outdoors. Testers and reviewers all agree that this vest is not only warm but a great layering piece.
4. Columbia Benton Springs
Great color options
Fits true to size
Soft and comfortable
Great for layering
Thinner than expected
Needs to be layered for optimal warmth
This addition from Columbia provides us with 250g of insulation with a classic and comfortable fit. The zippered hand pockets are not visibly noticeable and are large enough to fit most smartphones. Perhaps the most admired feature of this vest is the sixteen different color options available.Read more
While the breathability of this vest hasn’t been raved about, it also hasn’t been complained about. With most vests, the lack of sleeves provides comfort and breathability. Also, the not skin-tight fit of this vest helps to keep you feeling cool and dry.
The Benton Springs vest is available in sixteen different colors! Anyone will be able to find a color that works for them and their personal style. There are hidden zippered hand pockets that can hold anything from your keys and personal items to your hands. The collar of the best comes up around the neck to provide more warmth.
This vest provides you with 250g of insulation. It is nice and lightweight and also a great piece for layering. Some of the other vests on our list feature more insulation but depending on the weather and your style, less can be more.
The warmth of this vest is brought to you by 100% polyester MTR filament fleece. The fabric is soft and comfortable and machine washable. The material is not waterproof and should be paired with a shell jacket in inclement weather.
5. The North Face Osito
Beautiful and unique color choices
Great for layering
Some say it runs slightly large/long
Colors don’t exactly match the photos
Use caution when washing
The North Face Osito vest is a stylish and comfortable vest that is offered in a wide variety of colors and sizes. It has stretchy panels on the side that give the vest a great fit, without feeling too tight or looking loose. It features 350g of insulation and is a great piece for layering.Read more
The high-pile silken raschel fleece is soft on the skin and highly breathable. Although the materials itself is not water-resistant, it does do a decent job of keeping you warm without leaving you in a pile of sweat.
The Osito not only a cute name, but it is also easy to maintain and comes with a lifetime warranty. When it’s time to clean it, you can simply throw it in the washing machine. It has a standard fit, that isn’t baggy nor close to the body. It is thin enough to add layers on top without worrying about bulkiness. Additionally, the vest features two zippered hand pockets.
Your core will be comfortably warm in the Osito’s 350g insulation. This is a great amount of insulation for a vest, especially considering that you will have a long sleeve layer underneath, and most likely, a jacket on top.
This fleece vest is made from 100% polyester fleece. The stretchy side panels and zipper are a slightly different color. Reviewers say that that vest feels very soft and comfortable. While it is machine washable, you should always double-check the instructions and wash the vest with caution. Some reviewers have said that it came out of the wash looking like “a stuffed animal.”
6. Patagonia Classic Synchilla
High collar and handwarmer pockets for extra warmth
Colors can be deceiving
Are you wondering why this name, Synchilla, sounds so familiar? Perhaps you have heard of or already own the Patagonia Synchilla jacket! This is a sleeveless version of the popular jacket. It is lightweight, soft to the touch, and provides decent warmth.Read more
This vest will keep you comfortable in many ways. First of all, the material is the same on the inside and outside and it is very soft. This same material is moderately breathable and also dries quickly. The front full zipper is also easy to unzip to receive a bit of fresh air.
The Synchilla is a flexible and versatile vest that can be used for many different activities. It is great for casual use around town, but flexible enough for climbing or other outdoor sports. The grosgrain zippers are smooth and easy to pull. Additionally, there for two hand pockets lined with mesh.
This is a medium weight vest. It would suffice on its own on chilly days but should be paired with other cold-weather gear on colder days. The high collar stands up to provide extra warmth to your neck and the mesh-lined zippered hand pockets allow you to comfortably warm your hands inside the vest.
The Synchilla is made from double-sided recycled polyester fleece with an anti-pilling finish. It is fair trade certified, better for the environment, and an over great investment. It has a hip-length, regular fit with style lines down the back that keep the garment from looking boxy. Overall it weighs only 9.4-ounces, making it a great option for travel as well.
7. The North Face Gordon Lyons Vest
Great for layering
Made from sustainable and recycled materials
Sizing runs small
Limited color options
This item from the North Face is a run of the mill and dependable product. It is only available in a few colors, has three pockets, and is versatile. There aren't many wow-features about this vest, but there is also nothing majorly bad about it either. It's a nice and durable option.Read more
As with most of these vests, the fleece material is naturally breathable. The material is also moisture-wicking and quick-drying. In addition, the full-frontal zipper allows you to control the internal temperature of your vest.
This garment has three zippered pockets. There are two hand pockets and one chest pocket. This allows you to use the vest in many different situations without worrying about your belongings falling out of your pockets. It is available in three neutral colors, including khaki heather, shady blue heather, and black heather.
This heavyweight fleece is a garment that can be worn with just a long-sleeve shirt underneath for bearable days, or with base layers and jackets for colder days. It features a full front zip with a collar that reaches up to the chin. Depending on the day and the climate, this vest is very versatile.
This garment is made from a sustainable and recycled blend of polyester fleece. It has a standard fit with enough room underneath to layer. Also, it is not too thick, allowing you to easily layer over the vest as well. It is machine washable and weighs 12.7-ounces.
8. Patagonia Los Gatos Vest
Wind and water-resistant
Sizing runs small
Unique style that doesn't suit everyone
Patagonia is at it again. Chopping the sleeves off of their best selling jackets and turning them into vests. One of the most popular adjectives used to describe this garment is “cozy.” I do feel like we should warn you, if someone tries to pet you while wearing this, you are not the first.Read more
While there are a couple of features here that make us question the overall breathability of this garment, there haven’t been any complaints. As most of these products, the Los Gatos also features a full zipper that allows you to control the airflow.
Let’s start with the weather resistance. This isn’t a typical feature of this type of garment. This vest is lined with nylon on the inside, adding wind resistance. On the outside, the product is finished with a DWR finish, making it water-repellant. It is best used for casual wear but would function well on the trails as well. It features two hand-warming pockets, is very soft to the touch, and depending on which online retailer you choose to support, is available in about nine different colors.
Many reviewers have referred to this vest as “cozy.” Just looking at it makes you want to cuddle up in it. It provides versatile warmth, depending on your climate and layering. For mild spring and fall days, it is great with just an undershirt. However, in the colder months, it is a great layering piece. The Los Gatos also has a high collar to help you keep in the warmth.
This vest is made from plush deep-pile fleece. It is blue sign approved and 30% recycled. The interior lining is nylon and the exterior features a DWR finish. The fit of this garment is semi-fitted with princess seams on the front and back for a more feminine look. It has a unique and versatile style that can easily be dressed up or down. Overall, it weighs about 9-ounces.
9. Kuhl Interceptr
Only available in black
The Interceptr is a great vest for layering, traveling, adventuring, and casual use. It has low-bulk stitching and provides great warmth and durability. While we would love to see this vest offered in more colors, black typically suits everyone.Read more
As most fleece garments, this fleece is moisture-wicking and quick-drying. The Interceptr has a unique feature that adds to the overall breathability. The Kashmira side panels have a slightly different material construction that provides greater breathability.
Oddly enough, on Amazon, this product has two chest pockets, but on REI, it has only one. It seems as though Kuhl made an REI-exclusive version with one pocket less. So, depending on the retailer, this vest features two zippered hand warming pockets and one or two zippered chest pockets. Another unique feature of this vest is the way that the yarns are spun to create the fleece. They are ring spun and open-ended, making them soft, durable, and giving them a richer appearance. The vest also features Dynamik stitching for low-bulk seams.
This medium-weight fleece provides great insulation. It can be worn over a long sleeve shirt or easily layered for extra warmth. In addition, the collar features a microfleece interior for added warmth and comfort.
The Interceptr is made from Alpaca Gold Fleece. This material is made from 78% acrylic and 22% polyester. The Kashmira side panels are made from 52% acrylic, 30% polyester, and 18% rayon.
10. Vcansion Warm Packable
Could be more weather-resistant
Vcansion’s Men’s Warm Packable Down Vest is made for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget and offers an affordable option for a good, easy-to-use, all-around vest. This vest is made to be ultra-lightweight and is also filled with down, meaning that for its weight it still offers ample weather protection and durability.Read more
The polyester fleece lining provides decent breathability. This material will absorb moisture quickly and send it to the surface to be evaporated.
The front of this vest has a zipper closure and also includes a standing collar and zippered side pockets. It feels so comfortable when you wear it, it reminds many outdoor enthusiasts of a sleeping bag, so you’ll get plenty of warmth and comfort when you wear it. Vcansion designed this vest to weigh very little, so it’s very compressible and easy to pack down and take along with you when you travel, or if you’re on the go and decide to save the vest for later.
Still, even with its compact design, it still offers plenty of protection for outdoor use, bringing you plenty of warmth and weather protection.
Vcansion’s Warm Packable Down Vest is made with a 100% nylon shell, and a 90% duck down filling that’s easy to compress when packed and still provides plenty of warmth.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Since you’re likely to be active while you are outside wearing your fleece, breathability and ventilation are both important factors to consider. Since you’re going to perspire while you are active and you don’t necessarily want to feel it, ventilation will be an important feature.
Older fleece vests caused sweat build-up on the inside of the material, which would usually trickle down through the rest of your body. Luckily, the options on today’s market use improved technology, fabrics, and materials to create decent breathability in their vests. Manufacturers that create breathable vests use different varieties of thickness or loft of the fabric to create areas in the vest that will ventilate well, and still keeping parts of the vest fit for creating warmth.
Many vests combine different fabrics and vents to help make the breathability in the fleece easier to feel, and most vests are also made to allow sweat to escape from areas where you are more likely to sweat while keeping other areas inside the vest warm in temperatures. Some manufacturers also use variability in the thickness of the garment’s fabric in order to create more ventilation. This method is usually used in vests that have a more “grid” like style to them, and use thin fabric to vent moisture to the outside.
Manufacturers typically modify vests and designs often, adding a variety of new technologies and features as necessities for outdoor enthusiasts evolve. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand all of the features you’ll want to consider when looking at a vest since some of the features offered aren’t necessities, important to all outdoor enthusiasts, or simply can be used to make the product sound better as an advertisement. However, there are some features you will want to consider when looking at your vest. Features include detachable hoods, zipper durability, pockets, and media pockets.
Another feature that makes a vest more comfortable and warm are elastic hems. Some of these come with an elastic hem cinch cord at the waist, and this helps to keep the warmth inside of your vest while also keeping out wind, rain, and snow. For some outdoor enthusiasts, this is an excellent feature to have, and it works well for many snow sports. However, if you do a lot of climbing, it might feel a bit bulky or create unwanted pressure points in certain areas. For most other outdoor activities, however, it offers a nice benefit to increase your warmth when you are feeling the chill of colder weather.
When selecting the right fleece for you, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying something that’s going to keep you warm. One thing you want to avoid, however, is picking the vest that you think will give you the most warmth—since this might not be a necessity for all outdoor enthusiasts. People that plan on wearing these vests while staying active need to select a vest that keeps them decently warm but also can work well with with a layering system. If your vest keeps you too warm while you are active, you are likely to ditch it and never use it since you’ll feel as if it makes you sweat all the time.
Instead, get a garment that works well with your layering system so you can add and remove layers as you see fit. How much your vest weighs and how thick the material is will determine a lot about how warm it will be. But if you’re going to be active while you are wearing it, try to pick a vest that gives you average warmth while you’re on-the-go. Since you’ll likely be layering with the vest anyway, you don’t want something that’s going to be too warm or uncomfortable, because that also means your vest will weigh more and make you sweat more.
When purchasing the ideal vest for your outdoor activities, you want to make sure you get something with good materials, since that will impact how well the garment performs while you are outside. Most options nowadays are made to fit comfortably and no longer cause the itchy or scratchy feel that older models had. However, it’s important to remember that if the fabric on the fleece vest doesn’t feel soft, fluffy, or comfortable, then it’s probably not a great vest for you.
Some of these vests are made with synthetic fleece, which was manufactured by a company associated with Polartec back in the 1970s. Polartec, since that time, has manufactured many synthetic fleece garments, and their materials also appear in the vests of other manufacturers, including Patagonia and The North Face. Polartec creates dozens of different types of synthetic fleeces, and some are sheer and shiny while others are furry and fluffy.
Synthetic fleece materials are often advertised as using recycled or environmentally-friendly production standards, meaning a lot of these manufacturers pay attention to how they make their vests, and focus on greener production standards. What’s interesting about synthetic fleece fabrics is that it’s made with a process that involves petroleum derivatives, creating a flexible material called PET that is usually shaped to create the desired preference in the vest. Synthetic fleeces can be shaped in various ways and also knitted into various vests.
Synthetic fleece and regular fleece are both made to keep you warm by keeping warm air in, trapping it through tiny pockets that are usually made between the threads in the fabric. Also, since fleece comes from petroleum when it’s made, it is hydrophobic, meaning it won’t absorb water. This hydrophobic standard of fleece makes it very water and weather-resistant and gives fleece a bit advantage over down. Down loses its insulation capabilities as it gets wet, which isn’t true of fleece since fleece won’t retain water. Thus, fleece is a very popular material for outdoor vest uses and can work well in a wide variety of outdoor conditions and activities.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Some manufacturers spray their garments with a protective coating to help boost up water resistance. One well-known method is a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment, which lets light rain on the surface of the fleece be shaken off easily. These treatments are decently effective, but not always necessary if you know you won’t be out often in inclement weather.
How long the vest fits on your body can be an important factor for looks and style, but it also helps you determine if the garment will work well with a backpack or harness. If you wind up climbing in a vest that doesn’t fit well, then you’ll feel annoyed and frustrated anytime you try to reach and grab some gear, because your vest may rub, fall, or bulk up in areas where you don’t want the bulk. So, make sure you have the torso length you really need to still get great mobility out of your fleece vest.
Other Factors to Consider
How weather resistant you need your vest to be will depend on when and where you plan to wear it, and your layering system (if you have one). The more breathable a vest is, the less weather-resistant it will be to wind and water. So, if you plan on wearing the garment as an outer layer when it’s cold outside, you’ll need to consider whether you want to exchange out breathability features for better weather resistance.
Some models of these garments are made with hard-face technology, which is a type of fleece material that helps to block out the wind. Hardface technology is comprised of a special polymer that is usually fused on the outside of the fleece fabric, which helps make the fabric both smooth and flexible. The extra hard-face shell adds a barrier that’s weather-resistant against both wind and rain. Other wind-resistant technologies some manufacturers use include “Windstopper” fabrics in their designs. “Windstopper” fabrics are made from three layers of bonded material—a microfleece on the outside, a “Windstopper” membrane in the middle, and the inner fabric area.
We already mentioned it above, but vest weight does usually reflect how warm your vest will be. Typically, the fluffiness of the fabric makes a difference, too, since fluffier fleece materials mean you’ll have more air pockets in the vest design to trap in more heat. Some designs are made to be heavier and more tightly woven, while some are made to be lighter and more breathable. If you’re looking for a vest that’s more lightweight and easy to pack, or if you plan on layering, then you’ll want to make sure you check on packing options and weights with your vests.
Some vests are made to be very light and easy-to-pack, which works well for people planning to take their vests along. Lightweight models also tend to be more breathable and still give you plenty of warmth even when the weather is cold. Products that are made to be of an average weight give you a lot of versatility with their design. These types of vests can be outer layers or added in to be part of a system of layers you prefer. Some fleece garments that are average in weight are still very breathable and do well keeping you warm in just about any type of weather condition you might encounter.
While style and fashion are often a matter of opinion, if you can get a garment you feel makes you look good, you’ll probably be happier with your purchase. While style isn’t as important of a feature as things like hems, fit, length, etc, it’s still important to many outdoor enthusiasts. It’s nice to have a stylish looking fleece, and many of the products made nowadays are produced with fashion and style both in mind. Although you still want to make sure you focus in on the performance features of the vest that will work well for you, chances are style will still factor into your decision-making process. So, pick something you either really like, or at the very least, you know that you can live with whenever you wear it.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: If I purchase a more expensive vest, will it be more durable?
When looking at investing in a fleece, do not think the more expensive the vest the more durable or better quality it will be as that just is not the case. The best thing to do when looking for a durable vest to last you years to come is to look at the reviews to see how the vest has held up for other consumers that have put it to the test.
q: Are pockets important to have on my vest?
While pockets sound like a very basic feature to consider, too many outdoor enthusiasts planning on bringing items with them, they like having pockets to carry items and better organize them. Most vests come with a variety of chest pockets and hand warmers. Depending on what you need to do and what activities you plan to embark on, you may or may not need pockets. If you rock climb often, having handwarmer pockets can feel odd when wearing a harness, for instance. But, in other circumstances, it’s certainly nice to have hand warmers when the weather is cold outside and you don’t have your gloves. Chest pockets are fairly standard and essential for storing items you may need along the way.
q: What do I need to know about the different designs before I purchase one?
These vests come as either lightweight designs, midweight designs, or heavyweight designs. People that opt for lightweight designs want a more versatile vest that can breathe while still providing an average range of warmth. Midweight vests are great as mid-layers when it gets cold outside, and they provide a good degree of warmth, and an average amount of breathability. Heavyweight vests are made more for very cold weather, and retain more heat but aren’t as breathable. Heavyweight fleeces don’t work as well for layering, but do provide good outer protection. The fleece design you select will ultimately be the one that works best for you and what you do. You’ll need to gage this is a matter of personal preference.
q: What does it mean when a manufacturer advertises recycling in their garment?
Some manufacturers, including The North Face and Patagonia, use recycled items in their material and designs. Sometimes these recycled products can be soda bottles or old garments, which are recycled and then restructured to make newer and better products. The purpose of doing this is to minimize the impact mass production of certain items has on the planet, meaning manufacturers that use recycled materials are trying to stay environmentally friendly.
Some of the highest-quality vests are made from recycled products, and the recycling effect has no negative impact on the design. So, it’s up to you whether or not you decide to purchase a recycled material option.