We tested each model with a variety of other jackets and base layers and rated them on how easily they layered and their level of comfort. See all prices 4 found.
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ComiXology Thousands of Digital Comics. The Patagonia R-Series use Polartec's Power Grid fabric, which is made of hundreds of cubes of fleece separated by thin channels. The cubes keep you warm, while the channels offer a virtually non-existent barrier for your moisture to vent through.
This technology is used in both their R1 and R1 Techface models. The R1 is a light enough layer to wear for just about any aerobic activity in cold weather, from running and hiking to climbing and ski touring. Climbers are notorious for climbing without a shirt even in the most frigid conditions, as many can't stand to feel the slightest bit hot or sweaty when trying to "send.
But we kept the R1 on even on mild days, and its breathability was so effective that we never felt uncomfortable or sweaty. While the Coefficient Hoody is slightly more breathable due to being so thin, the R1 is a warmer, more comfortable fleece. The new Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is thinner and even more breathable than the original R1, but it doesn't make for a cozy mid-layer like our old favorite.
The same goes for the "hard-faced" Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody. While that jacket is made of a tighter, more weather resistant weave, it is so thin that it still vented well. In addition to the weave and thickness of the material, some other features can help a jacket breathe better.
The stylish Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody has thin panels on the sides and under the arms to mitigate to the tight fleece weave on the rest of the jacket. Other jackets have pockets lined with a thin mesh, as opposed to fleece, which can be unzipped for added airflow. As your fleece jacket typically is worn both over and under other clothing, its ability to pair well with other layers is another crucial consideration. You don't want it so tight that your under layers are bunching up, but you want it slim fitting enough so you can slide a wind, rain, or puffy layer on top of it.
You can learn more about layering systems with our Introduction to Layered Clothing Systems article. We tested each model with a variety of other jackets and base layers and rated them on how easily they layered and their level of comfort. Thinner models, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody layered easily under everything we tried them with. The thumb holes were also a bonus, as we didn't have to worry about the sleeves riding up when putting on another layer.
However, you can't wear more than a thin baselayer underneath these slim fitting jackets. They have a boxier cut, long arms that bunch around the cuffs, and are made with a thicker material. While we had no trouble putting them on over other fleece, they were not so comfortable to wear under another jacket like a shell or winter puffy jacket. The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is sized much bigger than the insulating R1 Hoody because it works best as a weather resistant terminal layer.
Fleece jackets have never been known for amazing wind protection or water resistance. When we shop for a fleece, we're more concerned with how warm a fleece feels and how well it breathes. Therefore, weather resistance only accounts for 10 percent of how these jackets were scored. The chart shown here details which jackets came out on top in the Weather Resistance metric. Weather resistance is vital if you're looking for a fleece you can use as an outer layer, or you don't want to carry other layers around town with you.
Often, the more weather-resistant a fleece jacket is, the less it breathes. The thicker and heavier models, like The North Face Denali 2 were better at blocking the wind than others, and the "Hardface Technology" on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody also helped block the wind.
This thin fleece is wind resistant, has an effective water-resistant DWR treatment, and even a brimmed hood like you would find on a rain jacket. Pair a breathable fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody with a dedicated wind layer, and you have the ultimate alpine setup. You can check out our Wind Breaker Jacket Review for more information on that type of layer. As far as protection from precip goes, The North Face Denali 2 is by far the most water resistant fleece in the lineup.
Not only this fleece thick, it has a durable water repellent DWR treatment, causing light rain to bead off this fleece like water off a duck's back. However, in a massive rainstorm, even the Denali 2 will eventually soak through. The Arc'teryx Procline takes light Polartec fleece and binds to a thin Toyano shell fabric on the chest, arms, and shoulders, making it more weather resistant at the cost of breathability.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez also offers a little defense regarding weather resistance. Though not as thick as the Denali , it was the only other fleece that could resist light rain for more than a few minutes. The breathable Patagonia R1 soaked up rain like a sponge, so you'll want to keep a waterproof layer handy when cruising around in the mountains with these jackets.
You can find a great option over in our Rain Jacket Review. Weight is something to consider if you are hiking long distances, or heading for a "fast and light" mission in the alpine. While a few ounces here or there might not seem like much, when you shave ounces off of all of your gear, those weight savings start to add up. On the heavier side, TNF Denali 2 weighs almost 25 ounces, twice as much as the lighter models, making it too heavy and bulky to throw in your pack when heading for a long hike.
If you need a layer for car camping though, then the weight is not an issue, and you'll appreciate having a warm layer like the Denali 2 or the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T when hanging around the campfire at night. As much as we obsess over the performance details of our gear, we still know it's important to look good! We did our best to balance our general impressions of each fleece with feedback from our brutally honest friends and family to assess each jacket for style points.
What works the best in the mountains doesn't always look the best for a night on the town. The Better Sweater combines a sleek fleece knit weave for style with breathable side panels, so you're not totally out of luck on a strenuous hike.
The Patagonia Crosstrek Hoody by maintaining some urban styling while being more breathable than the Better Sweater. The Patagonia Synchilla Snap T is available in many patterns and colors with new styles coming out seemingly every season.
The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody has a great fit and all the features you want in a technical fleece like a hood and a chest pocket but has a low-key, casual look. The North Face Denali also scored well in the style metric. Though not a favorite of our testers, its classic look is loved by many, and these jackets continue to sell like hotcakes year after year.
The Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody lost points due to its super extended cut, which works great when tucked under a harness, but we thought it looks awkward over a casual pair of jeans. The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody was also dubbed a date night no-no due to its techy look and its scuba-like hood. Remember, style is subjective, and if a jacket fits you better than it did our testers, feel free to throw our fashion advice out the window.
The plethora of jackets in the "fleece" category on the market today can make one dizzy for sure. In general, we buy these jackets for their primary function, warmth.
However, as technology grows and designs improve, the added features modeled in most fleeces today can be what seal the deal. Like almost all gear, it depends on how and where you're planning on using it. We hope our review of these products will positively assist you in your search for your new fleece. If you need further help in your search, be sure to check out the tips we provide in our Buying Advice article.
The Best Fleece Jackets of Displaying 1 - 5 of Updated May Springtime calls for varying conditions from scorching heat to dumping snow, so it's time to layer-up with a fleece jacket. We've brought 8 new contenders to the table: Some new Top Picks and a great new Best Buy Award winner emerged from the newcomers, but once again, the classic Patagonia R1 Hoody remains our favorite fleece of all time.
See all prices 2 found. Perfect fit for most active uses.
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