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The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Here are the best fleece jackets for women to help insulate against the cold and stay outside longer.

woman ice climbing while wearing fleeceAuthor Morgan Tilton testing fleece jackets in Colorado; (photo/Xander Bianchi)
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Fleece jackets are like a hug on a drizzly day yet are as diverse as the weather across four seasons. Whether you’re sledding with kids at 9,000 feet in the Rockies, ice climbing in below-freezing temperatures, shoveling dirt at a North Dakota farm, or rafting Idaho’s most remote rivers, we’ve got you covered. Finding the right fleece for your day-to-day use is essential for warmth and protection.

Regardless of the fabric makeup, pile, and aesthetic, the purpose remains the same — to hold your body heat. Despite that aim, fleece midlayers have a range of other attributes that make them unique including their fit, weatherproofness, and durability. Some women’s fleece jackets are more technical than others, serving certain purposes like alpine climbing or backpacking.

And while there isn’t a single fleece jacket that works for every person and application, we’ve highlighted a variety of options so you can find the one that suits you best. Whether you’re after a jacket with good range of motion, high warmth-to-weight ratio, or just plain ol’ comfort from the cold while tailgating, we’ve got you covered.

With so many women’s fleece jackets to choose from, it can be hard to pick the best option for your outdoor activities. Check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ for a breakdown of the how and why of women’s fleece jackets. Have a look at our comparison chart to steer your decision process.

Otherwise, dive through our picks for the best women’s fleece jackets of 2023-2024.

Editor’s Note: We updated our Women’s Fleece Jacket buyer’s guide on November 17, 2023, adding newly launched and tested products and educational sections.

The Best Fleece Jackets for Women in 2023-2024


Best Overall Women’s Fleece Jacket

Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie

Specs

  • Weight 12.1 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Polartec Powerstretch Pro: 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Helmet-compatible hood
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Wind-resistant fabric
  • Stretchy
  • Attractive cut that’s easy to layer

Cons

  • No thumb loops
  • Fabric retains body odor
  • Hood might be a no-go for some
Best Budget Women's Fleece Jacket

Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

Specs

  • Weight 240 g
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 100% recycled Polartec polyester
  • Density 100 gsm
  • Special features 100% recycled polyester
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Eco-friendly design
  • Lightweight
  • Clean aesthetic

Cons

  • Doesn’t shield wind, rain, or snow
  • Not the easiest to layer over a long-sleeve base layer
Runner-Up Best Women’s Fleece Jacket

Norrøna Falketind Alpha 120 Zip Fleece

Specs

  • Weight 8.6 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Polartec Alpha 120
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Integrated thumb loops
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • High warmth at a very low weight
  • Super breathable during activity
  • Sustainably sourced and toxic-free materials

Cons

  • No blockage against wind
  • Face fabric isn’t tenacious
Best Technical Women’s Fleece Jacket

Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 14.6 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 94% polyester (of which 77% is recycled), 6% spandex double-weave
  • Density 177 gsm
  • Special features DWR treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Versatile, technical midlayer
  • Weather-resistant and durable
  • Comfortably moves with the body

Cons

  • For some body types, the cut is too slim
  • Not the softest choice
  • Other fleece offer more insulation
Most Breathable Women’s Fleece Jacket

Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 10.9 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 100% recycled polyester
  • Density Lightweight
  • Special features Slim-fit hood and chest pocket
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Highly breathable
  • Sleek fit makes layering easy
  • Form-fitting hood doubles as a hat

Cons

  • Doesn’t block the wind
Best Water Resistance

Voormi Diversion Hoodie

Specs

  • Weight 12.2 oz. (women’s medium)
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Wool blend
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features DWR finish
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Repels water, rain, snow, and wind
  • Extremely durable
  • Odor-resistant

Cons

  • Higher price tag
  • Wrist seams are not stretchy — consider sizing up
Most Sustainable and Stylish

Jones Snowboards Women’s Flagship Recycled Grid Fleece Pullover

Specs

  • Weight 9.87 oz.
  • Fit Standard
  • Fabric 100% recycled Polartec polyester Power Grid
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Zippered upper chest pocket
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • A pullover is comfortable without a central zipper
  • The long collar is roomy and warm
  • Thumbholes included

Cons

  • You need to pull the layer off in order to vent – no center zip
Best of the Rest

Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 16.9 oz
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 100% recycled polyester
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Slim-fit hood and chest pocket
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Low maintenance
  • Comfortable and stylish
  • Plenty of zip pockets

Cons

  • Not very breathable
  • Too heavy and bulky for backpacking

Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip

Specs

  • Weight 7.8 oz
  • Fit Regular
  • Fabric Recycled Heather Microfleece, 65% REPREVE® Recycled Polyester, 35% Polyester
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Half-zip for temperature regulation, shirt-style cuffs and yokes
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Recycled materials
  • Snap cuffs, curve front add style and a touch of Western flair
  • Thick and soft feel
  • Microfleece wicks moisture, dries quickly

Cons

  • No hood (also pro, depending on your preferences!)
  • Not wind resistant

Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover

Specs

  • Weight Unavailable
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Polartec Power Stretch Hardface (chest and upper arms), Polartec Power Grid (lower arms and side panels)
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Chest pocket and center half-zip
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Side panels allow heat to escape while active
  • Retains warmth well
  • Good freedom of movement

Cons

  • Doesn’t block wind well
  • Not all folks like a pullover design

The North Face Denali 2 Jacket

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb. 2 oz. (women’s small)
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric 100% recycled polyester (fleece fabric), 100% nylon (overlay)
  • Density Heavyweight
  • Special Features DWR finish
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Three pockets
  • Weather- and abrasion-resistant finish on shoulders and chest
  • Wide range of sizes

Cons

  • Bulky to pack for a backpacking trip or in a ski touring pack

Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece

Specs

  • Weight Unavailable
  • Fit Straight
  • Fabric 100% polyester
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features DWR overlays at elbows, chest, and back
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Super cozy and warm
  • Great warmth and wind resistance
  • Reinforced elbows

Cons

  • Lacks packability
  • Too dense for agile outdoor activities like alpine skiing

Norrøna Trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hood

Specs

  • Weight 14.53 oz.
  • Fit Regular
  • Fabric Polartec Power Stretch Pro (face), polyester & wool blend (side panels)
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Thumb loops
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Stretchy material offers good range of motion
  • Thumb loops
  • Excellent breathability and moisture wicking

Cons

  • Seams on arms and chest can be uncomfortable against the skin

Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket

Specs

  • Weight Unavailable
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric Polyester
  • Density Midweight
  • Special features Zippered chest pocket
The Best Fleece Jackets for Women of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Modern, sporty design
  • Affordable price
  • Warm and comfortable

Cons

  • Some reviewers found the fabric a tad rough
  • The zipper sometimes snagged, according to users

Women’s Fleece Jacket Comparison Chart

Scroll right to view all of the columns: Price, Weight, Fit, Fabric, Density.

Fleece JacketPriceWeightFitFabricDensity
Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie$18012.1 oz.AthleticPolartec Powerstretch Pro: 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastaneMidweight
Norrona Falketind Alpha
120 Zip Fleece
$2098.6 oz.AthleticPolartec Alpha 120Midweight
REI Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket 2.0$30-5010.7 oz.RelaxedPolyesterMidweight
Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody$19914.6 oz.Athletic94% polyester (of which 77% is recycled), 6% spandex double-weave177 gsm
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody$16910.9 oz.Athletic100% recycled polyesterLightweight
Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover$129N/AAthleticPolartec Power Stretch Hardface (chest & upper arms), Polartec Power Grid (lower arms & side panels)Midweight
Voormi Diversion Hoodie$26912.2 oz.AthleticWool blendMidweight
Jones Snowboards Women’s Flagship Recycled Grid Fleece Pullover
$1309.87 oz.Standard100% recycled Polartec polyester Power GridMidweight
Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip$997.8 oz.Regular Recycled Heather Microfleece, 65% REPREVE® Recycled Polyester, 35% PolyesterMidweight
Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody$16916.9 oz.Athletic 100% recycled polyesterMidweight
Helly Hansen Daybreaker
Fleece Jacket
$708.5 oz.Athletic100% recycled Polartec polyester100 gsm
The North Face Denali 2 Jacket$1791 lb., 2 oz.Relaxed100% recycled polyester (fleece fabric), 100% nylon (overlay)Heavyweight
Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece$189N/AStraight100% polyesterMidweight
Norrøna Trollveggen Powerstretch
Pro Zip Hood
$24914.53 oz.RegularPolartec Power Stretch Pro (face), polyester & wool blend (side panels)Midweight
Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer
Fleece Jacket
$100N/ARelaxedPolyesterMidweight
smartwool's performance hike light cushion crew socks
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton testing out the technical Norrøna Falketind Fleece on a desert hike; (photo/Eric Phillips)

How We Tested Women’s Fleece Jackets

We know outdoor activities don’t all look alike, so we made sure every women’s fleece jacket we tested was used in a wide range of conditions and activities. These fleece jackets for women were tested across environments, four seasons, and various weather conditions. We also used them for daily life from shoveling snow to jogging and running errands.

Our GearJunkie testers include a range of skilled pros: an AMGA-certified rock guide, sugar beet harvester, ski patrol tail guide, professional wildlife photographer, and rancher, to name a few of our field experts. Our team of skiers, snowboarders, hunters, climbers, and farmers put these jackets to the test to find the best women’s fleece.

Leading the gear testing team, Senior Editor Morgan Tilton grew up in the Colorado Rockies and lives in the Gunnison Valley, one of the coldest places in the U.S. She pulls on a fleece year-round from camping to yard work and downhill skiing or snowboarding. Fleece midlayers have rotated through her closet for more than three decades.

One of our lead testers is journalist Kylie Mohr, who has lived in a four-season mountain climate for more than 6 years. Mohr tested these fleeces for their warmth, durability, and packability, throwing them on for alpine skiing, ski touring, running, and walking the dog on chilly mornings.

The fleece accompanied us while alpine skiing and on backcountry tours. These layers have proven their durability and heat retention while traversing Idaho’s remotest wild rivers, working the land in North Dakota farmlands, and ascending cracks in Utah’s Indian Creek. We used them rock climbing and skiing throughout Colorado’s high-elevation peaks and limestone walls. Temperatures stretched from splitting cold at sunrise to scorching beneath the sun during fieldwork.

These layers protected us while glassing for animals and trail running. Other designs even helped keep us warm while we cleaned farm machinery, pedaled cruisers around town, and cooked meals at the campsite.

Using our first-hand experience, we narrowed down this season’s best fleece for women who work and play outside on a regular basis. While testing our fleece, we consider overall fit, warmth, hand value, density, weight, quality, durability, comfort, breathability, and overall value. We also took a close look at the design features from the zippers, hems, and hoods to the pockets, and considered the best application of each fleece.

We also take into account the most innovative, sustainable, novel, objective-specific, popular, highly rated, and legacy products across a range of price points. We’re confident this list includes the best women’s fleece jackets on the market that serve a variety of budgets and end uses.

Gear tester Kylie Mohr testing fleece on a mid-winter Montana ski tour; (photo/Kylie Mohr)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Fleece Jacket for Women

Fleece is a human-made fabric that is soft, fuzzy, and imitates wool fleece. The fabric is used to make a variety of insulating midlayers and lightweight jackets or vests that often have a full or partial front zipper.

Fleece is typically made from synthetic materials like polyester or a polyester blend.

It’s not to be confused with wool fleece, which comes from a variety of animals including sheep, alpacas, and goats.

For this guide, we focused on fleece jackets rather than vests.

History

Modern fleece was born out of a collaboration between Patagonia and a company called Malden Mills Industries, now Polartec.

Maiden Mills developed the first-ever synthetic fleece textile in 1981. Patagonia wanted to mimic and tweak wool, which rock climbers and backpackers were wearing at the time, and make something lighter and quicker to dry. 

Designers found synthetic pile at a fabric shop, then worked to soften initial stiff prototypes: made from material intended for toilet seat covers. An initial catalog description for the result, the “Patagonia Climbing Jacket,” called the jacket, “very warm, wind and water-resistant” — qualities fleece jackets from all brands are loved today. In 1985, the iconic Synchilla Fleece pullover was born.

Benefits of Fleece

Fleece is generally breathable, wicks moisture, and is quick-drying. Those qualities can be good for cardio activities like backcountry skiing, trail running, backpacking, or hiking.

Designs vary based on their warmth-to-weight ratio, wind and water resistance, bulkiness, and features like thumbholes, pockets, or hoods.

Fleece vs. Wool

Wool, on the other hand, regulates temperature well, shields wind, and carries anti-odor properties. Wool is also naturally water-repellent due to the lanolin that coats the fibers. Comparatively, fleece wets quicker than wool but dries faster.

High Pile Fleece 

High pile fleece is that plush, blanket-like fleece jacket. It looks cozy, cuddly, and sometimes, like a teddy bear. It’s also known as sherpa fleece because it has the feel and resemblance of a sheep’s coat. The Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece is a super soft example of the sherpa look and feel, as is the Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket.

High pile fleece can give off a throwback, retro vibe, since it’s reminiscent of early designs. 

Warmth and Insulation

Fleeces offer varying levels of warmth and insulation from the cold, based on the type of fabric, weight, and any fabric liners. We classify all of our picks as midlayers, though some are warmer and more weather-resistant than others. In some conditions, these fleece work perfectly fine as an outer layer.

  • Lightweight: The lightest fleece jackets are around 100 gsm. These layers are great for high-aerobic activities like nordic skiing or running. They are generally more breathable and less bulky. An example of the best fleeces in this category is the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.
  • Midweight: Moderate-weight midlayers are a bit thicker at 200 gsm but still could be used while active at colder temperatures. They offer good insulation and can be integrated into a complete layering system underneath a protective wind or rain shell. The Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece is a good example of a midweight option.
  • Heavyweight: The thickest fleece layers are around 300-400 gsm and are great for layering up at the campsite. They tend to be a bit bulkier and warmer than light or midweight fleeces. They typically aren’t as comfortable or breathable during high-output activities. The North Face Denali Jacket was among the heaviest-weight fleeces we tested.

Layering Systems

Some of our favorite fleece jackets for women can be used as a standalone layer in adverse weather, though many are designed to be integrated with other jackets as part of a layering system. Using several layers allows you to stay comfortable as the conditions change or as your level of activity increases or decreases.

For example, if you are hiking uphill and start to sweat, you can shed your insulating layer (maybe it’s a fleece) and keep hiking in a base layer. Read more about base layers in our best baselayers for women guide. If the wind starts to howl, zip a wind shell or ski jacket over your fleece to trap heat. Learn more about outermost layering in our best ski jackets guide.

Wind and Water Resistance

Modern fleece designs often feature water-repellent treatments on the surface to prevent your fleece from absorbing moisture if weather conditions deteriorate. This means they do a much better job keeping you warm when it’s wet outside than, say,  a cotton sweatshirt.

The Voormi Diversion Hoodie is particularly good at this job due to the technical fabric weave and DWR coating. Most fleeces are not truly waterproof, however, and it’s still a good idea to bring a rain jacket as part of a complete layering system.

Some fleece jackets also have a fabric weave or outer coating that offers protection from the wind, like the Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie. These features are most useful when you intend to use your fleece as a standalone outer layer, as compared to an insulating midlayer.

Similarly, abrasion-repellent treatments on the outside of your fleece can enhance durability. This is especially useful for climbing, moving around equipment like a snowmobile, lifting objects, or other activities during which your jacket may be scraping against rough surfaces.

Breathability

If you’re going to be running, skiing, biking, or generally moving in your fleece, breathability is essential.

Fleece is typically made with materials that are designed to draw or “wick” moisture away from the body. Light or midweight layers are best for active pursuits. The dense fabric of heavyweight fleece tends to be less breathable and agile.

Among our winners for the breathability category, the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody is constructed with a unique zigzag pattern that combines breathable channels with lofty fleece. These channels let heat escape from areas where you are likely to sweat the most, but they offer little respite from the wind.

Another choice with excellent aeration but heat-holding power is the Norrøna Falketind Alpha 120 Zip Fleece. We also loved the Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover for its heat-shedding side panels.

Other fleece designs even integrate wool fibers for odor control while keeping your warmth in.

Packability

You’ll want to think about your fleece jacket’s intended use when considering what to buy and bring for different activities. Some of the fleece jackets on this list are streamlined, meant to offer warmth in a thin package that’s perfect for stuffing into a backpack as temperatures shift or layering on and off during ski tours.

Others, especially those in the high pile fleece category, don’t fold nicely into a small size. Since the material is often warmer and bulkier than other polyester fleece, it’s best when packability isn’t a concern — think car camping. 

Durability

A good fleece jacket needs to stand the test of time. Some additional design details help these midlayers do just that. 

Elbow patches offer reinforcement to lessen wear and tear in the elbow area. The Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece is designed with a reinforced chest, back, and elbows.

Tasian nylon fabric adds durability. We also like the Women’s Denali 2 Jacket from The North Face for its nylon panels on the chest, arms, and across the shoulders. The tough material helps prevent abrasion where backpack straps might rub.

The dense weave of the Voormi Diversion Hoodie also got high marks during testing for its durability. 

Thumb Loops

Thumb loops, also known as thumbholes, are small openings directly underneath a shirt’s cuffs at the end of the sleeves. A shirt cuff is a layer of fabric that demarcates the edge of a garment at the wrist, and is made up of an additional piece of fabric that’s sewn on to help prevent fraying and increase comfort.

The lengths and elasticity of sleeves and cuffs can vary. Some sleeves are meant to go up to your knuckles and cover your palms, and include thumb loops to facilitate. Thumb loops are often found on fleece meant for athletic activities that are a thinner, flatter material. Bulkier, high-pile fleece, and fleece meant to be worn as an outer layer often go with traditional cuffs rather than thumb loops.  

We love thumb loops for fleece worn during athletic activities when layering without bunching is helpful, or when we don’t want the elements getting up our sleeves. Thumb loops kept the Norrøna Trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hood in place while doing farm chores, and kept wind from getting in on gusty testing days.

We found the thumb loops on the Backcountry Hybrid Grid Fleece Pullover nice during ski touring on a cold day and appreciated the thicker amount of fabric that didn’t rub into the crease between our thumb and pointer finger. Other thumb loop designs, like ones that are a thin string of fabric, can become uncomfortable after long periods of time. The stretch cuffs on the Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody are a solid alternative to keep fabric from getting in the way of your fingers when thumb loops aren’t a feature. 

Pockets   

Fleece jackets come with all different pocket configurations. How many and where you want them is personal preference.

Zip chest pockets on jackets like the Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket or the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody are great for keeping small items like chapstick organized and close by. All full-zip fleece jackets on this list have larger side zip pockets on the lower half of the jacket.

Other types of pockets to look for in fleece are kangaroo pockets — open on both sides to fit both hands — and inner zip pockets for items you don’t want to lose and don’t anticipate taking in and out, like a car key. If you’re going to wear a harness with your fleece, make sure pockets sit higher so they’re still accessible. 

Hoods and Collars 

Think about your intended activities when choosing fleece with a hood versus a collar. Hoods are ideal if inclement weather pops up, so a good feature for something you plan on wearing without another shell or layer on top. Slim-fitting hoods can fit under some helmets, while roomier cuts can stretch on top. 

But if all of your layers are hooded, those hoods can pile up. Think about how a fleece factors into your existing base layers, puffy, and other jackets. Learn more about down jackets (with and without hoods) in our guide. 

Collars are great for keeping wind out and sun off your skin, especially when they’re fully zipped up. They can add warmth and hug-like comfort without the bulk of a hood. If it’s not cold enough for a hood, or you have a hat to wear, a hood won’t be needed and a collar does enough. A collar is especially appreciated on midlayers that you’d like to stack next to layers with a hood.

Size and Fit

Women’s-specific fleece jackets take into account the shape of the female body including the hips, chest, and shoulders as well as torso length and width.

Many of the athletic-fit fleeces we tested are also tailored and gusseted in the arms and shoulders to be more form-fitting yet allow a range of movement. We especially liked the curved hem fit on the Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip.

Alternatively, there are also plenty of relaxed-fit fleece jackets for women on the market.

Sustainability

When it comes to sustainability, buying new gear isn’t as environmentally friendly as having a closet swap with friends or finding scores at the thrift store. But conscious consumers can still shop with Mother Nature in mind.

Is your fleece in good shape, but you’re looking to update features, colors, warmth, you name it? A trade-in program is a great way to keep waste out of the supply chain if you’re itching for something new. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program and Arc’teryx’s ReGEAR programs allow consumers to trade in and buy used gear. REI members can also trade in gear for a gift card. 

Some jackets, like the Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie and the Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket are made with fabrics that meet the criteria of Bluesign, an organization that works to keep chemicals out of the supply chain for the health of humans, wildlife, natural resources, and the earth. Factories approved by the group must meet standards for pollution control and safety protections for workers. Products can meet those standards partially or as a whole, which is identified in labels and online descriptions. 

Some materials are partially or fully recycled. The Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip is made up of 65% Repreve Recycled Polyester from post-consumer water bottles. The polyester in the Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody is also recycled. According to Patagonia, recycled polyester now costs roughly the same as its virgin counterpart, making the switch easier. The recycled materials often stem from sources like plastic bottles, cafeteria trays, and old clothing.

Patagonia also uses some recycled wool in its fleece. The wool comes from factory scraps and returned garments, which are then mechanically shredded and re-spun into new yarn. Recycled wool is often combined with recycled polyester to increase strength and durability. In the spring of 2023, 9% of the company’s wool products were made with recycled wool. 

Other companies try to cut waste in the supply chain. The Voormi Diversion Hoodie comes from a company known for its sustainable sourcing. Voormi doesn’t produce seasonal collections made en masse, then discounted at the end of the season. It makes products all year to keep a tighter hold on demand, and limit overproduction and waste along the way.

Companies are also taking matters into their own hands. Patagonia is renowned for its environmental activism. The brand supports more than 1,000 groups that support a range of initiatives from biodiversity loss to climate action and also has a self-imposed “Earth Tax” called 1% for the Planet. Smaller companies such as Stio are third-party certified climate neutral, and work to reduce offset by investing in comparable renewable energy.

How to Mend

Agh! You’ve ripped your fleece on an errant branch or sharp ski edge. No need to fret.

Some brands have services for fixing apparel. Patagonia’s repair program will take your clothing and repair it for you, within reason. Make sure to check their list to know if your gear fits the bill (nothing extensively damaged or threadbare, for example).

We’ve also had luck with The North Face’s repair program for a broken zipper on a ski shell. But keep in mind some brand repairs can take two or more months, depending on demand. A nearby seamstress might have a shorter waiting list.

Price

If a wool fleece includes cashmere, a super-soft and fine goat hair, its price increases considerably.

Otherwise, the majority of fleece and wool falls in a similar price range, plus a handful of budget-friendlier fleece options.

The most economic choices in our guide are below $100. The cheapest option is the Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket ($65). The Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip ($99) comes in at just under a hundo.

At a moderate price, the majority of our favorite fleece are between $100 and $200. That collection includes the Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket ($100), Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie ($180), Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody ($199), Orvis Pro Fleece Half-Zip Pullover ($129), The North Face Denali 2 Jacket ($179), and Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece ($189).

Pricier fleece jackets that rank high on our list exceed $200. Those tags include the Norrøna Falketind Alpha 120 ($209), Voormi Diversion Hoodie ($269), and Norrøna Trollveggen ($249).

woman running in Arc'teryx kyanite hoodie
Morgan Tilton testing the Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie; (photo/Eric Phillips)

FAQ

What is a fleece jacket?

Fleece is an insulating midlayer or lightweight outer jacket.

Across countless brands, their fleece blends are each unique and created from synthetic materials, typically polyester or a polyester blend. The human-made fabric is soft, breathable, and quick-drying. It imitates wool fleece.

These jackets are long-sleeved, often with a full or partial front zipper. The material needs an additional exterior treatment in order to be wind- or water-resistant.

The blend is not to be confused with wool fleece, a natural fiber used to create apparel. Wool fleece is sourced from a variety of animals including sheep, alpacas, goats, and bison.

For what activities should I use a fleece jacket?

Fleece jackets are a key insulating midlayer for cooler and cold seasons or when the temperatures drop each evening.

As a midlayer, a fleece is a solid addition beneath a snow or rain jacket. Typically, they fit well over a trim synthetic T-shirt — especially if you tend to run hot — or a thinner long-sleeve base layer.

These jackets can be breathable and moisture-wicking for high-output activities like hiking, biking, running, skiing, and snowboarding at the resort or in the backcountry.

If the temperature or environmental conditions are fickle, a fleece treated with additional weather protection — like the wind-blocking Voormi Diversion Hoodie — can help protect against gusts or snowfall while skinning uphill or traversing a ridgeline.

The density and thickness of fleece vary. You’ll need to consider the temperature range of your environment, how cardio-intensive your activity is, and your personal health needs.

Check out our insulation and weight section above to learn more about fleece weights.

Is a fleece jacket good for winter use?

A fleece jacket is an excellent midlayer for cold temperatures and wintry weather. Many fleeces are designed with an athletic, slender fit to pair beneath a snow jacket. Fleece also offers great crossover in the fall, spring, and summer seasons.

Some designs are roomy. Others have a fluffier surface called pile, which is also known as high-pile, high-loft, sherpa, or faux shearling. Pile fleece can still be technical, but it’s generally bulkier. Some recreationists don’t prefer thicker fleece if they’re traveling far and limited on backpack space.

Designs without a fabric treatment to guard against wind or snow work well for dry, cold, sunny, and cloudy conditions.

A handful of technical fleece jackets are constructed to withstand wind and snow and even drizzle or rain. They won’t replace the protection of an outer layer, like a rain jacket or ski shell. But they are great for high-output activities like climbing, backcountry skiing, and splitboarding when extra protection and functionality counts.

How warm is a fleece jacket?

The warmth of a fleece jacket varies based on the material’s density, which is measured in grams per square meter (gsm). This can range from lightweight layers that are great for high-aerobic activities to heavyweight jackets perfect for layering up at the campsite.

For more details, check out our section on warmth and insulation above.

Is fleece better than cotton?

In a word, yes, fleece is better than cotton — if we’re talking about managing precipitation, turbulent weather conditions, perspiration, and overall safety during outdoor activity.

Though some folks enjoy the touch of cotton, fleece is a hydrophobic fiber that repels water and dries relatively fast. Cotton absorbs moisture, doesn’t dry quickly, and can chafe when wet.

Recreationists should avoid fabric that holds sweat and stays damp, which can potentially increase the risk of hypothermia and discomfort.

How do I wash a fleece jacket?

Fleece attracts dust, lint, pet hair and more. But, good news! Fleece jackets are generally safe to be washed in a washing machine. Turn the jacket inside out to reduce pilling (which may happen over time as is) and wash on its own.

Cool water and a gentle cycle are good ideas, too. Be careful drying for too long or on too high of heat, and if your fleece is matted, a soft-bristle brush can help fluff. Always check the tag on your garment for more specifics. Launder your fleece sparingly, as microplastics from the jacket can get into waterways when washed.

Does fleece lose its warmth?

It can!  Fibers fall out in every wash, which reduces a jacket’s insulating ability. 


The Best Winter Gloves of 2023-2024
Apparel

The Best Winter Gloves of 2023-2024

From lightweight layers to heavily insulated options, we found the best winter gloves for 2023-2024 for every budget, temperature, and snow-centric sport and activity. Check out our top picks from Black Diamond, Hestra, Dakine, and more.

 

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