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The Best Fleece Jackets for Women in 2023

woman ice climbing while wearing fleeceAuthor Morgan Tilton testing fleece jackets in Colorado; (photo/Xander Bianchi)
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Here are the best fleece jackets for women to help insulate against the cold and stay outside longer.

Fleece jackets are like a hug on a drizzly day yet are as diverse as the weather across four seasons. Regardless of the fabric makeup, pile, and aesthetic, the purpose remains the same — to hold your body heat.

Despite that aim, fleece midlayers offer 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, which serves a certain purpose like for alpine climbers or backpackers.

Our team of skiers, snowboarders, hunters, climbers, and farmers put these jackets to the test to find the best women’s fleece. 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 hiking 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.

And while there isn’t a single fleece 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 fleeces 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 into a category that interests you or scroll through our picks for the best women’s fleece jackets of the year:

The Best Fleece Jackets for Women in 2023

Best Overall Women’s Fleece Jacket: Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie

Arc'teryx Kyanite Fleece Hoodie

With a cozy, soft brushed interior liner and air-permeable construction, this synthetic midweight hooded fleece ($180) remains our favorite overall fleece jacket. This design truly balances warmth, comfort, and breathability. And it even offers protection from the elements, thanks to the nylon in the weave that helps guard against wind and abrasion.

After testing dozens side by side, this jacket sets the benchmark as the most comfortable and versatile of all.

The stretchy fabric used for the hem and cuffs smoothly pulls on over watches or jewelry. The fabric around the hips easily expands. And a four-way stretch fabric around the underarms doesn’t restrict movement one bit.

This hoodie has a surprising resilience to extremely cold, strong wind. It helped shield gales while wearing the jacket as an outer layer during fall and winter trail runs at 9,000 feet high in the Colorado Rockies.

On the low end, we tested this fleece in temperatures that ranged from 20 to 40 degrees F plus windchill. After moving and warming up, we tend to sweat even in cold conditions. But this fleece did a great job wicking sweat, effectively moving moisture away from the body to help keep us dry while running at a brisk pace.

There aren’t thumbholes. But we love the length of the arms, which cover our wrists and can stretch to comfortably cover our whole hand if we don’t want to carry glove liners.

Arc’teryx’s Kyanite Hoodie has an attractive, simple cut. There are two zippered hand pockets, and a portion of the materials are Bluesign-approved. The design is streamlined for layering beneath a ski shell, harness, or down jacket while running errands around town. Just wear deodorant, as the fabric does retain body odor.

  • Weight: 12.8 oz.
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: Polartec Powerstretch Pro: 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Helmet-compatible hood
  • Wind-resistant fabric
  • Stretchy
  • Attractive cut that’s easy to layer
  • No thumb loops
  • Fabric retains body odor
  • Hood might be a no-go for some

Check Price at REICheck Price at Arc’teryx

Best Budget Women’s Fleece Jacket: REI Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket 2.0

REI Co-op Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket 2.0

This jacket ($50) isn’t only an amazing quality fleece, but it’s also amazing on the wallet. It’s got a midweight fabric, full-zip front, and two zippered hand pockets. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

We love the soft yet durable feel of the fabric. This fleece has a perfect ability to stand on its own or with other layers. It also has high-quality YKK zippers throughout.

Our testers found it wasn’t as warm as other fleeces we tested, and one wished the collar was higher to block wind. But other than that, it’s a super-great fleece.

If you are a no-fuss person who loves to get outside and is in need of a solid, warm fleece midlayer, consider REI’s Groundbreaker. The Groundbreaker Fleece 2.0 also comes in plus sizes.

  • Weight: 10.7 oz. (women’s medium)
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: Polyester
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: YKK zippers
  • Soft
  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Less warmth compared to other designs
  • Doesn’t offer wind protection
  • No hood is a downside for some

Check Price at REICheck Plus Sizes Price at REI

Runner-Up Best Women’s Fleece Jacket: Norrona Falketind Alpha 120 Zip Fleece

Norrona Falketind Alpha 120 Zip Hood

We really enjoyed using the Norrona Falketind Alpha 120 ($209) as a midlayer while alpine snowboarding and cat skiing, and the design worked super well for climbing, too. The higher hand pockets keep the zippers from pinching underneath a harness.

With an incredible balance of being feathery light and air permeable yet warm, this fleece is nearly neck-and-neck as our team’s favorite.

This amazing fleece looks and feels good — the long length reaches the bottom of the hips with an asymmetric longer back cut and generous hem. The arms are lengthy, so we can cozy up our wrists or slide the fabric over the backs of our hands with the thumbhole. Despite the extensive fabric, the cut is sleek without bulk.

Made with a combination of Polartec Alpha and Polartec PowerGrid fabric (grid fleece), it’s also one of the most sustainably made technical fleeces we tested. Its fabric is Oeko-Tex- and Bluesign-certified, which means the textiles are free of toxins and sustainably sourced. Additionally, more than 50% of its fibers are recycled.

Most of all, it’s covered in technical features. It offers a surprising amount of warmth at a low weight (244 g). The design has flatlock seams that reduce knobs or rubbing along the stitch.

The underarm gussets allow for a greater range of motion. We love the fitted hood. There’s a zippered chest pocket, which is a rare feature on women’s fleeces. Two zippered hand pockets offer generous space, too.

Norrona boasts this breathable fleece midlayer is great for ski touring, mountaineering, hiking and backpacking, climbing, and general outdoor activities. We tested the Falketind Alpha 120 for all of those activities plus more. And we agree.

  • Weight: 8.6 oz.
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: Polartec Alpha 120
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Integrated thumb loops
  • High warmth at a very low weight
  • Super breathable during activity
  • Sustainably sourced and toxic-free materials
  • No blockage against wind
  • Face fabric isn’t tenacious

Check Price at NorronaCheck Price at Campsaver

Best Technical Women’s Fleece Jacket: Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody

Patagonia Women's R2® TechFace Hoody

This unique hooded zip-up ($199) is a classic technical fleece for adventures in our book. Albeit lightweight, this design is thoroughly armored.

A snag-free synthetic material is double-woven for tenacity. The Bluesign-approved fabric is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR), allowing precipitation to drip off. The textile remains air permeable yet capable of barricading a breeze. Despite being a key tool, this fleece is stretchy and comfortable.

While this layer isn’t a burly shield for blizzards or rainstorms, the R2 TechFace Hoody is as slender as a weather-resistant fleece gets. It’s a great choice for layering beneath other jackets year-round or pulling on in variable conditions. We grab it for summer days at the crag or trail runs on drizzly spring days.

Two hand pockets with zip closures are smartly placed a few inches above the hem, allowing space for a harness or hipbelt on a pack. An internal chest pocket with a streamlined zipper is a great stowaway for an ID or credit card. The chin guard can reach up and snug around the lower half of the face.

The hood is spacious enough to fit over a helmet yet lean and contoured to sandwich beneath one, too. Plus, there’s an integrated laminated visor to help prevent obstruction of vision — rain drips off nice and easy.

We appreciate that the stretch-knit cuffs aren’t bulky and slide easily over thin gloves or a watch. Overall, this layer is comfortable and articulates well during big-movement activity from skinning to climbing.

  • Weight: 337 g (women’s small)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 94% polyester (of which 77% is recycled), 6% spandex double-weave
  • Density: 177 gsm
  • Special features: DWR treatment
  • Versatile, technical midlayer
  • Weather-resistant and durable
  • Comfortably moves with the body
  • For some body types, the cut is too slim
  • Not the softest choice
  • Other fleece offer more insulation
Check Price at Patagonia

Most Breathable Women’s Fleece Jacket: Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoodie

Excellent breathability and a sleek fit make the Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody ($169) an ideal layer for getting after it on cold days. We tested this layer during an unseasonably cold, spring climbing season at Smith Rock, spring ski touring in the North Cascades, and hiking in Central Oregon in temps down to 30 degrees. This is a jacket that moves and breathes with you, fits seamlessly under other layers, and even doubles as a hat with its form-fitting hood. 

The trade-off for R1’s high level of breathability is lower weather resistance. The wind cuts right through this fleece, and it’s best paired with a light wind layer in gusty conditions. If you’re looking for something fleecy and a bit more weather-resistant, the Patagonia R2 Techface will be a better choice.

The R1 is also most effective as an active layer; bring along a puffy jacket to trap your heat in while belaying or taking a lunch break during your ski tour. The full zip makes venting easy, and we appreciated having multiple zip pockets for stashing chapstick, phones, and snacks. 

For cold-weather hiking and climbing, ski tours, or ice climbing, the R1 Air Hoody is a layer you won’t take off. 

  • Weight: 10.9 oz
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled polyester
  • Density: Lightweight
  • Special features: slim-fit hood and chest pocket
  • Highly breathable
  • Sleek fit makes layering easy
  • Form-fitting hood doubles as a hat
  • Doesn’t block the wind 

Check Price at PatagoniaCheck Price at REI

Best Water Resistance: Voormi Diversion Hoodie

Voormi Diversion Hoodie

Having a super technical fleece that repels water feels too good to be true. Voormi’s proprietary “surface hardened” wool blend plus a DWR coating on the Diversion Hoodie ($269) means this fleece sheds moisture, making it our number one pick for water resistance.

This layer blends the best qualities of fleece with stink-resistant, warm-when-wet wool. It’s breathable. And it’s made in the U.S.

Even if it’s poured on, liquid beads off the surface, which we confirmed while wearing this technical layer ice climbing, backcountry touring, and resort snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains. The unique construction weaves soft 21.5-micron wool in the interior with an outer-facing nylon layer that reinforces the midlayer’s strength. This jacket works super well as an outer layer, too.

We appreciate the assortment of pockets with two outer hand pockets, an interior mesh chest pocket with a zipper (plus a headphone port), and two long, stretchy interior dump pockets to toss items like hats and gloves.

This jacket functions well in broad conditions from blizzards and freezing temps to frigid bluebird days. We also experienced a few sun-baked single pitches while ice climbing, during which the pullover was a prime outer layer. This jacket is comfortable to touch and move in and is extremely durable, even against abrasive textures like unforgiving ice crystals.

Yes, the Diversion Hoodie comes with a higher price tag but is worth it for a long-term investment in an everyday workhorse. Consider sizing up — we found the thumbholes and wrist seams too snug despite the overall great fit. The hood has a tight fit, too.

  • Weight: 12.2 oz. (women’s medium)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: Wool blend
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: DWR finish
  • Repels water, rain, snow, and wind
  • Extremely durable
  • Odor-resistant
  • Higher price tag
  • Wrist seams are not stretchy — consider sizing up

Check Price at AventuronCheck Price at Vroomi

Best Women’s Fleece Jacket For the Office: Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody

Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody

We love the cozy yet stylish vibe of the Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody ($169). The sweater-knit exterior fabric combined with the fuzzy fleece interior kept our testers looking and feeling good on cool-weather hikes, spring camping in Central Oregon, and hosting clients at an outdoor event. Plus, it’s low maintenance. Though it looks as nice as a sweater, you can throw the Better Sweater in the laundry with the rest of your clothes. No need for dry cleaning! 

This medium-weight fleece traps heat well. Our tester stayed comfortable in temperatures down to 30 degrees with this jacket as a mid-layer under a medium-weight puffy. We like all of the zip pocket options, and the hood adds some extra warmth in chilly conditions. It’s not the most breathable or lightest option on the market, and we wouldn’t recommend using this for strenuous activities or backcountry travel. 

For those looking for a layer that will keep you comfortable on a camping trip but is easy to wear on a casual night out, the Better Sweater is a great choice. With its 100% recycled polyester, Fair Trade-certified sewing, and Bluesign approval, it’s also a better choice for the planet. 

  • Weight: 10.9 oz
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled polyester
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Slim-fit hood and chest pocket
  • Low maintenance
  • Comfortable and stylish 
  • Plenty of zip pockets
  • Not very breathable
  • Too heavy and bulky for backpacking 

Check Price at PatagoniaCheck Price at Backcountry

Best of the Rest

Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover

Women’s PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover

The smart construction of the Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover ($129), with its breathable fabric on the underarms and sides, makes it our top choice for breathability. And the outermost fabric is abrasion-resistant yet not rough against the hand.

At a midweight level, it feels lighter than other comparable weights we’ve worn, even though it retains warmth well. We pulled on this fleece as an outer layer or midlayer in frigid conditions while camping, hiking, and walking in Colorado.

The fleece side panels allow heat and sweat to escape, so you don’t get too hot. We could transition from 10 degrees outside to dinner inside a busy restaurant without needing to take off this fleece layer.

Overall, the four-way stretch, freedom of movement, and warmth-to-weight ratio are wonderful. There’s also a chest pocket with a zipper closure.

  • 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
  • Side panels allow heat to escape while active
  • Retains warmth well
  • Good freedom of movement
  • Doesn’t block wind well
  • Not all folks like a pullover design
Check Price at Orvis

Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

Women's Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

This full-zip fleece ($65) from Helly Hansen is a simple, streamlined layer that fits nicely over a base layer and beneath a ski or snowboard jacket. This fleece is one of our go-to midlayers for laps at the ski resort. And best of all, the price is friendly.

We really like having a fleece with no hood to tuck in or snag, especially when we’re doing activities that require a helmet and already-beefy jackets or face masks.

A Bluesign-certified garment, we greatly appreciate that the fleece fabric is made from 100% recycled polyester. This jacket also offers one of the most inclusive size ranges with XS through 5XL sizes available for the women’s fleece. Furthermore, at only 280 g, this midlayer feels light despite a nice amount of warmth.

We haven’t noticed the high-quality YKK zippers wear down or get stuck, including on the two hand pocket closures. And the flat seams help create a close fit. When zipped up, the fleece keeps the neck hugged and décolletage warm and protected.

For a well-contoured and non-technical midlayer, this fleece is a great option. Beyond resort skiing and riding, this is a nice fleece year-round. We can pull it on for cool days, casual walks, everyday errands, and work meetings as well as casual outdoor activities like hikes and campouts.

We recommend sizing up with the Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket if you prefer a looser fit or for bulkier body builds.

  • Weight: 280 g
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled Polartec polyester
  • Density: 100 gsm
  • Special features: 100% recycled polyester
  • Eco-friendly design
  • Lightweight
  • Clean aesthetic
  • Doesn’t shield wind, rain, or snow
  • Not the easiest to layer over a long-sleeve base layer

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Helly Hansen

The North Face Denali 2 Jacket

The North Face Denali 2 Jacket

One of our favorite choices in this year’s lineup is the warm and cozy Women’s Denali 2 Jacket ($179) by The North Face. Somewhere between a standard and relaxed fit, it has a 100% recycled polyester fleece fabric with DWR (durable water repellent) finish that sheds light moisture if it gets wet.

Nylon panels on the chest, below the forearms, and across the shoulders offer abrasion resistance in high-use areas. We also love the adjustable hems and three zippered pockets (two hand, one chest).

The fleece density is on the higher end at 350 gsm. This thick insulation made it one of our top choices for testing in the middle of Colorado winters. It’s also zip-in compatible with other TNF jackets like the Mountain Jacket or Mountain Light Jacket — a huge perk if you already own The North Face outerwear and are looking for flawless layering integration.

And the Denali 2 is available in sizes XS-2XL.

  • 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
  • Three pockets
  • Weather- and abrasion-resistant finish on shoulders and chest
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Bulky to pack for a backpacking trip or in a ski touring pack

Check Price at REICheck Price at The North Face

prAna Polar Escape Half-Zip Plus Pullover

Prana Polar Escape Half Zip Plus

Looking for a plus-size fleece that’s cozy, stylish, and midweight? The Polar Escape Half-Zip Plus Pullover hits all the marks. Made by prAna ($99), the fleece offers a relaxed fit across a dialed 1X-3X size run.

With a thicker high-pile (chenille texture), the fleece is made from recycled polyester and has a soft jersey-knit liner. The brand topped it off with a kangaroo pocket in front and a fleece-lined hood.

The lower hem adjusts to lock in warmth. We’ve only got two words: cozy AF.

In terms of feedback from customers and testers, some were not happy with the looser fit (some thought it runs large), and others weren’t sold on the colors. But prAna does market the Polar Escape as an oversized fit. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, this fleece is a great choice.

  • Weight: Unavailable
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: Recycled polyester
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Oversized hood, interior pockets
  • Accurate sizing 1X-3X
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Kangaroo pocket
  • Some testers didn’t like the looser fit
  • Limited color choices

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece

Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece

Our former love for the OG Mountain Fleece — which is still available at a nice steal ($59) — has been replaced by the upgraded Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece ($189), especially with that full front zipper. Our biggest hangup with the prior design was the pullover, leading to snagged or static hair.

Made with super soft sherpa fleece, the style harks back to the classic roots. But the straight and slightly more fitted cut is conventional.

This fleece, constructed with a 100% polyester Polartec double-face fabric, is super cozy. We gravitate toward this zip-up for camping out, huddling around a campfire, or hanging at the base of a crag. We also get loads of compliments while walking an urban grid or at picnics in the park.

We love the addition of two zippered exterior hand pockets plus the vertical zippered chest pocket and interior pockets. There’s so much more room to carry items beyond the external chest pocket with the snap closure.

The Subalpine’s reinforced chest, back, and elbows offer great warmth and wind resistance. That boost is thanks to the Taslan nylon, a durable fabric with a DWR finish for resistance against the elements.

The 3-inch ribbed cuff sleeves also bar wind and retain warmth while adding durability. (Note: bulky watches or bracelets don’t work well with those cuffs.) The tradeoff for sustainable warmth? The Subalpine Fleece is a bit too bulky and warm for backpacking or skiing.

  • Weight: Unavailable
  • Fit: Straight
  • Fabric: 100% polyester
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: DWR overlays at elbows, chest, and back
  • Super cozy and warm
  • Great warmth and wind resistance
  • Reinforced elbows
  • Lacks packability
  • Too dense for agile outdoor activities like alpine skiing

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Topo Designs

Norrona Trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hood

Norrona Trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hood

Throughout testing, we found that the snug fit of the Trollveggen fleece jacket looks nice and offers solid insulation. And the stretchy material allows for a range of movement and activities. Plus, thumbholes are always a pro in our book.

We wore this medium-weight wool-polyester blend from Norrona ($249) in windy, cold conditions during 12-hour shifts collecting beets, shoveling dirt, and cleaning machinery in 25- to 70-degree temps.

In the coldest temperatures, this midlayer was better paired with another outer layer. But while using this fleece jacket for outdoor runs and weight-lifting sessions, the layer showed great moisture-wicking ability.

One drawback: The multiple seams, which connect the color panels on the arms and chest, make the fleece uncomfortable against the skin.

  • Weight: 14.53 oz.
  • Fit: Regular
  • Fabric: Polartec Power Stretch Pro (face), polyester & wool blend (side panels)
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Thumb loops
  • Stretchy material offers good range of motion
  • Thumb loops
  • Excellent breathability and moisture wicking
  • Seams on arms and chest can be uncomfortable against the skin

Check Price at NorronaCheck Price at Campsaver

Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket

Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Jacket

On the search for an affordable, casual fleece that also works great as a winter layer? Look no further than this Kari Traa design. The Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket ($100) is an insulated zip-up with two zippered hand pockets and a mock turtleneck.

With a casual flair, the jacket has a relaxed fit and ribbed cuffs. In addition to the high collar and hand pockets, the standard features include a chest pocket and elastic hem.

The polyester fleece fabric is a higher pile than most fleeces on the market. And we loved its level of warmth in testing.

  • Weight: Unavailable
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: Polyester
  • Density: Midweight
  • Special features: Zippered chest pocket
  • Modern, sporty design
  • Affordable price
  • Warm and comfortable
  • Some reviewers found the fabric a tad rough
  • The zipper sometimes snagged, according to users

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Kari Traa

Comparison Chart

Fleece Jacket Price Weight Fit Fabric Density
Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie $180 12.8 oz. Athletic Polartec Powerstretch Pro: 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane Midweight
Norrona Falketind Alpha 120 Zip Fleece $209 8.6 oz. Athletic Polartec Alpha 120 Midweight
REI Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket 2.0 $50 10.7 oz. Relaxed Polyester Midweight
Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody $199 11.8 oz Athletic 94% polyester (of which 77% is recycled), 6% spandex double-weave 177 gsm
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody $169 10.9 oz Athletic 100% recycled polyester Lightweight
Orvis PRO Fleece Half-Zip Pullover $129 N/A Athletic Polartec Power Stretch Hardface (chest & upper arms), Polartec Power Grid (lower arms & side panels) Midweight
Voormi Diversion Hoodie $269 12.2 oz. Athletic Wool blend Midweight
Patagonia Better Sweater Hoody $169 10.9 oz Athletic  100% recycled polyester Midweight
Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket $65 9.8 oz Athletic 100% recycled Polartec polyester 100 gsm
The North Face Denali 2 Jacket $179 1 lb., 2 oz. Relaxed 100% recycled polyester (fleece fabric), 100% nylon (overlay) Heavyweight
prAna Polar Escape Half-Zip Plus Pullover $99 N/A Relaxed Recycled polyester Midweight
Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece $189 N/A Straight 100% polyester Midweight
Norrona Trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hood $249 14.53 oz. Regular Polartec Power Stretch Pro (face), polyester & wool blend (side panels) Midweight
Kari Traa Rothe Midlayer Fleece Jacket $100 N/A Relaxed Polyester Midweight
smartwool's performance hike light cushion crew socks
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton testing out the technical Norrona Falketind Fleece on a desert hike; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Why You Should Trust Us

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.

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.

These fleece were tested side-by-side 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 from an AMGA-certified rock guide and sugar beet harvester to a ski patrol tail guide, a professional wildlife photographer, and a rancher. The fleece accompanied us while alpine skiing and on backcountry tours.

These layers protected us while rock climbing, glassing for animals, cleaning farm machinery, 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 is comprised of the best women’s fleece jackets on the market that serve a variety of budgets and end uses.

Editor Mary Murphy in the technical Norrona Falketind Fleece midlayer
Editor Mary Murphy in the technical Norrona Falketind Fleece; (photo/Mary Murphy)

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

Fleece is a human-made fabric that is soft and 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, lamb, alpaca, and goat.

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

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.

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.

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 REI Groundbreaker and Topo Designs Subalpine Fleece are good examples of midweight options.
  • 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 this year.

Layering Systems

Some of our favorite fleeces 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. If the wind starts to howl, zip a wind shell over your fleece to trap heat.

Weather & 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.


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 Norrona Falketind Alpha 120.

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

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.

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


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. These include the REI Groundbreaker Fleece 2.0 ($50), Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket ($65), and prAna Polar Escape Half-Zip Plus Pullover ($99).

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 Norrona Falketind Alpha 120 ($209), Voormi Diversion Hoodie ($269), and Norrona Trollveggen ($249).

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


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, lamb, alpaca, goat, and bison.

Looking back, the first-ever synthetic fleece textile was developed in 1981 by Malden Mills Industries, which is now known as Polartec. Using the fabric, Patagonia collaborated with the company to develop the Synchilla Fleece pullover in 1985. Today, dozens of companies in addition to Polartec produce fleece fabric.

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.

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