Best Fleece Jackets
The author testing fleece jackets in Crested Butte, CO; (photo/Eric Phillips)

The Best Fleece Jackets of 2022-2023

Technical, cozy, and breathable, fleece jackets are essential layering pieces for cool weather. Before you add one to your wardrobe, check out our list of the best fleece jackets of the season.

A fleece jacket is a warm, protective layer that retains warmth and feels good on the skin. Functional year-round in cool or cold weather, a fleece simultaneously retains the heat our bodies give off while providing airflow.

Fleece jackets are ideal for the skin track, chair lift, campfire chilling, and strolls through town. While many fleece silhouettes fit sleekly beneath a shell or rain jacket, some designs are constructed to be wind- or weather-resistant and function equally well as light outerwear. Other fleeces are bulkier and cozier for every day or post-adventure use.

Conventional designs are extremely fine-tuned, offering a spectrum of warmth, breathability, wicking capability, and integrated weather protection. There’s also a range of features like thumbholes, pockets, and hoods.

Choosing a tailored style for your outdoor pursuits will help you move around with greater comfort and safety, helping your core temperature hover at its sweet spot. We’ve highlighted a variety of our favorite options so you can find the best fleece jacket for your needs.

Check out our comparison chart for a comprehensive look at our selection. If you’re not well-versed on fleece or need a refresher, thumb through our buyer’s guide and FAQ at the end of this article before picking your new pullover or zip-up.

If you’re curious about a specific category, navigate to it below. Otherwise, scroll to see our picks for the best fleece jackets of the year.

The Best Fleece Jackets for Men and Women

Best Overall: Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoodie — Men’s & Women’s

Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoodie

The Patagonia R1 TechFace ($189) can be seen pretty much anywhere serious mountain athletes are getting after it. This technical hooded zip-up is a lightweight, soft fleece that’s thoroughly armored.

The snag-free synthetic material is treated with durable water repellent (DWR), allowing precipitation to drip off while being air permeable yet capable of barricading a breeze.

While this layer isn’t a burly shield for blizzards or rainstorms, it works as an outer layer for variable weather and as a sleek piece beneath a jacket. To manage a range of conditions, the double-weave fabric is stretchy and breathable.

Two hand pockets with zip closures are smartly placed a few inches above the hem, allowing space for a climbing harness. And an internal chest pocket with a streamlined zipper is a great stowaway for an ID or credit card.

The hood is spacious enough to fit over a helmet yet contoured to sandwich beneath one, too. Plus, the hood has an integrated laminated visor to help prevent obstruction of vision. The stretch-knit cuffs aren’t bulky. Overall, this layer is comfortable and articulates well during big-movement activity from skinning to climbing.

For performance, we’re confident this is the best fleece jacket on the market.

Specs:
  • Weight: 337 g (women’s size S); 391 g (men’s size M)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 69% recycled nylon, 23% polyester, 8% spandex double-weave
  • Density: 177 gsm (midweight)
  • Weather resistance: DWR treatment
Pros:
  • Versatile midlayer
  • Weather-resistant and durable
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Comfortably moves with the body
  • Hood enhances the jacket as a standalone piece
Cons:
  • Machine washing eventually leads to fabric pilling
  • For some body types, the cut is too slim
  • Hood can feel cumbersome beneath outerwear
  • Zippers felt a bit cheap

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at evo

Best Budget: Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket — Men’s & Women’s

helly hansen daybreaker fleece jacket

This full-zip fleece ($65) is a simple, lightweight layer for casual walks, everyday errands, and workdays as well as outdoor activities from backcountry and resort skiing to hiking. Without a hood, it fits smoothly beneath an outer jacket as a functional midlayer.

The YKK zippers are high-quality, including the two hand pocket closures. And the flat seams help create a close fit. When zipped up, the fleece keeps the neck hugged and protected.

As an untreated polyester fabric, this fleece retains a fair amount of warmth and breathability yet doesn’t block piercing wind, snow, or raindrops.

For a well-contoured and non-technical midlayer, this fleece jacket can’t be beat (especially at its price point). Plus, this jacket offers one of the most inclusive size ranges with small through 5XL sizes available for the men’s fleece and XS through 5XL for the women’s fleece.

Specs:
  • Weight: 270 g (women’s size M); 290 g (men’s size L)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled Polartec polyester fleece
  • Density: 100 gsm (lightweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Economic price
  • Lightweight and thin material
  • Warm
  • Clean, sharp aesthetic
Cons:
  • Doesn’t shield wind, rain, or snow
  • For sensitive skin, the fabric isn’t the softest
  • Snug fit and better to size up for looser preference or bigger body builds

Check Men’s Price at AmazonCheck Women’s Price at Amazon

Best Weather Resistance: Voormi Diversion Hoodie — Men’s & Women’s

voormi diversion hoodie

This newly updated, hooded full-zip fleece-wool jacket ($269) is among the most technical ever launched. While the fit is more relaxed than the Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket, the fully loaded design is stout for big adventures from ice climbing to backcountry splitboard summits.

Voormi shook up the textile industry by inventing a new construction process for weatherproof jackets called Core Construction in 2015. For 3 decades, two layers of fabric were sandwiched around and glued to a membrane, creating a three-layer jacket.

Instead, Voormi weaves the weatherproof membrane and fibers together, enhancing breathability while maintaining weather resistance and increasing the options for combinations.

The Diversion Hoodie, which comes in both men’s and women’s sizes features an equally calculated proprietary, strong material: 21.5-micron wool is blended with nylon for high durability that withstands a heavy, loaded pack. This piece can stand as an outer layer while whitewater rafting, chopping firewood, or skinning up through the pines while it’s snowing.

The fabric includes soft, moisture-wicking polyester next to the skin for additional warmth. And the DWR treatment safeguards against wind, snow, and rain.

To stash small items or warm the hands, there are five pockets total: two exterior hand pockets with zip closures plus an interior chest pocket, featuring a port to string headphones. Then, there are two tall interior pockets with no closure. The hood isn’t too cavernous and fits beneath a ski or climbing helmet.

When the weather looks dodgy, this is the best fleece jacket to have around.

Specs:
  • Weight: 511 g (women’s size M); 651 g (men’s size L)
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: 48% wool, 11% nylon, 39% polyester, 2% Lycra
  • Density: 310 gsm (heavyweight)
  • Weather resistance: DWR treatment
Pros:
  • Extremely resistant to wind, snow, and rain
  • Very durable
  • Relaxed non-hugging fit
  • Breathable, wicking fabric
  • High-quality construction
Cons:
  • The thumbholes could be more ergonomic
  • Premium price
  • Lean folks might find the silhouette too loose

Check Men’s Price at AmazonCheck Women’s Price at Voormi

Best Plus-Size Fleece Jacket for Women: The North Face Osito Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

the north face osito full zip fleece jacket

This fluffy, soft, high-pile fleece features one of the broadest size ranges of any well-constructed fleece on the market. The North Face Osito Full-Zip Fleece Jacket ($99) is available in seven women’s sizes from XS to 3XL.

The relaxed design is ideal for all-around use as well as post-adventure hangouts at the camp or tailgating at the trailhead after a ride or hike.

This full-zip jacket is topped off with a tall, cozy collar. The hand pockets are closed off with zippers to secure a wallet or keys, and the cuffs are stretchy. And the backside hem is slightly longer for solid coverage and style.

Specs:
  • Weight: 480 g (women’s size M)
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: 100% recycled polyester
  • Density: 315 gsm (heavyweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Broad size range
  • Cozy and soft
  • Warm yet breathable
  • Reasonable price
  • Sustainable fabric
Cons:
  • Not wind-resistant

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at The North Face

Best Plus-Size Fleece Jacket for Men: Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain 2.0 Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

columbia men’s steens mountain 2.0 full zip fleece jacket

The fit of the Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain 2.0 Full-Zip Fleece Jacket ($65) is streamlined yet flexible for comfort while riding a cruiser around town or hiking the trails. And the full-zip collared jacket features a broad range of sizes from S to 2XL.

The fabric is super soft and provides a bit of resistance to light rain and a breeze. The two hand pockets have zip closures to secure items. The jacket is also fairly durable and doesn’t break down from being machine-washed.

This midweight jacket comfortably layers beneath a burlier jacket or can be worn as an outer layer for cool days in the yard or at the job site.

Specs:
  • Weight: Unavailable
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: 100% polyester
  • Density: 250 gsm (heavyweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Broad size range
  • Lower price
  • Comfortable fit
Cons:
  • Fabric isn’t treated to withstand weather like rain and wind
  • Not super stretchy
  • For athletic builds, sizes tend to run small
  • Not the highest quality fabric compared to other jackets

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Columbia

Best of the Rest

Patagonia Better Sweater — Men’s & Women’s

Patagonia Better Sweater

For essentially any adventure, climate, or terrain you find yourself in, Patagonia has a fleece jacket that would fit perfectly with your layering system.

Falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between purely performance pieces (like their R1 lineup), and beefy comfort (like their Synchilla Snap-T), the Better Sweater ($149) is a middle-of-the-road, stylish jacket that can be used for light active wear, or just to look good around town.

Its recycled polyester knit-fleece fabric offers cozy next-to-skin comfort, and adequate warmth for shoulder season adventures, or as one of your layers for colder missions in the mountains. We did find it to offer sub-par wind resistance compared to some similar fleeces. Additionally, while the raglan sleeves used are comfortable, they are somewhat tight along the arms, limiting the layers you can add underneath or the ability to roll the sleeves up much to dump heat.

We do love the versatility of this jacket though, and it looks equally great on an alpine ascent, or while catching up with a friend over coffee. While it isn’t as warm or breathable as some of the other Patagonia offerings, we think it’s one of the best fleece jackets for outdoor enthusiasts who want a solid crossover piece that can be worn for a multitude of different adventures.

Specs:
  • Weight: 22.5 oz (men’s size M);  15.8 oz. (women’s size S)
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Fabric: 100% recycled polyester knit fleece
  • Density: N/A
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile and looks great around town or in the mountains
Cons:
  • Not very wind-resistant
  • Tight sleeves

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Stio Turpin Fleece Half-Zip — Men’s & Women’s

stio turpin fleece half-zip

At a comparatively low price point, fleece wearers can pick up a high-quality Stio Men’s Turpin Fleece Half-Zip ($99) or Stio Women’s Turpin Fleece Half-Zip ($99). The women’s sizes span from XS to XL and the men’s from S to 2XL, which is among the greatest size variety on the market.

This lightweight pullover design features a partial upper YKK zipper to snug up the collar or dump heat. The cuffs have unique snap-button closures. The fabric is stretchy, breathable, and warm all at once. The fit is athletic yet a tad roomy, so taking a hike or pedaling feels unencumbered.

Bonus for the earth: The majority of the jacket’s polyester is made from post-consumer plastic water bottles.

Specs:
  • Weight: 198 g (women’s size M); 227 g (men’s size M)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 65% recycled polyester, 35% polyester
  • Density: 160 gsm (midweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Lower price point
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Comfortable lightweight option
  • Very soft
  • Majority of the material features fibers made from recycled plastic water bottles
Cons:
  • Some folks might prefer a full zip over a pullover
  • No weather treatment on fabric to repel rain or wind
  • Button cuff rather than elastic closure or thumbholes isn’t ideal for everyone

Check Men’s Price at StioCheck Women’s Price at Stio

Eddie Bauer High Route Grid Fleece — Men’s & Women’s

eddie bauer high route grid fleece

This low-priced pullover fleece is a great go-to piece for adventures, outside work, and life around town. The lineup includes the men’s Eddie Bauer High Route Grid Air 1/4-Zip ($60) and women’s Eddie Bauer High Route Grid Fleece 1/2-Zip ($75).

This year’s fleece is even more lightweight, thanks to a new material that sheds grams and features a more tailored fit. The stretchy design is warm, not bulky, and complements heat-building activities like hiking or skiing.

The grid fabric is cozy, soft, and breathable, and the design has a partial front zipper, tall collar, and sleeves with thumbholes for streamlined warmth. Ultimately, this jacket is a solid piece at a relatively low price.

Specs:
  • Weight: 249 g (women’s size M); 350 g (men’s size M)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 95% polyester, 5% spandex
  • Density: 216 gsm (midweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Thumbholes for additional warmth
  • Lightweight
  • Soft
  • Breathable
Cons:
  • No weather treatment on fabric to repel rain or wind
  • Lacks chin guard so zip closure can irritate if not completely closed
  • For colder days, a fleece with a hood could be better

Check Men’s Price at AmazonCheck Women’s Price at Amazon

Black Diamond Coefficient Fleece Hoodie — Men’s & Women’s

Black Diamond Coefficient Fleece Hoodie

For a slim-fitting fleece, check out the classic Black Diamond Coefficient Fleece Hoodie ($179). The original iteration of this timeless fleece debuted in 2013, when Black Diamond jumped into apparel creation.

Today, this midlayer fleece has been completely renovated with a full-zip closure plus a sleek under-the-helmet hood. The sleeves have integrated thumbholes, and the chest pocket has a zipper closure.

The jacket is constructed with Polartec Power Grid, a lightweight fabric that excels at wicking and dispersing moisture and drying fast during activity. To fit beneath other layers, this athletic silhouette is well-tailored. The moisture-wicking material dries quickly, provides warmth, and is super durable.

For active pursuits, this is one of the best fleece jackets out there.

Specs:
  • Weight: 268 g (women’s size S); 284 g (men’s size M)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 51% polyester, 36% nylon, 13% elastane
  • Density: 180 gsm (midweight)
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Very moisture-wicking and dries fast
  • Lightweight
  • Streamlined fit
Cons:
  • No hand pockets
  • Pills with time

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody — Men’s & Women’s

Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Patagonia’s R1 line has been an absolute staple in the outdoor industry for years, and sort of set the standard for lightweight, performance-oriented fleece layers. Similar to its TechFace cousin above, the R1 Air ($169) offers even greater breathability and mobility given its unique zig-zag pattern of hollow fiber yarns.

This construction does a fantastic job of trapping heat during cold adventures, while also providing stellar ventilation when you pick up the pace. While the R1 Air is a little more comfortable and breathable than something like the TechFace hoodie, this comes at a slight cost of durability. We found that the R1 Air accrued holes and tears easier than the TechFace during extended use, and we used it more as a midlayer than an outer layer.

ATP00411
Trying to look serious testing the R1 Air on a TRT thru-hike; (photo/Emily Malone)

We think this jacket shines as a breathable, extremely comfortable fleece for long-distance thru-hiking or lightweight alpine missions. At 12.9 ounces it packs slightly lighter than the TechFace and many similar jackets, and offers a high warmth-to-weight ratio.

One of our reviewers recently put the R1 Air to the test on thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail, using this as his primary midlayer. From week-long freezing rain storms to chilly Sierra climbs, it kept him toasty yet ventilated, and was a perfect layer for all sorts of weather and temps.

While you lose a slight amount of durability, the extra weight savings, breathability, and added comfort make the R1 Air a great addition to Patagonia’s already stellar performance-oriented R series. As expected, it’s one of the best fleece jackets on the market.

Specs:
  • Weight: 12.9 oz (men’s size M);  oz. (women’s size S)
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled polyester fleece
  • Density: N/A
  • Weather resistance: No weather treatment
Pros:
  • Super breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable fabric
Cons:
  • Not quite as durable as the TechFace
  • Not very wind-resistant

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Fleece Jackets Comparison Chart

Fleece Jacket Price Weight Fabric Density Weather Resistance
Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoodie $189 337 g – 391 g 69% recycled nylon, 23% polyester, 8% spandex double-weave 177 gsm (midweight) DWR treatment
Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket $65 270 g – 290 g 100% recycled Polartec polyester fleece 100 gsm (lightweight) No
Voormi Diversion Hoodie $269 511 g – 651 g 48% wool, 11% nylon, 39% polyester, 2% Lycra 310 gsm DWR treatment
The North Face Osito Full-Zip Fleece Jacket $99 480 g 100% recycled polyester 315 gsm (heavyweight) No
Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain 2.0 Full-Zip Fleece Jacket $65 N/A 100% polyester 250 gsm (heavyweight) No
Patagonia Better Sweater $149 22.5 oz, 15.8 oz. 100% recycled polyester knit fleece N/A No
Stio Turpin Fleece Half-Zip $99 198 g – 227 g 65% recycled polyester, 35% polyester 160 gsm (midweight) No
Eddie Bauer High Route Grid Fleece $60 249 g – 350 g 95% polyester, 5% spandex 216 gsm (midweight) No
Black Diamond Coefficient Fleece Hoodie $179 268 g – 284 g 51% polyester, 36% nylon, 13% elastane 180 gsm (midweight) No
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody $169 12.9 oz 100% recycled polyester fleece N/A No

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team has tested, reviewed, and published fleece jacket guides for men and women for several years across all seasons. To challenge and determine the best designs, our product testers have worn these jackets across a spectrum of environments and tasks in the Rockies — including in Colorado’s Gunnison Valley, one of the coldest, snowiest destinations in the U.S.

Our crew of testers includes an AMGA-certified (American Mountain Guides Association) rock guide, sugar beet harvester, ski patrol tail guide, thru-hiker, professional wildlife photographer, rancher, lifelong backcountry and resort skiers, and hunters.

For this guide of the best fleece jackets, we considered the most popular, highly acclaimed, well-made, and size-inclusive fleece jackets made for a variety of activities and across a range of prices.

ATP00362
From long thru-hikes to technical alpine ascents, we’ve put each of these jackets through rigorous testing; (photo/Chris Carter)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Fleece Jacket

Material

Most fleece jackets are completely polyester or polyester blend with fibers like nylon, elastane, or spandex. There’s a growing trend of brands using recycled nylon or polyester for all or a portion of the mix.

Some designs incorporate technical Polartec fleece fabrics that offer weather and abrasion resistance or temperature-management properties like the stretchy and sweat-wicking Power Stretch Pro textile or Polartec Alpha active insulation.

A handful of fleece jackets integrate wool fibers into the synthetic blend to bridge the qualities of both.

Fit — Comfort & Performance

There’s a lot to consider when adding a fleece to your layering system. These jackets truly shine in their use as additional layers when temps plummet, or as a cozy, warm layer while walking around camp. They work well as a ventilating barrier underneath a rain jacket, and help prevent water from seeping through breathable rain shell fabrics during heavy storms.

They are wildly popular for their versatility and comfort, but aren’t the best option as a sole outer layer in most cases. The jackets above that use technical fabrics are usually made with a more athletic fit, and catered towards those looking for an active-use layer. These jackets need to be extremely breathable while moving, yet offer significant warmth while static. In this area, an active insulation synthetic jacket may work better given their greater protection, warmth, and packability.

What a fleece jacket lacks in technical performance and warmth though, it makes up for in breathability. While many fleeces have a more casual, lifestyle-oriented look, some manufacturers provide form-fitting, extra-breathable fleeces that offer greater mobility and durability for high-output activities.

Jackets like the Patagonia R1 TechFace or Air fit this bill. Some of these may not be as cozy as the less athletic, comfort-oriented models, but will regulate temperature better during intense activity like rock climbing or trail running. It’s important to consider how you plan on using your fleece, and the ratio of comfort to performance that you want on your adventure before deciding what to buy.

Recycled Fibers

A portion of fleece jackets such as The North Face Osito Full-Zip Fleece Jacket, Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoodie, and Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket use recycled fibers like nylon and polyester. One recycled fabric, for instance, is made by Repreve, which uses post-consumer plastic water bottles to create the textile.

Insulation & Weight

The insulation provided by fleece jackets varies based on the material’s density, which is measured in grams per square meter (gsm). Generally, the designs are also categorized as lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight, and warmth increases with the gsm number:

  • 1-150 gsm: Lightweight (warm)
  • 150-250 gsm: Midweight (warmer)
  • 250+ gsm: Heavyweight (warmest)

Lightweight fleece jackets (100 gsm) work well for 32-50 degrees and moderate aerobic activities. This is a good choice for extra insulation on a winter run, for instance.

Midweight fleeces (200 gsm) are thicker for 0-32 degrees and are the most versatile. This loftier option works well for beneath a ski shell or while walking on an autumn evening.

Heavyweight designs (300 gsm) are created for the heart of winter and standstill activity. Without precipitation, this layer can also function as an outer layer in cold weather.

Naturally, the greater the gsm, the more the overall jacket weighs, too. You’ll need to balance your preference for overall fleece weight with the warmth properties needed for your activity.

Fleece Verses Synthetic and Down Insulation

As we touch on above, fleece jackets vary from synthetic and down jackets in that they are generally more breathable, but also less packable, protective, and lightweight. Down and synthetic jackets tend to run more expensive, but provide a beefier barrier from the elements, and have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio.

While layering a fleece with another heavier jacket is usually the move on longer adventures, if you are trying to choose one of the three as a primary jacket there are some benefits to fleece over down and synthetic. Both down and synthetic insulation need to be sandwiched between an inner and outer liner.

This fabric usually doesn’t boast the same next-to-skin comfort or breathability of a fleece jacket, and can get sticky and clammy once sweat begins to build up. Also, the fabric of fleece jackets is often more durable than the thin lining material used on lightweight puffy jackets, which can make them better for technical off-trail travel.

Fleece jackets generally have better moisture-wicking abilities, and are therefore great for high-intensity activities where weight and bulk aren’t a primary issue.

Weather & Water Resistance

Some fleece designs are treated for weather and abrasion resistance, increasing the fabric’s durability and resilience to harsh weather like rain, wind, and snow. These types of jackets can be an especially good choice for activities like rock climbing or backcountry skiing when recreationists need to move quickly and desire a layering system that works well across variable conditions.

Breathability

One of the greatest properties of fleece is it’s inherently breathable, even when the blend includes a weather treatment. That said, if you tend to run hot and pull on a heavyweight fleece, the warmth can outweigh the breathability.

Collar & Cuffs

Many fleece designs feature a short or tall cuff that zips up to protect the chest and neck from the cold and zips down to expel heat. Some fleeces also include a hood any may be streamlined for bike, ski, or climbing helmet compatibility.

The cuffs are usually closed via a gentle elastic closure at the wrist or farther down the hand toward the base of the fingers. Some sleeves have an extended thumbhole design, which is popular for folks who need extra protection and warmth on their hands. Only a few designs have unique cuffs like the snap-button closures on the Stio Turpin Fleece Half Zip.

Pockets & Zippers

Fleece jackets usually have two external zippered hand pockets in the front. If you need to wear a harness for climbing, ziplining, or ski mountaineering, be sure to check if the pockets are placed higher up to pair well with a harness.

Occasionally, designs have a kangaroo-style front pocket like the Mountain Hardwear Women’s Frostzone Hybrid 1/2-Zip Hoodie, which offers the bonus of two zip closures.

Some models include a zippered chest pocket that can be internal or external. Occasionally, designs add a small zippered pocket on an arm. A handful have roomy internal pockets, too.

Traditionally, jackets will have a full zipper closure in front or be a pullover with a partial zip or button closure from the chest to neck. Zippers are generally seamless but vary in size and quality — YKK is the most robust.

Caring for a Fleece Jacket

While most fleece jackets are built to withstand a good amount of torture on trail, you can take a few steps to prolong their life and get your money’s worth. Fleece jackets can be quite susceptible to pilling if cared for improperly, which can reduce the life of your jacket and its insulating properties. The biggest way to avoid this is washing it on a gentle cycle, using cool water, a mild detergent, and line-drying.

Price and Value

The majority of fleece jackets range from high-end technical pieces at $200-300 to budget-friendly $50-100 fleece and everything in between. Generally, the higher the cost, the more durable, weather-resistant, and multi-functional the fleece is for a broader range of activities and conditions.

best fleece jackets for men
Testing a broad variety of different fleece jackets in winter conditions.

FAQ

What Is a Fleece Jacket?

Fleece is an insulating midlayer or lightweight outer jacket created from synthetic materials, typically polyester or a polyester blend. The human-made fabric is soft, breathable, and quick-drying, and it imitates wool fleece. Often, fleece jackets are long-sleeved with a full or partial front zipper. The material needs an additional treatment in order to be wind- or water-resistant.

Fleece is not to be confused with wool fleece, a natural fiber used to create apparel, which comes from a variety of animals including sheep, lamb, alpaca, and goat.

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

For What Activities Should I Use a Fleece Jacket?

Fleece jackets are a key warmth midlayer for cooler and cold seasons or when the temperatures drop each evening and night. 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 are 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, so 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 the weight variations in the best fleece jackets.

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.

Some designs are roomy, and 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, which some recreationists don’t prefer if they’re traveling far and limited on backpack space.

Designs without a fabric treatment to guard against wind or snow work well for cold, sunny, and cloudy conditions. A handful of technical fleece jackets are constructed to withstand wind and snow. They won’t replace an outer layer but are great for high-output activities like backcountry skiing and splitboarding.

Is a Fleece Good in Rain?

Some fleece is treated for water resistance but does not replace a full-on rain jacket. They are, however, an excellent layer to stash beneath a rain jacket during cold conditions, especially if you’re stagnant.

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). They range from lightweight fleece jackets for high-aerobic activities like nordic skiing or running to thick, heavyweight designs for layering up at the campsite.

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

What Are the Disadvantages of Fleece?

Fleece tends to hold smells, especially compared to wool, which is naturally odor-resistant. Pile fleece designs, which are fluffier and super cozy, can be bulky. Also, fleece doesn’t inherently block wind, rain, or snow — other outer layers are much better choices for weather protection.

When fleece does get wet, it doesn’t insulate well. The fabric tends to pill or clump over time. The fabric can also generate static electricity, which attracts and holds hair. Also, be careful around a fireplace, furnace, or campfire — untreated fleece can melt at low temperatures.

What’s the Difference Between Fleece and Wool?

Fleece is a human-made synthetic material, and wool is a natural fiber derived from animals. Fleece retains body heat, is breathable and moisture-wicking, and dries fairly quickly. Certain designs are made to be wind- and water-resistant. Generally, fleece doesn’t repel smelly odors.

In comparison, wool regulates body temperature well — even when wet — and boasts anti-odor properties. It’s also naturally water-repellent due to lanolin that coats the fibers, though it takes longer to completely dry compared to fleece.

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 quickly. 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.


model standing on rock wearing canvas pants and Danner Arctic 600 Best Boots
The Best Winter Boots for Men in 2022-2023
From hiking boots to snow boots, these are the best winter boots for men of 2022, including top picks from Danner, KEEN, Kamik, and more. Read more…

 

Morgan Tilton
By

Morgan Tilton is the Senior Editor, Buyer's Guides, Snowsports for GearJunkie and is based in Crested Butte, Colo. More broadly, she's an adventure journalist specializing in outdoor industry news and adventure travel stories. A recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards, when she’s not recovering from high alpine or jungle expeditions she’s usually trail running, mountain biking, or splitboarding in Southwest Colorado, where she grew up and lives today.