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The Best Fleece Jackets of 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.

Best Fleece JacketsA solid fleece jacket is an integral part of your layering system on any adventure; (photo/Chris Carter)
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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. from the skin track to the chair lift and around a campfire to a stroll through town.

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 everyday 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.

Editor’s Note: We updated this guide on September 1, 2023, adding a product to the lineup and including additional information regarding the breathability of fleece jackets.

The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023


Best Overall Fleece Jacket

Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 12.9 oz. (men’s size M); 10.9 oz. (women’s size S)
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 100% recycled polyester fleece
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Super breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable fabric

Cons

  • Not very wind-resistant
Best Budget Fleece Jacket

Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

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
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

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
Best Weather-Resistant Fleece Jacket

Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoodie

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
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

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
Best Breathable Fleece Jacket

Rab Ascender Summit Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 11.6 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Outer: 100% polyamide, acrylic coating; outer 2: 96% recycled polyester, 4% elastane; lining: 100% polyester
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance DWR treatment on Pertex Quantum Air fabric
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Stellar breathability while maintaining warmth
  • Flexible fabrics allow for maximum mobility
  • Body-mapped fabric regulates body temperature well and provides solid wind resistance

Cons

  • No handwarmer pockets
  • Pertex Quantum Air fabric somewhat loud at first
Best Fleece for Style

The North Face Denali 2 Jacket

Specs

  • Weight 24.7 oz.
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric Polartec, 100% recycled polyester knit fleece (body); 100% recycled nylon (overlays)
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance DWR treatment on nylon overlays
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Stylish, adventurous design
  • Incredibly warm
  • Weather resistant and durable

Cons

  • Fit is a bit boxy
  • On the heavy side
  • Bulky
Best of the Rest

Patagonia Better Sweater

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
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Versatile and looks great around town or in the mountains

Cons

  • Not very wind-resistant
  • Tight sleeves
  • Heavy

Black Diamond Coefficient LT Hybrid Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 205 g
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric 90% polyester, 10% elastane
  • Density 119 gsm (lightweight)
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Breathable
  • Flexible

Cons

  • Not the warmest out there

KÜHL Alpenwurx Jacket

Specs

  • Weight N/A
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric 100% polyester fleece
  • Density 400 gsm (heavyweight)
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Rugged, stylish look
  • Comfortable, warm fabric and fluffy fleece lining
  • Durable

Cons

  • Heavy and bulky
  • Minimal breathability

Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip Hoodie

Specs

  • Weight 12 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Grid-Back Fleece: 94% Polyester, 6% Spandex
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable, moisture-wicking fabric
  • Great breathability

Cons

  • Not very warm
  • Somewhat loose fit for an active insulation layer

Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoody

Specs

  • Weight 14.6 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Polartec Power Stretch Pro: 53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Stellar next-to-skin comfort
  • Four-way stretch fabric delivers great mobility
  • Streamlined, stylish design
  • Solid warmth-to-weight ratio

Cons

  • Not very weather resistant
  • No thumb loops

KÜHL Interceptr Full Zip Jacket

Specs

  • Weight 19.9 oz.
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric Alfpaca Gold: 78% acrylic, 22% polyester; Kashmira side panels: 70% acrylic, 30% polyester
  • Density 305 gsm (heavyweight)
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Sleek, stylish design
  • Warm, comfortable fabric
  • Slim fit allows for layering

Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Not very breathable

Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover

Specs

  • Weight 13.2 oz.
  • Fit Relaxed
  • Fabric Double-sided 100% recycled midweight Synchilla polyester fleece
  • Density N/A
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Fantastic next-to-skin comfort
  • Classic retro style
  • Super warm

Cons

  • No handwarmer pockets
  • No adjustability

Mountain Hardwear Polartec Power Grid Full Zip

Specs

  • Weight 15.3 oz.
  • Fit Athletic
  • Fabric Polartec Power Grid: 60% Recycled Polyester, 33% Polyester, 7% Elastane
  • Density 231 gsm (midweight)
  • Weather resistance No weather treatment
The Best Fleece Jackets of 2023

Pros

  • Fantastic thumb loop design
  • Solid breathability-to-warmth ratio
  • Soft next-to-skin feel
  • Cozy, snug-fitting three-piece hood

Cons

  • No cinch cord at hem
  • Fits a bit large

Fleece Jackets Comparison Chart

Fleece JacketPriceWeightFabricWeather Resistance
Patagonia R1 Air 
Full-Zip Hoody
$17912.9 oz100% recycled polyester fleeceNo
Helly Hansen Daybreaker
Fleece Jacket
$7010.2 oz.100% recycled Polartec polyester fleeceNo
Patagonia R1 TechFace
Hoodie
$18913.7 oz.69% nylon, 23% polyester,
8% spandex
DWR treatment
Rab Ascender Summit Hoody$20011.6 oz100% polyamide,
acrylic coating
DWR treatment
The North Face Denali 2 Jacket$18024.7 oz.Polartec, 100% recycled polyester knit fleece, 100% recycled nylonDWR treatment
Patagonia Better Sweater$15922.5 oz100% recycled polyester knit fleeceNo
Black Diamond Coefficient LT
Hybrid Hoody
$1807.2 oz.90% polyester, 10% elastaneNo
KÜHL Alpenwurx Jacket$159N/A100% polyester fleeceNo
Outdoor Research Vigor
Full Zip Hoodie
$11012 oz.Grid-Back Fleece:
94% Polyester, 6% Spandex
No
Arc’teryx Kyanite AR Hoody$18014.6 oz.Polartec Power Stretch Pro:
53% polyester, 38% nylon, 9% elastane
No
KÜHL Interceptr Full Zip Jacket$13919.9 oz.Alfpaca Gold: 78% acrylic,
22% polyester;
No
Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla
Snap-T Fleece Pullover
$13913.2 oz.Double-sided 100%
recycled midweight Synchilla
polyester fleece
No
Mountain Hardwear Polartec Power Grid Full Zip$16015.3 oz.Polartec Power Grid: 60% Recycled Polyester, 33% Polyester, 7% ElastaneNo
Best Fleece Jackets
A cozy fleece jacket is key for comfortable layering on chilly adventures; (photo/Chris Carter)

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, triple crown thru-hiker, professional wildlife photographer, rancher, lifelong backcountry and resort skiers, and hunters.

For this guide, 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.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Fleece Jacket

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

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.

Best Fleece Jackets
Make sure your fleece jacket fits and layers well before depending on it in the backcountry; (photo/Chris Carter)

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 Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie and 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 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.

Best Fleece Jackets
Sporting a fleece jacket that is made with respect for the environment provides a certain peace of mind on trail; (photo/Darwin Rakestraw)

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 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.

Best Fleece Jackets
Fleece jackets like The North Face Denali 2 boast a higher density, and are quite warm, but are on the heavier end of the spectrum; (photo/Chris Carter)

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

Fleece Jackets
Many fleece jackets have stellar breathability for high-output missions but don’t offer as much warmth as others; (photo/Emily Malone)

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.

Some models are much more breathable than others, however, such as Patagonia’s R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody and Mountain Hardwear’s Polartec Power Grid jacket, as they feature a grid fleece pattern that increases moisture regulation, while still trapping a significant amount of heat.

Using your fleece jacket as an element of your layering system allows you to weather much rougher conditions than if you were to wear it as a standalone piece. Pairing your fleece with a burly rain jacket or hardshell when the clouds open is a must for weathering the storm with ease. If it’s just wind you’re worried about, throw a thin windbreaker jacket over your insulator for an ultralight solution to thermal efficiency.

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, which offers a nice place to stash a small purse or many snacks.

Best Fleece Jackets
Different fleece jackets have various combinations of pockets and zippers; (photo/Chris Carter)

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.

ATP00411
Trying to look serious while testing the Patagonia R1 Air on a Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike; (photo/Emily Malone)

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 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.

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.

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