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Some folks will want a jacket to fit loose like the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T , while others will prefer a tighter fit like the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody for layering. When it came to fit, the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody was a little short for the torsos of most of our testers.
A shortcut is problematic because shorter jackets tend to ride up over a climbing harness or a waist belt on a backpack. The Patagonia R1 Hoody has an ideal cut, with long enough lengths in the arms and torso. The Better Sweater because of its stretchy side panels that allow for increased ease of movement and breathability.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody scored well in the comfort metric but lost a point for being a little tight across the shoulders. We like the Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody — the fleece was soft, and the basic and slim-fit design suited us well. Whether you are using your fleece jacket as an outer layer or a mid-layer, its ability to breathe or vent your sweat to the outside is an important aspect to consider.
Rigorous activity produces heat within the body which then sweats to cool itself, but that sweat has to go somewhere, or else you end up a soaking mess. In general, fleece material is superior to other options, like cotton, in that the material is hydrophobic and won't absorb your sweat.
But the thickness of the fleece and the tightness of the weave will affect how much air and moisture can move in and out of it. As we tested a variety of weights and types of jackets, it was no surprise that some were more breathable than others and better suited to aerobic activities, while others worked better for more sedentary pursuits.
The most breathable model that we tested was the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody. The Coefficient Hoody combines an ultra-thin fleece with a Polartec insulated torso, This makes the extremely breathable, while still locking in a little warmth around the core. The Patagonia R-Series use Polartec's Power Grid fabric, which is made of hundreds of cubes of fleece separated by thin channels. The cubes keep you warm, while the channels offer a virtually non-existent barrier for your moisture to vent through.
This technology is used in both their R1 and R1 Techface models. The R1 is a light enough layer to wear for just about any aerobic activity in cold weather, from running and hiking to climbing and ski touring. Climbers are notorious for climbing without a shirt even in the most frigid conditions, as many can't stand to feel the slightest bit hot or sweaty when trying to "send.
But we kept the R1 on even on mild days, and its breathability was so effective that we never felt uncomfortable or sweaty. While the Coefficient Hoody is slightly more breathable due to being so thin, the R1 is a warmer, more comfortable fleece. The new Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is thinner and even more breathable than the original R1, but it doesn't make for a cozy mid-layer like our old favorite. The same goes for the "hard-faced" Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody.
While that jacket is made of a tighter, more weather resistant weave, it is so thin that it still vented well. In addition to the weave and thickness of the material, some other features can help a jacket breathe better. The stylish Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody has thin panels on the sides and under the arms to mitigate to the tight fleece weave on the rest of the jacket.
Other jackets have pockets lined with a thin mesh, as opposed to fleece, which can be unzipped for added airflow.
As your fleece jacket typically is worn both over and under other clothing, its ability to pair well with other layers is another crucial consideration. You don't want it so tight that your under layers are bunching up, but you want it slim fitting enough so you can slide a wind, rain, or puffy layer on top of it. You can learn more about layering systems with our Introduction to Layered Clothing Systems article. We tested each model with a variety of other jackets and base layers and rated them on how easily they layered and their level of comfort.
Thinner models, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody layered easily under everything we tried them with. The thumb holes were also a bonus, as we didn't have to worry about the sleeves riding up when putting on another layer. However, you can't wear more than a thin baselayer underneath these slim fitting jackets.
They have a boxier cut, long arms that bunch around the cuffs, and are made with a thicker material. While we had no trouble putting them on over other fleece, they were not so comfortable to wear under another jacket like a shell or winter puffy jacket. The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody is sized much bigger than the insulating R1 Hoody because it works best as a weather resistant terminal layer. Fleece jackets have never been known for amazing wind protection or water resistance.
When we shop for a fleece, we're more concerned with how warm a fleece feels and how well it breathes. Therefore, weather resistance only accounts for 10 percent of how these jackets were scored. The chart shown here details which jackets came out on top in the Weather Resistance metric. Weather resistance is vital if you're looking for a fleece you can use as an outer layer, or you don't want to carry other layers around town with you.
Often, the more weather-resistant a fleece jacket is, the less it breathes. The thicker and heavier models, like The North Face Denali 2 were better at blocking the wind than others, and the "Hardface Technology" on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody also helped block the wind.
This thin fleece is wind resistant, has an effective water-resistant DWR treatment, and even a brimmed hood like you would find on a rain jacket. Pair a breathable fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody with a dedicated wind layer, and you have the ultimate alpine setup. You can check out our Wind Breaker Jacket Review for more information on that type of layer. As far as protection from precip goes, The North Face Denali 2 is by far the most water resistant fleece in the lineup.
Not only this fleece thick, it has a durable water repellent DWR treatment, causing light rain to bead off this fleece like water off a duck's back. However, in a massive rainstorm, even the Denali 2 will eventually soak through. The Arc'teryx Procline takes light Polartec fleece and binds to a thin Toyano shell fabric on the chest, arms, and shoulders, making it more weather resistant at the cost of breathability.
The Arc'teryx Fortrez also offers a little defense regarding weather resistance. Though not as thick as the Denali , it was the only other fleece that could resist light rain for more than a few minutes. The breathable Patagonia R1 soaked up rain like a sponge, so you'll want to keep a waterproof layer handy when cruising around in the mountains with these jackets. You can find a great option over in our Rain Jacket Review. Weight is something to consider if you are hiking long distances, or heading for a "fast and light" mission in the alpine.
While a few ounces here or there might not seem like much, when you shave ounces off of all of your gear, those weight savings start to add up. On the heavier side, TNF Denali 2 weighs almost 25 ounces, twice as much as the lighter models, making it too heavy and bulky to throw in your pack when heading for a long hike. If you need a layer for car camping though, then the weight is not an issue, and you'll appreciate having a warm layer like the Denali 2 or the Patagonia Synchilla Snap T when hanging around the campfire at night.
As much as we obsess over the performance details of our gear, we still know it's important to look good! We did our best to balance our general impressions of each fleece with feedback from our brutally honest friends and family to assess each jacket for style points. What works the best in the mountains doesn't always look the best for a night on the town.
The Better Sweater combines a sleek fleece knit weave for style with breathable side panels, so you're not totally out of luck on a strenuous hike. The Patagonia Crosstrek Hoody by maintaining some urban styling while being more breathable than the Better Sweater. The Patagonia Synchilla Snap T is available in many patterns and colors with new styles coming out seemingly every season.
The Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody has a great fit and all the features you want in a technical fleece like a hood and a chest pocket but has a low-key, casual look. The North Face Denali also scored well in the style metric. Though not a favorite of our testers, its classic look is loved by many, and these jackets continue to sell like hotcakes year after year. The Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody lost points due to its super extended cut, which works great when tucked under a harness, but we thought it looks awkward over a casual pair of jeans.
The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody was also dubbed a date night no-no due to its techy look and its scuba-like hood. Another standout was the Patagonia R2. The contrasting panels of stretch fleece on the sides increased the ease of movement. These are the layers you put on after a climb, not during. Making fleece material more breathable has been a decades-long process for the outdoor gear industry. The original Patagonia fleeces were great until you started hiking in them and your sweat puddled up on the inside, leaving you cold and clammy.
With the advent of newer, high-tech materials, those days are a thing of the past. The technical models that we tested all have different means to wick the moisture generated from your exertion away from your body and out of the material. The fleece in the Outdoor Research Deviator and Patagonia R1 has grid lines that provide a lot of ventilation. In the Patagonia R2 and Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover , the material is more lofted with microscopic holes throughout to allow moisture to escape.
Each of these systems seems to work very well in their own unique way — the main downfall being that whatever allows moist air to escape will also allow cool air back in.
The uniform fabric on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody didn't allow for as much breathability as the other technical options, but it did provide more protection from the wind. It seems as though you do have to make a choice when purchasing one of these layers, and that is whether breathability is your main concern or protection from the wind.
If you are looking for a cross-country skiing layer, opt for breathability, but if you need something for alpine climbing, protection from the wind would be a greater concern. The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody does give you a little bit of both, as the lightweight grid fleece in the back vents well, while the synthetic insulation and nylon shell in the front helps to break the wind a bit.
Most of the women's fleece jackets that we reviewed provided very little protection from the wind. Although we typically recommend using this type of jacket in conjunction with a shell or wind breaker, if you're looking for a do-it-all option, the "Hardface Technology" on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody does an excellent job of cutting the wind on a blustery day, for a fleece that is. The material is still relatively thin, and it does not provide the same wind blocking protection as a dedicated wind jacket.
You can read our Women's Wind Breaker Jacket review for more information on the many uses of that layer. Not surprisingly, models like the Patagonia R2 that were the most breathable were also most susceptible to the wind.
If you carry a breathable fleece into the backcountry, make sure to always bring along a shell in case the wind picks up. As with wind protection, very few products that we tested provided any protection from the rain. While fleece is naturally hydrophobic the fibers don't absorb water like cotton does , water can still saturate through the material and get you wet. It is still not designed to keep you dry in a heavy rain, but the finish does make it more versatile than any of the other models we reviewed.
The North Face Denali Jacket has nylon panels on its shoulders, and water did bead up and roll off that jacket, so it will keep you drier in a light rain.
The nylon shell on the front of the Outdoor Research Deviator also repels water, but the arms and back do not. While these models might give you a bit more time to find shelter if you get caught out in a storm, it's best to always carry an impermeable layer with you on your adventures.
This is a bit of a subjective category as everyone's style is different. Some people like wearing bright colors and don't mind looking like a Muppet, and others prefer more muted tones. If you live in a mountain town, the de rigueur fashion is technical fleece jackets and Sorels at the bar.
In a big city, you might still wear a casual fleece jacket around town but want it to have a more stylish look, like the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover. So, we polled our friends both male and female and asked them to weigh in on their favorite stylish pieces to try and form a consensus. We'll note here that we rated style "by fleece standards," recognizing that fleeces are not the sexiest piece of clothing you'll ever wear. One of the sleekest models reviewed was the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody.
The smooth face and trim cut is flattering, and this model received a lot of compliments for its looks. It hints at the original fleece pullovers of old, without the neon color schemes and super boxy cut.
Most of the models were cut with a tapered silhouette to be more flattering, except for The North Face Denali. It still has a boxy cut circa the 's fashion, and it was not a tester favorite. While we didn't rate the jackets based on their fit since fit is different for everyone , there were significant differences in the way that some of the pieces were cut, even within a single brand.
We have noticed that on most of The North Face models, the arm length tends to run short, much to the annoyance of our testers with long wingspans. To compare the different fits, check out the composite images below, which includes photos of each fleece on one model. The fleece jacket's ability to resist moisture, retain warmth and dry quickly makes it the perfect addition to the active woman's gear list.
With the array of different models on the market, it can be tough to pick just one. It is our goal to help you make your selection by reading through our extensive tests and ratings. You can also check out our Buying Advice article for more information on fleece material and construction, and some extra tips on what to look for when purchasing your next one.
The Best Women's Fleece Jackets of Displaying 1 - 5 of 9. Updated May We've recently updated our review to make sure we have all the latest and greatest options for you to check out. We still love the Patagonia R1 and it's our favorite overall option for layering and other cold-weather activities, but we were impressed by all of the three new models above and they each won an award as well.
Keep reading below to see why. See all prices 2 found. See all prices 3 found. See all prices 4 found. See all prices 5 found. We tested the different models based on their warmth, comfort, breathablity, layering ability, ease of movement, wind and water protection, and style and fit. High-loft fleeces have thousand of tiny hairs that help trap warmth. They are also soft to the touch. The North Face Osito was one of the warmest layers in our review.
It worked well as a warm mid-layer on the ski hill, or as an outer layer on not-too-cold days. Here we're wearing it over the Patagonia R1. Features like a balaclava hood help keep you warmer even if the layer itself is not that warm. Fleece-lined pockets help keep your hands warm and cozy. Sometimes comfort comes down to tiny details, like zipper guards at the neck or flat lying seams.
Thumb loops are a great feature that helps keep your sleeves in place when layering and offers more coverage and warmth on cold days. The ability to add and remove layers while being active in the mountains is key to staying warm, dry and happy. Raglan sleeves the seams are off the tops of the shoulders are preferred for wearing under a pack for long distances.
Also, note the flat seams on the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody, which reduce irritation under a pack as well. For an even cheaper option from Columbia, see the Steens Mountain 2. Cozy and very agile. Design is on the technical side for daily wear. The jacket breathes exceptionally well, has a tough face fabric, and offers great mobility. If you plan on really getting after it this fall and winter, the Fortrez Hoody can be your Swiss Army Knife fleece jacket.
Keep in mind that virtually everything about the Fortrez Hoody is built for active use, from the stretchy fabrics and athletic fit to the serious hood that fits snugly around the neck and chin. If you only plan on wearing your fleece around town, the Fortrez probably is too much jacket.
Classy looks and versatile performance. Lets a lot of wind in and ages somewhat quickly. Patagonia has more fleece options than just about any other gear company, ranging from the casual Synchilla Snap-T to the performance Regulator R series.
Sitting conveniently in the middle is the popular Better Sweater, which can be used for anything from daily wear to light outdoor activities. More, the Better Sweater is stylish and comes in a multitude of colorways that will make just about everyone happy.
More, the Better Sweater has a tendency to let wind in and age a little more quickly than it should. But we do love the versatility: For a slimmer fit and added stretch panels on the side, see the Performance Better Sweater. Fantastic performance and technical features. What are the downsides of the CoEfficient Hoody? More, you only get a single chest pocket and the fit is very snug fit—similar to the Fortrez above. But as an all-out performance piece for high-output activities, the BD CoEfficient is at the top of its class A great value for a quality full-zip fleece.
Quality materials and good looks. Pricey and no hand pockets. In typical fashion, this jacket has a high-end look and feel that few brands are able to emulate. For the build, Fjallraven uses a unique polyester and wool blend that does a nice job at keeping you warm while still retaining a decent amount of moisture wicking ability and stretch. The end result is a very comfortable and functional fleece that also looks the part. Like many Fjallraven products, the Keb Fleece toes the line between casual and performance use.
Great mix of performance and casual features. Pricey for not a lot of warmth. With a gridded finish on the exterior, soft touch interior, and premium weight fleece, the Delta LT wicks moisture and breathes exceptionally well. For lightweight, cozy, and efficient warmth, the Delta LT is the whole package. As a performance midlayer or if you like a semi-trim cut, we prefer the Delta LT over the Marmot Reactor above.
But we give the edge overall to the Reactor because of price: Even with the large price gap, we really like the Delta LT—just not enough to rank it any higher. Combination of warm high-loft fleece and performance R1 fabric. Not very wind or water resistant. Patagonia discontinued their R3 this year, making the R2 their new go-to fleece for active outdoor pursuits in the cold. The jacket features a combination of high-loft fleece over the core of the body and stretchy material on the side panels, sleeves, and cuffs the same fabric that makes up the popular R1.
This combination gives the jacket the breathability, light weight, and freedom of movement of a baselayer, but the core warmth of a thick fleece. Although the R2 is relatively light and packable for a fleece, synthetic and down jackets that offer similar warmth are lighter, pack down smaller, and provide more wind and water resistance.
Furthermore, whereas the R2 is sized relatively trim, these other jackets are made to layer on top of bulky baselayers.
But on the other hand, the R2 breathes better than a puffy jacket, has a cozier feel, and offers a more casual look. For a dedicated high-output fleece, check out the R1, which takes away the high-loft R2 fabric and adds a hood for a truly lightweight and performance-oriented layer.
Great price and good warmth. Shorter lifespan than a premium model. A value-minded fleece like the Titan Pass does come with a few compromises. The Polartec fleece is comfy and warm, but it is prone to pilling up after extended wear and washing.
See the Men's Columbia Titan Pass 2. Super soft and cozy. Fleece sheds over time. And you should expect some fleece to shed as something this fuzzy tends to rub off on occasion. But in terms of coziness, this fleece is right near the top.
A lot of warmth and weather protection in a lightweight package. Not durable, lacks the coziness of many fleece jackets. The result is a jacket that is warmer than others of similar weight, but equally breathable and packable. We consider the Deviator a staple part of our layering lineup, but over the years it has disappointed us in a few ways.
For one, the 7D ripstop nylon sealing in the insulation is unsurprisingly not very durable.
Analysis and Test Results
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