Buyer’s Guide: What to Look for in a Fleece Jacket
With the variety of options on the market, it can be overwhelming to pick the right warm fleece jacket. However, note that the habit of buying solely based on the warmth of the garment is outdated because gear manufacturers nowadays integrate plenty of features in their products. The ultimate experience is your comfort when considering all the aspects such as warmth, weight, breathability, style, weather resistance, and comfort. What should you look for when buying a fleece jacket for hiking?
The type of fabric materials is an important consideration when buying outdoor jackets. The least you want is an itchy garment that could turn your joyful outing into a memory worth-forgetting. Ideally, you would opt for synthetic or organic fabric made. Synthetic fabric materials, in particular, have increasingly become the talk of the day among outdoor enthusiasts as the best direct alternatives to organic garments. Down, for instance, loses its insulation when it gets wet. Synthetic fleece, on the other hand, retains its insulation and dries quickly. Moreover, synthetic materials do not absorb water like organic materials since they are often derived from petroleum. In addition to choosing between an organic and synthetic fleece, consider a soft and fluffy material. Of course, you should also look at the durability of the material.
Buying fleece jackets come with lots of trade-offs. Usually, a warm jacket is thick. What happens to breathability? While you need a warm jacket, consider also the balance between warmth and breathability. Unless you want a fleece jacket to sit at the campsite. If you want to carry out outdoor activities, you need a breathable jacket to help expel the sweat.
Weight aspect also features in the warmth of your synthetic jackets. Fleece jackets are generally categorized into ultralightweight, lightweight, mid-weight and heavyweight. The choice of any weight depends on your activities and personal preference. For a long hike in the outdoors, for example, I reckon a lightweight jacket. If you camp in areas notorious of cold conditions, then a heavyweight jacket could be your best buy. However, note that such a fleece trades off breathability.
Breathability is also an important aspect of fleece jackets considering the rate of perspiration when undertaking energy-intensive activities. Wearing a thick jacket can result in wet clothes after a long day of hiking. Imagine shivering because of your own sweat that you could have avoided with breathable materials that regulate the body heat. Modern fleece garments are engineered to offer maximum breathability while also keeping them fairly warm. Others come with underarm or side panels through which moisture can escape. Even more to that, some jackets have varying levels of thickness with the less thick sides dedicated to breathability.
I once picked a random grid fleece jacket to hike on Drakensburg Mountain and thereafter regretted the ordeal I had encountered with cold climatic conditions and storms. While we want a breathable jacket, consider the trade-off of weather resistance. A perfectly breathable fabric typically has bigger pores that cannot block the penetration of water. Unless you plan to wear your fleece as a mid-layer, weather resistance is of paramount importance. Note that it is only amid mild rainfalls that these garments can protect you. Perhaps consider packing additional hard-shell or wind jacket as the outer layer should you come across treacherous weather conditions. Oftentimes, DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating is used to add water resistance feature on fleece garments.
Comfort often refers to texture and fit. Soft textured fleece with micro-fibers is a potential choice for comfort. Scratchier and itchy fabric can make your outdoor adventures miserable. Also, consider a fleece that fits you properly. I know that buying online presents plenty of challenges whereby you can’t fit the garment prior to buying it. I recommend considering elastic fabrics. For instance, instead of a corded hem, consider an elastic hem. Speaking of the fit, the length of the torso is also important especially if you will be indulging in hands-on activities such as rock-climbing. You don’t want the hem to lift up when raising your hands.
While buying fleece garments predominantly based on performance and functionality, we should also consider the stylistic designs. There are some jackets which you would struggle to distinguish if they are winter-specific or fashion materials.
Other important features to consider when buying a fleece jacket
The above features can be supplemented by extra features such as the hand-warmer pockets, chest pockets, hoods, and sleeve pockets. Pockets help store valuables or warm your hands if you have forgotten your hand gloves while traversing the outdoor terrains. A hood can enhance your warmth. If you decide to sleep with your fleece jacket then the hood can serve as the missing blanket to your head.
A Winner Fleece Jacket for the Following Features
Best-Value Fleece Jacket
Purchasing a fleece jacket is a mind-stretching activity because you have to take into account the value it brings. There are some compromises you must make. Oftentimes people mistake pricey items as the most high-performing ones. That is not always the case… My top pick, No products found., is one of the least expensive yet it comes with great features to make your outing a worthwhile experience. Make a checklist of the features that are most important for your situation because I understand we go to different types of outdoors.
Best Fleece Jacket for Breathability
The North Face Men’s Gordon Lyons Quarter Zip Pullover still fares well in the breathability category mainly due to its lightweight. And so is Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain Full Zip Soft Fleece with its weight of less than 2 pounds. These jackets are all made of polyester just like others but their weight plays a significant role. Polyester is generally not impressive with breathability. In fact, a thick polyester jacket is a no-go area if breathability means a lot for you. Remember when I said purchasing a fleece jacket comes with compromises? If you have a thin jersey, it will fairly wick away moisture. The good thing with polyester is that it dries quickly than nylon.
Best Fleece Jacket for Weather Resistance
Although both polyester and nylon perform well in weather resistance, nylon takes the crown. That said, Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody Men’s Fleece comes top with its taffeta and nylon fabric. Nylon is more durable and more weather resistant whereas polyester is more heat-resistant. Nonetheless, a polyester with a DWR can also resist a great deal of weather.
Best Fleece Jacket for Comfort
Talking about the comfort, The North Face Men’s Pullover still takes the crown here. It has a soft texture and fits properly. Patagonia uses its expertise and experience in synthetic fabrics to give customers maximum comfort when wearing their fleece jackets.
Best Fleece Jacket for Wind Protection
A windproof jacket similarly fares well in weather resistance. These features are closely linked. I still go with the The North Face Men’s Gordon Lyons ¼ Zip, TNF Medium Grey Heather, M in this department. But, there isn’t much difference between polyester and nylon. In fact, all items are fairly good in wind proof.
The Verdict: What Is the Best Hiking Fleece Jacket for Men
Choosing a top fleece jacket can be daunting and overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider. Although we’ve handpicked the best 5 fleece jackets for different features, the overall winner is The North Face Men’s Gordon Lyons Quarter Zip Pullover. It ticks all the boxes when using the features I have highlighted under the value section as the benchmark.