The Top 3 Best Fleece Jackets for the Outdoors

(Last Updated On: May 29, 2017)

Fleece jackets were once bulky, boxy jackets that pulled over time and left fuzzies on everything. They were either too warm or not warm enough. Women may have also had trouble finding fleeces that fit their bodies in an outdoor apparel world dominated by men. Thankfully those days are over and fleece layers are a staple for every closet.

Quality fleeces offer warmth along with breathability and make perfect middle layers for winter time. They also make a great standalone piece for cooler nights or to stay toasty on short hikes. There is a huge number of fleece jackets on the market now and you can literally find a jacket for every temperature range and activity you
could dream of.

Every major outdoor gear brand that sells apparel has some line of fleeces and some have well into the double digits of models available. With the sheer number of choices, it can be a bit intimidating to decide on one.

Here are 3 choices that are highly praised in terms of reviews and made by brands known for High-quality apparel.

Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover

You can’t really go wrong with Patagonia’s line of jackets, especially their fleeces. A classic of the Patagonia fleece line is the Synchilla Snap-T Pullover. It is a great choice if you want a nice basic fleece to keep in your closet.

Here’s a rundown of the basics:

  • Made from a middle weight Synchilla fleece (80-85% recycled)
  • Certain color are Bluesign approved
  • Pullover design with 4 snaps to make putting is on easier
  • Chest pocket with snap closure
  • Spandex trim on cuffs and hem
  • Hip length hem
  • Average fit
  • Men’s available in sizes XS to XXL
  • Women’s available in sizes XXS to XL
  • Huge range of colors and patterns – 21 for men and 24 for women
  • Average weight is 14.3 oz for men and 12.8 oz for women

The major benefits of the Synchilla Snap-T is actually how basic it is. Sometimes all you need or want is a super basic fleece that you can wear around the house, around the camp or under a heavy jacket. This has no extra frills or fancy features- it’s just a very nicely made basic.

Another benefit for the environmentally-conscious is that Patagonia does use recycled fleeces, plus some colors (the solids and heathered choices) are Bluesign approved. The sheer number of color and pattern choices also makes this jacket popular, especially if you want to stand out.

Overall the Snap-T Pullover is plenty warm, lightweight and is very breathable. It makes a great stand-alone or layering piece. It is also priced very reasonably for being sold by such a renowned brand.

The only downside to this jacket is that some people find the patterns on some to be a bit ugly in appearance. Women may also find that even their gender jacket is a bit boxy.

The Snap-T Pullover would be best for someone that wants a good staple jacket but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. It would also be a good choice for the avid outdoorsman that needs a less expensive but equally high-quality fleece that he or she could wear everyday.

Arc’teryx Fortrez Hoody

It’s no surprise that Arc’teryx made the list for top fleece jackets. Although they have quite a few different fleeces on the market, the Fortrez Hoody is a must-see.

The Fortrez is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, with the following specs:

  • Made of Polartec Power Stretch Fleece with HardFace technology
  • Extremely breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Lightly insulated
  • Durable and naturally quick drying
  • Flat seams and full front zip closure (corded zipper pulls
  • Anatomically shaped for either men or women
  • Gusseted underarms to prevent lifting
  • Scubahood with built-in neck gaiter and chin guard
  • Two zippered hand pockets + zippered chest pocket for men
  • Approximate weight is 13.6 oz for men and 12.2 oz for women
  • Men’s comes in sizes S to XXL with 6 color options
  • Women’s comes in sizes XS to XL with 4 color options

This is a middle layer fleece jacket that can be worn alone in cool weather or layered with a heavy jacket for winter or during rain. Both the men’s and women’s jacket are equally highly praised. It’s difficult to find a bad review for this jacket.

The fit of this jacket is considered “trim” and it’s true to size, but if you are a larger person, very tall or a very curvy woman you’ll probably want to go a size up. Being a trim fit it does fit perfectly under a rain shell or even a parka. It won’t restrict movement or make you feel too bundled up.

Unlike the other two jackets on this list, the Fortrez is really a sport jacket at heart. The combo of the built in neck gaiter that functions as a balaclava and the Scubahood really add a great touch to this jacket. Those features make it a great choice for someone who doesn’t just hike but also participates in climbing or winter activities like skiing or snowboarding.

Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man 200 or Monkey Woman 200 Jacket

Despite the goofy name Mountain Hardwear gave it, the Monkey Man and Woman 200 jackets are seriously warm and incredibly soft.

Before getting into the details, here is a rundown of the main features of this jacket:

  • Body made a combination of Polartec Thermal Pro fleece (polyester and elastane) and Monkey Phur (polyester)
  • Panels made from Polartec Power Stretch Fleece (polyester and elastane)
  • Fleece weight of 200 grams
  • Approximate total weight of about 15 oz for men and 13.3 oz for woman
  • Three zippered pockets – two for hands and one for chest
  • Regular fit with hip length
  • Center back length is 28.5″ for men and 26″ for women
  • Heavyweight fleece jacket for casual and outdoor sport use
  • Men’s available in sizes S to XXL with 5 color options
  • Women’s available in sizes XS to XL with 4 color options

Being a 200 grams jacket, the Monkey Man 200 is a great mid- to heavyweight fleece. It is quite slim fitting and is ideal for use as a middle layering piece. The slim fit also looks great on both men and women. After it’s recent update, women will be particularly happy that Mountain Hardwear made the women’s jacket a bit more tapered and form-fitting so no more having to look like you’re wearing a boxy men’s jacket.

The main selling point if this jacket is the Monkey Phur fleece used. Not only is the fleece very warm and breathable, but is also feels extremely soft. So not only does it work as a good layering piece should, but you’ll look great and feel comfortable at the same time.

As for any downsides to this model, there really aren’t any. Like some other fleece jackets, there may be a little “shedding” of the fleece at first but this should subside after a couple washes. Overall this jacket would be best for someone that values comfort and design but also needs something that is ideal for winter layering.

A fleece jacket is a key piece in almost every wardrobe for men and women who love the outdoors. Just because they are a more basic piece of clothing or often put thought of as a layering piece doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to carefully shop for one. Sure, you can find cheap fleece jackets at sporting goods centers or online, but they aren’t going to last.

If you’ve been in the market for a high-quality fleece jacket that will last and provide superior warmth, do some more research into these three.


About the Author Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.

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