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Help me choose a fleece jacket
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David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Help me choose a fleece jacket on 04/28/2008 11:37:17 MDT Print View

I need to choose a mid-layer jacket for hiking under the following conditions:

a) summer backpacking in Colorado (let's say temps are 40-70 degrees)

b) spring/fall backpacking in Colorado (let's say temps are 20-40 degrees)

I realize I need two different jackets to serve these purposes. I've been using a heavyweight base layer for option (a) and a cheap 200-wt fleece from REI for option (b), however I'm wanting to upgrade. The REI fleece is somewhat loose/baggy and it lacks a chin-guard so the zipper irritates.

I've been looking into the Patagonia line (R1 and R2), as well as the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man jacket.

I'm also open to synthetic fill options but have no experience with these.

mario hosay
(silkRoute) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
R1 flash pull over or Cloudveil Run dont walk on 04/28/2008 12:14:40 MDT Print View

so let me get this right - you want a fleece jacket that you are going to use while hiking or while on the move (carrying your pack). right?

also, are you thinking about wearing the jacket as a mid layer under any kind of shell or wind breaker or as an outer layer?

I personally dont like heavy fleece jacket, down or synthetic fill jacket as a mid layer when I am moving (I am talking temperature down to about 10-15º F). I usually sweat too much and in extreme cold conditions thats not a good thing.

When thinking about fleece and/or mid layer, its very important to think of it as a part of a system (base layer, mid layer, and outer layer). More often than not your mid layer choices would be dictated by what kind of outer layer you are using. for example, if you are wearing a light wind breaker you can probably get away with a heavier fleece jacket (all though it would not give you much protection against rain). Similarly, if you are wearing a Gore-tex or eVent jacket a thick fleece jacket would probably overwhelm your system.

here is what I use in the North east. this system works well for me in winter, fall, and spring…..not in the sub zero temp though.

Cloudveil Run Don’t walk Pull over (I also use Patagonia R1 Flash pull over) over a light weight merino wool base layer. I use my serendipity soft shell or Westcomb Mirage hard shell over it while hiking. If the temp is cold, some time I add a synthetic vest (Cloudveil Enclosure I believe) or fleece vest (patagonia R2 vest) under the shell. I find this system to give me a good balance between warmth and moisture management (sweat). During summer I just wear a smarwool t while hiking. when needed I put on a light rain jacket over the t-shirt for weather protection.

It’s a long and not so direct answer to your question. But hopefully my case would help you decide.

good luck.

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Help me choose a fleece jacket on 04/28/2008 20:52:01 MDT Print View

I agree with the above post. Don't mean to pile on if you have already heard the following advice but hope this is helpful. I have hiked in the temps you are talking about and have never been cold enough while moving to wish for a fleece jacket.

I do use the Patagonia R1 hoodie and the R2 vest but only had them both on at the same time in cold rain or early in the morning. Once warmed up I take off the vest and it packs up quite small. I have often worn just a short sleeve Smartwool Lightweight T and Long Sleeve Zip T together in temps in the 40s with a windshirt or rain jacket over the top and been warm. The windshirt is key for layering over base layers when moving in temps in the 40s or 50s.

A thicker fleece jacket is great for stop and go activities like Mountaineering when worn under shell. For more aerobic activities like backpacking I find it too warm while hiking. I could see using a fleece jacket while hiking in temps consistently below freezing. A synthetic or down layer is lighter and packs smaller for rest-stops or in camp.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Insulation on 04/29/2008 07:47:06 MDT Print View

For hiking in those temperatures, I use the following:

40-50 degrees:
short sleeve coolmax t-shirt
microfiber windshirt with 1/2 zip

30-40 degrees:
Add 100 wt fleece long sleeve zip-turtleneck to above

20-30 degrees:
Add 200 wt fleece vest to above

For lunch stops &/or lounging in camp I wear the following:

40-50 degrees:
hiking list for 40-50 degrees
200 wt fleece vest

30-40 degrees:
hiking list for 40-50 degrees
200 wt fleece jacket

20-30 degrees:
hiking list for 40-50 degrees
200 wt fleece vest
200 wt fleece jacket

I got the jacket in "long" even though I only need a regular since it doesn't ride up when I'm sitting around in camp, and I can tuck my hands into the long sleeves if I don't want to wear gloves because I'm doing something that I have to keep taking them on & off.

Also, my list works well, but takes up a lot of room in my pack. Next time, I'm going to get a synthetic vest and jacket with about the same amount of warmth at 200 wt fleece (like 1.8 ounce per square yard Primaloft Sport, etc).

Finally, the key to making the whole thing work is definitely the windshirt. The half zip and drawstring bottom allow me to ventilate or not depending on how hard I'm hiking.

I also find the 200 wt fleece jacket boosts the temperature of my sleeping bag another 10 degrees. I use the vest as pillow and wear it if it gets colder than anticipated. The vest adds another 5 degrees for sleeping. If temperatures really drop, I wear my windshirt too.

ps: For 40-50 degree weather I sleep in 100 wt fleece long johns. For 30-40 degree weather I sleep in 150 wt fleece sweat pants. For 20-30 degree weather I sleep in both.

Edited by JohnG10 on 04/29/2008 07:48:57 MDT.

mario hosay
(silkRoute) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
Re: Insulation on 04/29/2008 10:17:56 MDT Print View

synthetic insulation may be a better choice for warmth, but they are pretty useless when you are on the move. The types of shell that are used on the most synthetic fill jackets do not transfer moisture effectively. Thus they create a sweat bucket and overwhelms the base layer very quickly (personal experience).

So, while synthetic fill or down jackets are great for the camp, they are not as effective while you are hiking with a pack.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Re: R1 flash pull over or Cloudveil Run dont walk on 04/29/2008 10:59:32 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies.

My current concerns are for a summer backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies. I will be wearing an REI MTS mid-weight long-sleeve top as my base layer and a REI Ultralight rain jacket as a shell. Last year it was quite warm so I used this system with an REI heavyweight base layer as my mid-layer and it seemed to work OK--however, I was thinking about changing to a 100-wt fleece...thus my interest in an R1 flash pullover or similar.

For future trips in the fall/spring in Colorado or the winter here in Texas, I am interested in a 200-wt fleece...thus my interest in an R2 or something similar. I've tried several fleece and been disappointed with the excessively baggy fit, excessively long sleeves, and/or irritating zipper at the neck.

Keep the suggestions coming.


Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
R1 Hoody on 04/29/2008 15:06:26 MDT Print View

In summer Colorado I have yet to need a fleece moving. I use my Cocoon pullover at camp.

In winter I have tried my R2 zippered jacket and R1 Hoody. Both breathe well enough to work. I layer with a Capilene 1 top, then the R1 Hoody, then the Ready Mix. I have been comfy moving in the high single digits to the low 40's. The R2 require quite a bit more venting in the shell than the R1.

I think the full 200 weight polar fleece fleece is to bulky, and would not go any thicker than the R2.

(sheilabaynes) - F
... on 04/29/2008 21:43:24 MDT Print View


Edited by sheilabaynes on 10/30/2014 11:37:18 MDT.

Stuart Steele
(sbsteele) - F

Locale: North Central New Jersey
No Fleece Here on 04/30/2008 10:27:12 MDT Print View

Moisture gain from polyester fleece: Sweating and humidity is slow to evaporate, limiting freedom of motion, adding carried weight and feels cold.
From experience I wear fleece around town and at home only.
Moisture control, light weight and freedom of motion are my prime clothing selection criteria.
My torso layering system which is successful down to 15 deg. F during motion with a light coolness in my upper pectorals and shoulders comprises:
1st Layer - Polypropylene zip turtle neck long sleeve shirt modified from a Duofold ProTherm crew neck shirt.
2nd Layer - Fishnet polypropylene 'V'neck long sleeve shirt modified from a crew neck shirt.
3rd Layer - Montbell lite-speed jacket.
A High loft down jacket is packed and worn if needed.
Rain and snow needs to be addressed in selection of 3rd and 4th Layer exterior material.
1st layer - down to approx. 40 deg F without wind.
2nd & 3rd layers - down to 15 deg F under motion with wind gusting to roughly 35 mph without insulation. Adjusted jacket and zip turtleneck zippers for temp. control as well as Balaclava positioning and glove system layering.
Why polypropylene? It is the most water rejecting material for clothing - hydrophobic. It is thin and dries quickly. It is thin and light providing freedom of motion. It has sensible warmth versus polyester which is used for fleece and 1st layers. It wears longer than wool. The old question of stink in my opinon is moot. Get a better deodorant or live with it. Duofold adds odor resistance. BackpackingLight has an article on Marino wool versus other materials - worth reading and considering.


Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Help me choose a fleece jacket on 04/30/2008 22:51:52 MDT Print View

Have you used a wind shirt (defined here as a very light, highly breathable, wind-resistant, often water-resistant shell)? See Patagonia Houdini or similar.

I find that I can use much lighter insulating layers and add a wind shirt over the top as the temp drops or wind picks us, while being equally or more comfortable than if I have brought a 200 wt fleece.

A R1 fleece and a Houdini are a killer combination.

You still need your raingear (whatever that may be ~ hard shell, poncho, etc), and you may still need an insulating layer for when inactive (down or synthetic high-loft sweater), but you won't need to hike in either very often.

My preferred layer combination:

1. lightweight longsleeve wool baselayer
2. a light fleece (like R1) when temps expected below 40
3. a Patagonia Houdini wind shirt
4. a Patagonia Micro Puff vest
5. a hard shell or poncho (depending on expected temp and wind and precip)

I could probably skip the fleece and hike in the Micro Puff, but I prefer it for insurance.

Edited by jbrinkmanboi on 04/30/2008 22:53:31 MDT.

Charlie Murphy
(baltocharlie) - F

Locale: MAryland
foxwear on 05/02/2008 09:16:20 MDT Print View

Hi Check out this site
He custom makes jackets to fit your needs. EXCELLENT prices using top of the line fabric. He is well known in the bicycling community. He will be making me a jacket when he returns from vacation(3 months, nice) If you contact him I don't know if he can reply soon.
What makes his jacket worth trying
1) custom made
2) materials from Malden mills, high quality and very breathable(important w/ high aerobic sports), many are wind proof, many rain resistant
3) you can make part of it wind proof and part VERY breathable. You decide!!!
4)price...under $80!!
FWIW: I don't know him other than a few emails. I don't represent him nor his company. I am making this statement based on months of searching for the right jacket for year round bicycle commuting. Many other cyclist wear this jacket and use it in temps 15Fto 55F. You can design it to go lower in temps if you want. We(cyclist) need wind proof AND breathability so this is the way to go for us.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Keep the comments coming on 05/13/2008 19:13:55 MDT Print View

I am still trying to fine-tune my layering system for my upcoming summer trip in Colorado. Again, I'm expecting temps between 40-80 degrees ((I'll be hiking around treeline or above). After doing bit a more research, I've noticed the following trends among the ultralight crowd:

1. Alot of people seem to be wearing a long-sleeve merino wool crew as their baselayer top AND as their primary hiking shirt as well. My concerns are a) overheating and b) durability, but I must say that having tried on a Smartwool Microweight shirt at REI yesterday, I must say that it was very comfortable (in the store).

2. Alot of people are wearing a windshirt as their primary insulating layer while on the move (at least in mid-summer environments) and not bringing a fleece at all. My only concern here is: Isn't a windshirt redundant when I have to bring my rainjacket anyway? Is a windshirt sufficient as a midlayer for those unexpectedly cold temperatures?

3. Alot of people are bringing a synthetic fill pullover (e.g. Cocoon) as their camp insulation layer. Again, here it seems like the fleece would be more versatile, serving as a layer for on the move and while resting. I can't imagine using the Cocoon to hike in.

I'm curious to see how you would address these concerns and whether the (traditional) baselayer-fleece-rainjacket combo wouldn't be more versatile.

My summer layering system from last year is the following:

-REI lightweight MTS short sleeve tee, 5 oz.(worn)
-REI midweight MTS long sleeve tee, 7.5 oz. (in my pack, worn over the above in colder weather)
-REI heavweight MTS long-sleeve zip-tee, 9.75 oz. (in my pack, used as mid-layer over the above for colder weather and in camp)
-REI Ultralight rain jacket, 12.75 oz (in my pack, used as shell layer during wind and rain)

TOTAL = 35 oz.

-REI silk bottoms, 3.5 oz. (in my pack, worn during colder weather and in camp)
-Mountain Hardwear convertible pack pants, 17.5 oz. (worn)
-Sierra Designs Microlight windpants, 5.75 oz. (packed, worn during wet weather)

TOTAL = 26.75 oz.

This year, I was thinking about making the following changes:

a) replace both the lightweight MTS tee and the midweight MTS long-sleeve with a Smartwool Microweight long-sleeve tee (again, the concern about overheating): (no weight listed)

b) replace the REI MTS heavyweight long-sleeve with a 100-weight fleece as my midlayer, such as the R1 or something of similar weight and/or add a windshell

c) replace windpants with wp/b pants such as Golite Reed (6 oz.) or Mountain Hardwear epic pants (7 oz.)

I'd love to hear your suggestions on how I can improve while losing pack weight...

thanks again


Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Help me choose a fleece jacket on 05/13/2008 21:50:55 MDT Print View

I think you are on the right track with your thoughts and changes. Here is a quick run down of why I use what I do.

A heavier fleece seems warm in the shop but...It is a cold morning so you start out in your fleece jacket. You come to a climb and start to heat up but there is still a chilly breeze and you don't want to stop to take off your fleece. You get higher up and feel the wind chilling you as it whistles right through the fleece so you put your rain jacket on. The rain jacket is not breathable enough so you quickly overheat. You take the fleece off and put the rain jacket back on but your baselayer is already soaked so you still feel chilled as you crest the ridgeline and the full force of the wind hits you. Now you look for a sheltered spot to stop and take the rain jacket off, put the fleece back on, and then the rain jacket back on over that. A lot of stops and a lot of taking the pack on and off.

The key items to avoiding the above situation are a breatheable hooded windshirt and a balaclava. These are two items that you are not listing. These two items combined with the correct weight baselayer for expected temps allow you to make small adjustments to regulate your temperature to keep your baselayer as dry as possible. You can also do this without stopping to take your pack off. You can take the hood on and off, pull the balaclava up into a hat, take off the balaclava, unzip the jacket, unzip the baselayer, push up the sleeves...

Here is what I like for highly variable temps in spring/fall

Smartwool Microweight SS Tee

Smartwool Microweight Boxer Briefs

Montbell Stretch Wind Pants

Smartwool Lightweight Zip T

Patagonia R2 vest

Patagonia R1 Balaclava

Patagonia Capilene 2 bottoms

Patagonia Micro Puff Pullover

Outdoor Research Zealot or Montbell Peak Shell

Golite Reed or Marmot Precip Pants

Edited by monstertruck on 05/13/2008 22:50:57 MDT.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Re: Help me choose a fleece jacket on 05/14/2008 08:43:37 MDT Print View


Thanks for the comments. I see what you are saying about the utility of the windshirt. What windshirt would you recommend? The only thing with the windshirt is that you would need a lighter rainjacket to justify the additional 4 oz or so, right? At around 13 oz, my rainjacket isn't terribly light and this would bring my shell weight to 17 oz.

As far as a gear list for the conditions I will be facing this summer (high-altitude backpacking in Colorado Rockies during July), what would you bring? Would you use an R2 vest or 100-wt fleece such as the R1 as your midlayer while moving, or would the Smartwool lightweight zip-tee suffice? Would you bring windpants or truly waterproof rainpants?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
One solution on 05/14/2008 10:03:15 MDT Print View


1.) For the jacket I suggest a 200 weight HOLLOW fiber (warmest type) fleece jacket. I think Cabela's offers one.

2.) Then I think a 200 weight hollow fiber vest should be the next item.

Together they would keep you very warm in cold weather when worn with a windbreaker.

Separately they will work in almost any milder temperature range.


Edited by Danepacker on 05/14/2008 10:06:27 MDT.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Help me choose a fleece jacket on 05/14/2008 12:49:39 MDT Print View

More ideas for the stew: Fleece is great for it’s breathability. However, my jacket of choice is LIGHTER, WARMER, AND packs smaller, and almost as breathable as fleece. I love the ‘Montbell UL Thermawrap Action Jacket’. The breathable side panels are its secret to high exertion backpacking.

You asked about a wind shell. I sometimes take both or one of these:
1. 02 jacket (5.5oz). Very waterproof; but very breathable, thus does not block wind well. This is great for warmer temperatures. But worn over the Action Jacket, it makes for nice warmth in a cold rain.
2. Montbell UL Wind jacket (2.6oz). Packs very small. Stops wind. Sometimes it’s all I need over my main shirt to stay warm. It can resist a little rain but not a lot. If I’m in the Rockies where a rainstorm might go for <2 hours, then I would just take this. In the Midwest, I always have my 02 jacket. The Montbell wind jacket combined with the Action Jacket keeps me warm at 25F of just sitting around (plus my main shirt).

Good luck with your experimenting.


Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Keep the comments coming on 05/14/2008 17:45:43 MDT Print View

I just thought I would add my voice to those not wearing fleece when it's above 40° F. Last July I spent a week backpacking in the Indian Peaks of the Colorado Rockies. When on the move a Smartwool Shadow hoody base layer, a Patagonia Houdini wind shirt and convertible pants were sufficient. Even hiking over Pawnee pass (>12,000 ft) at 3 am in clouds and wind. Around camp the Cocoon pants and vest were great for insulation and provide more warmth for the weight than fleece. I never felt the need to hike in my insulation layers. Overheating was not a problem for me. I did wash the hoody in a stream one warm afternoon which provided some great evaporative cooling but it wasn't necessary. My Smartwool Shadow hoody has been on several week long treks and numerous overnighters without any durability issues. During the Summer in Colorado I use my wind shirt all the time while my rain jacket is used infrequently. I've used a 2 oz disposable rain poncho on two, week long treks. I'll be using a 5.5 oz Montbell U.L. umbrella this weekend with the 2 oz rain poncho as a backup.

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Help me choose a fleece jacket on 05/15/2008 00:23:07 MDT Print View

Hey David,

For your trip in July I would bring

Lightweight Long Sleeve Zip T

R2 Vest

Patagonia Houdini

I have really only worn the vest in cold rain under a shell.

For rain shells I have an OR Zealot(8oz) and a Montbell Peak Shell(11oz). Both are great although I bring the Montbell Peak if I expect more rain because of the better venting. The jackets like the O2 Rain Shield or Frog Togs are very light and cheap and great for an emergency shell that will spend most of the trip in the pack.

For rain pants I have been taking a pair of Golite Reed Pants that I cut off to just below the knee. I really only wear these in prolonged rain. For passing showers I just keep going in my hiking pants if it is warm enough.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Layering on 05/15/2008 07:55:27 MDT Print View

Now I have been playing with different systems in different temps for the last 6 years and here is what I have found.

A wicking ss t-shirt will keep you warm to somewhere in the 60s while moving depending upon how warm or cold you get and also cool if it does go about 75F which the longsleeve baselayers will not do. You can get these from $10-$40 depending upon your needs and how much you want to spend.

When you throw a windshirt over this you can usually go down to the upper 50s/lower 40s while moving. I use a Marmot Ion or a DriDucks jacket because they do pretty well and are $50 or less.

When you stick a 100wt fleece under the windshirt you should be able to get down to freezing or below while moving. People have said to use an R1 or R.5 or this or that but it is up to you. A simple REI or other cheap 100wt fleece will suffice and save you money.

At this point I would not add to many more layers while moving. Instead add the layers to other parts of your body. Pick up a 100wt fleece balaclava and you have a nice hat or face mask depending. This combined with the hood from the windshirt will give you a nice range to work with. Pick up a Frogg Toggs DriDucks rain suit and this will keep you dry and can be used as an extra layer in case the temps dip really low or use the jacket instead of a windshirt. Get a pair of gloves like the Seirus All Weathers to keep your hands warm and use a pair of bread bags if you want to keep them dry. Pick up a pair of lightweight tights to keep your legs warm. Take an extra wicking t shirt to alternate and keep the funk away or to sleep in and you have an extra layer there in case you might need it. Pick up a lightweight synthetic insulating layer for when you are stopped to throw overtop of what you are wearing.

Of course check out your system in the temps you need before trying it out for real. Make friends with a restaurant owner who has a walk in freezer and walk around in there for half an hour a few different times to see if it is going to work for you.

The most important thing though is that you should feel comfortable to a little chill. Remember, it is cold outside and you should at least be able to feel that a little. If you are feeling warm, you probably have too much on and will need to take off a layer or you are going to start sweating under exertion.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Re: Help me choose a fleece jacket on 05/16/2008 11:40:48 MDT Print View


I noticed you left out a SS tee. Do you think the Smartwool Lightweight LS tee will be cool enough for summer backpacking?

I was thinking about getting a Smartwool Microweight LS crew as my main hiking shirt and/or a SS Microweight tee in conjunction with a LS zip tee.

PS #1--How do you figure out the weights of the Smartwool products? They don't list them.

PS #2--How do the Smartwool products do under abrading packet straps?