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Fleece reconsidered
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Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 16:31:20 MDT Print View

Something I wrote recently that has received some good traction. Thought people here may find it interesting. Basically, a look at the humble fleece jacket that many of us here have eschewed at times in favor of more 'sexy' items like soft shell or puffies.

Thrust of the article is that a simple fleece jacket may be more appropriate in certain conditions.

Anyway, just came out my experiences in the past few years.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 18:07:19 MDT Print View

I'm wrapping up a 16 month comparison of fleece, down and primaloft for an article at the moment, and find it difficult to come to the conclusion that expensive fill coats are worthwhile. The caveat is that this does not hold true for winter coats (iclo of ~2 or more), where down is just about the only reasonable option.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 18:41:27 MDT Print View

Good article Paul,

Most folk I know back on other side of the pond keep fleece in their packs for active use.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Good Read on 04/08/2013 18:42:48 MDT Print View

I liked this article. I've stayed on board for fleece. This forum actually helped me settle on an Arcteryx fleece earlier this year, although the Patagonia R1 stuff is tempting.

It's probably a useless hang-up, but I prefer synthetic insulation over down in all forms— fleece/puffy/sleeping bag —because I'm in what feels like a particularly wet area of the northeast. There's something about the moisture management that really appeals.

Of course, what I would find interesting is a comparison of heavyweight merino wool from Ibex or the like against fleece. That would be interesting.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Good Read on 04/08/2013 18:50:42 MDT Print View

R1 is the bees knees, I have two pullovers a hoodie and a vest, also really like my Montane Jackal Powerstretch pro piece.


Up unti last year I hiked mainly in Ireland and Scotland where it rained an awful lot and never got a down bag wet from rain (sweat yes), I do agree that synthetic clothing ala primaloft and the like make a lot of sense in very wet environment, during winter I carry a light weight synthehic and down combo.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 18:53:45 MDT Print View

Fleece is relatively cheap, durable (it doesn't leak if you tear it), easy to launder (low heat!!!) and works great in cool soggy environments. If you are in a boat of any kind, it is the only way to fly. You can sleep in it comfortably too.

It doesn't compress well and the weight/loft isn't as good as down, but a down jacket needs a finely woven shell to keep the feathers (and sweat) in, where a fleece will breath and transport moisture out to evaporate. You can stand around in camp with your fleece to cut the chill and cap it with a shell if the wind comes up. Fleece and windshirts or rain shells are the perfect system. I have pull-overs, hoodies, "cardigans", and vests in several weights.

Did I mention that I like fleece? :)

BTW, I tried a couple soft shell jackets this winter and found them useless. Great around town, but just a cold boat anchor on the trail. I finally came to the conclusion that they fit in the same slot as a Levi jacket, but synthetic instead of cotton. A windshirt and a 100w fleece will kick any soft shell in the derriere.

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/08/2013 18:59:01 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 18:56:46 MDT Print View

As near as I have been able to tell, softshells are just fleece with special napping and DWR. Not worth the premium price when a regular fleece can be layered under varying shells just as well. Fleece socks are also nice. Don't have to worry about sweating them out and waking up with cold feet like down booties.

Edited by spelt on 04/08/2013 18:57:31 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 18:59:53 MDT Print View

Yep, a fleece and windshirt does the trick.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 19:01:47 MDT Print View

Sounds like a great article is in the works. I usually carry a 100 WT fleece vest or jumper. For me it is a bit of an insurance policy for the weather we can get in NZ. It's also nice to put on if everything else is wet at the end of a day when it has rained non-stop.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 19:06:43 MDT Print View

Nice article Paul. I don't own a softshell as of yet but my hardshell was horrible for snowshoeing this past winter. Like you mentioned in your article, the pit zips help but I'm glad I wasn't forced to figure out a way to dry out my gear afterwards.

After reading your article, I'm now thinking about a fleece / windshirt combo in lieu of a soft shell for snowshoeing. Thoughts?

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 19:08:20 MDT Print View

I don't get people who hike in puffies. They get compressed on the back and shoulders, synthetic fill will flatten with time, and down is super sensitive to moisture. I only see them being useful at night around camp.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Fleece reconsidered on 04/08/2013 19:11:39 MDT Print View

..and it's so comfortable.

nice Mags.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Fleece and windshirt on 04/08/2013 19:33:39 MDT Print View

I am all about the fleece and windshirt combo for winter. I don't snowshoe, but I am an avid Nordic skier and find this is the combo that works for me.

For an in-depth look at this system, go to this link:

The short version is that (at least in the dry cold of Colorado, not as familiar with winters in the PNW) is that the fluffy snow is shed quite easily. A wind shirt is breathable and lets out moisture.

I actually use an old school anorak. Complete with a kangaroo pouch. :) Think I paid $20 for it. Similar to this:

For fleece I already mentioned the reasons why I use it.

But here are some real world examples:

I remember one very cold and dry day in January. My buddy d-low and I were ski touring. His shell was COATED with frost inside. I had a layer of frost from my sweat that had sublimated on the outside of my fleece but was otherwise warm and dry inside. I noticed my buddy started skiing in a fleece after that day. :)

On a recent winter backpacking trip, the old school wool pants, fleece and anorak was amusing at first. Then everyone saw how well it worked. ;)

In any case, the fleece jacket and wind breaker combo works very well in winter. At least for me.

Now, for three season backpacking, I still prefer a puffy layer for breaks and at night (esp with my quilt). I rarely hike in my core insulation layer so the puffy layer works well. Because I do backpack in the Rockies and desert southwest, where it tends to be cooler and drier, I prefer to carry something more compact and lighter then fleece.

Nice to have choices! :)

Edited by PaulMags on 04/08/2013 19:42:49 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Nikwax Polar proof on 04/08/2013 19:38:32 MDT Print View

I treated all my fleece clothing with this stuff recently and it works very well.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado well in winter... on 04/08/2013 19:41:16 MDT Print View

And we may just get another chance tomorrow, assuming this rain turns to snow. I'm a big fan of my R1 fleece and will check out Melanzana's version too. Maybe it's my fault, but every fleece I've bought over the years except the R1 has fit me like a sack of potatoes. That includes Patagonia and (pre-sellout) TNF. I guess that's why I gave up on fleece before the Y2K bug. Who makes fleece for non-couch potatoes these days?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: well in winter... on 04/08/2013 19:43:04 MDT Print View


The Montane stuff has an athletic fit.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Fleece in Rain on 04/08/2013 19:43:35 MDT Print View

Andrew Skurka said he has gone back to fleece for hiking in cold wet conditions. I believe he said he would take one if he went back to Alaska for example. The idea is that if you are out in cold wet weather long enough you will get wet eventually. When this happens a fleece under your raincoat keeps you warmer, absorbs less water and will dry quickly once the rain stops.

I still use my puffy on summer trips. Normally I only need insulation in camp when I'm not moving around. I sort of copied Andrew's idea though by using a long sleave synthetic shirt under my raincoat (it was too warm for a fleece). It seemed to work pretty well. It got somewhat moist but kept me warm and dried quickly.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Fleece and windshirt on 04/08/2013 19:48:19 MDT Print View

I'm probably making a distinction in my mind between windshirts and windbreakers which doesn't need to be there. So far I've been using my hardshell for double duty and haven't purchased a windshirt yet. I was considering a softshell but now I'm more inclined to buy a windshirt. I keep hearing that they breathe much better so it's time for me to find out.

I'm glad you mentioned the liabilities of the fleece with a built in wind shell as that was one option I was considering but for now I've tabled that idea.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Fleece and windshirt on 04/08/2013 19:56:52 MDT Print View

I wear fleece a lot but not when I'm backpacking. The warmth for the weight isn't good. For the same weight, I can get a much warmer synthetic or down.

But, that assumes that while hiking I can wear just base layer and jacket and stay warm, down to 25 F or so.

Synth or down while hiking is too warm so you'll sweat. Below that temperature, which is about 25 F for me, then fleece is great.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

No Softshell on 04/08/2013 20:03:38 MDT Print View

I also ditched softshells recently.

I liked mine for shedding snow, but I find the fleece + Windshirt combo suits me much nicer.

If I need more insulation I've got an Arcteryx Atom.