wind resistance fleeces actually arent that "durable" for climbing ....
heres a pair of taiga windpro pants that i blew threw ...
there are really 5 types of major fleeces currently...
1. the normal fuzzy wuzzy "standard" fleece 100/200/300 weight - youll find these for very cheap all over the place, breathable no resistance to the elements, cheap, works just fine
2. the thin fleece type base layers - basically a very thin flat (non/minimal grid) layer that is meant for base/mid layering ... very generic, no resistance, works quite well actually as a base layer ... i have several MEC t-shirts of this type as well as the dead bird phase AR/SV
3. grid fleece - probably the "best" for active use currently ... highly breathable, highly wicking, very quick drying, no resistance to the elements at all ... MEC T2/3, R1
4. wind resistant non-membraned fleece - these fleece resist the wind through the tight weave pattern (windpro) or through the fabric construction (power stretch) ... some may also have DWR, pretty breathable overall, decent wind resistance, more premium prices
5. wind "proof" membraned" fleece - they used to be quite popular a decade ago, basically a fleece with a membraned sandwiched or sewn inside ... not very breathable, fairly heavy .. however because theyve been made for so long they tend to be cheap and found everywhere
now wind resistance fleece DOES have a place ... think of it as a less durable softshell, but is more breathable ... you can classify very generally in terms of breathability ...
T2/T3/R1 fleece -> standard 100/200 fleece -> wind resistance fleece -> non membraned softshell -> windshirt/membraned softshell -> hardshell
so it works for stop and go activities where people want something that is a bit less windproof, less water resistant but is more breathable and a bit more insulating than your standard softshell/windshirt ... winter activities basically where it can be used as an outer layer in mild cold conditions, and an mid layer when things turn nasty ... because of this dual use its actually more flexible than a windshirt/softshell for the price ... i wore my taiga windpros for both regular climbing on rock as an outer layer and as a mid layer when ice climbing a few years back
if you think about it wearing a fleece+windshirt may well be LESS breathable than a windpro fleece (or a woven softshell) as we all know that windshirts vary greatly in their breathability... of course anything with the word fleece aint UL here
an excellent example thats highly rated and made in canada is the MEC sliptstream
now as to windproof fleeces with membranes ... ill leave it to the eloquent andy kirkpatrick to say ...
Membranes fleece don’t cut it
Now I’m going to be highly controversial here, but as far as I’m concerned if you want the maximum level of comfort possible then you can’t have a membrane in your insulation – and that goes for waterproof shells as well (see issue ? for my reasons). Now the good thing about a shell is that you can choose when to wear it – meaning any downsides are worth it as long as it will keep you dryer then standing in the rain. But having a membrane in your insulation layer isn’t a great idea if you want maximum comfort for stop and go sports, unless it can match the breathability of non coated fabrics like Pertex and other microfibres (which it can’t). Sure membrane fleeces give you more protection then a non windproof fleece, but this protection (like the shell) is offset by its overall performance. So why do manufacturers make so many membraned fleeces – especially top end mountain designs? Well the answer is to look at what’s probably by far the best option, the fibre pile or micro pile (fleece with a low contact area for its loft) jacket covered by a micofibre shell (densely woven fabric), as this offers the greatest possible level of comfort, being wind resistant, fast drying and wicking, light, cheap and highly breathable: the problem? Well you look like a bag of crap! The vast majority of users of outdoor clothing don’t actually need high performance comfort (the words themselves are easy to add to marketing blurb, but have no actual measurability). ‘Hard fleece’ gives the user one garment that will keep out the wind and provide adequate insulation, creating a simple concept that is perfect for many activities, including cragging, bouldering, stamp collecting etc. These fabrics are sold as ‘soft shell’ fabrics – but nothing with a membrane within it is a true soft shell – it’s a ‘hard fleece’ as it sits between a fleece and a hard shell. Gore and Malden’s hard fleece fabrics allow very nice clothing to be designed and cut, giving then a rear ooh factor best demonstrated by Arcteryx and Mountain Hardwear, who have really developed this market. Remember that outdoor brands with turnovers of hundreds of millions of dollars are selling the majority of their mountain product to non mountain people (there aren’t anough climbers and walkers in the world to create global outdoor brands like that), who it has to be said have probably never even been wet! So why do I think we should ignore membrane fleece? Well it slows down sweat transfer leading to chilling, is slow drying – which reduces the fabrics ‘bounce back’, – limiting its warmth when wet abilities (crucial when you have the first two drawbacks). Some manufactures have bonded pile to these membranes – which has helped in some respects, but still you’re left with a product that isn’t as warm, light, fast drying, and plain up to the job of climbing mountains as a 15 year old Buffalo shirt! If you ask active people if they wear their fancy membrained fleeces for actual climbing, then most will admit they don’t, or if they do then only becouse they look better but perform worse then ordinary fleece. So are all these hard fleeces bad? Well tens of thousands of climbers can’t be wrong, and for lots of stuff they are more then adequate – especially lower energy activities, especially if you want to look smart. But if you’re looking at squeezing out the maximum level of performance from your insulation then just except the fact you’ll look like a sack of crap! Personally I’d invest in a good quality pile based fleece (Polartec Thermal pro) and an ultra light highly breathable over shirt (Pertex equilibrium), as this would be far more adaptable to conditions, warmer, dryer and if you get the styling right still good enough to turn a few heads in the YHA!