Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Is there any room for a windproof fleece?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 14:47:07 MDT Print View

Are windproof fleeces purely for casual wear and tricking consumers? There's no place for them in an ultralight backpacker's kit, is there? I'm trying to think of a place where I'd take my windproof fleece, but I can't. It always gets left at home.

Windproof fleeces have a liner that pushes their weight over a pound, sometimes well over. My windproof fleece is 27oz. They're stiff, much less compressible than anything else, and don't usually repel water at all. They are, however, exceptionally warm...

They're still useless in the face of a high-loft fleece and a windshirt, right?

Does anyone use a heavy windproof fleece for anything when packing ultralight?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 15:07:12 MDT Print View


Your right a plain old fleece and sepearte wind proof is the better option, I sold all my wind proof fleeces years ago.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 15:53:06 MDT Print View

Well, these days I see no point in buying such a windproof fleece, but even not so long ago that was all there was.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

My Theories on 11/02/2013 16:10:39 MDT Print View

I tried to think about it from a quality perspective, like the windproof liner was a more effective barrier against wind than a windshirt because of the "billows" effect drawing away heat due to convection.

I don't know if there's any real-life merit to that. partially because of sizing difficulty and partially to reduce convective heat loss, my layering goes Baselayer > Windshirt > Fleece and I guess it's pretty similar to a fleece with a liner (only, it's 10oz.)

jim logan
(jim_logan) - MLife
One Vote for Windfleece on 11/02/2013 16:22:19 MDT Print View

Out in front with this: I am a sorta medium weight hiker, maybe a little more than that. I have and love a very heavy (580 gram) LL Bean's hooded wind fleece size XL. It goes with me at least 9 months a year and 12 months a year as far as camping trips in Maine are concerned.

It's heavy and drinks pack space. But for a guy who gets cold VERY easily, it's great on a rocky top with a breeze. Combined with a down vest, it's a lot of warmth in fall; with a down jacket, it's great in the winter.

My real commitment to it was demonstrated recently when mine went missing and was replaced instantly. Can't go out without it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Curiosity on 11/02/2013 16:25:04 MDT Print View

Jim, did you try alternatives and then go back to the windfleece?

Just curious what you love about it; maybe I'll put mine through the trials of extensive use and see how it goes.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 16:31:26 MDT Print View

Survival always comes first, way before UL ambitions.

There are limitations to a windproof fleece when it gets warm. We know that. I guess you have to take it off then

If you are out ski touring in bad weather, below zero, they are not a bad bit of kit. However, they seldom include a hood, which is a problem. In such bad weather some insulation and wind-proofing around your head is essential. That means extra gear.

So they can be used, but they have limitations.


Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Hmm... on 11/02/2013 16:37:01 MDT Print View

The survivalism comment is interesting... Do you think there's a greater margin of warmth between a windshirt/fleece combo and a windproof-lined fleece?

I know there are a million variables, but a generalist look at whether combining the windproofing into the fleece itself gives a benefit to warmth would really aid my understanding of each piece's role.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 16:46:29 MDT Print View

Well. there's certainly a place for it if you already posses one. But these days they are not the only choice.
The weak point afaik is the high-temperature zone (and the start of that zone is different for everybody). I find them simply too warm. In low temperatures they're allright. However, a windshirt combined with a fleece can do the same (and is more flexible).

Edited by Woubeir on 11/02/2013 16:48:28 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 16:47:03 MDT Print View

"If you are out ski touring in bad weather, below zero"

Roger, please clarify. Fahrenheit or Celsius?


Edited by --B.G.-- on 11/03/2013 00:02:00 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 16:51:18 MDT Print View

Roger lives in Australia, uses SI-units so I would exspect Celsius :-)

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Don't Confuse Max on 11/02/2013 16:55:08 MDT Print View

True, but he's addressing one of the most obviously American and uneducated users on the forum, and Roger often does me the respect and decency of keeping it direct. ;)

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Don't Confuse Max on 11/02/2013 21:04:17 MDT Print View

American? But you have good ol' Mel as an avatar, a guy who was born in NY but grew up in Australia (and has aussie parents). Now you're confusing me, Max!

As for windproof fleece. I nixed them. The membranes were about as breathable as eVent (on a good one) so they were terrible for most aerobic situations. Wind resistant fleeces on the other hand, those with a "hard" face are nice though because they provide a bit of wind resistance with only the minimum of loss in breathability. Helps mitigate flash chill at least. Either way, if you use a windshirt in your system it doesn't make sense to introduce redundancy.

In the coldest of settings though, a windproof vest may have a role. The lack of sleeves and a full chest zip offer venting options. I would look for a running specific version that has a breathable back (since a backpack is a really good wind breaker in itself). In this scenario it may be an ok core insulator on frigid journeys. I would still look at a thin synth vest or regular fleece though anyway.

Again, just to reiterate your impressions, they are nice in the city when you don't give a crap about performance, have a warm bed to crawl into, and just want to stay warm hopping from the supermarket to the pub.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 21:11:32 MDT Print View

I would think that they would be good for cold winter weather when you would be wearing it constantly (sometimes too many layers becomes a hassle), but I know for 3 season weather the gap in warmth between my base layer and a windproof fleece is huge and I would be stuck between too cold and too hot.

You say that windproof fleeces have a windproof liner. By liner, I assume you mean it's on the inside. Doesn't that defeat the purpose? It would block the wind, but the wind would be pulling heat away from the loft fleece. This is what happens when you wear a fleece over a windshirt, you don't feel the wind but you become colder whenever it picks up.
Or is the windproofness on the surface?

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 22:20:18 MDT Print View

My understanding so far, may be incorrect:

Wind"proof" fleeces usually have a membrane sandwiched in between, sort of like a WPB type membrane.

Wind resistant fleeces usually have a very tight knit, microfiber outer face that is good at block some, but not all wind.

As Dustin said, if you use a windshirt already, it's redundant for the wind resistant fleece. The windshirt + fleece is very adaptable, which is a huge plus in my book.

However, one area where the former does tend to shine is durability and toughness. It will most likely outlast most lightweight windshirts. Hence in a long term, survival or collapse type scenario, might be better to have the windresistant fleece. But for the weight, you probably could pack two lightweight windshirts (at a slight weight penalty) and the Houdini seems to be quite durable for the weight (because it's ripstop nylon and coated with silicone).

Edited by ArcturusBear on 11/02/2013 22:22:33 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Climbing. on 11/02/2013 23:34:20 MDT Print View

Durability is definitely higher with a windproof fleece. I can see that mattering for climbers.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/02/2013 23:49:10 MDT Print View

> "If you are out ski touring in bad weather, below zero"
> Roger, please clarify. Fahrenheit or Celcius?

Eh, who cares? Both are cold.
But metric is my native language.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Is there any room for a windproof fleece? on 11/03/2013 00:01:23 MDT Print View

Just below 0 Celsius (+32 Fahrenheit) isn't bad weather.

Below 0 Fahrenheit would be cold and semi-bad. Not so bad if you were moving on skis. Extra bad if your climbing skis froze up on you.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Climbing. on 11/03/2013 00:15:51 MDT Print View

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!


Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
Windproof fleece on 11/03/2013 00:16:54 MDT Print View

I don't use fleece for torso insulation, but a thin windproof fleece balaclava is very warm and versatile, and I often bring it, with a down vest, for overnights around the Columbia River Gorge (OR/WA) in fall and winter. It is far warmer than standard (non-windproof) fleece when it's windy, and it is more comfortable and flexible for daytime wear than a down hood (but heavier).