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Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them?
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just Justin Whitson
Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/05/2013 21:34:06 MST Print View

Wondering if there are any major differences between the different grid fleeces out there, and how you can tell the difference if you're not shopping in person, but more on line?

I mean, sometimes i see grid fleece that is just polartec "power dry", and then you see grid fleece that is polartec "power dry high efficiency" and casually observing there doesn't seem to be much difference in looks.

Maybe the latter has more voids and higher loft on the fleecy part?

What are some good cheaper knock off brands or garments? Things labeled with Polartec tend to be on the expensive side.

Particularly looking for hoodies. I've been looking at the Melanzana and Foxwear grid fleece hoodies for example, as they are pretty reasonable. Also looking at the Terrmar grid fleece hoodies on STP which are even cheaper (yah, they're women's but they don't have a particularly feminine cut).

How do these compare to the Patagonia Cap 4 hoodie? What makes this one so special and sought after? Is the grid fleece significantly different and superior or is it more the cut, fit, and little details?

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/05/2013 22:01:34 MST Print View

Yes, Polartec products really are just that much better than the cheaper knock offs. Particularly Power Dry HE.

Edit for a more helpful reply before Eric Chan lambasts me: That isn't to say that normal fleece, gridded or not, won't perform well enough for you. But you definitely get a performance advantage in terms of packability, breathability and drying time with the fancier Polartec fabrics. They (Malden Mills who owns Polartec, and Pertex, to name a few) spend a lot of money on R&D to improve the fabrics. The only active layers I pack these days are a Cap4 hoody and a wind shirt.

There is a significant difference even between Polartec Power Dry and Power Dry HE. HE packs smaller and is significantly more breathable at essentially the same warmth in my experience. I actually thought that Power Dry took a step in the wrong direction when they went to a smooth non-gridded face fabric a few years ago; the older Capilene 4 layers before that were gridded Power Dry, but with a different pattern than the new Power Dry HE. Confused yet?

Check out the MEC T2 and T3 hoodies for a less expensive Polartec Power Dry option.

Edited by andrew.f on 11/05/2013 22:16:56 MST.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/05/2013 22:19:42 MST Print View

Polartec Power Dry comes in a lot of different flavors. It's a pretty large catch-all for a pretty wide product range.

The best way to categorize them is by Patagonia's naming scheme, which has stayed fairly consistent over many years and many of their products are made of Polartec materials. So I'll talk about the three most prolific flavors of Power Dry.

Capilene 2 base layers are Power Dry. So is R1 fleece. So is Capilene 4. They're all completely different.

Capilene 2 is a woven. It's excellent undershirt material, not too dissimilar from cotton in feel but silkier and a bit less fine. Capilene 2 is outstanding in the summer on its own and great as a wicking base for the rest of the year. Not very stretchy.

Capilene 4 is a woven with very small pillows of fleece arranged in grids on it. It is a very thin fabric but the pillows of fleece make a lot of dead air space and keep the majority of the fabric off your skin. Very stretchy, best as a form fitting garment. It wicks well and releases moisture and heat readily when exposed (eg. your windshirt or puffy is open or off) but adds surprising warmth for its weight when covered up. Wind cuts right through this. Capilene 4 is awesome for high exertion or stop-and-go activities before the weather gets subfreezing. I like Capilene 4 as a base layer when it is chilly out but not necessarily chilly all day. It's also light and packable enough that I don't mind carrying it for backpacking.

R1 is a fleece with a woven face. It's distinct from a hard face fabric like Polartec Wind Pro in that it lacks the light polyurethane dusting that gives Wind Pro its hard face and higher wind resistance. It's very close to 100wt fleece in thickness, but a grid is shaved into it to reduce weight and improve fit. I like to wear this on its own when it's not too windy (great for spring and fall rock climbing), under a windshirt for winter backpacking, or under a breathable puffy for ice climbing. This is truly a grid fleece, and being more fleece than air, is a bit bulky if you are planning on carrying it more than wearing it.

I think it's worth noting that if you are going to carry any fleece at all for 3-season use the Cap4 is the way to go, as it is lightest for it's warmth and capable of the most versatile temperature swings thanks to its high breathability. When paired with a windshirt like the Houdini you are pretty much all set.

As far as cheaper alternatives to the rather spendy Patagonia models, you can try:
- Capilene 2: REI (as of spring 2013) Lightweight Polartec Power Dry shirts and long underwear
- Capilene 4: MEC T2 Zip Hoodie
- R1: MEC T3 Hoodie, some Columbia fleeces

I can't speak to the quality of the MEC stuff, but the REI base layers have been my favorite synthetic shirts and long underwear. I use the Patagonia Cap4 Hoody and Pullover and the R1 Hoody a lot, and for me they have a great fit, outstanding build quality, and the deal-closer: thumb loops.

The Columbia grid fleece seems to be constantly available in various styles but no consistent model. It seems to perform similarly but it doesn't pack down nor stretch quite as well as the "real stuff" from Patagonia and it seems to be a little bit warmer. That said, being able to find it on closeout around $50 or less does make it a winner. I'm just as happy to wear the Columbia R1 knock-offs but it's worth remembering that the build quality or design is a little lacking: I pulled the zipper right off the pocket of my Columbia hoody trying to close it and the chest pocket on the pullover isn't tacked down so it free-floats. Also, both of the Columbia R1 knock-offs I own lack thumbholes, which I view crucial.

Edited by skomae on 11/05/2013 22:31:29 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Fleece on 11/06/2013 00:16:13 MST Print View

I cant speak to the powerdry HE as i havent used it yet ..

But the grid fleece does make a difference IF you ate are active in high exertion activities

Powerdry is the standard by which all others are judged, there are various copies which im sure work fine ... But i generally to my mec t2/3 which use powerdry

One thing i suspect makes more of a difference than the fabric (assuming a good brand item) is the actual waffle pattern itself

The pattern on the current t2/3 is very breathable as the gaps between the waffles let in and out quite a bit of air

The much smaller pattern on the old cap4/t2/phase ar is less brethable as the gaps are smaller .. Imo the smaller patterns also feels more damp when its wet

Now remeber that unless you are doing high output activities, its all a moot point ... For years brands such as dead bird, OR, MH, TNF, etc ... Never had any proper waffle R1 polartec copies .. and their athletes did more than most of us here just fine

A plain 100 wt fleece has the advantage that its

- cheap as skittles
- warmer ... Clo maybe the same on paper, but its a tad bit less brethable and more wind resistant
- the interior can be very fuzzy, which means it may feel less "wet" when damp

In addition some light fleeces are exceptionally breathable ... Even more than a T3/R1 ... Do a simple breath test to find out

A good grid fleece is the latest "trend" for highly active use in a trim fit ... You should be sizing it tight for wicking

But for normal walking on trails, anything will work

I own and use the old t2/3 .. and highly recommend them for active use

They costs 50-70 smackaroos, half the price of a patagucci... Use powerdry ... Are made in CANADA ... And mec even gives 1% back to the planet

I also own and use the old cap4s, phase ar, powerstretch, windpro, 100/200/300/high loft fleece, etc ...

I have never thought to myself "oh i need my powerdry to do this climb" ... The difference in real life is marginal compared to the person, their fitness and their skills

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
Fleece on 11/06/2013 05:45:47 MST Print View

Lots of terrific info and insight here.

Thanks, you guys, for sharing your knowledge. Stuff like this you won't find in a Backpacker magazine article, and it's why I enjoy these forums so much.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Fleece on 11/06/2013 07:19:55 MST Print View

+1 on the MEC T2, zip, hoody

Paired with a breathable deep zip hooded wind shirt you are good to go from 20°F to 70°F. It has an amazing range for high output activities.

The only downside for US residents is the $20 shipping. So start a list and bundle your orders.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/06/2013 09:33:53 MST Print View

Thank you for all in depth, thorough info Andrew, Stephen and Eric. I still have some questions and a little confusion, but things are starting to get clearer.

Exactly Greg, i've been looking at the MEC ones and yeah some of them are reasonable and affordable for me until you add in the 20 dollar shipping and 5 dollar fee to join (no biggy if i think i'll be shopping there in the near future too). Unfortunately, i don't really need much more gear and so the shipping price is putting it a little out of reach.

Some thoughts in relation to the above posts by the above folks. Yes, i realize that "Power dry" is quite a variable thing, but i'm only interested in the grid fleece stuff at this point. I have some Polartec power dry silkweight baselayers, and yes totally different than grid fleece.

Melanzana and Fox Wear also use Grid fleece from Polartec Power dry and these are fairly reasonable including shipping, but i'm just curious how they compare to the holy grail of Patagonia Cap 4 hoody, or even the MEC stuff?

Eric, my understanding so far is that the grid fleeces, especially the ones with more void and loftier fuzz, is significantly warmer per weight than the regular fleeces--at least with a windshirt involved because it traps more still air space with less material/fiber, kind of like a fishnet. But since these are so breathable, you need the windshirt to get their true warmth.

I have a pair of grid fleece baselayer pants and they are surprisingly warm for their weight, but i don't think they are the high efficiency Power dry, but just the regular.

Ok, so you folks with more knowledge and experience can you check this hoody out?

Here's the link:

I can get this for a nice price of 23.06 not including shipping but STP is reasonable there usually.

It has the thumb holes, hood, etc and it weighs 11 oz (ok, not near as light as the Patagucci and MEC stuff). Isn't it possible that Terramar is using Polartec sourced material, but not listing it to save money? My understanding is that companies often buy material from other companies like Polartec and they can do one of two things. They can just buy the material for cheaper and not advertise the name brand involved, OR they can pay some extra money for the tags and the permission to use that name brand label. However, i'm not completely sure about this.

Thanks again

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/06/2013 09:45:58 MST Print View

I also bought 2.8 yards of Polartec Power dry High Efficiency grid fleece off Ebay for like 10 dollars (has one minor imperfection), and want to try my hand at making a hoody vest out of it. Reason being, in combination with my long sleeve Polypropylene fishnet shirt, i think i could extend the comfort range of this further down into the cold temps.

Greg mentioned being good to about 20 to 70 degrees F with a long sleeve High efficiency hoody and windshirt, i think with the High efficiency vest hoody and the long sleeve Polypropylene fishnet, i could take it down some more, maybe around down to 12 to 15 degrees (the lower end of the temps i would experience around here anyways), and still be good to almost 70. The breathability of the Fishnet is even better than the High efficiency stuff, but it still works great at trapping still air when used with a windshirt.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
grid on 11/06/2013 12:37:54 MST Print View

i dont think its really that much warmer

the key to grid fleeces IME is that it breaths and deals with moisture much better ... its also wicking almost like a base layer

a "normal" fleece may not wick as well depending on the fabric and construction ... i dont know about "for the weight' but i find them warmer as they are more fluffy ... also in true wet scenarios they work better IME as that extra fluffy loft keeps the moisture away from the skin better

personally i like a "normal" fleece if im going to use it as a true mid layer in a non-climbing situation ...

for the T2/T3 you should be sizing it pretty snug and wearing nothing or an extremely light, tight and thin base layer (MEC T1/Nike Drifit/cap1/some running shirt) under it to derive the most benefit from the wicking and the breathability

one thing to remember is that a lot of this is probably marketing mumbo jumbo mixed in with a slight bit of fact ...

take perhaps the "best" alpine climber today, mr ueli steck ... he doesnt use powerdry hoodies if he sticks with MH, namely the desna hoody which he designed ... yet he just soloed annapurna in a day, perhaps the deadliest mountain in the world

while there are differences between the particular types and weights of fleeces, ill stand by my statement overall over the years

fleece is fleece ...

if youre dealing with roughtly the same type and weight ... and it looks and feels the same, and is from a decent brand name (could be dead bird, lands end, MEC, etc ...) ... then for real life purposes for what most of us do here and the level we go at ... it doesnt really matter


Edited by bearbreeder on 11/06/2013 12:40:07 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Just do not... on 11/06/2013 15:12:55 MST Print View

...wear a gridded fleece more than one day. Keeping it on steadily for 24 hours will cause your limbs to begin itching from the "semi-permenant" grid pattern the clothing inflicts on your skin.

I just experienced this in mid-October when I left my Cabela's Power Dry top on for 2 days. When I discovered the problem I wore it inside-out, solving it. (Yeah, I did wear it for 3 days and, yeah, it did smell "a bit".)

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Just do not... on 11/06/2013 15:33:53 MST Print View




David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: grid fleece on 11/06/2013 15:42:29 MST Print View

Is the most recent iteration of the Cap 4 hoody really that good? As in better than the previous Cap 4 grid fleece, and the R1?

Yes, it is.

Other companies have versions of the void grid fleece which works so well. I'm unaware of any other garment which has such a light weight version, which is what makes the Cap 4 move moisture so well.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Re: grid on 11/06/2013 16:38:00 MST Print View

Eric's comments about Ueli Steck are interesting but a climber may have other reasons for going with a non grid hoody.

The wind pro patagonia piton hybrid is a similar hard face fleece to the desna is popular with climbers because it is light and blocks more wind then grid fleece. It might not breath as well as a cap 4 but it breathes better and offers more protection then a cap 4 under a shell which may be what you need in a high windy place.

Colin Haley who gets any patagonia gear he wants for free has been using cap 4 bottoms and a piton top for climbs:

I just got some cap 4 after using r1 tops and bottoms for years and so far i am liking it. It does seam to move moisture and air better then the r1 making it more comfortable on the warm end. I come back from a bike ride or run dry except under my pack.

However I think i would have preferred a single layer of a thicker fabric to the double layer in the cap 4 hood and shoulder as that area retains moisture after it gets wet from rain...a cap 4 hoody body with windpro hood could be awesome. I am curious if the t2 is really the same fabric but without the double layer.

Sean Passanisi
(passanis) - MLife
WindPro on 11/06/2013 18:08:08 MST Print View

I've been curious about the application of windpro for backpacking. The cap 4 and wind shell seem like a better value for the weight with more flexibility than a windpro jacket like the piton. But I could also see myself more inclined to use a windpro jacket around town.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: WindPro on 11/06/2013 19:02:58 MST Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 17:27:24 MDT.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/06/2013 19:18:38 MST Print View

I have a Piton jacket too. It's a nice piece, especially for climbing since the Wind Pro has a more durable face fabric. But with the added wind resistance and the heavier fabric, it's simply too warm most of the time for me to wear backpacking in California. It's closer to an R1 in warmth and total weight. I agree with Rick that it would be a great outer layer in subfreezing temperatures.

Sean Passanisi
(passanis) - MLife
Re: windpro on 11/06/2013 20:51:00 MST Print View

Thanks, Rick and Andrew.

How do you think the Piton would fair as around town jacket in San Francisco? I like the non-hooded version with the full windpro in the front and hand warmer pockets (Rick, I believe you mentioned in a different thread that you preferred this version).

I would also appreciate your thoughts on the merits of the piton vest. I own and use an R2 vest fairly frequently (strangely no longer in production). I'm wondering if the piton vest could be equally useful, with less loft but better wind protection.

Edited by passanis on 11/06/2013 20:52:57 MST.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/06/2013 20:57:04 MST Print View

Thank you for the further replies everyone.

Looking at, i noticed they have a women's X large Patagucci Cap 4 hoody, for 49 dollars. It's hard to tell if it has a more feminine cut or not (since a female model is modeling it), but i'm tempted to get one for my wife and conveniently borrow it when i go out by myself (i go out more than she does).

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Patagonia gender sizing on 11/06/2013 21:14:30 MST Print View

In Patagonia a women's XL usually fits like a men's medium with longer and slightly tighter sleeves, and subtle widenings in the hip and bust. I have a few women's XL garments I've modded to fit. Note that the more athletic the fit, the more drastic the aforementioned torso sculpting will be and thus the more sewing required.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Grid Fleeces, any major differences between them? on 11/06/2013 21:44:15 MST Print View

I have an R2 vest too and I wear it over my Cap4 hoody for winter trips. It's in the same league of all-time awesome layers, but I don't get to use it much because it has to be pretty cold to need that much active insulation. The best part about the R2 vest is how breathable and ventilated it is, I can wear it during high-output aerobic activity and not overheat. Not sure that a windproof layer would be better - again the modularity of a windshirt is nice here.

The Piton is fine for wearing around SF. That's mainly what mine gets used for. I got mine for free - not sure it's worth the $$ as a technical layer in comparison to the Cap4.