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is a fleece just a fleece?
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marcelo mora
is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/05/2014 19:05:25 MDT Print View

I can buy a fleece from target and a fleece from Patagonia. Both are 100% polyester. So why does the Patagonia cost more? Is it just because of the name? Same material but about 100 dollars cheaper. Discuss..

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/05/2014 19:37:44 MDT Print View

(ardavis324) - F

Locale: High Sierra
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/05/2014 19:45:58 MDT Print View

My unscientific evaluation says "no". I got the target champion c9 fleece. Also have old synchilla pullover, and an R1. If we are just talking warmth/weight they are similar. But the C9 has a less articulated fit, almost uncomfortable in the shoulders. Also, the elastic cuffs are coming apart after a couple months. At $10, still a good deal. But if money didn't matter, the technical Patagonia stuff is definitely superior in a few tangible (and maybe intangible) ways. That said, its kind of a ripoff at regular prices.

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/05/2014 20:19:07 MDT Print View

I got a Polartec fleece from Gander Mountain for $10 on clearance. Couldn't buy polartec to make it myself for that much. It has yet to fall apart on me, pill, or lose warmth. It is well used, including at work. In fact at the rate it is showing wear, it will likely be melted by one tiny ember or cigarette burn at a time before it ever fails naturally. I've had it for years now and it still comes out of the standard washing machine with standard cheap detergent every week, year after year, looking new.

Start checking the clearance racks this spring for 200 to 300 weight polartec fleece garments. They're out there.

Edited by tchilds on 04/05/2014 20:20:56 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
yes on 04/05/2014 22:04:21 MDT Print View

yes ... and no ...

there are some differences between the materials of course ... but youll often find stuff made from similar materials for lower prices than the $$$$ brands

for example the patagucci R1/cap4 is no functionally different from the much cheaper and made in canada MEC T2/T3 ... theres nothing you cant do in the MEC that you could in the patagucci

the biggest differences in that case is fit .. and price

now when you get to the more generic fleeces, of course different fleece materials and weights make a difference ...

but then a cheaper 100 wt fleece that fits will work for most of the things we do no worse than a $$$$ fleece of roughly the same weight with some fancier material made by a $$$$ brand

fleeces are commodities ... there is NOTHING about a particular brands fleece that makes it substantially better over other cheaper fleeces with similar materials and weights

branded fleeces are one of the biggest rip offs in outdoor clothing IMO ... they wont make you go any faster, harder, or keep you any warmer than a similar cheaper fleece


Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: yes on 04/05/2014 22:13:31 MDT Print View

Seems there should be a distinction made between comparing material and comparing build quality...?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 01:04:37 MDT Print View

When Malden Mills was the main fleece maker in the world, the cheap copies were not very good. For a start, the cheapies pilled badly.

But then the big discount shops moved into the market and demanded the same quality but at a much lower wholesale cost. Over time, the Asian suppliers improved their products and obliged. The fashion market is after all HUGE.

Provided the Asian/WallyWorld products are sewn satisfactorily and are made to suit a Western figure, there is precious little difference these days as far as I can see. Well, apart from the Patagucci Main Street marketing spin of course.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: yes on 04/06/2014 02:43:29 MDT Print View

Seems there should be a distinction made between comparing material and comparing build quality...?

even cheaper fleeces tend to be pretty well made these days, especially those "value" name brands such as ll bean, lands end, MEC, etc ... they arent any more poorly made in the functional sense than dead bird or patagucci

and yr taking to a guy who owns a patagucci and the old school made in canada dead birds

the particular fleece material type does make a bit of a difference, but not as much as what people think especially for whats basically walking around in the woods (or well marked trails)

the biggest problem is fit ... many fleeces are made for your average american body type, so finding cheap fleeces that fit athletic people can be a bit of a search ...

with the above caveats ... fleece is fleece ...

everything becomes commoditized ... witness the costco 800 fill down jackets ...


Edited by bearbreeder on 04/06/2014 02:47:49 MDT.

John H
(pastyj) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 07:51:59 MDT Print View

At the risk of stirring the ant nest, IMO a fleece is not a fleece is not a fleece.

There was a recent thread discussing cheaper alternatives for Patagonia Cap 4/Marmot Thermo type grid fleece tops. The Condor 603 was mentioned as a functional equivalent that can be found for 1/4 or less the cost of those 2. I promptly purchased one from eBay and immediately sold it on...VASTLY inferior in terms of fabric, tailoring and construction quality. Quite honestly I cannot find a singe area where the Condor even begins to approach the other 2. Price is the only quality it has going for it.

But don't take my (or anyone else's) opinion...find out for yourself. Order a Condor ($25 on eBay) and a Cap 4/Thermo from REI. You can easily sell/return the one you don't choose.

Edited by pastyj on 04/06/2014 07:55:08 MDT.

Will Webster
Re: Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 13:55:28 MDT Print View

I don't have any Patafleece for comparison, but I'm delighted with the Gander Mountain branded Polartec Power Dry grid fleece zip neck I got for a pittance on clearance a couple years ago.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 15:26:07 MDT Print View

Fit, quality of materials and construction, feature set, durability and warranty all add value. Whether it is worth that much more is up to you. I have a couple military fleece tops that are very close to the Patagonia versions at far less cost.

Laundering durability would be my major concern. Gentle does it and always low heat.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 15:36:54 MDT Print View

> The Condor 603 was mentioned as a functional equivalent
OK, that means the Condor is NOT a good choice. Other brands may be better, one hopes.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
fleece on 04/06/2014 16:08:12 MDT Print View

I ski/hike/use a generic 200wt and 100wt fleece as conditions warrant.

I am out a fair amount.

I'd still buy ski/hike/use the inexpensive fleece vs the more $$$ equivalent if spending my own money.

I find the more $$$ fleece looks better and has a better cut, but for recreational outdoor use, I honestly can't tell the difference.

Take that for what it is worth. Your experience may be different.

Edited by PaulMags on 04/06/2014 16:12:18 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/06/2014 18:24:43 MDT Print View

You pay more for (much) better tailoring. You also can pay more for (quite a bit) better performance, especially with the new varieties of Polartec High Efficiency. For example, the variety Black Diamond had made for the Coefficient line mops the floor with 100 weight classic in every respect, save cost.

You get what you pay for, the question is are the differences worth it to you?

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/08/2014 00:52:46 MDT Print View

The differences between high efficiency grid fleece and regular 100 wt fleece are noticeable and significant to me.

A simple test. Take a dropper, take a garment made with each of the above, turned inside out. Drop some water drops on each.

You will note that in the high efficiency grid fleece fabric, that the moisture rapidly spreads out over a large surface area.

In the 100 wt, regular fleece, not so much. This means the former will dry significantly faster even though both are primarily polyester.

Also, the former is now often treated with polygiene. Wear the polygiene high efficiency grid fleece on a 3 day trip as a baselayer, wear the the 100 wt on a 3 day trip as a baselayer, or even mid. Will be a big difference in stink.

Then, another difference, the high efficiency grid fleece will be both warmer with a windjacket, likely lighter weight, and even more breathable without a windjacket. All plus's in my book.

With that said, i think some companies far over charge for the really nice fleeces like the high efficiency grid fleeces--what Patagonia charges at full price for their Cap 4 hoody is borderline criminal---sustainable, good causes etc support or no. MEC is a lot more reasonable, but still expensive for U.S. and non CA residents because of shipping.

Btw, for me, it's not about going longer, faster, harder. Sounds like a porn promo in any case, and i'm not much a fan of that either. For me, it's simply about greater comfort and safety--in super cold weather, who doesn't like a super quick drying garment? (i actually tend to wear high efficiency grid fleece as a midlayer, so i don't get the flash dry cooling effect as much as when wearing it as a baselayer--i usually use a thin Dri Release Merino baselayer or the 55% Merino/45% nylon or 65% Merino/35% poly baselayers which dry a bit slower, and don't feel as cold when drying). I don't think there would be a world of difference between performance for us average folks, but could be enough of a comfort/safety differential to warrant some attention. With that said, decent quality 100 wt fleece is likely to be more durable and tough than the HEGF. Plus much cheaper, both also plus's in my book. But if you have the money, definitely go for the good quality HEGF's.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
safety on 04/08/2014 02:34:49 MDT Print View

if you arent "safe" in regular fleece in cold wet weather ...

i suggest re-evaluating yourself and your technique

powerdry HE fleece wont make you any safer for the things you most likely do ...

until VERY recently dead bird did not have any HE polartec powerdry fleeces ... their athletes were stuck using the "obsolete" classic 100 wt delta fleece lt tops, of which i own and use one

they did just fine ... and we arent taking ancient history here but in the past 3-4 years

i own the T2/T3/cap4 ... as well as quite a few fleeces ... and theres nothing someone of my limited ability cant do in a normal fleece that i can in a grid fleece

yes the powerdry grid fleece is a bit more breathable, and pills less ... but the difference isnt that huge for walking around


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
fleece on 04/08/2014 06:53:04 MDT Print View

"yes the powerdry grid fleece is a bit more breathable, and pills less ... but the difference isnt that huge for walking around"

I am sure people much more intelligent than myself can break out an Excel spreadsheet and ppt presentations with their wonderful graphs and bar charts to prove how much better this "grid fleece" is.

They are probably right.

I just know that I've skied in cold weather in cheap fleece, been warm and dry.

If someone gave me the wonderful expensive fleece, I'm sure I'd appreciate it and use it.

Otherwise, I'll just throw caution to the wind and hope I don't die in the obsolete pieces I've used. :)

Edited by PaulMags on 04/08/2014 06:55:20 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: is a fleece just a fleece? on 04/08/2014 08:35:50 MDT Print View

Roger wrote, "> The Condor 603 was mentioned as a functional equivalent
OK, that means the Condor is NOT a good choice. Other brands may be better, one hopes"

Do note that there are many manufacturers of military fleece garments. You can find cheap knockoffs of nearly any military clothing item--- very popular with the paintball crowd. The ones to seek out have the Polartec label in them.

Fit is still an issue, but I find the large tall to have the extra torso length I like. The bottoms seem to run a size large. You are stuck with the military colors. The high loft jackets have Velcro for ID tags and no pocket zippers, but are still warm on a wet winter hike.

I think the real key to substituting garments is to have a good grasp of the physics, layering techniques and the compromises encountered.

I assume it is always a budget driven issue and I've been there. It is perfectly feasible to put together a clothing system at far less cost that may weigh a few ounces more. If that will get you on the trail in comfort and safety, go for it. There's plenty of time for refinement and bargain hunting.

So much of the UL gear we discuss is inside a performance/weight box. Once you step outside that a bit, there may be all kinds of very useable and less expensive alternatives--- with the lurking ogre of extra ounces. For example, a $150 2oz windshirt vs a $50 8oz model. In some cases the heavier version may deliver higher performance, but your base weight will suffer if you play that card too many times.

You do need to be honest about the functionality of the bargain item. IMHO, fleece is a middle layer that provides light loft, dries quickly, and continues to transport moisture away from your base layer and out to your shell. From there it is a matter of fit, feature set, component quality (zippers!!!), construction quality and warranty.

just Justin Whitson
Re: fleece on 04/09/2014 22:24:16 MDT Print View

Paul, i understand what you are saying. The climate wherein one primarily hikes at is also a factor. In drier climates, everything dries relatively fast. Some places are also more consistently cold.

Where i live, it's not uncommon for it to be around 33 to 40, raining or sleeting, and somewhat higher humidity for lower temps during the parts of year i most like to hike during.

The faster something dries for me, the better. 100wt regular fleece, does a decent job of that. Course, my little beat up Toyota does a decent job of getting me from point A to B, but that doesn't mean that there aren't cars that are nicer that will do the job and then some.

Sometimes 100 wt fleece is even too warm without a wind jacket on. Yet, without a windjacket, the HEGF is cooler. With a windjacket, it's warmer. That's a nice combo of adaptability for the climate i live and primarily hike in, and at the same time it's lighter weight.

If i lived somewhere else different, say Colorado or the like, i probably would just use cheaper, regular fleece. I'm not THAT concerned with saving a couple of ounces.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
fleecy on 04/10/2014 07:03:27 MDT Print View

I use an R2 200wt because the XLs fit more like an XLT, they have a great warranty, the materials are top notch and durable and I was able to find my last one on eBay for $66 because it was bright green and a year out of style. I live in a climate like Justin's where it is usually humid, cold and rainy in the shoulder seasons. A fleece and shell really preforms well in these conditions and I know I never have to baby it. As for the OPs question, the Target fleeces are usually okay to get by on but won't have the same amount of warmth when paired with a shell or as breathable when not. But other than that it is usually down to fit and price, of which you can find tons of name brand used fleeces for very cheap.