Rating: 4 / 5
After much use and washing this garment changes dimensions. That is to be expected, but in this case its length decreases and it become more difficult to tuck into a waistline. While it will still work, and does, it is not as comfortable as when new, by any means. It still maintains body temperature and blocks cold air, but it is awkward and not as comfortable as other fleece type middle layers I have tried. So I am reducing it to a 4, although I still recommend it I would not want someone else buying it without understanding this issue of shape / size change after much use.
Had I to take only one torso piece it would undoubtedly be this piece of gear. It is designed and manufactured for military special forces uses so it is tough, durable, and pretty proletarian at $88 (it only comes in coyote brown-olive-green, for the public anyway.) See it at:
I have used it in hot weather where the evenings cool, like at about 7,000 ft. on Mt. Shasta at Panther Meadows. It didn't get too hot because the deep zipper on the front can be undone and it ventilates well.
It has reinforced solid stretchly cloth in the arm pits and down the sides and on the outside edge of the arm cuffs ... which are also rolled and stitched with two rows of stitching so they are heavy duty but not noticeable or heavy and clunky.
What makes it different, for me, is that it is not a smooth surface. It is corrugated or lumpy, it has little bits of polargard sticking up which creates a kind of thermal barrier. My theory is they allow heat to dissipate in hot weather and create a warm air mass around the garment when in cold air. It also only weighs like 7 or 8 ozs. yet it is way heavier duty than any other fleece top I have seen, used, bought, etc. I gave it the arm out the window test at 60 miles an hour plus and it kept my arm warm and I could barely feel the air/wind (about 20 degrees F out the window).
It has a great high neck piece which when it is zipped brings it up to your chin height. The zipper is heavy duty, I have no fear of it wearing out or breaking ... with a comfy little rubberized tip on it for easy grabbing when it is cold, wet, and your fingies aren't working too well or you have some kinda gloves on. (Reminds me of when I first went surfing in Santa Cruz in about 1966 and didn't know about water being a heat sucker, had to have someone else unzip my sleeveless wet suit upper ... since my fingers couldn't get it together to hold the damned slippery, all metal and tiny zipper pull.)
The only draw back is that it is a touch short and it pops out of my levis when I am wearing it around the yard. Thus, I combine if for now with an underlayer of mid-weight Patagonia capilene long sleeve top, which has a much better length for tucking in or a cheap cotton or other long john top with a t-shirt when it is really cold and I am running errands (love my capilene t-shirt in light weight from Patagoochie).
Edit: Researching the fabric this is made from -- Polartec is a product of Malden Mills. There are different kinds of Polartec fabrics. This one is called the Thermal Pro and is described as follows:
Polartec® Thermal Pro® fabrics are the most visually dynamic and technically advanced of the Polartec® insulation fabrics. Available in a variety of unique surface textures and patterns, many of which are designed to enhance performance, Polartec® Thermal Pro® fabrics are great styling options for virtually every end use. New high loft versions have achieved the highest warmth to weight ratios of any fabric Polartec® has ever offered. Other versions have the look of traditional wool with all the performance benefits of fleece. Polartec® Thermal Pro® is our most diverse family of fabrics.
How does it work?
The 100% polyester velour, pebbled, or shearling surfaces create air pockets that trap air and retain body heat, providing outstanding warmth without weight. These fabrics offer excellent breathability and dry quickly. Many styles are also available with a water repellent finish that sheds rain and snow.
At the Polartec web site it says there are some waterproof Polartec fabrics, as well as wind proof they have their own names like Aqua Shell and Wind Bloc, etc. This garment is identified as an insulation layer fabric.
There are also next to skin fabrics: Power Dry and Power Stretch.