In search of the flawless fleece
Our gear testers, Jen and Sim Benson, test dozens of fleeces for comfort, durability and style, helping you find the perfect fleece for your autumn rambles
A good fleece is an essential item in any walker’s wardrobe. Cosy, comfortable and an important component of a versatile, year-round layering system, it’s one piece of kit you’ll always find in our pack. Made from synthetic materials (usually polyester), natural fibres (usually wool) or a blend of the two, fleeces come in a range of weights.
Lightweight, grid-style versions can add a surprising amount of warmth, doubling well as a mid layer during cooler weather or as a standalone outer when it’s milder. Heavier-weight fleeces can add a substantial amount of warmth to a clothing system, creating a cosy yet breathable insulating layer underneath a walking jacket. A chunky fleece is brilliantly comforting for general winter or campsite wear, too.
As always, we’ve included the recommended retail prices (RRP) in the following reviews. Shop around for discounts or use your Ramblers members’ Cotswold Outdoor discount to pay less.
Fjällräven Abisko Lite Fleece Jacket
We’re really impressed by the thoughtful combination of comfort, performance and styling packed into this midweight grid fleece. It’s beautifully made, with zipped handwarmer and chest pockets, a good collar and integrated thumb holes in the cuffs. Ideal as a mid or outer layer, it’s packable, protective, durable, and looks and feels great.
BAM 73 Zero Recycled Fleece
Made from 100% recycled materials, which are also 100% recyclable through BAM’s partnership with Project Plan B, this chunky, oversized fleece is ideal for throwing on for chilly evenings around the campsite and general cooler weather wear. It’s a bit heavy for carrying and a little too restrictive for dynamic activities, but it’s a good, straightforward, toasty-warm top with a drawcord-adjustable hood and cosy kangaroo pocket.
Klättermusen Balder Hoodie
This gorgeous, hooded fleece is made from a mix of recycled wool (46%), polyester for reduced weight and quicker drying, and nylon for durability. It’s warm and comfortable, with a soft, itch-free lining. Designed for multi-activity use, it features a snug hood, thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place, two zipped pockets and a full-length double zip. Perfect for cold weather adventures and everyday wear.
Craghoppers Teton Overhead
This lightweight, retro-inspired unisex fleece features a bold print and contrast woven trim. What’s more, around 40 plastic bottles are recycled to make each garment. The collar has snap fastenings for decent warmth and sun protection when done up, and the cut is generous, with two voluminous, zipped handwarmer pockets offering plenty of secure storage.
Rab Nexus Pull-On
This lightweight top utilises Rab’s 100% recycled Thermic™ G fabric, with its grid fleece backing, for breathability and warmth. It’s incredibly comfortable, with lots of stretch and a longer cut for full coverage and no riding up. The half zip allows effective venting, while a subtle zipped chest pocket stores valuables securely. It’s good value and Fair Wear-registered too. Also available with a full zip (£70) and a hood (£75).
Montane Chonos Fleece Jacket
A chunky fleece that’s effective both as an insulating layer under a waterproof shell and as a warm, breathable jacket. The cut is long through the sleeves and hem for great coverage, the collar is snug without being restrictive and there are two good-sized pockets. We found this fleece sheds, so use a Guppyfriend bag (see p69) when washing it.
Sherpa Rolpa Pullover
Combining a classic fleece with casual styling, this roll-neck pullover keeps you warm on the trail and looks great in the pub afterwards. Patterned drawcords at the neck, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, soft thumb loops and a longer cut create an all-round sense of cosy comfort. Light and quick-drying, it’s ideal for camping and everyday wear. Plus, for every product bought, Sherpa supports a day of school for a child in Nepal.
Jack Wolfskin Baiselberg Hooded Full Zip
Made with Power Stretch fabric, this slim-fitting fleece provides both warmth and comfort. The close-knit outer offers weather and wind protection, working very well under a jacket. The inside is brushed, trapping air and offering good warmth for its weight. It’s heavier but warmer than other fleeces of a similar thickness, and features a high collar, snug hood and two zipped pockets.
Alpkit Griffon Gridded Microfleece Jacket
A superb all-rounder, this great-value, cosy micro-fleece has a slim fit and smooth feel, which sits comfortably under a jacket, making it ideal for layering or as a standalone top. Made with some recycled content, the polyester fleece has a grid backer to maximise warmth for its weight and pack size, while staying breathable. A half-zip version is also available (£49.99).
Patagonia R1 Air Fleece Crew
This versatile, recycled polyester fleece is light and breathable, and looks and feels great to wear. The fabric is very soft, and the classic fit means it works equally well as a jumper or mid layer. The crew-neck version is simple but stylish, with a useful zipped chest pocket. A half-zip (£120) and full-zip hoodie (£140) are available in the same excellent Fair Trade-sewn fabric. Ideal for layering and everyday use.
Black Diamond Factor Jacket
Designed as a four-season mid layer in a stretchy polyester/wool blend fabric, this fleece has a regular fit that works well under a jacket. As a standalone layer it looks good and offers more durability and weather protection than classic brushed fleece, with two zipped handwarmer pockets and a single zipped chest pocket. Great for scrambling or mountaineering. A hooded version is available for £120.
Artilect Supermoon Bio Hoodie
Soft, warm and breathable, with a relaxed fit, comfy zipped pockets and good looks, this fleece is made from 100% recycled PrimaLoft Bio polyester. This innovative fabric performs like a good-quality standard fleece but biodegrades more rapidly in landfill, leaving fewer harmful residues. Great to wear, it’s unrestrictive, well featured and well constructed, with an excellent hood and reinforced rear panel. Great for everyday use in cooler weather, but also the heaviest and second-most expensive men’s fleece on test.
Columbia Rugged Ridge II Sherpa Fleece Jacket
A warmer option, with a classic fit and a deep-pile polyester fleece fabric that’s soft and breathable. It’s pretty light considering how warm it is, so it makes a great choice as a mid layer for cold conditions. As a standalone jacket, it doesn’t offer much wind protection, but plenty of breathability. The pockets are cosy but we’d prefer zips. Best as a mid layer or for use in cool but calm conditions.
Houdini Pace Flow Houdi
Packed with technical features, this hooded fleece is great for high-energy activities in changeable conditions. The Polartec Power Dry recycled polyester fabric has a clever 3D mesh, allowing lots of airflow. When the wind picks up, pop a jacket over the top and the structure traps warm air. Great in a layering system but expensive, so best for walkers who push the pace.
Helly Hansen Juniors’ Loen Midlayer Fleece Jacket
Made from a thicker fabric, with a protective outer and soft brushed inside, this fleece is tough and warm, with a good hood and zipped pockets. Perfect over a base layer or T-shirt for year-round walks, or under a jacket when it’s cold.
Isbjörn Lynx Fleece Jacket Kids
This 100% recycled polyester fleece is super-soft and snuggly, and our little tester finds it very comfortable to wear. It’s lightweight and breathable but adds a good amount of warmth, making it ideal for year-round use.
Recommended for all synthetic insulation and fleece clothing and gear, Nikwax PolarProof both cleans and adds water repellence to help keep you warm and dry. It’s non-flammable, PFC-free and easy to use in your washing machine or by hand.
Guppyfriend Washing Bag
Pop your fleece into one of these fine-mesh washing bags, which catch the microplastics usually released into the water system during the cycle. Everything still comes out clean, and you can bin any residue rather than allowing it to wash away.