Updated on May 24, 2021

Almost any outdoor adventure needs a good fleece! They keep you warm, they dry quickly, and they’re a perfect addition to any layering system. However, there seem to be thousands and thousands of options out there, but which ones are the absolute best fleece jackets?

Well hiking friends, the answers are right here. Along with our best advice for how to zero in on the best choice for you. From intense mountaineering all the way to relaxing at the bonfire, you’re almost certain to find your next fleece jacket on this list! So let’s get to it.

For more of our top hiking apparel recommendations, check out the Best Fleece Jackets for Women.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Fleece Jackets

  1. Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan
  2. REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2.0
  3. Patagonia R1 Air
  4. The North Face Denali 2
  5. Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie
  6. Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T
  7. The North Face Men’s Apex Canyonwall
  8. Mammut Aconcagua ML
  9. Arc’teryx Fortrez
  10. Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man

 

Comparison Table - Best Fleece Hiking Jacket

PictureNameHoodPocketsZip StyleThumbholesPriceRating
Arc’teryx Covert CardiganNo3Full ZipNo$$$4.3
REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2.0REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2.0No2Full ZipNo$4.8
Patagonia R1 AirPatagonia R1 AirNo1Full ZipNo$$4.7
The North Face Denali 2The North Face Denali 2No4Full ZipNo$$4.6
Arc’teryx Kyanite HoodieArc’teryx Kyanite HoodieYes2Full ZipNo$$$4.5
Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-TNoNoneFour Snap Button PulloverNo$$4.6
The North Face MenThe North Face Men’s Apex CanyonwallNo4Full ZipNo$$4.9
Mammut Aconcagua MLYes1Full ZipYes$$$4.5
Arc’teryx FortrezYes3Full ZipNo$$$4.6
Mountain Hardwear Monkey ManNo5Full ZipYes$$$4.5
PictureNameHoodPocketsZip StyleThumbholesPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Fleece Jackets for Hiking

Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Pockets: 3
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Sleek Design Looks Good Anywhere
  • Very Cozy Yet Durable Design
  • Underarm Gussets For Improved Movement

BEST FOR: STYLE ON AND OFF THE TRAIL

For looking sleek and ready for anything from charming bears on the trail to a night out, we have the Covert Cardigan. The durable but still oh so soft polyester will keep you nice and warm for everything from a day on the trail to chilly alpine scree scrambling. But for being so warm, it is also refreshingly breathable to help keep you cool on the move. 

For all these performance benefits, however, the Covert Cardigan still maintains a very sleek trim that makes it ideal for everyday wear on chilly days. This trim also perfectly balances between baggy and athletic fits, again making it the perfect choice for just about anyone.

You can be sure of the same excellent performance and quality that Arc’teryx builds into all their products. This also means that you should be prepared for a hefty price tag, and this jacket is certainly one of the most pricey on our list. Nevertheless, it is a solid choice and easily earns its place amongst the best fleece jackets on the market.

REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2.0

Specs
  • Pockets: 2
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Shoulder seams rolled forward to prevent chafing under pack straps
  • Zip pockets
  • Stretch binding at cuffs and waist
REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2.0

BEST FOR: THOSE ON A BUDGET

If you need a basic fleece for keeping you warm without breaking the bank, consider the Groundbreaker 2.0.

Ready to tackle early morning hikes or short jaunts around town, REI’s Groundbreaker 2.0 offers a plush fleece feel with a semi tailored fit. Rolled shoulder seams help prevent chafing from shoulder straps when you’re hauling a load while stretch binding cuffs and waist help keep the warm in and the cold out. Weighing in at a little over a pound, the Groundbreaker won’t break your back, either.

What I like about the Groundbreaker 2.0 is for $50, you get a high-quality fleece for well under half the cost of comparable alternatives.

Patagonia R1 Air

Specs
  • Pockets: 1
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Quick-drying
  • Anti-odor treatment
  • Low bulk zippered chest pocket
  • Off-shoulder seams allow for comfortable, anti-chafe pack carry
Patagonia R1 Air

BEST PERFORMANCE-ORIENTED FLEECE

Patagonia has long excelled at crafting high quality mid layers and fleeces but the R1 Air really stands out from the rest.

Designed for year-round outdoor activities, the R1 Air is the optimal performance fleece. Combining 100% recycled polyester with hollow core fibers, this fleece excels at moisture control and breathes well, making it a great choice for wearing in fluctuating temperatures. The technical cut and sleek zippered chest pocket allow you to layer this fleece exceptionally well, too.

What I like most about the R1 Air are the off-shoulder seams that reduce chafing from shoulder straps.

The North Face Denali 2

Specs
  • Pockets: 4
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Recycled polyester fleece
  • PFC-free durable water repellent finish on the woven overlay
  • Stretch fabric on cuffs offers added mobility
  • Covered, secure-zip chest and hand pockets
The North Face Denali 2

BEST HEAVYWEIGHT OPTION

If you’re looking for a mid layer for wearing in cold temperatures, the Denali is a suitable fleece to consider.

Equipped with reinforced nylon patches over the chest and shoulders, this jacket performs superbly in cold, windy conditions. This heavy duty jacket has been a North Face staple for over 20 years and features recycled Denali fleece. Designed for warmth, this jacket does not breath well, making it best suited for casual hikes or lounging around camp on cold days.

What I like most about The North Face Denali 2 is the waist cinch mechanism located inside one of the hand pockets.

Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie

Specs
  • Pockets: 2
  • Hood: Yes
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Moisture-wicking Polartec® Power Stretch® Pro
  • Air-permeable construction helps prevent overheating
  • Hem, cuffs and collar bound with stretch fabric
  • Mesh-lined hand pockets with zippers
Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoodie

BEST MIDWEIGHT OPTION

Comfort sets the Kyanite apart from its contenders thanks to a brushed polyester material that feels soft against the skin and incorporated stretch materials that provide for a great range of motion. The slim but not skin tight fit of the Kyanite fleece makes it a splendid choice for a mid layer — and it can even be worn as a standalone garment on all but the coldest of days. 

What I like most about this fleece is its impressive warmth to weight ratio compared to others in its class.

Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Pockets: None
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Four Snap Button Pullover
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Bluesign Approved For Environmentally Friendly Production
  • Very Distinctive Color Patterns Available
  • Relaxed Fit

BEST FOR: BASIC FLEECE FOR ANY OCCASION

Not looking for all the fluff and features that come with dedicated performance fleeces? Well, the Synchilla Snap T from Patagonia was crafted with just you in mind. This is your standard fleece jacket without trying to be anything else. No specialities, no focus, no extras, just a warm layer to throw on for any light activity you have in mind. 

The soft two-sided polyester fleece used in this design is exceptionally comfortable and will help keep the chill out for your adventures. It is also composed of at least 80% recycled materials, making it an environmentally friendly choice to boot. 

You’ll find the fit on the boxy and loose side. This can be ideal for warm snuggly evenings in front of the fire, but if you prefer a more athletic fit for your activities, you should consider another option. You’ll also be lacking in pockets with this option. Like we said, this is a straight pullover for those of you looking for a go-to warm layer. If this sounds like you, the Synchilla is calling!

The North Face Men’s Apex Canyonwall

Specs
  • Pockets: 4
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Two Large Zippered Pockets
  • Exceptionally Wind Resistant
  • Comfortable And Relaxed Fit
The North Face Men

BEST FOR: WINDY ADVENTURES 

Everyone who loves a good fleece knows that its Achilles heel is the wind. Fleece is traditionally very poor at keeping the breeze out, and a chilly wind can quickly turn a fun adventure into a cold slog. The solution? An Apex Canyonwall from The North Face featuring their WindWall technology. 

The outer WindWall is still fleece, but it’s been put through a unique fabric bonding process to significantly reduce the amount of wind that can lance through your coat. The tricot collar also goes a long way towards keeping your neck nice and warm without irritating it. So go ahead, brave that wind and cold and get after that adventure without a single shiver. 

The many different color options also all but guarantee you’ll find a version that perfectly suits your tastes. We therefore have a fleece jacket that will excel on those windy days, and make you look good while doing any outdoor activity. 

We think that a comfortable and warm hood would complete the ensemble for complete impunity from chilly breezes. But the relaxed fit, warm fleece, and good pocket space easily make this one of the best fleece jackets on the market nonetheless.

Mammut Aconcagua ML

Specs
  • Pockets: 1
  • Hood: Yes
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: Yes
Features
  • UV Protection
  • Stretchy Athletic Design
  • Underarm Gusset For Improved Movement
  • Excellent Breathability

BEST FOR: BREATHABILITY – PERFORMANCE HOODY 

The Mammut Aconcagua brings us all the heavy performance features of an idyllic fleece in hoody form for one of the ultimate adventure jackets. This is in part due to the Aconcagua’s excellent moisture wicking capability where any sweat buildup is quickly wicked to the outer layer of the jacket, and then dried by ambient air. The jacket is therefore very breathable and will help keep you cool through even the most active hiking adventures. 

Speaking of adventures, the stretchy design and underarm gusset both work in tandem to make sure you are never restricted and have full range of motion. Mammut has furthermore focused on flat seams to help eliminate uncomfortable rubbing while wearing a backpack.

While the Aconcagua is unfortunately lacking in side pockets, it does feature very useful thumb holes along with a chest pocket to round off this performance-focused hoody’s tool kit. While it is an expensive option, we definitely believe the Mammut Aconcagua to be one of the best fleece jackets out there.

Arc’teryx Fortrez

Specs
  • Pockets: 3
  • Hood: Yes
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Very Durable To Hold Up To Tough Environments
  • Built In Balaclava
  • Breathable For High-Intensity Activities
  • Gusseted Underarms And Articulated Elbows For Maximum Comfort While Moving

BEST FOR: ALPINE HIKING AND MOUNTAINEERING    

When your hiking and climbing takes a turn towards the top of the world, the Fortrez is built to keep you warm up there. Designed with durability, movement, and breathability in mind, this fleece jacket can keep up no matter where your adventures take you. 

Arc’teryx’s hardfleece technology provides a highly durable and moderately weather resistant layer to ensure premium protection. At the same time, air is allowed to escape to keep you nice and cool while working hard. That said, this fleece is only lightly insulated and isn’t as warm as other options, and should be used in conjunction with other layers in very cold conditions. 

The articulated elbows and gusseted underarms work together to provide complete freedom of movement, for you hikers and climbers out there in particular. Specifically, you’ll experience minimal bunching or pull when using climbing gear and backpacks, and the scuba style hood fits very comfortably under a helmet. 

This is undoubtedly one of the best fleece jackets on the market, and it certainly has a price tag to match. The undeniable excellence in construction and performance make this jacket well worth its higher cost.

Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man

Specs
  • Pockets: 5
  • Hood: No
  • Zip Style: Full Zip
  • Thumbholes: Yes
Features
  • Very Soft And Comfortable
  • Multiple Pockets
  • Captures Body Heat For Improved Warmth

BEST FOR: FUZZY COMFORT 

This is just about as close as you can get to your favorite fuzzy blanket in adult fleece clothing form. The Monkey Man from Mountain Hardwear utilizes PolarTec High Loft material for ultimate heat capture and softness to keep you nice and warm in almost all conditions. 

This jacket also features a handy number of pockets – one chest pocket, two external hand pockets, and two corresponding interior pockets – in order to keep your gear accessible at all times on your adventures. The nice trim fit moves well for most activities and makes it the perfect warm layer for almost any hiking trip. 

It’s important to note that while this jacket is warm in most circumstances, a brisk wind can cut through it very easily and give you a chill. So if you you’re expecting some windy days, a windbreaker layer of some sort is highly recommended and then you’re good to go! 

For warm fuzzies all around, you can’t go wrong with the Monkey Man fleece. Its  high loft design is both durable and incredibly soft, making it an easy addition to the best fleece jackets list.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING FLEECE JACKETS

WARMTH

Fleece jackets are like colored pencils – there’s the right one for every project. It’s therefore very important to consider why you’re in the market for a new fleece, and decide accordingly.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, some fleece jackets aren’t actually all that warm! You should dive into the manufacturer’s specifications and carefully examine what the fleece is intended for before making your decision about which one to buy. When looking for warmth, keep a sharp eye out for words such as insulation, heat retention, and wind resistance as all these work to keep heat inside.

Also remember that your fleece will often only make up a portion of your layering system during your adventure. For in depth advice on how fleece fits into the grand scheme of layering, check out this article from REI.

 

BREATHABILITY AND PERFORMANCE-BASED JACKETS

On the opposite end of the spectrum from thicker and warmer fleece jackets are the thin performance-based layers. These garments place a premium on allowing air passage through the fleece and keep you cool, along with wicking moisture and sweat away from your body. They therefore do not retain heat as well as thicker options, and will quickly cool off in cold or extra windy conditions.

If your adventures of choice tend to feature high-output activities such as running, climbing, and intense hiking, then these performance fleeces are right up your alley! Keep an eye out for words such as breathability, increased airflow, and air permeable when looking for these fleeces.

 

BUDGET

As you’ve no doubt noticed, there’s quite a large range of prices associated with the best fleece jackets. It’s therefore very important to consider the budget you have to work with, and factor that into your overall decision making.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to settle for a cheap jacket that doesn’t do anything you want. Simply be aware that for more features and performance, you’re going to pay a little bit more.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

WIND RESISTANCE

The downside to most fleeces is almost always revealed when the wind kicks up. The standard polyester fleece material notoriously lacks wind-resistance, and those cool breezes therefore cut straight through.

The best fleece jackets often incorporate some type of extra resistance in the form of weatherproofing treatments or proprietary material blends – such as The North Face’s WindWall. If this isn’t present, simply be aware that the fleece is best paired with a windproof layer when the forecast looks a little breezy.

MOBILITY

Many of the best fleece jackets give a special nod towards mobility for you adventurous souls out there. This most often takes the form of articulated elbows and gusseted underarms in order to provide the greatest range of motion possible.

We definitely recommend you keep an eye open for these features if you plan on using your fleece for climbing, long-distance hiking, or mountaineering. You’ll notice the difference almost immediately, especially when moving with a pack on your back!

DURABILITY

We naturally want our fleece jackets to last as long as possible! Some jackets, however, are constructed to take on the harsh environments of outdoor adventure and others are not. If you fit into the category of folks who plan to put their fleece through the wringer, be sure to opt for a performance based option that will last.

On the other hand, if you need a fleece just for warmth on cool nights around the bonfire, then a high-intensity fleece jacket that’s designed to climb mountains probably isn’t the best option.

Regardless of your choice, however, pilling is a common problem that plagues many fleece jackets. This occurs when constant rubbing causes the material to form tiny balls and eventually shed off your jacket. But there are ways to prevent it! Check out this article from REI for the best methods to protect your clothes against pilling.

 

READ MORE

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