Fleece jackets have been providing improved levels of warmth for decades now and have become a great wardrobe staple for outdoor enthusiasts. The polyester-based jackets are super cozy and offer decent technical performance.
There aren’t many articles of clothing as practical, light, and inexpensive as the humble fleece. They really do keep you warm, but with so many manufacturers, styles, and prices, buying the perfect fleece can be a little overwhelming.
Below are a few important things to consider before pulling the trigger and buying that comfy fleece you’ve been coveting since August. We can’t give you each and every detail for all the fleeces listed below, but you’ll get a good overall idea of how each stacks up against the others. We break them down between men’s and women’s fleece jackets.
Best Fleece Jackets for Women
1.) Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T ($119)
This makes a strong argument for my favorite fleece jacket. In fact, it’s the jacket I’m wearing while writing this article. Patagonia pioneered the fleece and with its retro style, it’s a classic. The Synchilla is a great wardrobe staple and is a versatile piece of clothing. Of course, it all depends on what you’re seeking because this fleece is not a technical piece of clothing.
Synchillas are simple fleeces with nothing more than the best fleece manufactured by Patagonia. It is double-sided, plush, and super soft that creates plenty of warmth. They’re roomy and super casual but perfect for an easy hike or that post-ski outfit. Warmth is a big stand out with this fleece jacket.
My chief complaint with the fleece is it’s very bulky and has a loose cut. It’s great if you want a relaxed look at home, but they eat up a ton of luggage space while looking a little too casual outside of North America (not Zermatt approved attire). The price is a mixed bag as $120 is pretty expensive for a straightforward fleece, but it does use the best quality fleece fabric we’ve found in a jacket. It’s a straight-forward fleece jacket.
2.) Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan ($179)
The Covert Cardigan has become a wardrobe staple for me as it’s a great blend of performance, comfort, and style. It may be my most worn article of clothing. A slim cut and tight-knit fabric make for an attractive fleece that’s great for running errands around town or in the city. While the athletic cut and small zippered pocket make it appropriate for easy movement sports like hiking, cross country skiing, or a mid-layer for skiing. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for a run or anything that is prone to sweat or moisture.
The Covert Cardigan comes in both full and quarter zip styles. What stands out about the jacket is the versatility of the jacket to blend in multiple environments. It is very similar to the beloved Patagonia Better Sweater below. The primary difference between the two is a slight step up in quality, a more athletic fit, and a higher price with the Arc’teryx. A tighter knit weave of the fleece with Covert Cardigan makes it warmer as it blocks the wind more effectively.
Women’s Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan
Men’s Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan
3.) Patagonia Better Sweater ($119)
The Patagonia Better Sweater is a perfect fleece sweater and excels as a cozy mid-layer. It’s thick, soft, and slimming while still being one of the warmest fleece jackets on this list. In our years of testing athletic gear, Patagonia’s fleece products have always stood out from the market. As far as industry standards go it’s hard to find a more well-loved fleece than the Better Sweater and it’s one of Patagonia’s best-selling products.
For most, the cost of the jacket is on the high side compared to a standard fleece jacket. However, the quality and durable material provide some excellent longevity. I’ve had my Better Sweater for the better part of five years and it has seen plenty of use. The Better Sweater comes in either a 1/4 zip or full zip up. I find the 1/4 zip provides better value and has a nice fit.
Women’s Patagonia Better Sweater
Men’s Patagonia Better Sweater
4.) Columbia Steens Mountain/ Benton Springs Jacket ($40)
Lots of outdoor and travel enthusiasts associate Columbia’s name with quality and always a decent value. Columbia’s Women’s Benton Springs and the Men’s Steens Mountain Fleece are some of the most affordable fleece jackets on the market, priced less than $50.
The fleece jackets are full-zip and feature two zippered front pockets to keep your hands warm. Basic and comfortable polyester fleece is used in construction but offers little in terms of durability or real warmth. Fit is decent and strikes a nice balance between roomy and athletic so it will fit most body types great.
It’s best utilized as a layer because any breeze tends to pass right through the thin fleece material. That being said, it’s tough to find a more affordable fleece jacket in terms of quality. Color choice is also plentiful with well over 20 color options to choose from online.
Women’s Columbia Benton Springs Fleece Jacket
Men’s Columbia Steens Mountain Jacket
5.) Fjallraven Keb Fleece ($185)
In true Fjallraven fashion, this jacket is top of the line and looks dreamy on. However, it’s one of the most expensive jackets on this list and you are definitely paying a price for that style and comfort. The Keb is a midweight fleece jacket with one chest pocket. Over the years the Fjallraven pieces we own have delivered amazing performance and style.
The Keb is made out of a polyester and wool blend providing optimal warmth, but still has a decent amount of moisture-wicking ability. The hood on this fleece jacket will protect you in the case of rain or snowfall, but still maintains it’s stretchy and sleek look. If you’re already familiar with the Fjallraven their Keb Fleece will not disappoint.
Women’s Keb Fleece
Men’s Keb Fleece
6.) The North Face Denali 2 ($179)
This is a classic item from The North Face and has been in their line for years. It’s an iconic piece of outdoor clothing and I can recall wearing the jacket since primary school. This is pretty much the target market as it remains very popular for urban use in the winter, especially in milder climates. It’s because the jacket is exceptionally warm for a fleece and nylon panels handle moisture and wind exceptionally well.
In more mild winter temperatures, it is a great jacket that can be worn as a primary layer. Thick fleece and nylon panels do hinder the jacket’s ability to compress, but it’s not really intended for more technical use. At the end of the day, it’s a great fleece for running errands around town or walking through the city. It’s a tremendous jacket that is tremendous at providing warmth. Of course, the heavy material and warmth do come at a price as it a costly fleece at just under $200.
Women’s Denali 2 Jacket
Men’s Denali 2 Jacket
7.) Arc’teryx Delta LT ($149)
The majority of the fleece jackets on this list and on the market for that matter are better suited for casual use. However, with Arc’teryx recently sent us out this technical forward fleece and it’s quickly become a wardrobe staple as a winter mid-layer. It’s a lightweight fleece that can easily fit under a jacket and extremely lightweight at 9.3 ounces. Cut is very trim and
While it is certainly a lightweight fleece and excels as a layer it still feels stylish enough with a long hem to wear around town. Its lightweight nature does make it best suited for mild days or under a jacket. Fleece on the jacket has a waffle exterior and the 100-weight fleece does a great job at moisture management.
Despite the lightweight it comes in a full zip version and has two front pocket despite the weight. Comfort is big with the jacket and we find ourselves wearing the fleece around the house often while relaxing. The biggest complaint with this lightweight fleece is the very high price tag.
Women’s Delta LT
Men’s Delta LT
8.) Women’s Kuhl Flight Jacket ($179)
While most companies offer similar products between men and women Kuhl has failed to do so. While it feels a little backwards for our current time they still make some comfortable fleece jackets that are very functional.
The design of it and the soft plush feeling is unlike any I have ever seen or felt in a women’s fleece jacket. Perhaps that’s because it is made out of midweight Italian fleece.
This jacket has a few other notable features including vintage microsuede accents that match the rest of the jacket. A two zippered chest and hand pockets and even a stowaway hood that will create a larger collar.
I love just how warm and stylish this fleece is. You can easily throw it on over anything and still look great!
8.) Men’s Kuhl Interceptr ($129)
This Kuhl jacket prides itself on having 100% polyester that is guaranteed not to mat. However, it’s incredibly soft, providing exceptional warmth and comfort all day. It’s a full zip fleece so it can be put on over just about anything, and also has two hand warming pockets for those cold winter days.
What I like most about Kuhl jackets are the signature thumb loops so there is never a breeze allowed to ride up your shirt. From someone that spends have the year in cold weather, this is a major plus to this jacket. This fleece jacket can be easily adjusted to your waist at the bottom hem.
9.) Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man ($175)
The Monkey Man is an amazing performance fleece and so soft it could be considered pajamas. It’s made with Polartec’s high loft fabric that is both warm and comfortable.
Don’t confuse this fleece with others as the Polartec material allows for it to maintain a slim technical shape. For great stretch the jacket uses This is pretty much a mid-layer jacket only as the Polartec exterior allows for wind to flow freely through the jacket.
10.) Under Armor Storm Armor Fleece Hoodie ($90)
Under Armor is a great at making trendy urban sportswear. This fleece is more like a hooded sweatshirt than a traditional fleece, it sports Under Armor’s Storm technology, which repels water without sacrificing breathability.
Under Armor’s fleece is light and stretches to allow unparalleled mobility so you can wear it on the field, court or trail without feeling restricted. It also has hand pockets and an internal phone pocket on the right side and is available in sizes from extra small to 5 XL.
Though technically a fleece, this hoodie, unlike the others on the list, is made from fibers other than polyester, so it’ll have a different, less plush and more athletic feel. It’s available in nearly 20 colors, and though its starting price is a bit on the high side, it’s a lot more contemporary and trendy than some of the other fleeces that might not be out of place on your grandfather.
What to Consider Before Buying a Fleece Jacket
Style and design
Fleeces come in more varieties than you’d think possible. Long-sleeve, vest, full-zip, partial-zip, ¼-zip, hooded, unhooded, men’s, women’s, athletic cut, generous cut, and the list goes on. To make things easier, try looking for words in the product description that will tell you what the fleece was designed for.
If for example, you’re after a lightweight, early-fall fleece to wear while skipping through the apple orchard on a 60-degree afternoon, then the Alaskan, Sub-Zero Anti-Hypothermia Survival Fleece may be more than you’re bargaining for. Thinking about what you’re looking for beforehand can streamline your search.
It’s important to pay close attention to the fit of your fleece jacket. Would you prefer to have something more form-fitting and sleek so that you can wear it out and still feel stylish? Or would you prefer to feel more relaxed and casual in your fleece jacket?
Materials and craftsmanship
This one is a little more difficult to determine, as most fleeces are made from similar or identical materials. Sometimes popular brand names are associated with higher-quality products, but it’s not always the case. In addition, all of the fleeces on this list are imported.
In the age of the internet, buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. Chances are hundreds or even thousands of people have bought the products you’re considering. Take advantage of their experiences and reviews. They may save you a lot of heartaches and hassle down the road.
Not surprisingly, you can buy cheap fleeces, ultra-expensive ones, and ones at all price- points in between. Sometimes there’s a direct correlation between price and quality, but sometimes there isn’t. Again, click on those customer reviews.
Warranty and return policy
Nowadays, most products you buy on mega-retail websites come with pretty robust warranties and return policies. Competition is tough, and no-hassle return policies are things manufacturers and retailers need to offer to stay in the game. Read the fine print carefully so you’ll know what to expect if the product doesn’t meet your expectations.
Features of the Best Fleece Jacket
Fleeces are available with a number of features that you may or may not want, like tall, full-zip collars, internal and external pockets, with and without zippers, elastic at the sleeves and waist to form barriers against cold gusts, and drawstrings at the neck to do the same. Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, these features can make a big difference in how you and your fleece get along.
Full Zip vs Half Zip
The two main types of fleece jackets are full zip or half zip. Full zips are easier to manage and gives you more versatility when taking on and off. For women, full zip fleece jackets also don’t mess up your hair. Half-zip jackets tend to have fewer features and are primarily used for keeping warm. I generally prefer full zips as a woman.