With one or more of the best fleece jackets in your outdoor wardrobe, you should be ready for anything. A good fleece is warm, lightweight and quick-drying as well as being incredibly hard-wearing and easy to care for, making it a brilliantly versatile piece of clothing.
Suitable for anything from going for a nice afternoon stroll to madcap mountain adventures, or just chilling by a campfire, a decent fleece is something you'll want to always have with you. You can wear it as a top layer when the weather's smiling upon you, but if the going gets more challenging you can instead use it as a layering piece for extra warmth, either beneath one of the best lightweight waterproof jackets, or on top of one of the best base layers.
Key to choosing one of the best fleece jackets is the material weight. Heavier fleeces are best suited to use as a top layer, while lighter weights are more useful for layering. And there are all manner of styles to choose from, starting with the basic zipped cardigan-style jacket and working up to more complex cagoule-style choices with plenty of extras such as hoods, thumb loops, integrated buffs and even pit zips.
Many of these extras may be surplus to your requirements, and may even get in the way; you don't really want a hood if you're planning to use your fleece as a layer, while thumb loops can be useful in some situations and utterly pointless in others. But we've gathered together a good selection of the best fleece jackets for you to choose from; scroll down to find the best option for you.
The best fleece jackets to buy now
We think the best fleece for most people is the Finisterre Axiom. The relaxed fit, functional design and cosy fabric make it an excellent all-rounder, whether you're off camping or just walking the dog. In line with Finisterre's eco-friendly ethos, this is made from fully recycled polyester, with recycled nylon elbow patches and zipped hand and chest pockets for storing valuables. The fit is looser is than others in this guide, with elasticated hip and cuff hems and a snap popper collar to keep the heat in. It's a more versatile shape that'll work well as a standalone jacket, but it might not be as good for streamlined layering. It's also only available in teal and yellow colourways, so those wanting a sombre black or navy will need to shop elsewhere (Finisterre does do other fleece jackets in less colourful shades). Customers praise the quality, comfort and warmth.
If you're heading for the hills, the Berghaus Pravitale could be the best fleece jacket for you. It's a mid-weight jacket that can also be put to use as a winter mid-layer, and it'll see you right when temperatures fall thanks to its hood and thumb loops. These thumb loops are excellent for anchoring mid-layer sleeves, protecting the wrist from cold, but also great as emergency fingerless gloves when you’re moving fast. Two harness-compatible pockets also act as vents if needed, and a shoulder pocket is ideal for a ski pass. The hood is designed to be close fitting, which is a winner when it comes to keeping the heat in. It's difficult hard to find anyone who has anything bad to say about this fleece, although a handful of customers said it was a bit of snug fit, so that's perhaps something to bear in mind if deciding whether to size up or down. Check for a Berghaus discount code before you buy.
For anyone after an eco-friendly fleece, Patagonia has been a great choice for a number of years, and its Better Sweater Fleece Jacket is a great example of that commitment. Not only is it made of 100% recycled polyester, the fabric is all Bluesign approved and Fair Trade Certified sewn, and it's coloured with low-impact dyes. And beyond the eco-cred, this one's a fantastic piece of design. It's full of thoughtful little touches like the micro-polyester jersey trim at cuffs and hem that protects the main fabric from abrasion, along with flat-seam construction that removes chafing points and reduces bulk, both highly desirable in a fleece mid-layer. Overall, if you wear your ethics on your sleeve, then make sure the sleeve is this one. And it won’t let you down in the cold either. Like the Finisterre though, it's perhaps a little chunky for streamlined layering.
For a lightweight and versatile fleece jacket that's suitable for all manner of outdoors activities, Fjällräven's Vardag Lite Fleece is a great all-rounder that you can wear as a top layer, or more likely put on underneath a shell for some welcome insulation. Made from 100% recycled polyester, it's light enough to stuff in a bag to be pulled out when you need it, and it features elasticated sleeve cuffs and a drawcord adjustment at the hem, as well as half-length zipper on the front. Its single zippered kangaroo pocket won't be to everyone's taste, but that shouldn't be a problem if you're layering it underneath a more full-featured shell.
Looking for maximum warmth? You'll probably want the Jack Wolfskin DNA Grizzly fleece; while most of the fleeces listed here will work nicely as a mid-layer, this one would be strictly overkill unless you were planning on an arctic adventure. It gets its warmth from its Polartec Classic 300-weight fleece material, not to mention an additional layer of windproofing around the neck and shoulders; thankfully there are also pit zips for when things get just a bit too toasty.
However, as an outer-layer that breathes pretty well, is enormously warm, and will keep all but the worst of weather at bay, it rather lives up to its namesake. It’s not hard to imagine a host of outdoor situations where the Jack Wolfskin DNA Grizzly fleece would come in handy, many involving chopping wood and watching the campfire blaze – which sound pretty good to us, frankly. Check out our Jack Wolfskin DNA Grizzly fleece jacket review for more info.
Comfortably straddling the gap between heavyweight and mid-weight fleece in terms of warmth, the Columbia Basin Butte Fleece packs in some smart features to keep things cosy. Insulated panels across the top of the torso, lined with Columbia's own Omni-Heat reflective material, give this fleece a bit of visual flair as well as turning up the heat without weighing you down.
The result is a breathable but warm fleece that’ll be most at home in very cold conditions as a mid-layer, but perfectly capable of standing in as a technical jumper equivalent wherever needed. The only penalty is the slightly-less-pleasant texture of the upper torso section, although the inside collar is neatly lined with microfleece to combat that issue. Check out our Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review for more of what we thought.
With most fleeces you're not really bothered about them getting wet because they dry out so quickly, but if you really want to keep the damp out then take a look at the Keela Genesis. Keela has incorporated hydrophilic film technology into the lining, resulting in a fleece that's breathable and waterproof (and a favourite with mountain rescue teams). Reviews say its very effective, although the lack of water-resistant zip or storm flap is a bit of an oversight. The outer fleece is durable mid-weight Zetland 100 with a DWR coating, and with reinforced shoulders and deep pockets, this has ‘ready for bad weather’ written all over it.
If you're after a stylish fleece jacket to keep you cosy in the city, head to The North Face. TNF's Kataka fleece is another eco-friendly option, made entirely from recycled polyester fleece with an overlay of recycled nylon, and it's the ideal option for urban adventures. With a non-PFC water-repellent finish, secure zip pockets and a binding on sleeve cuffs to keep drafts out, it's geared towards Spring and Autumn use, and is designed to be warm, lightweight and quick to dry. Beware it is an oversized fit, though, so don't be tempted to size up.
If you don't want to get bogged down in details and want something simple but effective, we reckon that the Arc’teryx Kyanite AR Hoody will suit most people nicely. It's exactly that this respected outdoor brand is known for: simply designed, high-performance outdoor wear with a premium price tag. This fleece jacket has been designed but with plenty of attention to detail, and features Polartec Power Stretch Pro material that's comfortable and hardwearing without weighing you down, so you can layer it under a shell top without worrying about overheating (although beware, a number of customers have reported that it pills easily, which won't affect its performance but does look unsightly). The hood is designed to be low-profile and layered, rather than a standalone, protective shelter as you’d expect on a shell. That said, there’s plenty of extra warmth on offer, the hood trapping all that heat from the body.
Choosing the best fleece jacket for you
The biggest question when buying a fleece jacket is how warm you need it to be, and therefore whether you plan to wear it as an actual jacket, and/or as a breathable midlayer. Heavier weight fleeces are lovely and warm on their own, but if worn as a midlayer they can get too hot, as well as being feeling bulky and restricting movement.
Lighter weight fleeces make excellent winter-weight base layers, as well as handy autumn jackets. It’s also worth considering whether a hood is necessary. While a hood adds warmth on the coldest of days, they can lead to overheating if used in high-intensity pursuits. When not used, they can result in an uncomfortable extra layer around the neck, which can in turn get in the way of a shell hood.
Finally, if you plan to use your fleece as a midlayer, avoid the most robust waterproof and windproof membranes, as these tend to be on the bin liner end of breathable. However, in an outer softshell-style jacket, both are handy attributes.