At Blacks, we know how comfort and warmth can really affect your performance and enjoyment of outdoor activities. This expansive guide is designed to help you choose the right fleece which will give you that essential warmth needed on your next adventure. Get comfortable and read on!
The Fleece – What is it and How Does it Work?
Whether you enjoy scaling mountain ranges or prefer a gentle stroll through what nature has to offer, there is a fleece to suit you. Despite the huge range of styles and designs available, each fleece does a similar job when you look at the basics.
A fleece is a soft, warm and lightweight fabric mid-layer which keeps you warm and comfortable in chilly weather. They are ideally used for outdoor pursuits because they use fabrics which keep you perfectly warm without adding bulk or weight.
A fleece works by using soft napped insulating synthetic fabric which is usually made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to retain body heat around your core, protecting you from cold air and blustery winds.
Due to the wide range of fleece types available, it is important that you understand what you will use it for before you go out and buy one. Knowing how you will use a fleece will enable you to find one which provides the protection, warmth, technology and features that you require.
Types of Fleece – What is Available?
Fleece garments are widely available in different levels of thickness to suit various weather conditions and activities. The most common fleece types include:
Often combined in a layering system to increase warmth and protection. The layering system – base layer, mid layer (fleece) and shell – is the most practical and popular way of getting the best out of your fleece.
Grid Patterned fleece
This type of fleece is very lightweight and dries quickly and efficiently without losing any of its insulating qualities. The grid pattern helps to draw off sweat and wick moisture over the surface of the fabric. The gaps between the grids catch air to increase insulation and warmth.
This type of fleece has a breathable membrane laminated between two layers of fleece which provides wind resistance. Examples of these include Windbloc® (Polartec®) and Windstopper® (Gore®).
Tighter Weave Fleece
This fleece reduces wind chill without affecting breathability. An example of this is the Polartec Wind Pro.
To ensure that you purchase a fleece which is long lasting and durable, you should consider more technical options. A poor quality micro fleece will be more susceptible to pilling and tears because it will be less durable. Spend a little more to get a heck of a lot!
What Does Micro, 100, 200 and 300 Weight Mean?
These weights were introduced by Polartec® to differentiate between different types of fleece.
Micro is the thinnest and most flexible type of fleece. It is great for wicking away sweat, making it an ideal layer for outdoor excursions. Hydrophobic properties make it water-repellent, quick drying and warm when wet. It has a 100% polyester velour structure which uses air pockets to trap heat, keeping you extremely warm without the weight.
A 300 weight fleece is the thickest type available and the heavyweight of the group. It offers outstanding warmth but is heavier and bulkier than other fleece types, meaning it is not fit to be used for climbing. A 300 weight fleece is purely designed to retain heat and keep you warm.
100 and 200 weight fleeces sit respectively between micro and 300. They offer different levels of warmth depending on their weight; the 100 is suitable for more active outdoor pursuits in cool weather and the 200 is a mid-weight fleece.
You should always consider which outdoor activities you will be experiencing before you buy a fleece. Choosing a heavy fleece such as a 300 weight to wear when trail running or climbing is impractical because it will be too warm, weighty and bulky. On the other hand, choosing a 100 fleece to keep you warm in very cold conditions will leave you wishing you had bought five!
What Should you Expect from a Fleece?
Different manufacturers use different brand fabrics in their fleeces to offer varying qualities to keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Below are the main things that you should look out for when choosing the perfect fleece.
A mid-layer fleece is often known as the insulating layer and therefore it is crucial that you consider what kind of insulation each fleece has. If you increase the thickness of a fleece you will create a warmer mid-layer; however you will also increase the weight.
Some brands use clever fleece fabric technology such as Polartec® Classic Micro to create a thin fleece which still manages to keep you snug and cosy. Micro fleece has a structure which uses air pockets to capture and retain heat.
Water-resistant and breathable
Some fleece types use fabric technologies which offer some protection against water whilst remaining completely breathable.
Polartec® Micro for example is a thin material which has hydrophobic properties meaning that it can repel water, remain warm when wet and aid ventilation to ensure that comfort is not affected. These properties also mean it is great for wicking away sweat and moisture, making it the ideal fabric for an active lifestyle.
Fit and Shape
Fit and comfort are essential priorities when it comes to any outdoor apparel and these variables are affected by thickness, weight and material type.
Many fleeces use AT™-Stretch fabrics which promote free, natural movement; vital in any outdoor activity. These stretch characteristics ensure that you receive a comfortable fit and are not restrained by the material. Different stretch limits are available in fleeces to suit a diverse range of activities.
Features such a cinch corded hem, an adjustable waist and Velcro® cuffs allow you to tailor the shape of a fleece to fit your body perfectly. These details eradicate draughts and retain heat to keep you warm and dry.
You should also consider the thickness and shape of a fleece because this will affect how packable it is. Innovative fabric technologies have allowed manufacturers to create warm fleeces which lack weight and bulk, making them perfect for stuffing in your rucksack.
Fleece Lining in Jackets: the 3 in 1
Layering is essential if you want to keep warm and dry when outdoors and the fleece has become an integral part of some jackets to insulate you against cold and wet weather.
Many jackets, such as the 3 in 1 comprise of a mid-layer fleece within an outer layer or shell. Whilst the shell keeps out wind and wet, the mid or insulation layer retains body heat and keeps you warm and dry. Often these two layers can be zipped together to create a fantastic defence in cold and wet weather.
Don’t be worried by the many different technologies and fabrics which are used in fleeces. By understanding how and where you will use a fleece, you will be able to find one which has your desired qualities. If you plan to use the fleece in different ways then consider finding one which has insulation and fits well; you can simply layer this under a waterproof shell to receive unbeatable protection.