Of all the versatile layers at our disposal, we find ourselves reaching for a long sleeve fleece more often than not, regardless of the season. Fleece jackets and pullovers are warmer than a classic cotton zip sweatshirt and are versatile pieces to wear while out and about in shoulder seasons; they’re also the perfect midweight, midlayer component to a cold weather layering system.
Fleece jackets come in many different formats—full-zip, pullover, hoodie, crewneck, quarter-zip and half-zip, anoraks—and we’re here for all of them. Through the selection of fleece styles we’ve collected, we’ll cover a variety of features, including pockets, adjustability, and even different materials like lightweight polar fleece and deep-pile sherpa fleece. Now, let there be warm, lightweight, soft fleece for all.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T Pullover
- Topo Designs Mountain Fleece Pullover
- Arc’teryx Kyanite AR Hoody
- Prana Hurricane FZ Fleece
- Battenwear Warm-Up Fleece
- Mountain Hardwear HiCamp Shacket
- Free Fly Gridback Fleece Jacket
- Manastash Bigfoot Jacket
- Senchi Designs Merlin Hoodie
- Kavu Teannaway
- The North Face Denali Jacket
- L.L.Bean Sweater Fleece Pullover
The Best Fleece Jackets and Sweaters for Men and Women
It feels appropriate that we kick this list off with the certified GOAT classic fleece pullover sweatshirt that Patagonia first introduced into their catalogs in 1985. The brand’s Synchilla fleece (a portmanteau of ‘chinchilla’’ and ‘synthetic’) uses recycled polyester that serves lightweight warmth with a touch of sustainability. Featurewise, there’s not much going on aside from what the name implies; a run of quarter-length snaps and a single chest pocket. Throughout the years, the Snap-T has come in a wide palette of solids, color blocks, and some wild prints, so definitely consider a vintage option (though the current incarnation is available in more inclusive sizing, from XXS up to 3XL). For a heftier fleece coat, you really can’t go wrong with the brand’s Classic Retro-X Jacket ($229).
Colorado mountain lifestyle brand Topo Designs modeled their heavyweight pullover fleece zip sweater after classic vintage pieces with their own modern updates. The half-length zipper stands up a tall collar exposing a DWR nylon lining that also reinforces substantial elbow/forearm panels. A single zip chest pocket secures small valuables and slide-in side pockets for quick hand warming. Like all Topo pieces, this fleece comes in some pretty great colors in addition to black for the chic urban dwellers.
This performance tech fleece zip hoodie takes a typical fleece hoodie and ups the ante with Polartec microfleece fabric and a slim fit suitable for layering under a sturdier waterproof rain jacket or water resistant softshell jacket. The jacket’s streamlined hood shape ensures compatibility with bike or alpine helmets and a pleasing palette of solid tones should appeal to a variety of individual styles, including a pleasing Bordeaux red that should provide just enough high-visibility in the backcountry.
The spirit of the '80s zip fleece jacket comes through on Prana's Hurricane FZ Fleece, and especially in the teal colorway we’ve zeroed in on here. The jacket’s shoulder yoke panels are backed up by recycled nylon to add some weather and abrasion resistance, with a patterned trim tape contributing to an already-strong mountain styled piece. We appreciate the brand’s move to unisex sizing here, providing an equal colorway selection while other brands make tough and sometimes misguided choices between what’s offered in a women’s fleece vs a men’s fleece jacket.
Women’s: Unisex sizing
This zip-up Polar Fleece jacket proved itself as a modern classic following its introduction to the brand’s lineup over ten years ago. As seasons of Battenwear’s outerwear lineup change and grow, we’ve found comfort in this one remaining largely unchanged; ribbed cuffs and wrists, two zip pockets, a two-way zipper, and a buttoning chest pocket.
Women’s: Unisex sizing
As one might assume, a shacket is a garment that falls somewhere between a shirt and a full jacket. The button-up midlayer from the beloved outdoor apparel and gear brand Mountain Hardwear features high pile sherpa fleece with snap closures throughout its front closure and two chest pockets. Two additional side seam hand pockets provide the jacket-level utility most shorts don’t. Don't like sleeves? Get the HiCamp Fleece Vest ($99) instead.
Fly angling-forward lifestyle apparel brand Free Fly puts together one of the cleanest women’s jackets we’ve seen this season with this high-pile grid fleece zip-up. If you’re new to grid fleece layers, picture a smooth exterior backed up by channelized squares of warmth-holding fleece loft underneath to encourage airflow.
When Manastash originally launched in 1993, it focused on basics like t-shirts and long-sleeve tees for men and women made out of hemp. Since then, it’s branched out into an entire Japanese-designed line with crunchy numbers like this mega-soft, deep-pile sherpa zip-up fleece jacket. The relaxed fit makes for easy, casual layering with stylized zip pockets at the chest and hands, adding some flair as well as function. Zippers along each cuff are a surprise feature offering accessibility–why roll up your sleeves when you can just unzip them?
Portland-based Senchi Designs proves that ultralight can be fun, fashionable, and functional with its lightweight fleece pullover hoodies. The Merlin model features a half-zip for easy on-off and venting of the already breathable Polartec Alpha Direct 120. For high-energy activities, the Wren hoody ($75) offers the same silhouette without the zipper and a lighter Polartec Alpha Direct 60 fabric. Feature-wise, the Senchi hoodies are pretty bare bones, but that’s certainly part of how they keep the gram count down low.
Women’s: Unisex sizing
OG Seattle outdoor lifestyle brand Kavu’s pullover fleece is a brand bestseller that offers some of the most fun color block palettes and prints of any fleece around. Snaps secure a small drop-in chest pocket and quarter-length neck opening while dual zip side pockets hold onto keys, phones, etc. To stave off premature wear, nylon panels reinforce forearms from the elbow down to the elastic trimmed cuff.
Women’s: Unisex sizing
TNF’s Denali fleece is an absolute classic, so much so that it hardly needs our humble mention to keep proving its success (it's been around for decades). New versions of the zip jacket feature the same Polartec fleece armored with strategic panels of nylon to provide light weather resistance. A pair of zip chest pockets (one vertical, one lateral) and dual zippered hand pockets offer secure storage all around.
America’s favorite Maine outfitters know their brand heritage well, and they’re certainly not afraid to wield it to their advantage. Case in point, they’ve taken their knitted fleece pullover and treated it with the Birdseye print from their classic Norwegian fisherman's sweater. The quarter snap neck makes for easy layering on land and out to sea with kangaroo hand pockets warming hands on both. Fear not, land lovers, the pullover comes in a buffalo plaid suitable for any cabin retreat (and plus sizes including XXL and XXXL for any and all body types).