The best fleece jackets 2024: mid layers to keep you cozy in the backcountry

The best fleece jackets combine cozy warmth and breathability, meaning you can wear many of them all year round, whether on their own in spring and summer, or as part of a layering system during the depths of winter.

They can also make for a stylish outer layer on your commute or even in the office if the air conditioning is blasting away! Fleece fabric was a pioneer of recycled materials and many of the jackets on test here still have those green credentials, with some brands going further and offering a recycling service for your garment once it's reached the end of its life.

Fleece comes in many different forms, from high pile to ultra smooth, so it's worth digging into the details of our expert reviews, to determine which is the best choice for you. 

In pretty much all instances, fleece is lighter than a wool sweater or pullover, while being more affordable and more durable than a down jacket.

For cold weather pursuits, the best fleece jackets should be paired with a moisture-wicking base layer and a protective outer layer like one of the best waterproof jackets. The number of fleece jackets you wear will depend on how cold it is. Remember, where warmth is concerned, many thin layers are better than one thick one.

Our testers have enjoyed wearing the best fleece jackets in a variety of backcountry settings to deliver this guide. We rate the Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover as the best option of all, but all the jackets in this guide represent a sound investment.

Meet the expert

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

A seasoned adventurer who has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories, Pat is one of our main outdoor gear experts. These days, he can often be found exploring the coast of England's south west, while he often journeys to the mountains to get his peak-bagging fix. He's no stranger to a quality fleece.

The quick list

This is the quick list, a snapshot of the best fleece jackets available in 2024. To delve deeper into the features and qualities of each featured fleece, see our more detailed reviews further down the page in this guide.

The best fleece jackets 2024

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

The best fleece jacket overall

best fleece jacket: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover

A very eco-friendly, mid-weight fleece top, ideal for use as an outer layer in fall and spring, and a mid layer through winter (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best fleece jacket overall

Specifications

Fabric: Recycled PrimaLoft Bio (100%)
Gender availability: Men’s and women’s
Sizes (men's): XS-XXL
Sizes (women's): XS-XL
Weight (men’s large): 284g / 10oz
Colors (men's): Black / Fired brick / Hot spot
Colors (women's): Black / Fired brick / Glacier

Reasons to buy

+
Made from biodegradable, 100% recycled material
+
Warm but extremely breathable
+
Large zipped pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
No hood
-
Sizes run small

This stylish and functional fleece top, the midweight Halfmoon Bio Pullover from Artilect makes for "a fantastic outer layer during dry days and nights in the shoulder months," according to our expert tester. We also found that, as the evenings and mornings get a bit chillier, it makes for an excellent mid layer, worn under a wind- and waterproof shell during cold and wet winter days spent hiking in the hills. 

Although most people will wear this fleece over the top of a base layer, we found the Halfmoon pullover to be luxuriously comfortable next to the skin, and it’s highly breathable. The materials are 100% recycled, as all good fleeces should be, but Artilect also state that the PrimaLoft Bio fabric is biodegradable in landfill and ocean environments at the end of garment’s life – a circular process, where the specially developed fibers ‘return to materials found in nature’, which takes it to a higher level of eco-friendliness.

It’s worth noting that the sizing for this top runs quite small, which can be useful when used a mid layer, but if you’re in doubt, go up a size.

Read our full Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover

The best lightweight fleece jacket

best fleece jackets: Arc'teryx Kyanite Hoody

A lightweight, versatile mid layer that oozes quality and coziness (Image credit: Kieran Cunningham)
The best lightweight fleece jacket

Specifications

Fabric: Polartec Power Stretch Pro
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men's): XS-XXL
Sizes (women's): XS-XL
Weight : 425g / 15oz (men's); 365g / 12.9oz (women's)
Colors: Black, Labyrinth, Cobalt Moon, Paradox, Rhapsody (maroon)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
+
Durable nylon face fabric
+
Super soft next to the skin

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively expensive
-
Hem can't be adjusted

The Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoody "strikes the perfect balance between warmth, weight, mobility, and moisture management" according to our expert reviewer. The plush Polartec Power Stretch Pro fabric used to make it pairs a tough nylon face fabric with a super soft, brushed interior for next-to-skin comfort with above-average ruggedness and durability. 

Gusseted underarms, four-way stretch fabric and articulated patterning all work to give a fuller and freer range of movement. This all makes it one of the best mid layers out there for climbing and scrambling, which we were doing plenty of during the test period. 

There's a handy interior pocket that can hold most phones, an ergonomically-shaped 'ScubaHood' that doesn’t flap in your eyes despite the lack of a cinch, and a 'No Slip Zip' to prevent accidental unzipping at an inopportune moment! The fit on the Kyanite is on the neat side but happily there’s more than enough stretch in the fabric to accommodate a fuller midriff. One of the best lightweight fleeces on the market.

Read our full Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoody review

The best fleece jacket for winter

best fleece jacket: Patagonia Better Sweater

A durable fleece jacket as likely to be seen in the boardroom as on the trail  (Image credit: Craig Taylor)
The best fleece jacket for winter

Specifications

Fabric: 100% recycled polyester
Sizes (men’s): XS-3XL
Sizes (women’s): XXS-XXL
Weight (men's medium): 505g / 17.81oz
Colors: Black / Industrial green / Navy / Stonewash / Passage blue

Reasons to buy

+
Smart enough for the office
+
Very warm
+
Recycled materials
+
Useful chest pocket

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than others of similar warmth
-
Boxy fit
-
Not the cheapest

This is "a sleek and fantastically warm fleece pullover that works just as well on your morning commute as it does deep in the backcountry" according to our hiking expert. In fact, he goes as far as to say that "the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece is an awesome bit of kit". 

Sleek and functional, it’s a stripped-back version of Patagonia’s ever-beloved Better Sweater Jacket, with a straight fit that doesn’t ride up when you move. In short, it’s comfortable, warm and understated. On test, we found it kept us warm on backcountry escapades and gave us a “cool” look in the office. It features a durable zipper that can be left open for some breathability or zipped up tightly to your chin for maximum warmth. 

Happily, the high YKK zip doesn't come at the cost of comfort - it doesn’t rub on your chin or irritate you in any way, and the soft-brushed fleece liner around the inside of the neck feels soft and gentle when zipped tight.

Read our full Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece review

The best fleece jacket for durability

Klättermusen Balder Zip fleece jacket

This warm mid layer exudes style and class, giving it more appeal than most synthetic technical fleeces (Image credit: Klattermusen)
The best fleece jacket for durability

Specifications

Fabric: Recycled wool (46%), polyester (36%), polyamide (16%), other fibers (3%)
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men’s): XS-XXL
Sizes (momen's): XXS-XL
Weight (men’s size L): 380g / 13.4oz
Colors: Dark moon / Dusty green / Charcoal / Sorrel red

Reasons to buy

+
very durable
+
Solid eco credentials 
+
Beautifully cozy
+
Comfortable, with great fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy
-
Less breathable than others on test
-
Slower to dry than pure synthetics

Rather than being fully synthetic, the Balder is made from an unusual blend of recycled wool, polyester and nylon. This means it's both soft and durable, and can also boast improved sustainability, thanks to the use of recycled wool. This is sourced from an Italian supplier that spins new yarn harvested from offcuts and old garments. It’s a typically considered and conscientious approach from the Swedish brand, which is known for its strong environmental stance as well as its high-performance technical gear. This jacket is designed for cold weather use, so delivers high levels of warmth. On test, our expert discovered that it's "cozy, luxurious and not at all itchy", although if you're sensitive to wool you may prefer to opt for a purely synthetic garment. 

Thanks to the inclusion of wool, this fleece breathes better than you might expect for such a heavyweight layer. The overall cut is nicely tailored, with a trim fit, long arms and a scooped rear hem for good all-round coverage. The shaped cuffs cover the wrists and the backs of the hands well. The collar is snug and locks in heat very effectively, without feeling restrictive. Helpfully, the main zip and the hand pockets have chunky pull tabs that are easy to grip while wearing gloves. Overall, it’s a mid layer that offers good technical performance , while still being  stylish enough to wear as part of your everyday winter wardrobe too.

Read our full Klättermusen Balder Zip review

The best fleece jacket for style

Man wearing Páramo Enduro Fleece jacket

Thin but effective fleece offering lots of style and plenty of versatility (Image credit: Páramo)

5. Páramo Enduro Fleece

The best fleece jacket for style

Specifications

Fabric: Polyester (100%) treated with Nikwax TX.Direct for water repellency
Sizes: S-XXL
Weight (men’s size L): 436g / 15.4oz
Colors: Steel marl / Blue

Reasons to buy

+
Wind and rain resistant 
+
Pockets suit backpacks and harnesses
+
Full-length zip
+
Stylish

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the warmest fleece jacket

According to our expert tester "this handsome, highly functional fleece is happily at home everywhere from climbing crags to remote trailheads and urban bars". However, don’t be deceived by its good looks – there are lots of non-compromising technical features on this top. The Nikwax material is relatively thin, but it’s wind and rain resistant, making the garment perfect for missions when you’re not sure what the weather has in store. 

We liked the fact that there are plenty of pockets on this top, so if you do wear it as an outer layer, you have multiple storage options. The design and cut of the garment is excellent, giving it some real style and our movement was completely uninhibited on test. The hood is intended to go under a helmet, and the pockets are arranged so you can still access them while wearing a harness or backpack. 

As always, Páramo’s production methods are very environmentally conscious, with no PFC or polyfluorinated compounds used and the whole top can be recycled with Páramo after it has reached the end of its useful life. The Enduro is made in Bogotá, Colombia, by the Miquelina Foundation, which employs vulnerable women.

The best fleece jacket for breathability

Outdoor Research Vigor Full-Zip Hoodie fleece jacket

Lightweight, stretchy and super-breathable, a great all-action mid layer (Image credit: Outdoor Research)
The best fleece jacket for breathability

Specifications

Fabric: Grid-back fleece made from polyester (94%) and elastane/ spandex (6%)
Sizes (men's): S–XXL
Sizes (women's): XS-XL
Weight: 340g/12oz (men’s size L)
Colors (Men’s): Black, lichen green, madder red, twilight blue / Black, Cascade blue

Reasons to buy

+
Super breathable 
+
Elastic-bound hood
+
Three useful pockets
+
Thumb loops

Reasons to avoid

-
Gives only modest warmth 
-
Some concerns over long-term durability

The Vigor is a lightweight microgrid stretch fleece that aims for maximum breathability, while regulating your body temperature to keep you cozy in cold climes without making you overheat and getting sweaty.

The fabric incorporates a thermo-regulating polymer (the brand's ActiveTemp technology), which has been applied to the inside of the fleece fabric. As you heat up it is activated to soak up more of your sweat, releasing it through the fabric as you cool off. As such, our expert reviewer says that "it ticks all the boxes as a technical mid layer. It is close-fitting, with plenty of stretch for dynamic movement."

On test, we found the gridded microfleece fabric to be soft and comfortable, as well as being lightweight and breathable. There are other thoughtful details in play here - integrated thumb loops in the cuffs, an elastic bound hood, a full-zip with a chin guard, a zipped chest pocket, and two zipped hand pockets, both of which are placed a little higher than usual so they won't clash with a climbing harness or a backpack hip belt.

Read our full Outdoor research Vigor Full-zip Hoodie review

The best fleece jacket for year-round wear

best fleece jackets: Helly Hansen Daybreaker Half-Zip Fleece Pullover

A versatile lightweight half-zip Polartec fleece top, made from 100% recycled material (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best fleece jacket for year-round wear

Specifications

Fabric: 100% recycled polyester with a YKK zip
Gender availability: Men’s and Women’s
Sizes: Women’s: XS–4XL; Men’s: S–4XL
Weight: Women’s: 240g / 8.5oz; Men’s: 300g / 10.5oz
Colors: Women’s: Poppy red / Iced matcha / Bright blue / Honeycomb / Mint / Heather / Dusty Syrin / White / Navy / Jade / Black; Men’s: Olive green / Cobalt / Malachite / Deep canyon / Mead / Concrete / Navy / Red / Jade / Cloudberry / Utility grey / Azurite / Deep fjord / Darkest spring / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Polartec fleece
+
Good-quality zip
+
A bluesign product made with 100% recycled material

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb hoops
-
No hood

Quick drying and easy to look after, this is a midweight fleece that can be used all year round, from chilly summer evenings in camp to frosty winter mornings as part of a layering system. 

In super cold conditions you might want to look at something some substantial, but our expert tester "found this top performed perfectly across three and half seasons". The high neck provides an extra little bit of protection, which is very welcome when things get cold and breezy. We tested the half zip version, which is more than adequate for this style of top, but there is a full-zip option too. The Daybreaker does lack thumb loops, which is our only real negative criticism (there’s no hood either, but many people prefer no hood in a mid layer anyway).

Available for a sensible price in myriad colors for men and women, it does exactly what you want a fleece top to do without making a massive fuss about it. Made with 100% recycled poly material, as all good fleeces should be it acts as an excellent insulating layer under a water- and windproof shell jacket when conditions are inclement, and works well as a nice-looking outer layer when the weather is better. 

Read our full Helly Hansen Daybreaker Half-Zip Fleece Pullover review

The best deep pile fleece

Montane Protium XPD Fleece jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best deep pile fleece

Specifications

Fabric: Polartec Thermal Pro Hi-Loft fabric; 93% polyester (69% recycled) & 7% elastane
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes: S-XXL
Weight (men's size L): 470g / 17oz
Colors (men's): Slate / Eclipse blue / Adrenaline red
Color's (women's): Saffron red / Saskatoon berry / Eclipse blue

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive warmth to weight ratio
+
High neck 
+
Zipped pockets
+
Full length zip opening

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
Hood isn't flattering
-
Limited color range

A rare example of a deep-pile fleece, the new Protium XPD  is a highly technical and super versatile garment, but it’s also so snug that you’ll likely find yourself lounging around on the sofa in it too. The high-loft Polartec Thermal Pro fabric traps plenty of warm air and keep it close to your body, and being made entirely of synthetic fibres – polyester (69% of which is recycled) and elastane – it retains its thermal properties even when wet. Two high stretch panels run along each side of the top and the full length of the inside arm, giving complete freedom of movement and making this a perfect top for wearing while rock climbing or scrambling in chilly weather. There are no thumb loops on the cuffs, but the sleeves are fairly tight fitting and don’t roll up easily. 

The Protium XPD has a full-length zip and one of its defining features is the excellent high neck, which extends well beyond the wearer’s chin to protect the whole lower face when required. It also has a stretchy hood that easily fits under a helmet and, despite being quite thin (and looking a bit daft on almost everyone), it does a good job of keeping your ears warm. Other features include two hand pockets and a chest pocket, all with zips and pull cords so they can be operated when you have gloves on, or with freezing cold hands. 

Read our full review of the Montane Protium XPD fleece jacket

The best for high energy activities

Montane Fury Fleece jacket

The Montane Fury is a cozy fleece that is still breathable enough for high energy pursuits (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best fleece for high energy activities

Specifications

Fabric: Polyester (51%), nylon (39%), elastane (10%)
Gender availability: Full-zip version only available for men
Sizes: S-XXL
Weight (size L): 340g / 12oz
Colors: Black / Oak green

Reasons to buy

+
Four-way stretch
+
Very breathable
+
Wicks moisture brilliantly
+
High neck

Reasons to avoid

-
No recycled content
-
Not as warm as other fleeces on test
-
No thumb loops

Montane’s new Fury fleeces all boast a huge amount of stretch, with excellent breathability and moisture wicking power. The four-way movement in the dynamic ‘Thermo Stretch’ fabric makes them perfect for all sorts of high-energy activities – from hiking, biking, hill walking and fastpacking through to ski touring, scrambling and rock climbing. The brushed-back polyester inner has a cozy and comfortable next-to-skin feel and directs moisture away from your body, while the smooth finish nylon outer dissipates that dampness and keeps the wind out. But…is the Fury really a true fleece? It feels pretty close to a softshell to us, and disappointingly there doesn’t appear to be any recycled material content - one of the defining features of a traditional fleece. 

A midweight top, it doesn’t supply a huge amount of warmth, but it’s designed for active use, not for standing around in the cold. The body-hugging performance-orientated fit means it works well as a mid layer beneath a waterproof shell. Unfortunately the top lacks thumb loops, but the cuffs are elasticated, so they don’t easily ride up your arms when you pull on an over layer. The high neck keeps chilly breezes at bay, and the back panel extends down over the top of your bum, but not as far as we’d like. Other features include two zipped hand pockets. The Fury is a relatively expensive garment, but the design is smart, the build quality durable and the components (including YKK reverse coil zips) are excellent. 

Read our full review of the Montane Fury fleece jacket

The best for thermal tech

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

This is a warm and versatile fleece jacket that comes loaded with clever thermal technology (Image credit: Manon Guenot)
The best for thermal tech

Specifications

Fabric: Polyester with Omni-Heat Helix
Gender availability: Hooded version is available in men’s only
Sizes: XS–XXL; regular fit
Weight (size L): 498g / 1lb 1.6oz
Colors: Shasta & collegiate navy / Black / Night wave & metal

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
+
Very comfortable
+
Hood is adjustable
+
Good thickness for a mid layer

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb hooks
-
Doesn't repel water
-
No recycled content
-
Hand pockets don't have a zip

The hooded version of this versatile outdoor top is only available for men, but there is a very similar version for women. On the face of it, the Outdoor Tracks from Columbia is just a straightforward, fairly stylish fleece top with a lid. But look closer and you'll discover some very clever heat-trapping tech. 

On the inside of the main body and the sleeves are a series of cellular closed-cell dots that are almost imperceptibly raised. These are the hexagonal-shaped hallmarks of Columbia’s Omni-Heat Helix system, and they work by creating an air gap, which enhances airflow and moisture control, and also traps body heat inside. This is aimed at stopping you getting too hot and sweaty when you’re hiking and scrambling up the sides of hills and mountains, and will subsequently avoid becoming too cold during the descent. The fluffy polyester shell is comfortable next to the skin, and extremely breathable, but it doesn’t repel water at all. 

Beyond the material tech, the Outdoor Tracks hoody features a pair of open hand pouches and a small zipped vertical pocket on the left chest, which is only really big enough for a credit card and/or some cash. Inside the fleece there are a couple of pouches that could be used to hold a map. There is a full zip, but no chin-protecting garage, so watch out for trapping beard hair or skin. The hood can be pulled tight with a couple of toggles, and will fit underneath a helmet. The hem and the cuffs are elasticated to keep drafts out, but there are no thumb hooks, which is a shame on a fleece that’s so perfectly weighted for use as a mid layer. Neither, it seems, is there any recycled material in the mix.

The best outer layer

Man climbing in Rab Capacitor Hoody

The Rab Capacitor works as an excellent mid layer or a stylist top layer (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best outer layer

Specifications

Fabric: Main: Recycled knit face brushed fleece (200g/m²); Side panels: Thermic stretch fleece with brushed back (175g/m²)
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes: XS–XXL; regular fit
Weight: 398.5g/14.1oz
Colors (men's): Army / Beluga / Deep ink / Graphene / Light khaki
Colors (women's): Eucalyptus / Beluga / Orion blue / Patriot blue

Reasons to buy

+
Ideal weight for a mid layer
+
Stretchy side panels for good freedom of movement
+
Mostly recycled materials used
+
Stylish fit

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
Neat fit isn't for everyone
-
Hood isn't flattering

It speaks volumes that one of the few faults we can find with this hoody fleece is that it’s become too damn popular. This may be a top-quality outdoor garment, but you'll see it being worn a long way from the wilderness, because it’s so stylish and multifunctional. However, when it is called into action in its natural environment – on moors, mountains, high hillsides, crags, countryside paths and peaks – it performs perfectly. No wonder everyone is wearing it.

Made with almost entirely recycled fabric, the Capacitor works really well as a mid layer to keep you warm when worn beneath a waterproof jacket on wet and windy days, but it’s even better as an outer layer when conditions are dry. The super stretchy ‘Thermic’ side panels give full freedom of movement, so you can reach for the trickiest of holds when climbing or scrambling. 

There are two hand pockets and a chest pocket on this fleece, all with zips (complete with pull tags so they can be operated with gloves on). The main zip is robust, and there’s a zip garage at the top to prevent it catching. The top can be zipped up beyond the chin, to provide extra face cover, and the thin hood, designed to go under helmets supplies more protection. 

Other than it's popularity, our only real complaint is there are no thumb loops to help keep the sleeves in place when you pull on a shell layer. 

The best value fleece jacket for winter

Alpkit Yakutian Jacket fleece jacket

With a wind-resistant outer fabric, this jacket works well as both a mid layer and an outer layer (Image credit: Alpkit)
The best value fleece jacket for winter

Specifications

Fabric: 225-weight hardface stretch fleece (92% polyester, 8% elastane)
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men’s): S–XXL
Sizes (women’s): UK 8–18
Weight (men’s size L): 380g / 13.4oz
Colors: Reef blue / Charcoal gray

Reasons to buy

+
More durable than most
+
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Less breathable than some fleece fabrics
-
No hand pockets
-
Cuffs and hem not elasticated

The Yakutian is a versatile fleece that can be worn as a mid layer or as an outer layer, thanks to a dense-knit hardface fabric that is designed to be much more wind resistant than standard fleece. It also adds durability, making this jacket less susceptible to pilling, as well as abrasion. "But that tough exterior doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort", according to our expert review. This is because the fabric is double-sided, retaining a brushed inner that offers warmth and good wicking abilities. You also get a deep half zip for venting, a zipped chest pocket and thumb loops at the cuffs.

On test, we found that it’s a warm, soft and comfortable jacket, thanks to elastane in the fabric that gives it plenty of stretch and flatlock seams that don’t rub. It also has good articulation, with generous length and coverage. It may sometimes prove a bit too warm since the dense fabric seems to limit breathability a little. But this is a great fleece jacket for cold and breezy conditions.

Read our full Alpkit Yakutian fleece jacket review

The best budget fleece jacket

Decathlon Quechua thin fleece jacket MH520

A great value, lightweight fleece for hiking at the end of summer (Image credit: Decathlon)

13. Quechua Thin Fleece Jacket MH520

The best budget fleece jacket

Specifications

Fabric: Recycled polyester
Gender availability: Men’s only
Sizes: S-3XL
Weight (men’s size L): 355g / 12.5oz
Colors: Storm grey & dark blue / Black & granite

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable & light
+
Zipped side pockets & inside pouches
+
Recycled material
+
Excellent price

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
No hood
-
Basic colors

The price range for fleeces is extraordinarily wide, with some eye-wateringly high. This functional fleece from Decathlon’s Quechua’s range is available for an excellent price. And, while it's a rather no-frill garment, from the prosaic product name to the colors it comes in, according to our tester "this is a great little lightweight layer to keep in a backpack in late summer", when you might need it over a T-shirt to keep the evening chill off, or as a mid layer under a windproof shell as the warmer months give way to a breezier autumn days and longer nights. There’s no hood, but it does have a high collar, which we found kept our neck warm on test. 

The fleece has a full-length zip, but do bear in mind there is no zip garage at the top, so you can catch your beard or skin in the teeth. There are two hand pockets, both of which zip shut to secure valuable items such as phones, and inside there are two cavernous mesh pouches, which will take a map and more. There is a lack of bells and whistles here, unsurprisingly given the price, but one easy addition we would like to see is a thumb loop, to avoid the sleeves riding up when you pull on a top layer. However, we will happy excuse this because, brilliantly, the entire top is made from recycled polyester.

The best budget recycled fleece jacket

Mountain Warehouse Men’s Relic Recycled Fleece Jacket

A well-designed, midweight fleece that punches above its weight in terms of thermal protection (Image credit: Mountain Warehouse)

14. Mountain Warehouse Men’s Relic Recycled Fleece Jacket

The best budget recycled fleece jacket

Specifications

Fabric: Recycled polyester
Gender availability: Men’s only
Sizes: XXS-4XL
Weight (men’s size L): 500g / 1lb 1.5oz
Colors: Black / Blue / Khaki

Reasons to buy

+
Full-length zip
+
Quick drying
+
Made from completely recycled material
+
Zipped pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
No hood
-
Men's only

This midweight fleece from British brand Mountain Warehouse works as an outer layer when conditions are dry, or as a mid layer below a waterproof coat when the clouds start to leak. If you do happen to get caught out in a shower, we found that the fleece fabric will continue to provide thermal protection even when damp, and that it dries quickly. 

The material, which is entirely recycled, is both comfortable and warm. The (poorly named in our opinion) Relic has a pair of zipped pockets on the outside, for keeping essentials such as car keys safe, and a couple of open-top fabric pouches on the inside. It has a comfortable collar, which is "high enough to keep breezes at bay" says our expert reviewer. There is no chin protector, however, and it also lacks thumb loops, but the arms have smooth panels on the outside, which means they don’t bunch up so much as others when you pull on an outer layer.

The best for warmth to weight

Mammut Innominata Light ML fleece jacket

Lightweight fleece for fall adventures and early morning starts (Image credit: Mammut)

15. Mammut Innominata Light ML

The best fleece jacket warmth to weight ratio

Specifications

Fabric: Polartec fleece (100% polyester outer with polyamide and elastane elements)
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men's): S-3XL
Sizes (women's): XS-XXL
Weight (men’s size L): 325g / 11.5oz
Colors (men's): Iguana / Ice / Black / Granite
Colors (women's): Highway / Grape / Marine

Reasons to buy

+
Great warmth for weight
+
Very packable 
+
Durable
+
Made from 100% recycled material

Reasons to avoid

-
No hood
-
Inner pouches have a hole at the bottom

This mega-light Mammut fleece is "invaluable in multiple outdoor scenarios" according to our hiking expert. Easy to carry, we found its warmth-to-weight performance ratio is off the charts, especially when worn as a mid layer, when the thermal properties of the Bluesign-certified Polar Fleece fabric really come into their own.

It has a high neck, with a full-length zip that tucks neatly into a little chin-protecting garage at the top to avoid snagging bristle, beard or skin. The cuffs and hem are elasticated, giving an improved fit and preventing drafts from getting in, and there are external thumb hook loops on the wrists, to avoid sleeves being pulled up when an outer layer is put on over the top.

The top has reinforced shoulder panels, which increase its durability when regularly worn in conjunction with a backpack. It has two hand pockets on the outside, both of which zip shut, and there are a couple of large pouches on the inside, big enough to stash a sheet map or even a bottle of water. The polar fleece fabric is made from entirely recycled material, so the eco creds of this top are superb.

The best recyclable fleece jacket

BAM 73 Zero Recycled Fleece Jacket

The BAM 73 Zero is made from recycled materials and BAM will take care of recycling it for you when it's reached the end of its natural life (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
The best recyclable jacket

Specifications

Fabric: Recycled polyester
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men's): S-XL
Sizes (women's): XS-L
Weight (men's size L): 605g / 21oz
Colors (men's): Nimbus / Swamp
Colors (women's): Peppermint / Heron blue

Reasons to buy

+
Super cozy
+
Large pockets
+
Excellent eco credentials
+
Stylish

Reasons to avoid

-
No thumb loops
-
Relatively bulky
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No hood option
-
Hem can't be tightened

The Zero in the name here refers to the garment’s environmental impact, not its size - this is actually a pretty chunky fleece. While it might be a stretch to claim that its manufacture has no effect on the environment at all, it is a ‘circular’ garment [external link], as it's made entirely from recycled materials and at the end of its useful life it can be recycled again (BAM will look after that process if you send it to them). All of which is impressive, as is the performance of the fleece, which our reviewer rated highly. 

It can be used as a warm outer top in dry weather all year, or as a mid layer in winter, but if you’re planning to wear it beneath a waterproof shell you’ll need an outer jacket with a generous cut, because it is bulky (not a criticism, just an observation). The massive upside of this is the enormous level of thermal protection it offers.

The BAM 73 Zero has a weather-resilient and hard wearing outer finish, and a brushed inner for extra fluffy comfort. The full-length zip extends into a high, draft-excluding collar, that keeps breezes out brilliantly. 

There are no thumb loops on the sleeves, which is a bit annoying if and when you do try and get an outer layer on over the top of it, and when you’re wearing gloves and want to avoid accidently leaving bare skin exposed. You can’t tighten the sleeves or main hem, either, and we think the addition of a cord and toggle on the waist in particular would be good – to prevent the top riding up and letting cold air in when you’re hiking with a backpack. 

There are three pockets on the outside of this fleece – two hand pockets and one on the left breast – all with zips. All three are really generously proportioned – big enough, for example, to take a large smartphone. And on the inside there are two enormous pouches that would easily fit sheet maps. Overall, this is an excellent fleece that’s gentle on the planet but offers plenty of protection and comfort. It’s also available in a gilet style. 

The best fleece jacket for ethical production

Sherpa Rolpa fleece jacket

This lightweight, full-zip fleece looks and feel great, with stylish details that work for everyday use and outdoor wear (Image credit: Sherpa)
The best fleece jacket for ethical production

Specifications

Fabric: 100-weight polyester microfleece
Gender availability: Men's and women's
Sizes (men’s): S-XXL
Sizes (women's): XS-XL
Weight (men’s size L): 312g / 11oz
Colors: Potala red / Raja blue / Neelo blue

Reasons to buy

+
Super soft fabric 
+
Quality construction and finishing
+
Stylish details
+
Ethically made

Reasons to avoid

-
Provides only modest warmth 
-
Cuffs and hem not elasticated

According to our expert tester, "the Rolpa is a stylish crossover layer that you can take on the hills but also wear as part of an everyday wardrobe". As a lightweight fleece, it doesn’t deliver huge amounts of warmth, but is the ideal jacket to throw on over a base layer for hillwalking or over a T-shirt for daily wear. On test, we found it to be extremely soft and it's also comfortable all day long. The full zip has a soft chin guard with a classy leather and brass pull-tab zipper. The zipped hand pockets also have cord pulls and a taped ‘prayer flag’ trim, which is also found inside the base of the collar. 

The fit of the Rolpa jacket is spot on, with a slim silhouette but enough length in the arms and torso for full coverage. The panel construction also thoughtfully places seams away from the tops of the shoulders for added comfort under a shell, or if wearing a pack. Best of all, however, is the fact that the Rolpa is actually made in Nepal, with the brand providing education and resources for children in Nepal for every product sold.

Read our full Sherpa Rolpa Jacket review