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Best women’s fleece jackets: the winter warmers for a variety of outdoor activities

The best women’s fleece jackets
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cold weather layers don’t come comfier than a good old fleece. The best women’s fleece jackets are versatile, warm and lightweight, making them an essential addition to any hiker’s, climber’s or outdoor lover’s wardrobe. 

Technically, we’re talking about Polar fleece here, made with polyester, as opposed to the kind of fleece harvested from sheep. Polar fleece is a relatively modern material, and was first created in the USA by Malden Mills, founder of Polartec (opens in new tab), in 1979. It was an instant hit with walkers, campers, canoeists and climbers, as it’s naturally hydrophobic, barely retaining water when wet and making it very quick to dry. It also maintains its thermal properties even when wet, keeping the wearer warm in all conditions. It does not withstand wind well, however – if you’re out in the elements, a fleece is best used worn over a base layer and under a waterproof jacket .

We’ve picked the best fleece jackets for women on the market, suitable for different sports and outdoor activities and including lightweight, slimmer mid layers as well as well thicker jackets ideal used as outerwear on still but chilly days (feel free to check out best fleece jackets for men too). Our buying guide below also explains what features to look for in a fleece jacket, including how to make your purchase a more eco-friendly one. 

How we test the best women's fleece jackets

Our female reviewers test women’s fleece jackets in a range of environments and conditions, both as a midlayer and an outer layer. Features (including thermal properties, style, breathability, materials, comfort, pockets, hoods, zips) are tested against claims made by the brand, and we assess factors such as value for money, durability, functionality and environmental impact.

The best women’s fleece jackets with hoods

The best women’s fleece jackets: Fjällräven Övik Fleece Hoodie

(Image credit: Fjällräven)

Fjällräven Övik Fleece Hoodie

Our top pick of the hooded fleeces is Fjällräven’s tough, knitted Övik, a very versatile cold-weather layer to have handy

Specifications

RRP: $200 (US) / £150 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 460g / 1lb
Sizes: XXS / XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL
Colors: Deep Forest / Dark Grey / Navy
Compatibility: Brilliant as a mid or outer layer all winter long

Reasons to buy

+
Well-designed hood
+
Traps in warmth well
+
Recycled materials
+
Reinforced elbows
+
Smart knitted exterior

Reasons to avoid

-
You may need to size up

Fjällräven have elevated the simple hoodie to design the rather covetable Övik (opens in new tab), a warm but breathable fleece jacket that could easily become your new go-to mid layer, outdoors and in. 

Made with recycled polyester, it sports a soft-touch inner layer that feels lovely against the skin and a bobble-resistant outer layer with a knit-like finish that looks smarter than your average fleece. We found the Övik one of the warmest fleece jackets we tested despite its middling weight, making it ideal for winter camps or climbing, where you’re likely to have resting moments between bursts of activity. 

The cosy hood and high neck are adjustable for a snug, heat-trapping fit, and we like the generously sized zipped pockets and the reinforced elbows, ideal for working outdoors. Go for a size up if you want to wear multiple layers with the Övik.

The best women’s fleece jackets: Páramo Women’s Alize Fleece

(Image credit: Páramo)

Páramo Women’s Alize Fleece

Get warmth without weight or bulk with this breathable and velvety soft fleece mid layer

Specifications

RRP: $141 (US) / £106 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 325g / 11.5oz
Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL
Colors: Indigo Blue / Green
Compatibility: Brilliant as part of a layering system for fast-paced sports

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable
+
Great warmth-to-weight ratio
+
Water-resistant
+
Recyclable through Páramo

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit’s on small side
-
No recycled material used

Is it a fleece? Is it a mid layer? This soft and almost velvety fleece jacket combines the warmth of fleece with a thin and lightweight profile, fitting under more form-fitting jackets or even another fleece with ease. 

Páramo reckon the Alize offers, “warmth, water-repellence, wind-resistance, breathability and comfort in one soft, stretchy hoodie”. We’d have to agree – this is a high-performing, adventure-ready mid layer. It is also one of the most breathable fleeces we tested, so it’s ideal for fast-paced sports where you might work up a sweat. 

Despite its light weight this jacket offers instant, welcome warmth and traps in heat while still letting your body breathe, and five pockets and a hood designed to fit under a helmet make this a very versatile pick for climbers and cyclists. That soft outer material is water repellent, and will withstand light rain. 

While we like the slim cut of the Alize, we would suggest ordering a size up, as the fit is on the small side.

The best women’s fleece jackets: Montane Women’s Protium Fleece Hoodie

(Image credit: Montane)

Montane Women’s Protium Fleece Hoodie

Our pick of the pack for mountain forays is the stretchy, warm and breathable Protium

Specifications

RRP: $87 (US) / £65 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 320g / 11.3oz
Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL
Colors: Green / Orange / Black / Grey
Compatibility: Ideal for hiking, wild camping and skiing

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable
+
Great stretch for easy movement
+
Handy chest pocket

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited sizes available
-
No recycled material used

Are you a mountain lover? We haven’t found a better fleece to pack in your backpack than Montane’s Protium. It hits the sweet spot for the hills – it’s warm but breathable, slim enough to fit under jackets and backpacks and boasts a great hood you can wear under a helmet. 

We love the separate inner collar to keep heat trapped in, whether or not you wear the hood, and the zipped chest pocket, which is easy to access even if you’re wearing a backpack or a climbing harness. The grid-pattern fleece is stretchy enough to feel comfortable to hike, climb or even run in all day long thanks to added Elastane. 

The Protium is a Montane bestseller for a reason and sits at a good price point, although it’s a pity there aren’t more sizes available. 

The best women’s fleece jackets: thick and warm

The best women’s fleece jackets: Craghoppers Tyrell Fleece

(Image credit: Craghoppers)

Craghoppers Tyrell Fleece

Bright and beautiful unisex fleece with a handy hood – a stylish, wear-anywhere all-rounder

Specifications

RRP: $80 (US) / £60 (UK)
Gender specificity: Unisex
Weight: 755g / 1lb 10.6oz
Sizes: S / M / L / XL / 2XL
Colors: Avalanche Blue / Winter Lagoon
Compatibility: Great for walks and for casual use as an outer jacket

Reasons to buy

+
Zipped pockets
+
Fun print
+
Recycled materials

Reasons to avoid

-
Too bulky to layer
-
Only half-zip

The Tyrell is as cozy as it looks – pull on this hooded, half-zip fleece and you’ll want to live in it all winter. While Craghoppers call it a mid layer, the thick Borg fleece (Borg is a synthetic, shearling-like lining that adds warmth to fleece) and large hood of the Tyrell make it better suited as an outer layer worn on crisp clear days. 

The fleece is recycled using 25 bottles for eco brownie points, and two generous zipped pockets hold a phone and other essentials. While this unisex design is on the boxy side, the adjustable hem and elasticated cuffs trap in heat nicely and create instant warmth. 

We love the bright and bold zigzag pattern of the Tyrell, which looks cheerful on the greyest of winter days.

The best women’s fleece jackets: Patagonia Women’s Woolyester Fleece Pullover

(Image credit: Patagonia)

Patagonia Women’s Woolyester Fleece Pullover

Wool meets fleece in a match made in heaven in this smart and sustainable pullover

Specifications

RRP: $160 (US) / £120 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 442g / 15.6oz
Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL
Colors: Blue / Grey / Navy / Red
Compatibility: A wear-anywhere mid layer – as long as you stick a long-sleeve base layer underneath it

Reasons to buy

+
Super versatile design
+
Warm
+
Mostly recycled material 

Reasons to avoid

-
Wool can be itchy against bare skin

When the clocks change and the nights draw in, a warm, thick fleece is a must – and one of our go-to favorites on chilly days is Patagonia’s Woolyester pullover. 

As the name suggests, Patagonia’s clever Woolyester fleece material combines recycled sheep wool with synthetic materials to make a delightfully cosy fleece that uses 68% recycled fabrics in total. This pullover is a shade smarter than your average fleece, with jumper-like looks – we love the elasticated cuffs, the high neck and the classic colorways on offer, and the Woolyester’s neutral design and colorways make it great for daily use. 

The pullover fits under roomier waterproofs nicely, and looks as good with jeans as it does with walking trousers. The only downside is that the Woolyester jumper can feel a little itchy against bare skin because of its wool content, so it’s best worn over a long-sleeve base layer. A full zip version is also available. 

The best women’s fleece jackets: 66˚North Tindur Fleece

(Image credit: 66˚North)

66 North Tindur Fleece

A high-performing technical fleece with enough stretch to keep you moving comfortably

Specifications

RRP: $300 (US) / £225 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 600g / 1lb 5oz
Sizes: S / M / L / XL / 2XL
Colors: Tree / Blue Sea / Black
Compatibility: Ideal for winter sports and mountain adventures

Reasons to buy

+
Great freedom of movement
+
Lovely quality
+
Layers easily under a jacket

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Too slim to fit more than a base layer underneath
-
No recycled material used

66 North’s Tindur fleece jacket is brilliant for keeping your torso warm without any compromising on freedom of movement. Whether you’re mountaineering, climbing or skiing, this jacket’s clever combination of fleece material and stretchy panels allows for great flexibility, and the slim cut fits brilliantly under a waterproof jacket if the weather does close in. 

Three zipped pockets, including a handy chest pocket, are great for stashing valuables, and we like the high-cut neck, which adds welcome warmth. The stretch element to this jacket really traps in body heat on icy days, too, and stops it riding up as you hike. 

Is the Tindur worth the steep price tag? We’d say yes – if you’re a winter sports enthusiast who plans to use it as a mid layer all winter long. Otherwise, its technical design is overkill for casual use. 

The best women’s fleece jackets: lightweight

The best women’s fleece jackets: The North Face Women’s 100 Glacier Full-zip Fleece

(Image credit: The North Face)

The North Face Women’s 100 Glacier Full-zip Fleece

A simple and slim-cut fleece mid layer that sits nicely under backpacks and jackets, made from 100% recycled materials

Specifications

RRP: $87 (US) / £65 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 215g / 7.6oz
Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL
Colors: Silver Blue / Regal Red / TNF Black / Gardenia White / Gravity Purple / Thyme / Faded Rose / Emberglow Orange
Compatibility: Works well as a mid layer for spring hiking and climbing

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek and simple cut
+
Recycled material
+
Works well under a backpack
+
Smart colors available

Reasons to avoid

-
Neck is cut wide

The North Face keep it simple with this classic, fuss-free fleece. The Glacier is super-soft to touch, has a flattering feminine cut and holds its shape after multiple washes. 

The slim cut of the Glacier makes it ideal for use as a mid layer, and it’s also comfortable to wear under backpacks and harnesses when you’re in the mountains. Two zipped pockets hold essentials on the go. Our only criticism of the design of the Glacier is that the neck is cut on the wide side, and doesn’t help to trap in body heat when fully zipped up as other, snugger designs can. 

That said, if you’re after a classic and affordable fleece mid layer, this is a quality choice, and one that’s made with 100% recycled polyester. A half-zip pullover jacket version is also available, and both come in a range of lovely neutral colors. 

The best women’s fleece jackets: Next Elements Cosy Borg Zip Jacket

(Image credit: Next)

Next Elements Cosy Borg Zip Jacket

Great for casual wear on chilly days – you may find it hard to take this cozy-as-anything retro fleece off

Specifications

RRP: $51 (US) / £38 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 355g / 12.5oz
Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL / 2XL / 3XL
Colors: Khaki Green & Black / Pink & Blue / Navy & Green
Compatibility: Casual use for hiking, cold-weather camping and day-to-day wear

Reasons to buy

+
Super soft fleece
+
Comfortable longer-length boxy fit
+
Great looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Not heavy-duty enough for proper cold conditions
-
No recycled material used

Retro-styled fleece jackets have become a bit of a fashion favorite in recent months – and if you want to get in on the old-school action, we love Next’s new Elements Borg jacket. 

This longer-length, oversized fleece jacket sports quilted sleeves and comes in various bright colorways – but this fleece isn’t just a pretty face. It’s also super comfortable to wear, and sports the softest lining of all the jackets we tested, with Borg material sewn in for added warmth. 

If comfort is top of your shopping list, this is a lovely jacket to sling on at home or on dog walks in dry cold weather, and the generous cut makes it easy to wear multiple layers beneath it. That said, the Elements Borg is not quite warm enough to work on icy winter days – save it for use as an outer layer in fall, spring and sunnier winter days. 

The best women’s fleece jackets: budget choice

The best women’s fleece jackets: Regatta Women’s Sweethart Lightweight Half-Zip Fleece

(Image credit: Regatta)

Regatta Women’s Sweethart Lightweight Half-Zip Fleece

This simple and effective fleece mid layer is smart, comfortable and cheap as chips

Specifications

RRP: $30 (US) / £25 (UK)
Gender specificity: Women’s
Weight: 257g / 9oz
Sizes: 10 / 12 / 14 / 16 / 18 / 20 / 22 / 24 / 26
Colors: Polar Bear Parchment / Ice Blue / Blackcurrant / Light Steel / Fig / Dark Cerise / Tigerlilly Orange
Compatibility: Layer under jackets on warmer winter days

Reasons to buy

+
Slim fit is great for layering
+
Good longer-length cut
+
Smart colorways

Reasons to avoid

-
Offers limited warmth
-
No pockets 
-
No recycled material

Regatta knock it out of the park when it comes to value for money with this bargain fleece. The Sweethart is girly only in name – this is a smart, slim-fit, fleece top available in a range of neutral colors and with a good plus-size range to choose from. 

We like the comfortable zipped neck and the longer cut, which sits nicely around the hips and doesn’t ride up when you walk. This isn’t a thick fleece, but it makes a brilliantly cosy mid-layer on mild days, and that slim fit is ideal for wearing underneath your more form-fitting waterproof jackets and jerseys, and for layering up for sports such as cycling where you want to add a bit of warmth without extra bulk.

What to look for when buying the best women’s fleece jackets

Best women’s fleece jackets

If you’re going to be lugging around a heavy pack make sure your fleece is comfortable under the straps (Image credit: Getty images)

Design

Fleece is a pretty versatile fabric – as we explain in our what is fleece? article – and you’ll find lots of different incarnations of the classic fleece jacket available for women, including zipped jackets, pullovers, gilets and hoodies. They come in different weights too: lightweight, thin fleeces work best as part of a layering system, whilst thick, chunky fleeces can be worn alone as outerwear. If you’re going for a thicker jacket-style fleece, look for Borg fleeces, which have an insulating shearling-like synthetic lining for added warmth. Whatever jacket you choose, we recommend picking a design with zipped pockets, a high-cut neck and, ideally, an adjustable hem and cuffs to help trap in body heat. 

Fit

You’ve got two options when it comes to the fit of your fleece – you can either go slim and streamlined or oversized. If you’re planning on wearing your fleece under a waterproof jacket, we’d recommend picking a lightweight, form-fitting jacket or pullover that hugs your body. If you want a fleece layer you can wear on its own as a coat, a thicker, heavier zipped hoodie or jacket is your most versatile bet. Make sure there’s no restriction of movement when you stretch your arms in your new jacket, and that it doesn’t ride up as you move. 

Eco credentials

Fleece is a purely synthetic fibre, so if you’re vegan or want to avoid insulated jackets stuffed with animal down it’s a great option (see also: the best vegan footwear). However, the fabrication process of brand-new fleece isn’t particularly great for the environment. The good news is that it’s very long-lasting, meaning you can minimize your impact by buying a good fleece jacket that won’t need replacing for many years. 

Even better, keep an eye out for more eco-friendly recycled fleeces – find out more in our guide to finding eco-friendly gear – which are typically made from old garment material or from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Some brands such as Páramo will also recycle your used fleece for you at the end of its life. 

We’ve marked the mid-layers on our list that are recycled and reckon they’re always worth choosing over newly-minted fleece. Any fleece you buy should last you for years of regular use, but do take care when washing fleece – polyester is flammable, so do not iron or tumble dry and only dry naturally or on radiators on a low heat.

An award-winning travel and outdoors journalist, presenter and blogger, Sian regularly writes for The Independent, Evening Standard, BBC Countryfile, Coast, Outdoor Enthusiast and Sunday Times Travel. Life as a hiking, camping, wild-swimming adventure-writer has taken her around the world, exploring Bolivian jungles, kayaking in Greenland, diving with turtles in Australia, climbing mountains in Africa and, in Thailand, learning the hard way that peeing on a jellyfish sting doesn’t help. Her blog, thegirloutdoors.co.uk, champions accessible adventures.