Soft, light and low on bulk, this cozy fleece makes an excellent mid layer in cold weather, or outer layer when things warm up
Warm and breathable
Lightweight and low bulk
Made with 100% recycled polyester
Gets a little stinky with active use
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Helly Hansen Daybreaker 1/2 Zip Fleece Pullover: first impressions
This no-frills pullover gets straight to the point and delivers exactly what you want from a fleece jacket: namely, warmth and breathability. For such a lightweight garment, it delivers ample warmth on cold hikes when you wear it as a mid layer with a soft shell or waterproof jacket on top, but its weight and low bulk means you can also wear it as your outer layer in the summer months for those early starts and high altitude adventures.
• List price: $60 / £55
• Gender specification: Men’s and women’s fit available
• Weight: 6.7 oz / 190 g (women’s small)
• Sizes: Men’s: S - XXL, Women’s: XS - XL
• Materials: 100% recycled polyester
• Colors: Honeycomb, Mint, Dusty Syrin, White, Jade, Black, Navy, Malachite, Cloudberry, Azurite, Deep fjord, Darkest spruce
• Best use: Hiking, camping, skiing
Made using 100% recycled polyester, this Polartec fleece is kinder on the planet, and it’s fairly budget-friendly, too. A ½ zip comes all the way up to under your chin if you need it, and means you can vent a little steam if you get sweaty on a hike, however like most synthetic garments this one does get a little smelly with active use, even when worn over a base layer. We’ve tested it on the ski slopes and hiking trails and found it’s a great shield against the cold, but it’s soft and cozy enough you’ll want to pull it on for lounging around at home, too.
Helly Hansen Daybreaker 1/2 Zip Fleece Pullover: in the field
In three months, I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of this fleece, from the hiking trails of Scotland to the ski slopes of Switzerland. Now that’s partly because my old fleece is a hideous color and a bit boxy, but mostly because this is a great performer and delivers pretty much everything I’d want and hope for in a fleece.
Here’s how it performed:
Sizing and fit
I’ve been wearing a small, which is my go-to size, and it fits to size. It’s not loose, but there’s plenty of room to wear it over a base layer, which is good because it’s not stretchy. If I were to be really picky, I’d like about a centimeter of extra room around my neck when it’s zipped all the way up. It’s not tight, but when I look down I do notice it a little more than I’d like.
With the exception of the neck being a hair’s width tighter than I’d prefer, this is an extremely soft and cozy fleece. So much so that I often wear it for lounging around the house to cut down on energy bills.
Warmth and breathability
For cold adventures, this fleece packs plenty of insulating power, but I’ve worn it for some cold and steep hikes recently with a base layer underneath and soft shell jacket on top and I can say that it’s also really breathable, so I’ll be wearing it as my outer layer come the warmer weather, though I’ll need to figure out a plan for the lack of pockets.
Weight and packability
At under seven ounces, this weighs no more than the box of macaroni and cheese that I brought backpacking last week, which is no sweat off my back at all. I haven’t needed to pack it yet, because I’ve been wearing it, but the small size rolls up to smaller than a Nalgene bottle.
Odor control and durability
Like all synthetic clothing, this one definitely grabs onto a bit of odor, even though I’ve been wearing it over a base layer. I wouldn’t say it’s the stinkiest garment I’ve tried, but it does need a wash every few hikes. After a few months of heavy use and washing, it looks pretty good with no real signs of wear and tear.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.