Helly Hansen Varde Fleece Jacket 2.0 review: mid layer or outer layer? You decide

This cozy, planet-friendly fleece holds it own as a versatile mid layer for frigid days, or as a jacket on milder hikes

Julia Clarke hiking in the Helly Hansen Varde 2.0 fleece
(Image: © Julia Clarke)

Advnture Verdict

The versatility of this cozy but surprisingly breathable fleece means you can take it with you on all manner of adventures


  • +

    Warm and breathable

  • +


  • +

    Plenty of pockets

  • +

    Smart-looking, knit-like fleece doesn’t pill

  • +

    Full zip makes it easy to pull on and off in a hurry

  • +

    Quick drying

  • +

    Certified Bluesign product made using recycled materials


  • -

    Hem isn’t adjustable

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.

Helly Hansen Varde Fleece Jacket 2.0 review: first impressions 

The classic look of this streamlined fleece jacket isn’t at all showy, and as a result its high performance may not be obvious at first glance. Wear it as a mid layer on a cold ski day or an outer layer for a shoulder-season hike, however, and we’re certain you’ll be impressed with its ability to provide ample warmth while remaining breathable. The full-zip design means it’s easy to pull on and off in changing conditions, while the knitted construction gives it a higher quality look, almost like wool, and ensures that it won’t pill with wear. 


• List price: $140 / £100
• Gender specification:  Men’s and women’s fit available
• Sizes: Men’s: S - XXL, Women’s: XS - XL
• Weight: 450g / 15 oz
• Materials:  Shell: 77% Recycled polyester, 23% Polyester; Lining: 100% Polyester
• Colors:  Triple espresso, blue fog, gray fog, black, navy, dusty syrin
• Best use: Hiking, winter sports

Long sleeves and thumb loops keep your hands cozy, or you can jam your hands into the two zipped hip pockets and stick your valuables in either one of the inner mesh pockets. This fleece doesn’t feature an adjustable hem, but the high neck keeps a cold draft out at the top end. Priced in the middle of the range of fleeces we’ve tested, we think this versatile jacket is a great investment for outdoor adventures looking for a reliable, classic piece of kit. 

Helly Hansen Varde Fleece Jacket 2.0 : in the field 

Julia Clarke hiking in the Helly Hansen Varde 2.0 fleece

With a full zip, this fleece is easy to pull on and off in changing conditions (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

I first wore this fleece on a whirlwind ski trip to Verbier this winter, where it served me well as a mid layer under my women's ski jacket on some seriously Baltic days. Since then, it’s been packed away with my ski gear, but now that the weather is warming up here in Scotland, I recently pulled it out to see how it works as an outer layer for hiking and though it’s definitely not the most stylish fleece in the world, I was impressed with its capabilities.

Here’s how it performed:

Sizing and fit 

This fleece runs a little large, I think, but I’m sure that’s because it’s designed to work as a jacket over other layers. I tested a small, which is my usual size, and it’s not exactly baggy but it is roomy and the sleeves completely cover my hands, which I don't necessarily mind. It’s slightly fitted and flares out a bit at the bottom since there is no adjustable hem.  


This is a very comfortable fleece with a super soft lining. The looser fit means it doesn’t restrict my movements anywhere and I wore it for five hours the other day without anything annoying or chafing me. It’s cozy! 

Julia Clarke hiking in the Helly Hansen Varde 2.0 fleece

The knit-like fleece looks quality and doesn't pill (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

Warmth and breathability 

As a mid layer, this fleece got me through a -19 ski day, so I have no questions about its ability to keep me warm when layered. Worn as a jacket over a base layer on a on a sunny but windy hike with an alleged high of 51F (11C), I stayed comfortable. It’s also really breathable, which I didn’t notice until I started hiking in some pretty strong winds. For the first five minutes or so before I warmed up, I was definitely noticing the breeze blowing in, but once I got warm that wasn’t an issue and I never had to take it off over eight miles of walking. 

Weight and packability

This fleece is listed as extremely lightweight, and it’s definitely light enough, but compared to other fleeces we’ve tested, it seems pretty standard. For such a cozy fleece, it’s not the bulkiest, and rolls up to a bit smaller than a rugby ball. It would therefore take up a bit of room in a daypack, but you could easily tie it round your waist. 

Odor control and durability 

Here's the thing: all fleeces get stinky when you sweat in them and I challenge you to find me one that doesn’t. That said, because this one is more of a jacket than a sweater, the underarms don’t get close to your sweaty areas and I’m pleased to report that this one doesn’t smell at all after a few uses. 

Julia Clarke

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.