A sleek and fantastically warm fleece pullover that works just as well on your morning commute as it does deep in the backcountry.
Great for many occasions
Handy chest pocket
Not suitable for strenuous activity
Not the cheapest
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.
Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece: first Impressions
The Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece is an awesome bit of kit, and definitely a contender for one of the best fleece jackets around. Sleek and functional, it’s a stripped-back version of Patagonia’s ever-beloved Better Sweater Jacket, and it can be worn to practically any event. Featuring a straight fit that doesn’t ride up when you move, it’s comfortable, warm and understated – and it does as good a job at keeping you warm on backcountry escapades as it does at keeping you looking “cool” in the office.
• List price: $129 (US) / £110 (UK)
• Weight: (Men’s medium) 17.8oz / 505g
• Sizes: Men’s XS - 3XL; women’s XXS - XXL
• Fabric: 100% recycled polyester
• Colors: Various
Unlike the Better Sweater Jacket, the Patagonia Better Sweater ¼-Zip Fleece can’t be unzipped all the way. Instead, you wear it like a normal pullover, and it features a durable zipper that can be left open for some breathability or zipped up tightly to your chin for maximum warmth.
Unlike on other zips that come up so high, however, the large YKK zip on the Better Sweater 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.
Weighing in at a touch over 17oz / 500g, the Better Sweater ¼-Zip is by no means light. But it makes up for that in practicality, as this plush little mid-layer really does do it all: It’s packable enough to toss in a hiking backpack, durable enough to survive many seasons outdoors, and under-stated enough that you can wear it day to day. Sure, layers like the Patagonia R1 Air Zip-Neck or the Rab Power Stretch Pull-On might deliver similar levels of warmth at nearly half the weight. But good luck wearing either to your next job interview…
Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece: in the field
The Patagonia Better Sweater ¼-Zip Fleece is great at a variety of sports and for use in changing conditions, you just might want to avoid wearing it during high-intensity activity at the height of summer. Designed to keep you warm in colder temperatures, it’s amazing as a mid layer on winter hikes or for use as a warming layer when sitting round the campfire in late spring.
It’s also reliably rugged and impressively durable: I’ve had mine for four years, and I’ve worn it on all sorts of hikes and wild camping escapades, as well as to an unknown number of “smarter” occasions. As I look at it now, there’s barely a thread out of place, and despite living through dozens of rough adventures, it looks pretty much as it did on the day I bought it.
Thick and comfortable, one of the things I love most about the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece is how comfortable it feels under a heavy pack. That’s thanks in a large part to the “bounce” in the material, as well as some clever design features Patagonia have implemented in production.
The sleeves, for example, aren’t stitched along the shoulder but follow your collarbone. This prevents chafing under backpack straps and stops the joins wearing down over time. The rest of the seams are also flattened, a clever design element that prevents the stitching from ever coming apart and ensures the fleece feels comfortable even when worn under a waterproof jacket.
The Better Sweater ¼-Zip Fleece also comes with a generous chest pocket, which is very handy for storing all sorts of bits and bobs. If you’re wearing it as an outer layer, it allows you to stash phones or other devices conveniently out of the way of harnesses and backpack straps and serves as a great pocket for keeping things warm when worn under a hardshell. The zip on the pocket is the same durable construction as that used on the neck, which has never snagged in the four years I’ve had mine and always opens and closes smoothly.
I’ve also been very impressed with the Better Sweater’s performance in the wind over the years. The tight-knitted outer and inner fleece do a very good job at cutting out drafts. This does mean that it’s not as breathable as other more performance-optimized mid layers, however, though I’ve never found it to be an issue even when using it on some fairly high-intensity hikes and bikepacking trips.
As with most Patagonia products, the fit is quite square and can be tough to get right. If you’ve not worn gear from Patagonia before, it’d be worth finding a store to try on a couple of sizes to get the perfect fit.
Growing up just south of the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park, Craig spent his childhood walking uphill. As he got older, the hills got bigger, and his passion for spending quality time in the great outdoors only grew - falling in love with wild camping, long-distance hiking, bikepacking and fastpacking. Having recently returned to the UK after almost a decade in Germany, he now focuses on regular micro-adventures in nearby Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, as well as frequent trips to the Alps and beyond. You can follow his adventures over on komoot, or visit www.craigtaylor.co for more info.