15 Best Fleece Jackets For Hiking And Backpacking

In cooler climates, or during the cooler months of Fall, Winter or Spring it is time to dig all your warm layers out of your closet. In addition to performance base layers, fleece jackets are an important part of an effective layering system. Fleece jackets are excellent mid-layers because they are very warm for the weight, wick moisture away from your body, are breathable, and dry quickly if they do get damp. In many cold conditions, you can get away with a base layer, a fleece jacket, and a hardshell jacket on top. They are one of my favorite items of clothing to wear hiking.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of fleece jackets and hoodies out there. So, where does one begin? Our team spent countless hours of research looking at the best jackets by the best brands. We also visited several stores to try on and test out all the best options. In this article, we have identified the newest and best fleece jackets for hiking and backpacking that you can buy right now. As always, our focus is fixated on top quality, performance, and superb value. Hiking Daily seeks out the best hiking gear.

For cooler weather hiking clothes, check out our complete guide to Fall hiking outfits, and winter hiking outfits.

The Fleece JacketsWhy BuyWhere To Buy
Patagonia Better SweaterBest overall for the casual hiker, best customer ratingCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Patagonia (MEN | WOMEN)
Patagonia Classic Retro-XBest windproof fleeceCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Patagonia (MEN | WOMEN)
Arc’teryx KyaniteMost durable/high performanceCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Arc’teryx (MEN | WOMEN)
Outdoor Research VigorBest for athletic power hikersCheck Outdoor Research (MEN | WOMEN)
Arc’teryx Delta LTBest lightweight fleece jacketCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Arc’teryx (MEN | WOMEN)
REI Co-op TrailsmithBest value, most affordable fleece jacketCheck REI (MEN | WOMEN)
Patagonia Retro PileThickest, softest, warm, and ultra-comfortCheck Patagonia (MEN | WOMEN)
Cotopaxi TecaSuper cool, modern, bright colors, DWR finishCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Cotopaxi (MEN | WOMEN)
North Face Denali 2Iconic fleece jacket with DWR finishCheck REI Price (MEN | WOMEN)
Check Backcountry (MEN | WOMEN)
Jack Wolfskin Hydro Grid FleeceStretchy and breathable fleece with a hoodCheck Jack Wolfskin (MEN | WOMEN)
The best fleece jackets and hoodie for hiking and backpacking

Top features to look for in a fleece jacket

Not all fleece jackets are equal. These are the top features to consider.

Insulation, warmth and heat retention

Many fleece jackets do not provide as much warmth as you may be led to think. It is very important to examine the technical specifications of a jacket. Some jackets advertise grams/m² which indicates the general weight (heavy vs lightweight) of the fleece. A windproof or wind-resistant fleece jacket will be warmer.

Windproof or wind-resistance

Fleece jackets are not really known to be windproof, and perhaps quite the opposite in most cases. This is why you should always carry a lightweight windproof and waterproof jacket in your hiking daypack. However, some do offer wind resistance or windproofing.


Most fleece jackets are made of a high percentage of polyester or 100% polyester, and possibly recycled polyester. Some jackets will have a low percentage of spandex that offers extra mobility. Others will use some nylon to provide extra durability.

Breathability + moisture wicking + thermal efficiency

Generally speaking, thicker heavier fleece will not breathe as well and lighter weight fleece layers will breathe more. You will also find some fleece jackets that have a grid pattern construction to the material. This helps improve breathability and moisture-wicking, and thus better management of body temperature.


Mobility is a very important feature for hikers or backpackers that are carrying a backpack or who move quickly on the trails. Look for articulated patterning and gusseted underarms for extra mobility. Another factor is the overall fit. Fleeces that are a wider fit or heavier in weight can reduce overall mobility when worn under a hardshell jacket. We recommend a trim fit that falls at the hip in length. You might want to order a couple of options and compare how they feel and just return what is less comfortable. A small percentage of spandex will also increase mobility.

Collar vs Hoodie

A collared fleece jacket is a bit more comfortable and easier to layer underneath other jackets. A hooded fleece jacket (aka fleece hoodie) is a good option for extra warmth, especially for those times you forget a warm hat. Some of our top picks are available in both styles.

Zippered pockets

Most jackets will have hand pockets to keep warm or to stash small items. Others will include chest pockets which are handy to stash things like phones or keys.

Wind flaps (zipper covers)

High winds find their way through zipper areas. Look for a fleece jacket that has wind flaps to keep the wind out and to stay warm


Some people like thumbholes or thumb loops to keep sleeves from bunching up and to keep the wrists fully covered. Thumbholes are handy when taking off or putting on layers.

Best fleece jackets for men and women

Okay, now that we know all about the features, let’s now take a look at our top picks! Each jacket is awesome for its own reason or purpose. We only recommend the best of the best.

1) Patagonia Better Sweater fleece jacket – Men | Women

The Better Sweater is the most popular fleece jacket made by Patagonia. Today, it is the most sought-after fleece jacket in the world along with our next top pick, which is also made by Patagonia. For years, Patagonia has led this product category. And for good reason. The designs are super comfortable and functional. The Better Sweater fleece jacket is warm but not bulky so you can wear a windproof/waterproof shell over it with ease. This jacket is available in 11 colors.

  • 10-oz 100% recycled polyester fleece
  • The full-zip jacket is optimal for temperature regulation
  • Stand up collar
  • Raglan sleeves for the best mobility, also work better with backpacks
  • Two front zippered hand pockets, one zippered chest pocket
  • Flat-seam construction reduces bulk and the potential of chafing
  • Fair Trade Certified sewn
  • 638 grams in weight

The Better Sweater is also available in a hoodie version (Men’s | Women’s) and a lightweight jacket version (Men’s | Women’s).

2) Patagonia Classic Retro-X fleece jacket – Men | Women

If you want a warmer and windproof fleece jacket for colder weather then definitely take a look at the Patagonia Classic Retro-X fleece jacket. This fleece is available in 6 different colors.

  • ¼ inch pile polyester (50% recycled) bonded sherpa fleece (thicker, fluffy fleece)
  • Windproof jacket keeps you warm
  • Full zipper with internal wind flap
  • Vertical chest zippered pocket to stash keys or phone
  • Two hand warmer zippered pockets
  • Y-Joint sleeves for maximum mobility
  • HeiQ Fresh odor control
  • Hip length jacket
  • 774 grams in weight

3) REI Co-op Trailsmith Fleece Jacket – Men | Women

A classic fleece jacket that is an updated version of the 1992 Trailsmith fleece. If you are looking for a good quality yet affordable fleece layer, this is the jacket to get.

  • Classic relaxed fit
  • Polartec: 80% recycled polyester / 20% polyester microfleece
  • 2 zippered hand pockets, and 1 zippered chest pocket
  • Full zip jacket with wind flap
  • 453 grams in weight

4) Arc’teryx Kyanite AR jacket – Men | Women

The Kyanite by Arc’teryx is a versatile, warm, durable, and high-performance fleece jacket. Use as a mid-layer in cold weather or as a standalone jacket in moderate temperatures. Note, this is what is referred to as a hard face fleece jacket, meaning it is not soft and fluffy on the outside.

  • POLARTEC Synthetic fleece with stretchDurable abrasion-resistant nylon face
  • Amazing moisture wicking
  • Air-permeable design
  • Excellent mobility, 4-way stretchy fabric, articulated pattern, and gusseted arms
  • Hip length, slight drip hem
  • Trim fit makes layering comfortable
  • Mid-length collar keeps the wind out and layers with ease
  • Internal laminated pocket with zipper
  • No-slip front full zipper
  • Two hand pockets
  • 380 grams (men’s), 240 grams (women’s)

Kyanite hoodie version: Check Arc’teryx Men | Women and check REI: Men | Women

5) Outdoor Research Vigor full zip hoodie fleece jacket – Men | Women

The Vigor fleece jacket by Outdoor Research is lighter in weight and a more athletic fleece jacket for power hikers or trail runners. It is available in 5 colors.

  • Grid-back fleece efficiently wicks sweat
  • 94% polyester, 6% spandex
  • Breathable fabric
  • 3-panel hood is fantastic on a cold day
  • Two zipper hand pockets
  • One security chest zipper pocket
  • Thumbholes help keep sleeves from bunching up
  • 340 grams

The Outdoor Research Vigor fleece is also available as a quarter zip (Men’s | Women’s) or half zip (Men’s). Plenty of options!

6) Arc’teryx Delta LT jacket – Men | Women

If you are looking for a lightweight, high-performance fleece jacket, then go for the Arc’teryx Delta LT jacket. This jacket is super versatile, thermally efficient, and quick-drying for those that work hard. This is the perfect layer for under a hardshell jacket.

  • 100% polyester Polartec Classic 100 Micro Velour Small Grid fabric
    • 152 g/m²
  • Highly breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Gusseted underarms
  • Low profile high collar keeps you warm
  • No-slip front full zipper
  • The main front zipper has “speed bumps” near the collar to prevent the jacket from self-opening
  • Laminated sleeve zipper pocket
  • Two hand pockets with zippers
  • Slight drop hem
  • 265 grams (men’s), 215 grams (women’s)

The Delta LT is also available in a hoodie version. Men’s | Women’s

7) Kuhl Dynawool Skuba Hoody – Men | Women

This is a very unique fleece hoody that has a high customer rating. It is different from the others in that it has some wool in the fabric and has a cool scuba-style hood.

  • Premium Italian dynawool powerflex fleece
    • 72% polyester, 23% wool, 5% spandex
    • 272 grams/m²
  • Scuba style hood for extra protection and warmth
  • Excellent temperature regulation
  • Wicks moisture and is breathable
  • Wind-resistant
  • Slim athletic fit (size up if you are unsure)
  • Articulated sleeves improve mobility
  • Thumb loops

8) Patagonia Retro Pile fleece jacket – Men | Women

This is the best pick for the easy-going and casual hiker that wants to stay super warm and comfortable.

  • 8.7-oz Polartec 100% recycled polyester double-sided fleece
  • Full-length zipper
  • Stand up collar
  • Raglan sleeves for full range shoulder mobility
  • Spandex cuffs and hems are comfortable on your skin
  • Flat-seam construction minimizes bulk and chafing
  • Fair Trade Certified sewn
  • 680 grams in weight

The Retro Pile fleece is also available in a hoodie version for women.

9) Cotopaxi Teca fleece jacket – Men | Women

If you are looking for a cool and colorful fleece jacket that is more affordable the Cotopaxi Teca is a great option for you. Like the Patagonia fleece jackets, it is a sustainably-minded option that is made from extra material that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. The Teca is available in 5 colors but they rotate often since they are constructed of remnant fabric.

  • 100% recycled polyester
  • DWR finished
  • Full zipper jacket
  • Two hand pockets
  • Elastic binding for hems and cuffs

10) North Face Denali 2 Jacket – Men | Women

Next to Patagonia, North Face are some of the most popular fleece jackets. The Denali 2 is an iconic mid-weight jacket by North Face that offers warmth (333 g/m²) and some wind and weather resistance.

  • 100% recycled polyester
  • DWR finish for weather resistance
  • Durable (nylon) reinforced shoulders, chest, and forearms
  • Two chest pockets, and two hand pockets
  • Hem cord to keep the wind out
  • Stretchy cuffs
  • Relaxed fit

11) Jack Wolfskin Hydro Grid Fleece – Men | Women

This fleece really does it all – wear it as an outer layer in mild weather, as a base or mid layer in cold weather, and it also looks cool around town with a slim-cut Euro fit. The fabric is not just lightweight but also stretchy and breathable with some heat retention. The contrasting zipper colors are a nice detail.

  • 96% polyester, 4% elastane for stretch
  • 100% PFC-free DWR finish
  • 2 hand pockets, chest pocket
  • Fixed hood
  • European fit

Best fleece jackets for kids

If you have kids then you should definitely get them a fleece jacket as well to keep them cozy on cool days.

1) Patagonia Better Sweater Jacket For Kids (Boys’ | Girls’)

This is the best fleece jacket for kids. It will keep them warm all day long. The materials and features are the same as the adult version. It is available in a quarter zip version but we do not recommend that for kids. They are more challenging to put on and take off. Plus, kids are generally warm and so a full zip allows for better and more controlled ventilation.

The Better Sweater Jacket is also available at REI (Boy’s | Girl’s).

2) Patagonia Retro Pile Jacket (Boys‘)

Another of our top picks for adults is also available for boys. This is a fluffy high pile jacket.

3) Patagonia Los Gatos Fleece Hoody (Girls’)

This is a great option for girls that is similar to the Retro Pile jacket. The Lost Gatos is a super versatile, ultra-soft fleece jacket with a hood and pockets to keep hands warm.

  • 100% recycled polyester
  • Full zipper version for easy on easy off
  • Hoodie style

The Lost Gatos fleece hoody is also available at REI.

4) North Face Glacier Full-Zip Fleece Hoodie (Boys‘ | Girls‘)

This is a very good and affordable fleece hoodie for kids and is known for its durability.

  • 100% polyester
  • Pill-resistant fleece
  • Full length zipper in front
  • Two hand pockets to keep warm
  • Lightweight fleece

5) REI Co-op Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket For Kids

This is another affordable mid-weight fleece jacket for kids. It is available in blue or purple color and is super soft and plush.

  • 100% polyester
  • Classic half-zip style
  • Warm hand pockets

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