We thought it might be useful to give you a little information on the advantages of fleece garments and the various options available.
Fleece provides versatile clothing options for a range of outdoor situations, whether for everyday activities or more demanding pursuits, there is a fleece option that is perfect. Ideal both for layering or wearing on its own, fleece is lightweight whilst offering a thermally efficient clothing solution.
It’s simple, this material is ideal to keep you warm. It's a matted, mesh of synthetic fibres that'll provide insulation, dry out quickly, feel comfortable and it’s fairly light providing high tech jumper, trousers, gloves etc.
Conventional fleece has very little wind or water resistance, so in anything short of perfectly still conditions, you'll need to wear it with some sort of waterproof or windproof outer layer to stop the trapped warm air in the fibres from blowing away.
What Does Fleece Weight mean?
There are three nominal fleece weights.
Microfleece (100 weight) is the lightest normal fleece and the limit for many people as an undershell insulator when moving fast. It packs small and light and may be all you need except in really cool conditions.
Mid-weight / normal fleece (200 weight) is twice the weight per square metre as microfleece and is significantly warmer. Many people will find it too heavy for active use, particularly with a shell, however it's ideal for less active uses such as camping.
Heavyweight fleece (300 weight) is a heavier again and so less useful for very active pursuits, though great for hanging around in the cold.
If you are generally active, microfleece is probably the best choice, along with other layering clothing. If you plan to be fairly active but may be stationary for periods, mid-weight is a good compromise and reserve heavyweight fleece for those days and nights around the camp fire where you may need all the warmth you can get.
Essentially a fleece is a fleece right? So why pay a lot when you can pick one up at the supermarket for £10? It depends what you plan to do with your fleece - a budget fleece will keep you warm, but it won’t have the breathablility and moisture wicking properties that you’ll appreciate for more active use from a more expensive technical garment. You will also find that super-cheap fleeces will soon look and feel shabby and the fabric will start to “bobble”.
However, these days, relatively inexpensive outdoor brands are much better than they used to be and perfectly good for most activities.
A good understanding of how you should layer your garments is invaluable and will allow you to keep warm and dry. The three layering system is, at its simplest form – base layer, mid layer, shell. So this could be: technical wicking base layer, mid-layer fleece, waterproof jacket. It is important that the materials you wear are up to the job you give them, all of your clothes should be breathable to reduce sweat build ups, and they should also have good wicking properties to get moisture away from the body. The 3 layering system works as a conveyor belt would at transporting moisture away from the body – moisture wicks from the base layer to the mid layer and then to the shell.
Design and Fit
Most fleece tops are based on a simple jacket or jumper design but there are a few points you should be aware of when buying....
Snug-fit jackets will be more thermally efficient eliminating air circulation which allows heat loss - not too tight though.
Hand pockets are practical for general use, but not good to use with a backpack with belts - chest pockets won't get in the way.
An adjustable hem and close-fitting cuffs are recommended, without them air will be free to billow into and out of your top.
A warm high collar will keep your neck warm on winter days and stop an over-jacket from rubbing.
3-in-1 jackets with zip-in fleeces aren’t generally recommended for demanding outdoor use – they’re less efficient. A separate fleece with shell jacket is a better combination.