Originally named polar fleece when it was developed in 1979, the aim of fleece was to outdo wool. It’s become a key piece of clothing that will keep you warm and comfortable in the outdoors.
Fleece – for feeling good in bad weather
The irony of fleece is that it’s a synthetic material named after the natural fleece coat on sheep. Commonly made from polyester and recycled polyester, it’s a remarkable material given how soft and wearable it is.
Your typical fleece acts as a midlayer between your base and outer. It’s effective at trapping body heat and sustaining warmth. Fleece is an insulating fabric made from hydrophobic fibres, meaning it:
Still insulates you while not getting too heavy when wet
Advantages of wearing fleece
Fleece can be warmer than wool while offering breathability and resistance to wind. Other key benefits of choosing to wear fleece are that its:
Relatively lightweight compared to wool
Capable of drying quickly
Comfortably soft without being itchy
Consider the weight when selecting your ideal fleece
When fleece was first manufactured, garments were divided into groups according to their weight. This categorisation is still in use today and fleece continues to be described in grams per square metre (gsm).
Fleece that weighs less than 200 gsm is deemed lightweight. It can also be defined as microfleece.
Lightweight fleece offers you a high level of breathability. It’s your original midlayer. Wear it over your baselayer and under your waterproof shell.
You’ll want a microfleece for active pursuits in mild weather – ideal when you need flexibility during exercise.
Covering the middle ground of the range of fleece are the midweights. Between 200 and 300 gsm, midweight fleece has less flexibility than microfleece. It can be used as an outer layer in cooler conditions or as a midlayer when you also need a jacket and a baselayer.
Compared to lightweight fleece, midweight fleece is:
A better insulator
More comfortable and breathable
A heavyweight fleece is one that tops 300 gsm. It’s best suited in very cold weather when you’re not getting too physical.
The various looks of fleece
You have three quite different-looking types of fleece to choose between. What style of fleece suits you?
Traditional brushed fleece
Like the original polar fleece, traditional brushed fleece is what you might expect fleece to look like.
Take a look at this relatively new style of fleece and you may be surprised that it actually is fleece. It looks quite different – as the Aikman’s Lightweight Fleece Jacket shows.
High pile fleece
Normally a heavyweight with extra bulk, high pile fleece gives a kind of retro look.
Choosing a fleece for your favourite activity
One thing fleece has going for it is its versatility – it can be used for a variety of outdoor pursuits. Think about the main activities you want a fleece for and we can help you choose the right one.
Fleece is a must have addition to your hiking gear. Here are a few you should consider before your next mission into the mountains: