How to choose the right fleece for you

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:

  • Repels water
  • 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
  • Machine washable
  • Capable of drying quickly
  • Comfortably soft without being itchy
Stay warm wearing fleeceStay warm wearing fleece
Stay warm wearing fleece

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:

  • Significantly warmer
  • A better insulator
  • More comfortable and breathable
  • Heavyweight

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.

Nu Fleece

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.

Look good wearing fleece in the outdoorsLook good wearing fleece in the outdoors
Look good wearing fleece in the outdoors

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.

Hike fleece

Fleece is a must have addition to your hiking gear. Here are a few you should consider before your next mission into the mountains:

Travel fleece

You’ll want an appropriate travel fleece for your next overseas adventure. From travelling by air to exploring city streets, a few of these will see you right:

Everyday fleece

Some fleece is meant for everyday use. Here's a good all-rounder you can wear comfortably in a variety of situations:

Find the right fleece for you