If there is a fabric that defined the last half of the 20th Century, it was probably polyester. Among the order of performance outerwear fashion phylum and material genus, polyester fleece jackets remain an outdoor essential for both men and women skiers, hikers and climbers. Since the dawn of the Internet retailing age, few garments have been sold or searched more than The North Face Denali Fleece Jacket, although more than a few outdoor enthusiasts wonder why a Fleece Jacket from The North Face, Columbia, Arc'teryx or Patagonia costs significantly more than the deeply discounted $30 pullovers they can pick up with an embroidered logo at an amusement park souvenir stand.
Is there a difference besides brand name?
You bet--and you don't have to be one of the outerwear illuminati to avoid being fleeced by cheap fleece. Outdoor fleece jackets come in various weights which are specific insulating thicknesses (100-weight fleece, 200-weight, fleece and 300-weight fleece) and work best in specialized outdoor applications or defined climate conditions. If you run or backpack on cool autumn mornings, a jacket made with 100-weight Malden Mills Polar Tec Fleece is probably the right width for retaining warmth while allowing significant vapor transfer from the inside. If you're camping near the summit and hunkered down in your camping tent, nothing feels better than the extra wicking warmth of plush 300-weight fleece.
But it's not as simple as fleece weights and measures.Some outerwear companies design their fleece jackets with windproof Gore Windstopper or Polar Tech WindBloc laminates behind or between the polyester fleece fabric, giving you more insulating performance than heavier weight fleece that doesn't feature a windproof barrier. Fleece jackets with Gore Windstopper or other laminates may not offer the same degree of breathable vapor transfer found in traditional fleece designs, so it's important to consider how you'll be using your jacket before you drop it into your shopping cart.
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