Best Fleece Vests – 2021 Edition
For a great all-weather garment, a fleece vest is an excellent choice to keep you warm without weighing your down. What makes fleece a great insulator is that the tight-knit traps heat within the polyester fibers to prevent your body heat from escaping. Fleece is thin and lightweight, which makes it a great garment to layer under your winter jacket or wear on its own. Plus, many are offered at a price that is incredibly affordable.
We made sure to select vests that are lightweight and come in a wide variety of sizing options to ensure you get the right fit. In this guide, we have selected some of our favorite comfy designs from trusted brands to keep you nice and cozy on your next winter adventure!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Top 10 Picks
1. Helly-Hansen Daybreaker
Shorter than expected
If anyone knows what it takes to keep you warm in extreme weather, it’s Helly Hansen. Their lineup of outdoor gear was originally made for fishermen that had to work in some pretty tough condition. Today, they use their innovative technology to create gear that is super warm, comfortable and allows for a full range of motion with working (or playing) outdoors.Read more
What we liked most about the Daybreaker is that it is made from a thicker layer of polyester fleece when compared to some of the other designs that we have seen. This thicker material is slightly heavier but works overtime to help keep you warm and comfortable.
Smart design features work to keep you comfortable and warm in extreme temperatures. It has a set of roomy hand pockets that fully zip to keep your gear protected. We also like the high collar with reinforced seams to help hold in the heat while keeping you comfortable.
If you are in the market for something that is built to keep Norweighen fishermen warm throughout the winter, this design from Helly Hansen is a great choice. It comes in a wide variety of sharp color choices that include red, black, blue, and gray, and each color choice has a pop of color around the zippers for added style.
2. The North Face Apex Bionic 2
Super soft lining
Looking for the comfort of fleece with the function of a jacket? The Apex Bionic 2 boasts an exterior shell that is wind-resistant and waterproof and hosts an interior lining made from super soft fleece. This is a great design when you really need to hold in the heat on super cold days.Read more
What we love most about this simple and lightweight design is that it is built for super cold climates. Users can wear it alone in the autumn, and the windproof shell will keep you warm and retain heat with push away the cool air. It has two deep hand pockets and a convenient zippered breast pocket.
This design is amazing in extremely cold temperatures as well. It is thin and lightweight enough that it fits perfectly under your winter jacket, and the insulating exterior shell works overtime to keep warm close to your body. If you need something for all seasons, you can’t go wrong with this design.
It’s important to note that this option is one of the most expensive designs on our list. However, the quality of materials used as well as the versatility for all seasons makes it well worth the added cost! The lining of this design is super soft and lightweight, and it is a cinch to toss it into the washing machine when needed.
3. Columbia Steens Mountain
Reputable name brand
Can shrink if not washed following instructions
The Columbia Steens Mountain vest is a real winner for anyone seeking a quality brand that knows how to produce tried and true outerwear. Thanks to the polyester fleece, this vest is comfortable, moisture-wicking, and breathable.Read more
This option comes in a variety of colors such as deep maroon, blue, grey, black, brown, green, and light brown.
This vest is built for the trail but it's versatile and can be worn on any given day.
This vest is made from 100 percent polyester, and it will keep you adequately warm on cooler nights and days outdoors. Testers and reviewers all agree that this vest is not only warm but a great layering piece as well.
4. Caterpillar Momentum
Easy to wash
Interior wire management
Zipper sticks easily
This design from Caterpillar may seem simple and straightforward, but it is packed with smart features to make your life just a little bit easier. It is made from quality materials that hold up quite well over the years, and it is a cinch to toss into the washing machine. The Momentum is a great choice to wear on its own or layer in your winter coat.Read more
It is composed of durable polyester that is able to be tossed into the washing machine as needed. What makes this design stand out from the pack is that it boasts a storm flap across the shoulder to keep you dry when hiking in soggy condition. This flap also serves as an excellent insulator as well.
The Momentum boasts deep hand pockets to store plenty of gear and a zippered breast pocket for extra storage. It boasts a drawstring at the waist that works to hold hot air inside. It even has an interior wire management system for your wired headphones and extra wired gear.
If you are in the market for something that is lightweight, comfortable, and perfect for all four seasons, this design from Caterpillar is an excellent choice. We love that it has incredibly unique quality of life features not found in some of the other brands and is made from materials that hold up quite well over the years.
5. Columbia Benton Springs
Great color options
Fits true to size
Soft and comfortable
Great for layering
Thinner than expected
Needs to be layered for optimal warmth
This addition from Columbia provides you with 250g of insulation with a classic and comfortable fit. The zippered hand pockets are not visibly noticeable and are large enough to fit most smartphones. 16 different color options available.Read more
While the breathability of this vest hasn’t been raved about, it also hasn’t been complained about. With most vests, the lack of sleeves provides comfort and breathability.
The Benton Springs vest is available in sixteen different colors! Anyone will be able to find a color that works for them and their personal style. There are hidden zippered hand pockets that can hold anything from your keys and personal items to your hands. The collar of the vest comes up around the neck to provide more warmth.
This option is nice and lightweight and also a great piece for layering. Some of the other vests on our list feature more insulation but depending on the weather and your style, less can be more.
The warmth of this vest is brought to you by 100% polyester MTR filament fleece. The fabric is soft and comfortable and machine washable.
6. The North Face Osito
Beautiful and unique color choices
Great for layering
Some say it runs slightly large/long
Colors don’t exactly match the photos
The North Face Osito vest is a stylish and comfortable vest that is offered in a wide variety of colors and sizes. It has stretchy panels on the side that give the vest a great fit. It features 350g of insulation and is a great piece for layering.Read more
The high-pile silken raschel fleece is soft on the skin and highly breathable. Although the material itself is not water-resistant, it does a decent job of keeping you warm without leaving you in a pile of sweat.
It is also easy to maintain and comes with a lifetime warranty. It is thin enough to add layers on top without worrying about bulkiness. Additionally, the vest features two zippered hand pockets.
You'll be comfortably warm in the Osito’s 350g insulation. This is a great amount of insulation for a vest. This fleece vest is made from 100% polyester fleece.
7. Flygo Puffer
Deep cargo pockets
Heavier than expected
Love a good puffer vest but still want the feel of fleece? This design from Flygo provides you with the best of both worlds! It has tough water and a wind-resistant exterior shell that is filled with soft cotton padding that works to keep you warm. The interior is lined with a super fuzzy fleece lining that feels just like your favorite throw blanket and washes up just as easily.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it boasts smart features that make your life a little easier. It has deep horizontal cargo pockets that comfortably hold all of your gear without the risk of it falling out as your travel. It even has a deep inside chest pocket that is perfect for your phone or car keys.
What makes this option stand out from the rest is that it is filled with modest cotton fill for added insulation and comfort. The puffer in the design is modest enough that you can still layer this vest under your favorite wither jacket. The fleece lining is incredibly soft and comfortable, and resistant to pilling over time.
If you are in the market for something that is made from premium materials that hold up well over time and is packed with features to make your life just a little easier, this is an excellent option. Plus, it comes in at a price point that won’t break the bank!
Zippered breast pocket
Unique color options
It’s hard to find many faults with this design from Orvis. It is composed of super soft and lightweight materials that feel like your favorite throw blanket wrapped around your chest. We love that it comes in a wide variety of unique color options, and boasts a sharp design that is bound to generate quite a few compliments!Read more
One of the very first things that we noticed about this design was the tight-knit polyester. This material is a little thinner than some of the fluffier fleece designs, but it works overtime to hold in the heat. Hikers love this Orvis design because it doesn’t weigh them down while keeping them incredibly warm!
It also has smart features that you are sure to love. It has super deep hand pockets to hold your gear and an additional zippered breast pocket for extra storage. It is composed of quality zippered with bungee cord pull tabs that are resistant to snagging and getting caught.
If you want something lightweight and cozy that will keep you warm without weighing out down, this design from Orvis is a great choice. It is important to keep in mind, however, that it comes in at a price point that is slightly higher than some of the other options that we have seen. We feel that the higher price tag is worth every penny!
9. The North Face Gordon Lyons
Great for layering
Made from sustainable and recycled materials
Sizing runs small
Limited color options
This item from the North Face is a run of the mill and dependable product. It is only available in a few colors, has three pockets, and is versatile. There aren't many wow-features about this vest, but there is also nothing majorly bad about it either. It's a nice and durable option.Read more
As with most of these vests, the fleece material is naturally breathable. The material is also moisture-wicking and quick-drying. In addition, the full-frontal zipper allows you to control the internal temperature of your vest.
This garment has three zippered pockets. There are two hand pockets and one chest pocket. This allows you to use the vest in many different situations without worrying about your belongings falling out of your pockets. It is available in three neutral colors, including khaki heather, shady blue heather, and black heather.
It features a full front zip with a collar that reaches up to the chin. Depending on the day and the climate, this vest is very versatile. It's made from a sustainable and recycled blend of polyester fleece. It has a standard fit with enough room underneath to layer. Also, it is not too thick, allowing you to easily layer over the vest as well. It is machine washable and weighs 12.7-ounces.
10. Under Armour Zephyr
Durable brushed fleece
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to the Zephyr design from Under Armour. It is composed of super lightweight yet high-performing fleece that works to keep you incredibly warm but also wicks away odors as you start to sweat. It has a super-thin frame that makes it easy to layer under your winter coat without weighing you down too much.Read more
One of the things that users really love about this design is that it is composed of smart polyester fleece materials that work to keep you warm. This brushed fleece is easy to toss into the washing machine without running the risk of peeling and fading. It is also reinforced with Scent Control technology that wicks away odors as well.
We also like that this option is packed with pockets! It has two zippered hand pockets along the side, and a roomy zippered chest pocket as well. The high collar on the Zephyr is a little higher than some of the other designs that we have seen, and it is thin enough to fold down if needed.
For those in the market for something that is thin, warm, and easy to layer, the Zephyr from Under Armour is a great choice. It is important to note that it comes in at a slightly higher price point than some of the other designs that we have seen, but we feel that it is worth every penny!
11. Tommy Hilfiger
Zippered hand pockets
If you want a perfect marriage of style and function, this design from Tommy Hilfiger is worth checking out. It is composed of plush and premium materials that are incredibly lightweight and soft and offers a styling that is perfect for running errands to running out on the trails.Read more
Users love that this design is incredibly lightweight and easy to wear all day long. It boasts a pair of hand pockets that fully zip to help keep your gear from falling out when the trail gets bumpy. It has a high and stiff collar that can be worn flipped up or flipped down as needed.
What users love most about this design is that it is incredibly easy to wear. It is loose and lightweight and doesn’t feel as stiff as some of the other designs out there on the market. While it may feel a little thinner than most, it does an excellent job of holding in the heat when the temperatures drop.
Tommy Hilfiger sportswear often boasts a pretty high price point, but this polar fleece vest is surprisingly affordable. Plus, it is made from quality materials that are able to be tossed into the washing machine and won’t wear and fade over time.
12. Port Authority
Many sizing options
Bungee cord zippers
Thinner than expected
Zipper jams easily
This design from Port Authority doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but it does offer quality materials that come in at a super affordable price point. Not only is this design affordable, but it comes in a ton of unique color options so that you don’t necessarily need to decide on just one.Read more
One thing that users love most about this option is that it is offered in a wide array of sizing options that range from extra small to 6X. This means that if you have a hard time finding sizes that fit you comfortably, or you just like your vests to fit a little loose, you are bound to find a size that fits your needs.
It has smart yet simple features that work to keep you comfortable without breaking the bank. It has a high neck collar to hold in heat and double seams that are incredibly durable over years of continued wear and washes. It is composed of 100 percent polyester and weighs in at just 13.8 ounces.
If you are in the market for something that is simple yet affordable, this option from Port Authority is a great choice. It is composed of tough materials that hold up well over the years and has simple features designed to keep you comfortable. Plus, a wide array of sizes means there is a size in this line that will fit your shape perfectly.
13. Vcansion Warm Packable
Could be more weather-resistant
This option is made for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. This vest is made to be ultra-lightweight and is also filled with down, meaning that for its weight it still offers ample weather protection and durability.Read more
The polyester fleece lining provides decent breathability. This material will absorb moisture quickly and send it to the surface to be evaporated.
The front of this vest has a zipper closure and also includes a standing collar and zippered side pockets. It feels so comfortable when you wear it, it reminds many outdoor enthusiasts of a sleeping bag, so you’ll get plenty of warmth and comfort. Vcansion designed this vest to weigh very little, so it’s very compressible and easy to pack down and take along with you when you travel. Still, even with its compact design, it still offers plenty of protection for outdoor use.
The vest is made with a 100% nylon shell, and a 90% duck down filling.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Since you’re likely to be active while you are outside wearing your fleece, breathability and ventilation are both important factors to consider.
Since you’re going to perspire while you are active and you don’t necessarily want to feel it, ventilation will be an important feature.
Older fleece vests caused sweat build-up on the inside of the material, which would usually trickle down through the rest of your body. Luckily, the options on today’s market use improved technology, fabrics, and materials to grant decent breathability.
Many vests combine different fabrics and vents to help make the breathability in the fleece easier to feel, and most vests are also made to allow sweat to escape from areas where you are more likely to sweat while keeping other areas inside the vest warm in temperatures.
Manufacturers typically modify vests and designs, adding a variety of new technologies and features as necessities for outdoor enthusiasts evolve.
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand all of the features you’ll want to consider when looking at a vest since some of the features offered aren’t necessities. However, there are some features you will want to consider when looking at your vest. These features include detachable hoods, zipper durability, pockets, and media pockets.
Another feature that makes a vest more comfortable and warm is elastic hems, a cinch cord at the waist that helps to keep the warmth inside of your vest while also keeping out wind, rain, and snow.
When selecting the right fleece for you, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying something that’s going to keep you warm.
One thing you want to avoid, however, is picking the vest that you think will give you the most warmth—since this might not be a necessity for all outdoor enthusiasts. People that plan on wearing these vests while staying active need to select an option that keeps them decently warm but also works well with a layering system.
How much your vest weighs and how thick the material is will determine a lot about how warm it will be. But if you’re going to be active while you are wearing it, try to pick a vest that gives you average warmth while you’re on-the-go.
When purchasing the ideal vest, you want to make sure you get something made out of the best material possible.
Most options nowadays are made to fit comfortably and no longer cause the itchy or scratchy feel that older models had.
Some of these vests are made with synthetic fleece, which was manufactured by a company associated with Polartec back in the 1970s. Polartec, since that time, has manufactured many synthetic fleece garments. Polartec creates dozens of different types of synthetic fleeces, and some are sheer and shiny while others are furry and fluffy.
Synthetic fleece materials are often advertised as using recycled or environmentally-friendly production standards, meaning a lot of these manufacturers pay attention to how they make their vests, and focus on greener production standards. What’s interesting about synthetic fleece fabrics is that it’s made with a process that involves petroleum derivatives, creating a flexible material called PET that is usually shaped to create the desired preference in the vest. Synthetic fleeces can be shaped in various ways.
Synthetic fleece and regular fleece are both made to keep you warm by keeping warm air in, trapping it through tiny pockets that are usually made between the threads in the fabric. Also, since fleece comes from petroleum when it’s made, it is hydrophobic, meaning it won’t absorb water.
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Some manufacturers spray their garments with a protective coating to help boost up water resistance. One well-known method is a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment, which lets light rain on the surface of the fleece be shaken off easily. These treatments are effective.
Other Factors to Consider
The more breathable a vest is, the less weather-resistant it will be to wind and water. So, if you plan on wearing the garment as an outer layer when it’s cold outside, you’ll need to consider whether you want to exchange out breathability features for better weather resistance.
Some models of these garments are made with hard-face technology, which is a type of fleece material that helps to block out the wind. Hardface technology is comprised of a special polymer that is usually fused on the outside of the fleece fabric, which helps make the fabric both smooth and flexible. The extra hard-face shell adds a barrier that’s weather-resistant against both wind and rain. Other wind-resistant technologies some manufacturers use include “Windstopper” fabrics in their designs. “Windstopper” fabrics are made from three layers of bonded material—a microfleece on the outside, a “Windstopper” membrane in the middle, and the inner fabric area.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: If I purchase a more expensive vest, will it be more durable?
When looking at investing in a fleece, do not think the more expensive the vest the more durable or better quality it will be as that just is not the case. The best thing to do when looking for a durable vest to last you years to come is to look at other user reviews.
q: Are pockets important to have?
Most vests come with a variety of chest pockets and hand warmers. If you rock climb often, having hand warmer pockets can feel odd when wearing a harness, for instance. But, in other circumstances, it’s certainly nice to have hand warmers when the weather is cold outside and you don’t have your gloves. Chest pockets are fairly standard and essential for storing items you may need along the way.
q: What do I need to know about the different designs before I purchase one?
These vests come as either lightweight designs, midweight designs, or heavyweight designs. People that opt for lightweight designs want a more versatile vest to be worn as a layer. Midweight vests are great as mid-layers when it gets cold outside. Heavyweight vests are made more for very cold weather, and retain more heat but aren’t as breathable. Heavyweight fleeces don’t work as well for layering, but do provide good outer protection.
q: What does it mean when a manufacturer advertises recycling in their garment?
Some manufacturers, including The North Face and Patagonia, use recycled items in their material and designs. Sometimes these recycled products can be soda bottles or old garments, which are recycled and then restructured to make newer and better products. The purpose of doing this is to minimize the impact mass production of certain items has on the planet, meaning manufacturers that use recycled materials are trying to stay environmentally friendly.
Some of the highest-quality vests are made from recycled products, and the recycling effect has no negative impact on the design. So, it’s up to you whether or not you decide to purchase a recycled material option.
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