The chances of owning a good fleece are close to 100% if you’re serious about the outdoors in general, but fleece is such a versatile material that you’ll find its application everywhere these days. From cushion covers to bed slippers, the fleecy feel is in high demand. And there’s little surprise here – fleece comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and forms, and from coating your hot water bottles to covering your extremities in cold weather, does the job well.
We’ve compiled a fleece guide that covers all aspects of wearing this indispensable garment, from the many types of fleece on the market to the features you’ll expect them to have.
What is Fleece?
What makes fleece so popular and ubiquitous is how effective it is at trapping body heat and sustaining this warmth. Fleece is a synthetic fabric which is generally made out of polyester but can sometimes be made of cotton. Polyester is a man-made material composed of two petroleum products that can be manufactured from recycled plastic.
In the past, natural wool garments used to be outdoor enthusiasts’ first choice for a warm, insulating layer to combat the cold and brace the outdoors climate. The word ‘fleece’ used to primarily refer to sheep’s woollen coat when it was sheared off. Since the mass availability and affordability of fleece, however, walkers and all manner of outdoorspeople have favoured fleece over wool as it’s warmer and much more lightweight.
The texture of fleece is still modelled on natural wool, however. It is a two-sided pile material, meaning that both the front and back of the fabric have a layer of cut fibres, much like corduroy or velvet. This is where its insulating mechanism lies – by trapping a large number of pockets of air in between the threads on both sides of the fabric, fleece keeps its wearers very warm.
Polyester fleece is extremely durable and also moisture-resistant.
|Very soft and plush||Flammable|
|Very flexible, lightweight and comfortable||Not windproof|
|Durable||Can’t withstand washing at very high temperatures, tumble drying or ironing|
|Highly breathable||Prone to attracting dust, lint, pet hair etc. due to high amounts of static electricity|
|Moisture-resistant||Low-quality fleece is prone to pilling|
|Remains insulating when wet|
Fleece is categorised according to what we call its ‘weight’. The first ever manufacturer of fleece products split fleece garments into groups defined by how many grams of fleece constituted a square metre. This measurement system is still in use today, and you’ll find fleece described in the unit gsm, or grams per square metre.
Have a look at the table below for a breakdown of the categories:
|Fleece Weight||Description||Typical Use|
|<100gsm||Ultralight||Summer walking in cool weather|
|100 – 200gsm||Lightweight||General wear, walking in temperate weather|
|200 – 300gsm||Mid-weight||Outer layer in everyday wear or mid-layer in layering system|
|>300gsm||Heavyweight||Outdoor activities in Arctic conditions|
Types of Fleece
There are many different types of fleece nowadays, with new variations being introduced onto the market each year. Here we take a look at the three major kinds so you can better match your next fleece garment purchase to your needs.
Microfleece is the thinnest and most lightweight type of fleece. These are the original mid-layers that are worn over base layers and under a waterproof shell. Microfleece provides the lowest level of insulation yet the highest breathability, so they’re ideal for active pursuits in weather that isn’t too cold.
Microfleece also allows for the greatest flexibility when doing physical exercise, as the build isn’t too thick to restrict movement. The very light weight is the highlight feature of this type of fleece, and it’s also frequently chosen as an outer layer when outdoor conditions are mild.
Additional features such as multiple pockets and a large hood are unlikely to be found on microfleece as the scope is to keep it simple and very lightweight. Generally, any fleece up to the 200gsm mark is considered a microfleece.
Mid-weight fleece covers the middle ground of the spectrum. This fleece can easily be worn as an outer layer on hikes and treks when the weather is chilly. Mid-weight fleece is much warmer than lightweight fleece and has higher insulating properties, as well as being more comfortable and breathable.
This type of fleece will offer less flexibility than microfleece but is thick enough to be a good everyday outer layer in cool conditions and a mid-layer when the temperature dips and you have to pair it with a base layer and waterproof jacket, as long as you’re not pursuing high-energy activities.
Any fleece between 200gsm and 300gsm is considered to be a mid-weight fleece.
Heavyweight fleece is at the top of the range of fleece weights, coming in at 300gsm or more. This type of fleece is best suited for very cold conditions where physical activity is limited.
Heavyweight fleece is the least flexible of fleeces, but also the warmest and most insulating. This can be stifling if worn when exercising or exerting yourself physically, as you’re bound to overheat quickly. The only exception is when you’re outdoors in very harsh climates close to polar or Arctic conditions, where you’ll be needing as much insulation as you can get.
Heavyweight fleece makes for a great outer layer in cold weather too, and can be staggeringly warm. Our Mathis Mens DLX Full Zip Fleece Hoodie has a weight of 460gsm, making it a real titan of cold defence.
Textured fleece tends to share the same weight range as heavyweight fleece, yet boasts a patterned outer. This is mostly for decorative purposes, although textured fleece tends to be even
softer to the touch and comfier than regular fleece.
Often luxurious-looking and velvety, textured fleeces are the dressiest of the lot and are ideal for putting on as an outer layer when out roaming in the cold, or even as a mid-layer when the chill increases.
Fleece clothing normally has multiple features which add to its versatility and comfort. Here are some common features you’ll find:
Anti-pill fleece is fleece that has been treated to prevent bobbling, or little balls – or pills – of thread from forming on the surface of the fabric. This is an especially valuable feature as it keeps the garment looking brand new and bobble-free for very long, which adds to its longevity.
Pilling is the result of abrasion when washing and drying, as well as excessive rubbing against other surfaces. Avoid causing too much friction on fleece as this will contribute to the wear and tear of the garment.
Full or Half Zip
Fleece jumpers and jackets commonly have either a full zip running from the neck to the hips, or a half zip that starts from the neck and stops somewhere on the chest. This helps you take off the fleece easily if you’re feeling too warm, or even let in a bout of fresh air to ventilate your body.
Chin guards are also a very common feature on fleece jumpers and jackets. This raised collar provides additional protection against wind and cold, giving fleece its traditional look.
When hiking, it also helps prevent debris from entering through the gap between the collar of your jacket and your neck.
Fleeces sometimes have adjustable hems in order to fasten properly. An adjustable hem means you can restrict the passage of air into the garment and seal it in a more windproof and airtight structure.
Our AirTrap® technology is specially engineered to enable total freedom of exertion. Its unique structure made specifically for fleece creates countless airspaces that trap and hold your body heat to keep you 100% protected against inclement weather. AirTrap® clothing is soft, breathable and anti-pill all the way.
Last updated: July 23, 2018 at 10:46 am