A kind reader emailed asking if I had any recommendations for fleece for an upcoming hiking trip that also included some time in European cities this spring. Oh, do I…
[Side note: I get a fair number of emails, and I do reply to them all. If you email me and I don’t respond, then either leave a comment on the post to annoy, I mean remind, me or just email me again. It’s not personal, but I get a lot of junk and some stuff slips through the cracks. Thanks!]
Fleeces are pretty much my favorite item of clothing. You know how some people have too many bags? Too many shoes? I have too many fleeces. I look forward every year to the day when it cools off enough to wear them. I may have even, um, turned the air down in our condo when husband was out of town so I could wear one inside. I fessed up to it when he got home, mainly because it was so amazing I just couldn’t keep it to myself. It’s the little things.
Ok, fleeces. There are different types of fleeces, but don’t worry I own and LOVE them all. But here are the three types I love the very most for travel.
Patagonia Better Sweaters
Yes, these deserve their own category. It looks like a sweater on the outside, but it is fleece on the inside. Now…the thing about this sweater is you’re going to see them ’round town now as a fashion item. But they are so.much.more. I’ve taken my Better Sweater skiing in Wyoming, gorilla trekking in Uganda, and to a conference in Vienna in the middle of winter. It’s perfect for a cold plane ride (seriously, what is with air conditioning on planes–I had ice crystals falling on me yesterday), it wicks sweat when you are hiking or skiing, and it also works with an oxford for a dinner out with jeans and boots.
You can find a Better Sweater at Nordstrom or Patagonia. They often have sales, so keep an eye out for a good deal (see my list here for where to find a steal)! As for colors, there are so many pretty ones – but I’d suggest going with a neutral so it is easy to mix and match. There are hooded and fullzip versions too, as well as full coats. I find the half-zip most functional most of the time, though the fullzip is a great option. Better yet, they also have a tech version if you are really just going to use it for climbing, skiing, or other outdoor endeavors. This version is definitely a bit tougher, though Patagonia is great for standing behind all their products.
So, Sherpa fleeces tend to be a bit more fashion and a little less function. And I avoid Sherpa fleeces if there is any chance–small or large–that they may be exposed to snow. Because, well, Sherpa fleeces are like (for lack of a better term) fur or hair, and if you’ve ever seen snow clump on dog’s legs (or horses) during a snow storm, the same thing happens when you wear Sherpa fleece in the snow. And having snowballs hanging from you is not fun.
But Sherpa fleeces are both fun to wear and great insulation. Many can work as a standalone layer or under a shell. Some Sherpa fleece-types wear better than others–you don’t want to end of looking like a dog that hasn’t been brushed. Though, I love some of my fleeces too much to care. And there are ways to “re-fluff” your fleece (hand washing with a bit of baking soda, for instance, often works). And, when I’m in a grumpy mood or away from my beloved dog, a Sherpa fleece just cheers me up. My favorites are below, from another Patagonia (the Los Gatos, also comes in a pullover and a vest), as well as the most wonderful Wubby from Nordstrom and some other great options from retailers I love (like Backcountry). I asked for the North Face for Christmas, in fact!
For those of you who hike, run, bike, ski, or love outdoor activities like me, performance fleece is a great option. Definitely more function than fashion, performance fleece is fantastic at keeping you warm when you need to be and making sure you don’t overheat, too. Nothing worse than drenched in sweat and freezing. Now, I know a lot of wool fans will be asking–why not merino? Yep, merino is a great option for some people. For me, no matter what the merino–whether $30 or $300, I find it so itchy that I can’t wait to get it off after about five minutes. It’s the worst…so I turn to fleece and fleece only when I’m active outside.
Here are some great options–I tend to go for half zips, since they layer well and don’t have a hood which I find often gets in my way or is just never used. These fleeces are great as a single layer, over a tank or thin longsleeve, or under a ski parka or waterproof shell. They keep you warm and all are good at sweat-wicking. Also a huge, huge fan of Lululemon Rulu tops for winter activities, particularly cold weather running. While I love Patagonia underlayers, I also find them to be less fitted than Athleta, Outdoor Research, and other brands, so take that into consideration when shopping. That OR tech fleece I haven’t tried, but it looks amazing…
Happy Fleece Season!!