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Thread: What's the Ultimate Fleece Jacket?

  1. #16
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    I would argue that polyester/fleece and wool each have their advanges and disadvantages. Neither is univerally better.

    (+ = usually an advantage, - = usually a disadvantage)

    * Wool
    + less stinky
    + slow to take up water
    + slow moisture transport
    + absorbs large amounts of water
    + better insulation when soaked
    + better in very moist environments
    + Merino wool is non-stratchy
    + retains cushioning when wet (eg in socks)
    - heavier than fleece
    - once soaked, slow to dry
    - many types are itchy

    * Polyester/fleece
    + lighter than wool
    + does not hold water
    + fast to dry
    + faster moisture (sweat) transport
    + easier to wash
    - stinky
    - wets quickly
    - poorer insulation when soaked
    - absorbs only small amounts of water

    FWIW, I own:
    * long underwear:
    wool fishnet, polypropoline, polyester, fleece
    * body insulation:
    wool sweaters, wool jackets (heavy shirts), fleece jackets
    * leg insulation:
    wool pants, fleece pants
    * socks:
    wool, polyester (liners)
    * hand insulation:
    wool, fleece
    * hats, balaclavas
    wool, fleece

    I choose whichever is likely to be best for the expected conditions and have used most of the above within the past year or two.

    Doug
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  2. #17
    Senior Member cbcbd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by truepatriot09
    The best fleece jacket is to skip the fleece and go with down or a primaloft mid-layer. Primaloft pieces are sick. They insulate better than fleece (dry or wet) and usually the shells they come in have some sort of dwr on them so you don't have to break out the shell right away if it starts to precipitate.

    For me fleece is now simply for lifestyle and every day wear. It's heavy and packs poorly. A fleece pullover or vest looks great with some jeans or when you head out to rake the leaves or go apple picking. When in the mtns...it doesn't make much sense anymore.
    I'm with you on this one 100%. Fleece is just too bulky for the insulation it provides. Plus, a shell will slide much easier over a primaloft jacket than a fleece.

  3. #18
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    For hiking, I use either a Patagonia Puffball vest, a Pendleton 20 oz. wool zip-T sweater, or a MEC Northern Lites jacket as midlayer. I also have a fleece vest, fleece pullover and fleece jacket for wearing around town or work. I would highly recommend staying away from down as a midlayer because it becomes useless when wet.

  4. #19
    Senior Member Pete_Hickey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    * Wool
    .......
    + Merino wool is non-stratchy
    I would say, "LESS" scratchy. You should have seen my nipples after hiking noe cool damp day in a Merino wool shirt...... (Glad I wasn't wearing Merino wool shorts)
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1

  5. #20
    Senior Member truepatriot09's Avatar
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    Dougpaul, I'm not sure what fleece you're wearing that is lighter than wool, but if anything they're almost the same weight with wool being lighter. You're dead on with the comments in regard to moisture however. Wool is the most efficient moisture moving fabric. It moves moisture in the vapor state rather than the liquid state (which is why it's less stinky because bacteria doesn't have enough time to set up shop and start to smell). It actually will dry out much more quickly than fleece will also.
    Plus companies like smartwool and icebreaker have nailed their products well enough that there is zero itch factor. Fleece still has it's place, I like fleece gloves especially, but for a base layer, wool can't be beat! Of course, it's all about preference...just like everything else!
    I love big dumps.

  6. #21
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    This would be another alternative to a 300 wt. fleece jacket: Ibex

  7. #22
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by truepatriot09
    Dougpaul, I'm not sure what fleece you're wearing that is lighter than wool, but if anything they're almost the same weight with wool being lighter.
    Both wool and fleece can come in denser or less dense weaves. Here are numbers from some of my gear:
    * Jackets:
    - Woorich wool shirt (thickness ~200 wt fleece): 26 oz
    - 300 wt fleece jacket: 22 oz
    - 200 wt fleece jacket: 11 oz.
    - 100 wt fleece pull-over: 8 oz.
    * Long underwear tops:
    - Stil-Longs wool (a light weave): 6 oz.
    - REI light weight MTS (feels thicker than the Stil-Longs): 6 oz

    Wool is a very interesting fiber: it consists of a hydrophobic (water hating) sheath over a hydrophyllic (water loving) core. Its properties can be modifided by chemical treatments, oiling, etc. Some useful info can be found in
    * Dampness and Drying: http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p5hh.pdf
    * Wicking of Liquid Water in Wool: http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p463.pdf.
    (These are advertising, but in between their testimonials for their version of treated wool, there seems to be some real info.)

    The water storage capabilities of wool are particularly useful for socks and mitten liners because the skin underneath puts out a lot of moisture and the outer layer (mitten shells or boots) does not breathe very well.

    The bottom line is that both fleece and wool work well enough over a wide enough range that either will get the job done under most conditions.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 09-25-2006 at 11:57 AM.

  8. #23
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb
    This would be another alternative to a 300 wt. fleece jacket: Ibex
    The web reference describes the fabric as "nylon, wool, lycra" and specs as "Cordura nylon & Lycra exterior, 100% wool interior".

    In other words, it is a wool jacket with a built-in stretch nylon wind shell. Many people (myself included) prefer separate insulation and shell layers for more control, better moisture dissipation, faster drying, etc.

    There is no info on the web listing to indicate how warm it is (ie which weight fleece it should be compared to). One might be able to make a reasonable guess if one could compare its thickness to various thickness fleeces.

    Doug

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    In other words, it is a wool jacket with a built-in stretch nylon wind shell.
    Which makes it a very similar alternative to the MH Windstopper Tech Jacket that the original poster was considering.

  10. #25
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb
    Which makes it a very similar alternative to the MH Windstopper Tech Jacket that the original poster was considering.
    OK.

    IMO, still less useful than separate insulation and shell layers. I have both breathable and windblock fleece jackets--I find the windblock more useful around town than in the woods.

    We had a poster last winter who complained of soaking his insulation layers--turned out he was wearing a wind-blocking fleece jacket which prevented the moisture from escaping. (He may have also been over-insulated...)

    Doug

  11. #26
    Senior Member marty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    OK.

    IMO, still less useful than separate insulation and shell layers. I have both breathable and windblock fleece jackets--I find the windblock more useful around town than in the woods.

    We had a poster last winter who complained of soaking his insulation layers--turned out he was wearing a wind-blocking fleece jacket which prevented the moisture from escaping. (He may have also been over-insulated...)

    Doug
    I strongly agree with Doug on this. I too find insulation and shell layers to be more versatile and better at moisture management. Wind block fleece is certainly not a lightweight option, either. The stuff is heavy.

    My EMS wind block fleece jacket has been relegated to commuting to work in windy downtown Boston.
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  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by marty
    I too find insulation and shell layers to be more versatile and better at moisture management.
    That's also been my opinion for the last 30 years or so, but I'm always on the lookout for something new and improved. Here is a review by somebody who's tried both traditional layering systems and softshells.

  13. #28
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb
    That's also been my opinion for the last 30 years or so, but I'm always on the lookout for something new and improved. Here is a review by somebody who's tried both traditional layering systems and softshells.
    From this review;

    "Some manufacturers have evolved softshell fabrics to be more wind-resistant in order to increase warmth. In the case of the Polartec¬ Powershield» in this jacket, they took it one step too far back towards the old-school "waterproof breathable" (WB) fabrics. For someone like me who sweats a lot, this fabric simply doesn't breath enough.

    This became very apparent last Feburary, when Mrs. Gearguy and myself were out on a sub-zero day to climb Mt. Guyot. At our layer-adjustment stop, Ms. GG had sprouted a small forest of hoar frost all over her Ibex softshell, while mine remained free of such adornment. Later in the day when we got back to the truck, the inside of my Gamma SV was coated with ice; just like the bad old days of WB fabrics. This would probably be a good winter jacket for someone who emits less moisture than I do, or for less aerobically-taxing winter sports."


    Substitute Franconia Ridge for Guyot and I had the same experience. Windblock Fleece = walk the dog, not hike the winter peaks. Although, if you don't sweat much or constantly adjust layers, breathability would not be much of a concern.
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  14. #29
    Senior Member Doc McPeak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chip
    Substitute Franconia Ridge for Guyot and I had the same experience. Windblock Fleece = walk the dog, not hike the winter peaks. Although, if you don't sweat much or constantly adjust layers, breathability would not be much of a concern.
    For Winter:
    Ascend with Schoeller Dryskin over EW Capilene
    Enjoy summit in same under Patagonia Retro-X
    Descend in Retro-X, until not needed.

    I agree that the windblock fleece won't breathe enough for ascents, but for the other parts of winter climbing (summit and descent) it kept me comfortable for the W46. Yet, I do also use it for walking the dog...
    "We sit together,
    the mountains and I,
    until only the mountain remains."

    -- Li Po (701-762 A.D.)

  15. #30
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb
    That's also been my opinion for the last 30 years or so, but I'm always on the lookout for something new and improved. Here is a review by somebody who's tried both traditional layering systems and softshells.
    I've also seen some good reports on Schoeller fabric. (The name "Schoeller" is a bit like "GoreTex"--it applies to a range of fabrics.) It seems to be a good water repellent, semi-breathable, and, in its tougher versions, abrasion resistant fabric.

    I have an unlined (ie shell) jacket made of one of the lighter versions of Schoeller fabric. Haven't used it in the woods yet, but it does stand up to light rain well and is less steamy than a full shell. In the woods, I still prefer to separate my thermal insulation from my wind/water protection. I currently view it as an add-on--still need the full shell etc for the bad weather, but it might be more comfortable than the full gear in intermediate conditions.

    I have heard that Schoeller pants are very good for walking through wet grass and brush--breathable yet dry and comfortable inside.

    The description of the Ibex Neve jacket actually said very little about the characteristics of the shell and doesn't mention water repellency at all--so if it is raining you have to wear a rain shell over the built-in wind shell?

    The OP's question sounded a bit beginnerish to me (roadtripper--please don't be offended if you are very experienced, I have no idea how much experience you have), so I figured a "get the basics right" answer would be most appropriate. I view equiment like softshells etc as more for the advanced hiker.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 09-25-2006 at 03:11 PM.

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