While it might be tempting to think that down and synthetic insulated jackets are the be-all and end-all when it comes to warmth in the mountains, the classic fleece jacket is not to be undervalued. A fleece jacket can serve as a mid layer or outer layer depending on conditions, is much more tolerant of damp than a down jacket, usually lighter than a synthetically insulated jacket, and more breathable than a soft shell. As such, it's a versatile piece of kit that should have a place in any mountain lover's kit cupboard.
We've put this guide together to help you not only know what to look for in a winter mountain fleece, but also to recommend our top-rated products.
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What to consider in winter mountain fleeces
Fleeces come in full-zip jackets and shorter mid-zip or zip-neck pullovers. We’ve focused on jackets here as they tend to be more versatile in a winter environment.
A fleece needs to fit over base layers without feeling restrictive, but should also fit comfortably as part of a layering system under a shell or insulation layer.
A fleecy hood provides excellent warmth, but depending how many layers you’re wearing it can be easy to end up with too many hoods! If you opt for a jacket without one you’ll need a warm hat instead.
Hem & cuffs
Drawcord hems are common, but adjustable cuffs are rare. The sleeve should have a close fit around the wrist to prevent heat loss. If the hem isn’t adjustable, a similarly snug fit around the waist is preferable.
Fleece material can be natural, synthetic, or a mix of both. Natural fibres offer better temperature management, while synthetic fabrics are usually more durable. Fabrics with stretch will provide greater freedom of movement and feel more comfortable.
The deeper the pile of the fleece, the more heat it will trap, but thicker fleeces can feel restrictive when worn under layers.
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The best winter mountain fleece jackets
Highlander Hirta Hybrid (RRP £60)
A solid fleece at a bargain price, the Hirta Hybrid uses grid fleece for optimum warmth combined with windproof shell panels on the hood, arms, and lower torso for weather protection and durability. It features an elasticated hood, thumb loops, and a drawcord hem.
Marmot Preon Jacket (RRP £90)
The men’s and women’s Preon uses highly wicking Pontetorto grid-backed fleece to manage moisture and temperature for comfort on hard ascents. The close fit with flatlock seams and thumb loops makes it comfortable to wear under a shell. It’s also available with a hood for £20 more.
Berghaus Fourier (RRP £120)
The women’s Fourier (and men’s Carnot) makes use of Polartec Power Stretch, which is lightweight, durable, and offers 4-way stretch. It has a snug hood, stretch bound cuffs and dual hem adjustment. Plus, as Part of Berghaus’ MADEKIND eco commitment, it uses bluesign approved materials.
Salewa Piana Alpine Wool Jacket (RRP £125)
Designed for Alpine life and named after Monte Piana (2324m) in the Dolomites, this medium-weight fleece is made from 260g AlpineWool – a blend of wool and cotton mixed with polyamide and polyester that is comfortable, breathable, and especially easy to care for.
66°North Varmahlíð (RRP £200)
This unisex fleece is unashamedly built for snuggly comfort. The 62% wool/38% polyester fleece creates incredible warmth retention and gives it a unique (unless you’re a sheep) appearance. It has two front pockets and one chest pocket, and a drawstring hem to adjust the fit.