Gear Guy

Thermo LT Jacket     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

Which fleece jacket blocks wind without sacrificing breathability?

I’m looking to replace my old REI 300 fleece jacket. It has served me well as a regular jacket around town and for hiking and snowshoeing. I’d like something similar, but that will better resist wind. Any suggestions? Kathy Olympia, Washington

A:You have several good options, Kathy. And they’ll all look better than that boxy old REI piece! L.L. Bean, for example, sells a very nice Polartec piece called the Chromaloft Fleece Jacket ($79; llbean.com), which uses a textured fleece material for more warmth and a soft hand. It comes in several excellent colors, from black to lapis blue. Performance would be on par with your old 300-weight jacket, maybe a bit better. To give REI its due, they now sell a piece called the Thermo LT Jacket ($99; rei.com) for women that uses Polartec’s WindPro fleece, which is a better breeze barrier than regular fleece but still breathes well on warmer days, and includes stretch panels and two-tone colors.

For something more on par with 300-weight fleece, Mountain Hardwear’s Monkey Woman Jacket ($130; mountainhardwear.com), uses exceedingly warm Polartec Thermal Pro Monkey Phur, a textured fleece that really packs a lot of insulation.

On the very warmest end in a fleece piece, take a look at Patagonia’s R4 Jacket ($199; patagonia.com), which uses a windproof membrane inside the fleece. I sometimes find jackets such as the R4 too warm, but they do a great job of keeping out the breeze.

You might also like a light shelled piece, which would offer more warmth than fleece yet still work well as a layering or stand-alone jacket. The North Face Redpoint ($150; thenorthface.com), for instance, has a nylon shell over Primaloft insulation. But it’s still a very trim piece—no Michelin Woman look. And it has better wind and water resistance than nearly any fleece out there.

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