You have several good options, Kathy. And theyll 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 Polartecs 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.
REI Thermo LT Jacket
Thermo LT Jacket
For something more on par with 300-weight fleece, Mountain Hardwears 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 Patagonias 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 its still a very trim pieceno Michelin Woman look. And it has better wind and water resistance than nearly any fleece out there.
Check out Outside's picks for Gear of the Year and 400-plus gear reviews in the 2007 Summer Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now.
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