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Gear Guy

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


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;, 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; 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.

REI Thermo LT Jacket

Thermo LT Jacket

For something more on par with 300-weight fleece, Mountain Hardwear’s Monkey Woman Jacket ($130;, 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;, 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;, 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.

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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Filed To: Midweight
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI