In addition to writing this column for Outside, I’m the main midlayer tester for the annual Winter Buyer’s Guide. I’ve been testing for five years now and have probably worn or assigned reviews of more than 100 midlayers. Many of those layers were forgotten as soon as they came off—relegated to the back of my closet or given away. There is one, however, that I’ve worn almost daily from September 2016 through April and will forever refuse to give up: the Patagonia Crosstrek Fleece Hybrid Hoodie.
The Crosstrek is useful because it’s technically smart yet reasonably stylish. That sentence is a total cliché, I know, but in this case absolutely appropriate. It’s great for the trail, the snow, the crag, wherever, thanks to its thin, high-loft Polartec Power Stretch fleece that provides a lot of warmth but also breathes and stretches exceptionally well. My favorite technical detail, however, is the thin DWR-coated ripstop nylon over the torso, which blocks the wind, light rain, or snow. It acts like a mini shell of sorts and has allowed me to wear the Crosstrek in light fall rainstorms or spring snowstorms without having to break out a full Gore-Tex jacket. If I do need to slip on a burlier shell, the nylon face of the Crosstrek layers well and doesn’t bunch up while I’m moving.
I’ve been most thankful for the Crosstrek on the skintrack. During a jaunt up McDonald Peak in Oregon last year, a buddy and I ran into rain, snow, wind, and sun during the five-hour climb, and I only had to take off the hoodie once—at the very hottest point. While skinning, I was able to go gloveless without worrying about my hands getting scorched, because this hoodie comes with generous thumb loops that pull the sleeves down to the bottom of my fingers. I was also glad to have the scuba-like hood that fit well under a hat and kept my ears warm and the sun off my neck. On the summit, the nylon up front cut the wind and kept me from cooling too fast. That evening, I got back to the car, changed out of ski pants into slacks, and went straight to dinner without anyone knowing I’d been climbing in the Crosstrek all day.
Granted, I live in a Pacific Northwest mountain town; Patagonia anything is the official uniform. But even if you live in a city, I humbly believe you could still easily wear the Crosstrek out. That’s because it has a casual cut and wears more like a sweatshirt than a body-hugging midlayer. And it only comes in muted colors, like black and navy. Two hand pockets add to the cotton-hoodie feel, as does the brushed fleece inside.
To be sure, there are more technical midlayers out there that are warmer or more breathable, but none that are as versatile as the Crosstrek, which will continue to get a lot of use this upcoming winter.