Weatherproof Fleece Jackets.
Look around any outdoor store and fleece jackets are a dominant feature. They all look similar, they all function as an insulating layer and they are all made from polyester fabric. On closer inspection the fabric weight and the prices vary, sometimes a lot. A basic, one hundred gramme, fleece pullover can cost as little as ten euro while, at the other end of the price/performance spectrum a high-end softshell jacket can cost over two hundred euro.
Why the price difference?
What does one do that the other doesn’t?
If the dearest one is the best then should I just opt for the most expensive item every time?
If the cheapest one does the same as the dearest then should I just get a couple of them?
This article aims to shed a bit of light and make the differences easy to spot and help you decide where your money is best spent.
To avoid too much technical waffle, I am going to illustrate this using three, wind and showerproof, jackets from our range. All offer insulation, all are good but the fit and feature set varies quite a bit as does the price.
Craghoppers Constantine €64.95.
The Constantine is an old technology that refuses to die off because it is just so damn good at its job. The wind blocking fabric is a waterproof membrane sandwiched between two layers of fleece. The fleece gives warmth and a soft touch while the membrane gives total wind resistance and a very high degree of rain resistance. Durability is excellent as is the general weather proofing and it is the kind of garment that will end up being used for pretty much everything on and off the hill.
The fit is very much “generic hillwalker.” A manufacturing assumption is that the arms are going to be in pockets or hanging down most of the time. Along with the stiffness of the fabric this makes for less freedom of movement and a slightly more restricted feel which may be relevant to rock climbers or hill runners but not to most of us most of the time.
Craghoppers Roag €74.95.
The Roag is a fully lined softshell jacket. The Sherpa fleece inner gives great warmth and a cosy, luxurious feel. Softshell is the new tech that largely has taken over much market share from the kind of windblock fleece used in the Constantine. The stretchier fabric is more flexible and the insulation level can be varied enormously over a range of garments. Some, like the Roag are very warm while others are devoid of insulation and function solely as windcheaters.
The Roag, like the Constantine is designed for walking and everyday life so the cut assumes that either your arms will be swinging or your hands will be stuffed firmly in the pockets. For ski touring it would be a bit warm for most people and for climbing it might feel too restrictive. For most hillwalkers though, it is a good ‘all round’ mountain garment and great for brew stops. Flexible, comfy and warm.
Columbia Titan Ridge II €129.95
The Titan Ridge is definitely more racehorse than carthorse. This garment is for the person who is moving fast (ish) and wants a degree of weather protection but demands the maximum movement and breathability. The lightly insulated softshell body and Omni-Heat Reflective lining gives enough core warmth for active use while the stretch microfleece used on the arms and side panels permits maximum freedom of movement. The fit is a bit closer to the body than the previous garments but isn’t completely ‘spray-on.' If you prefer less bulky insulation and tend not to hang about then this kind of jacket is well worth some consideration. The Titan Ridge is lighter and less bulky than the others It’s very much a case of ‘pay more get less.’
These three performance fleece
jackets, and many. many others, provide insulation, comfort and weather
protection. I see them in car terms as being akin to a Ford Focus, a BMW 5
series and a Ferrari, all of which allow you to drive down the street. In real
life though, we don‘t always need a Ferrari. Dearest is often nice but not
always essential. On the other hand, if you plan on doing lots of mileage,
overheat easily and generally set a brisk pace then the higher spec option would
make perfect sense.
As always if you have any queries or suggestions then get in touch by email. email@example.com