Our team of experts put some of the best fleeces and hiking midlayers to the test.

From unlikely origins in toilet seats, the best fleece jackets and midlayers for hiking have clearly come on leaps and bounds over the decades. Now, there’s a wide variety of mid-layer designs to choose from, from fleeces to softshell-style ‘active insulation’. The aim is to strike a balance between warmth, breathability and wicking, depending on your activity and expected weather conditions.

Our list of the best fleeces for hillwalking


Montane Fury Lite Hooded Jacket

Montane Fury Lite Hooded Jacket

Alex Roddie’s Best in Test

I’ve found this the ideal fleece for general three-season use. Although I’ll still reach for the Allez Micro in milder conditions, this one is a bit warmer, a bit cosier, and with more casual styling.
Pros
  • Comfortable and soft
  • Good warmth for three-season use
  • Hight stretch
  • Breathability
Cons
  • Nothing
Quick specs
Price: £100
Weight: 341g
Materials: 51% recycled polyester, 39% nylon, 10% elastane
Hood: helmet-compatible, elasticated, no adjustment
Front closure: one-way zip with internal flap
Pockets: 2x zipped external handwarmer
Hem: no adjustment
Cuffs: simple
Womens/mens version: both
Sizes: men: S–XXL; women: 8–16
montane.com

The Montane Fury Lite is a lightweight, versatile fleece jacket that offers warmth and versatility. It is designed as a standard zipped fleece jacket with a basic hood and two handwarmer pockets, making it a popular choice for its athletic fit. The jacket’s high stretch allowed me to have exceptional freedom of movement, and the outer face moves freely under the shell, while the inner face is soft and fluffy. Although it is less capable in varying conditions than the more technical Allez Micro, the Fury Lite is good at resisting overheating, providing excellent moisture wicking and breathability.

It is also more wind-resistant than the Allez Micro. Montane claims that the abrasion-resistant fabric has been engineered for increased durability, but no evidence of wear has been observed. The hood on the Montane Fury Lite is perfect, providing good coverage for the face without any adjustment. The jacket is ideal for general three-season use, but is a bit warmer, cosier, and with more casual styling. The value is also decent.

Read Alex’s full Montane Fury Lite Hooded Jacket Review


Outdoor Research Women’s Deviator Hoodie

Outdoor Research Women’s Deviator Hoodie

Lara Dunn’s Best in Test

This is a highly technical and warm midlayer that also works well as a stand alone jacket and doesn’t come with a weight penalty.
Pros
  • Stretchy
  • Lightweight
  • Very breathable
Cons
  • Could use a drawcord of some sort
Quick specs
Price: £200
Weight: 341g (women’s large)
Materials: stretch shell 90% nylon/10% elastane, wind resistant shell 95% polyester/5% elastane, lining 100% polyester – VerticalX Octa, ActiveTemp fabrics
Hood: same fabrics as body with soft peak
Cuffs: soft stretch, same fabrics as body
Hem: same stretch fabrics as body
Pockets: 2 x handwarmer, 1 x chest
Sizes: XS-XXL
Women’s/Men’s version: both
www.outdoorresearch.com

Outdoor Research’s Deviator is a lightweight hooded jacket that combines lightweight softshell and insulation fabrics with stretch for reliable warmth and wind resistance. The jacket’s sleek, stretchy fit is not overt, providing excellent mobility and making it ideal for high-energy activities. The jacket’s fabrics are zoned, with a stretch knit fluffy fleece lining backing wind-resistant ultralight softshell panels at the front, hood, shoulders, and tops of sleeves. The rest of the jacket features highly breathable and moisture-wicking stretch waffle knit panels.

The Deviator is light and stretchy, providing a surprising level of warmth for its weight. It is best suited for cool or warmer temperatures on its own, but can layer up under a waterproof shell due to its low bulk fit. It is a lightweight and compact option for rucksacks, and its wind-resistant panels offer protection from rucksack straps. The jacket is a highly technical and warm midlayer that can also be used as a stand-alone jacket without a weight penalty.

Read Lara’s full Outdoor Research Women’s Deviator Hoodie Review


Salewa Agner Polarlite Hooded Jacket

Salewa Agner Polarlite Hooded Jacket

Fiona’s Russell’s Best in Test

Although the Salewa Agner Polarlite Hooded Jacket was the priciest of the jackets Fiona Russell tested, it’s the one she would choose to buy.
Pros
  • Fabric
  • Fit
  • Features
  • Quality
Cons
  • Price
  • Sizing
Quick specs
Price: not available in US | £140 (available from Salewa)
Weight: 370g (UK12)
Materials: Duratretch PFC-free bluesign 151g/sqm – 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane – and Polarlite Pontetorto bluesign 225g/sqm – 94% Polyester (recycled), 6% Elastane
Hood: Yes
Front Closure: full zip
Pockets: 2
Hem: Plain
Cuffs: Elasticated
Men’s version: Yes
Sizes: UK4 to 14

The Salewa Agner Polarlite Hooded Jacket is thoughtfully designed and feelt high quality when holding it on our test. The hybrid construction includes Polarlite to provide a fleecy and insulating inner, plus Durastretch inserts, which form soft shell areas for abrasion resistance. The jacket is also “body mapped” so that different fabrics match the needs of various parts of the body. The fabric has an added anti-odour treatment. A plus point for the environment is the fleece is made with recycled polyester and bluesign-approved fabrics.

Read more: Salewa Agner Polarlite Hooded Jacket full review


Alpkit Woodsmoke

alpkit woodsmoke - best fleeces

Peter Macfarlane’s Best in Test

Peter Macfarlane says the Alpkit Woodsmoke is a genuinely do-it-all top with sustainable manufacturing origins and awards it his ‘Best in Test’.
Pros
  • Fit
  • Comfort
  • Fabric
Cons
  • No lower pockets
  • Poppers won’t suit everyone
Quick specs
Price: $99.99 | £89.99 (available to buy from Alpkit)
Weight: 386g size L
Materials: 95% Thermocore polyester/ 5% spandex fabric, metal poppers
Hood: No
Front Closure: metal poppers
Pockets: two high chest, flapped and poppered
Hem: plain
Cuffs: shirt style, popper adjustable
Sizes: XS to XXL
Women version: Yes

The Alpkit Woodsmoke comes in a light and stretchy polyester fabric with a brushed surface which feels very pleasant against the skin. The Thermocore fabric is described as having hollow core fibres which trap air for insulation and there is good warmth here despite the noticeably thin fabric. during testing I wore the Woodsmoke over short and long-sleeved base layers and often it’s been layered under a shell or windshirt. The insulation level for layering is useable outside of winter temperatures. I’ve found the moisture management very good too. While I can wet out the back area under a pack, it does dry quickly.

Read more: Alpkit Woodsmoke full review


Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Active Full Zip Jacket

Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Active Full Zip Jacket

Lara Dunn Highly Recommends

It’s a genuinely versatile jacket and good for a wide variety of temperatures plus it gets a big tick for Smartwool’s ethical and environmental stance.
Pros
  • Very stretchy
  • Wind resistant panels
  • Good temp stability
Cons
  • Neat fitting
Quick specs
Price: £149.99
Weight: 387g (women’s large)
Materials: 53% merino wool/21.3% lyocell/21% polyester/5% elastane
Features: wide soft collar, wind resistant panels, zoned breathability 
Sizes: XS-XL
Women’s/Men’s Version: Women’s (men’s direct equivalent available)
www.smartwool.co.uk

The Intraknit Active jacket is a versatile layer made from Smartwool’s merino wool, blended with other performance yarns and fabrics. It offers warmth, temperature maintenance, odour tackling, wind resistance, and high levels of stretch. The jacket’s slim fit makes the fabric stretchy and breathable, but it’s important to consider its use as a midlayer under a shell.

In use, it’s a comfortable layer in various weather conditions, delivering stable body temperature in temperatures from mid-single figures to mid-teens. The jacket’s high breathability and moisture transport properties compensate for the wind resistance offered by the front panels. A wind-resistant fabric across the shoulders could be improved for protection from rucksack strap wear.

When worn with a shell layer, the jacket’s sleek fit and cozy collar make it an impressive insulating layer. Although heavier than some midlayers, it’s not heavyweight and can be used as a daypack extra layer on changeable days. The jacket is versatile and good for a wide variety of temperatures, and it aligns with Smartwool’s ethical and environmental stance, pushing for more sustainable outdoor clothing.

Read Lara’s full Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Active Full Zip Jacket Review


Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody

Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody

Alex Roddie Recommends

Overall, I think this is a great choice for Scottish winter backpacking or mountaineering.
Pros
  • Warmth for weight
  • Breathability
  • Freedom of movement
Cons
  • Hood could be bettter
  • Expensive
Quick specs
Price: £260
Weight: 391g
Materials: 20D nylon stretch ripstop with PFC-free DWR, Primaloft Gold Active insulation (100% polyester), nylon stretch woven lining
Hood: helmet-compatible, single rear adjustment
Front closure: one-way zip with internal flap
Pockets: 2x zipped external handwarmer, 1x zipped external chest
Hem: adjustable drawcord
Cuffs: elastic
Womens/mens version: both
Sizes: XS–XL
blackdiamondequipment.com

The Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody is a perfect synthetic midlayer for winter, offering freedom of movement, warmth without being too warm, and a hood that reduces the need for hats and balaclavas. The jacket has a perfect fit, with room for a light fleece underneath and good coverage for the backside. The outer face fabric is soft and durable, and the inner fabric is soft and cosy, with just the right amount of Primaloft Gold insulation for effective winter use. The materials used are Bluesign-approved and PFC-free.

The First Light Stretch Hoody serves as a great choice for spring or summer backpacking, but its high breathability may not provide as good wind resistance as most dedicated insulated jackets. The hood is helmet-compatible but doesn’t offer enough coverage for the face and mouth, which can result in cold breezes. Despite this, it moves well with the head. Overall, the First Light Stretch Hoody is a great choice for Scottish winter backpacking or mountaineering.

Read Alex’s full Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody Review


Inov-8 Venturelite mid hoodie review

inov-8 venturelite - best fleeces

Fiona Russell Recommends

I like that inov-8 have paid attention to looks as well as outdoor practicalities, plus there is an extra attention to detail with a small reflective feature at the rear.
Pros
  • Fit
  • Weight
  • Warmth
Cons
  • Fiddly zip
Quick specs
Price: $140 | £110 (available from inov-8 & Sports Shoes)
Weight: 267g (UK10)
Materials: 92% recycled polyester / 8% elastane
Hood: Yes
Front Closure: Full zip
Pockets: 2
Hem: Elasticated
Cuffs: Elasticated with thumb loops
Men’s version: Yes
Sizes: UK6 to 16

The female-specific and athletic fit of the inov-8 Venturelite mid hoodie is well designed and flattering. The neat and tight hood, longer torso and arms with thumb-loops combine to offer extra insulation around the head, hips and wrists. Unfortunately, for me the sleeves are not long enough to make use of the thumb-loops without cutting off circulation. The textured hexagon inner knit fleece is lovely and soft against the skin, while the outer is a smooth polyester that keeps its look after many wears and washes.

Read Fiona’s full Inov-8 Venturelite mid hoodie full review


Arc’teryx Delta ½ Zip hoody

Arc'teryx Delta recommended review - best fleeces

Fiona Russell Recommends

Fiona Russell finds the Arc’teryx Delta ½ Zip hoody a cleverly designed mid-layer with good moisture management and weight-to-warmth ratios.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Fit
  • Technical design
Cons
  • Thin fabric
  • Wind permiable
Quick specs
Price: $180 | £130 – available to buy from Arc’Teryx
Weight: 221g (small)
Materials: Polartec® Power Dry® fleece
Hood: yes
Front closure: half zip
Pockets: 1
Hem: Plain
Cuffs: Elasticated with thump loops
Men’s version: No (full zip jacket version for men)
Sizes: XS to XL

The design of the Arc’teryx Delta ½ Zip hoody is trim, athletic and figure hugging. The sizing is accurate with the addition of a longer torso and longer arms, plus thumb-loops. The “ScubaHood” fits under a helmet, should you need to wear one, and has a panel that can be tucked behind the head or worn as a neck gaiter or balaclava. This is a clever detail and useful in colder conditions. Note that if you wear glasses, the neck gaiter causes them to steam up if you have it over your nose.

Read more: Arc’teryx Delta ½ Zip hoody full review


Berghaus MTN Seeker ST Jacket

Berghaus MTN Seeker ST Jacket

Peter Macfarlane recommends

Peter Macfarlane says the Berghaus MTN Seeker ST Jacket offers good warmth for weight and an incredibly comfortable fit.
Pros
  • Comfort
  • Fabric
  • Fit
Cons
  • Nothing
Quick specs
Price: International shipping available | £130.00 (available to buy from Berghaus)
Weight: 384g (size L)
Materials: Polartec Power Stretch Pro
Hood: No | Front Closure: full zip
Pockets: two zipped mid height
Hem: stretch binding
Cuffs: stretch binding with elastic thumb loops
Sizes: XS to 2XL
Women’s version: Yes

The Berghaus MTN Seeker ST Jacket is part of Berghaus’ Extrem range which is their top end mountain specific collection so I was looking for simple, practical and durable during testing. The fit is close with long arms and long body which is excellent under other layers. The articulation is perfect with no hem movement at all with both of my arms raised over my head.

Read more: Berghaus MTN Seeker ST Jacket


Haglöfs ROC Flash Mid Hood Men

Haglofs ROC Flash Mid Hood - best fleeces

Peter Macfarlane Recommends

Peter Macfarlane recommends the Haglöfs ROC Flash Mid Hood, saying it is both comfortable and sustainably made.
Pros
  • Fit
  • Fabric
  • Comfort and hood
Cons
  • Pocket design
Quick specs
Price: not available in the US | £110.00 (available to buy from Haglofs)
Weight: 372g size L
Materials: recycled polyester grid backed fleece
Hood: Yes
Front Closure: full zip
Pockets: two zipped mid height
Hem: plain
Cuffs: plain
Sizes: S to XXL
Women’s version: yes

The Haglöfs ROC Flash Mid Hood is the only top reviewed this time that has a hood, which proved to be excellent. It has a sculpted, close-fitting shape that moved with my head without restricting the movement or obstructing my view. The warmth was enough to replace a beanie or Buff, plus there’s the added convenience of it always being there. The light fabric means that the hood doesn’t bunch up annoyingly when rolled down under a shell. It also acts well as a collar when the zip is pulled up to the top, where there is welcome chin protection detailing.

Read more: Haglofs ROC Flash Mid Hood Men


Keela Scree Packaway Smock

Keela Scree Packaway Smock

The Keela Scree Packaway Smock is an interesting option that can be used either as a midlayer fleece in very cold conditions or as a standalone insulated jacket.

Alex Roddie’s verdict

Overall, this is too warm as a midlayer for most British hiking. But if you’re going somewhere seriously cold, and need a durable option with lots of pockets, this is worth a look. Value is also good.
Pros
  • Durability
  • Roomy cut
  • Pockets
  • Warmth
  • Value
Cons
  • Heavy and Bulky
  • Freedom of movement
Quick specs
Price: £139.95
Weight: 486g
Materials: 100% nylon ripstop Flylite Ultra shell, 60gsm Primaloft Gold insulation (100% polyester), 100% polyester lining
Hood: none
Front closure: quarter-length zip with internal flap
Pockets: 2x zipped external handwarmer, large front kangaroo pocket
Hem: adjustable drawcord
Cuffs: elastic
Womens/mens version: unisex
Sizes: XS–XXL
keelaoutdoors.com

The smock has a quarter-length zip from collar to solar plexus, and beneath this you’ll find the enormous kangaroo pocket – big enough to stash plenty of hill snacks plus your hat and gloves. The whole smock can pack away into this pocket. There’s a fantastic storm flap over the zip. Thanks to the highly water-resistant fabric, I’ve found that most things stay dry in this pocket in anything short of a downpour. The other provided pockets are two handwarmer ones that meet in the middle, meaning that there’s a lot of storage space here too.

Thanks to the long cut of this jacket, extending well over the backside, these handwarmer pockets actually sit below your rucksack’s hipbelt – a nice touch if you’re using the jacket as an outer layer.

The cut is roomy and there’s loads of room for another warm layer underneath. However, freedom of movement could be better; the smock rides up with high arm reaches.

The burly ripstop outer fabric is the most water-resistant and windproof of all the products I tested, and breathability is still adequate for use as a midlayer – if it’s cold enough to wear this at all. The generous Primaloft Gold fill makes this fabulously warm. It’s slightly warmer than the Black Diamond Fury Light Hoody I also tested, making it great for deep winter in the Scottish mountains, but it’s also heavier and bulkier. On the plus side, it’s just over half the price.

Overall, the Keela Scree Packaway Smock is too warm as a midlayer for most British hiking. But if you’re going somewhere seriously cold, and need a durable option with lots of pockets, this is worth a look. Value is also good.


How we tested the fleece jackets 

Lara Dunn

Lara usually takes a size UK14 or sometimes a UK16 in high street clothing, depending on fit/shape/purpose of garment. These midlayers were mostly tested on short and longer day walks in the Malvern Hills during a chilly (down to low single digits), wet late winter and through spring (up to around 14 degrees), with additional day trips to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains.

Fiona Russell

Fiona tested the fleece and light mid-layers on the trails, hills and mountains of Scotland and in a range of weather conditions. She is a keen runner and Munro and Corbett bagger. She usually wears a size small or UK10, although she is fairly tall at 5ft 8in and has long arms. The products were weighed on home digital scales.

Alex Roddie

Alex tested his midlayers on a series of day hikes and overnight backpacking trips in the Cairngorms, West Highlands, and lowlands of Angus and Perthshire. All weights are as measured on Alex’s digital scale (men’s size Medium).

Peter Macfarlane

Peter began testing these samples on the Munros last winter and they’ve been in constant use through to the summer of this year on hill days, low level tracks and trails, general outdoor exploring and also as regular everyday wear. Peter’s role as a Woodland Trust ranger is important to him for judging the performance and the durability of gear with regular traverses of the Kilpatrick Hills in all weathers and at any time of day or night.

Features of a good fleece

Here’s what to look for when buying a new fleece for hillwalking. There’s plenty to consider but below is what you should definitely keep an eye on when making a purchase.

Pockets

Napoleon or bicep pockets are good for smaller items. Torso pockets are larger but all can interfere with harnesses and rucksack straps so check fit.  Zips keep things safe inside.

Hood

Provides extra warmth on cold days, but can be a faff under other layers.

Front Zip

Full length or not… You decide! Some are sold as “interactive” zips that combine with a waterproof to make a padded 2-in-1 jacket.  The downside to this system is a cold spot down the front where the zips meet.

Fit

Close fitting stretchy fleeces are good for layering underneath other garments.  Length helps keep vital organs warm and prevents riding up.

Cuffs

Some have a hook and loop tab or thumb loops to deal with drafts.

Hem

Stretchy edge finishing or a drawcord help to keep drafts out and prevent riding up, but check the drawcord/toggle wont chafe under your rucksack.