Chris Townsend reviews the Berghaus Carnot hooded fleece – a stretchy, fast-wicking and warm fleece, which gets our ‘Best Buy’ endorsement.

The latest fleece from Berghaus is intended as a winter mid-layer and it certainly is warm. It’s also very breathable and extremely comfortable as it’s made from four-way stretch Polartec Power Stretch, which has a brushed inner and a smooth outer. Power Stretch has been around for many years and is still one of the best fleece fabrics. It wicks moisture faster than any other fleece material and the stretch means it can fit closely without restricting movement. It retains its shape too and doesn’t go baggy after prolonged use. The dual-surface knit construction means the soft inner feels pleasant against the skin while the smooth outer is durable and allows outer garments to slide over it easily.

Part of Berghaus’ MADEKIND commitment to making more sustainable products, the Carnot Hooded jacket is made from bluesign® approved materials.

The design of the Carnot Hooded Fleece Jacket is functional. There’s nothing innovative about it. It just works. Although it cuts across the base of them the mesh-lined handwarmer pockets are still usable when wearing a hipbelt. The chest pocket is fine for a GPS or smartphone. The sleeves are long enough to pull over the back of my hands for extra warmth. The hem drawcord has cordlocks on either side for pulling it in tight. At the top of the front zip there’s a chinguard.

The Carnot has a close-fitting hood. I have mixed feelings about hoods on fleeces. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I find them restrictive and prefer a hat. That’s not a reflection on the design though, just on my inability to make up my mind. The Carnot hood is warm, and I found it good to pull up quickly when my head felt cool. It fits neatly under a shell jacket hood too. When not worn it’s soft enough not to feel awkward at the back of the neck.

Power Stretch is not windproof. In temperatures a little above freeze I found the Carnot warm enough when walking in a light breeze. As soon as the wind strengthened it started to cut through the fleece though and I soon needed a windproof jacket over the top. The combination was excellent, keeping me warm without overheating. On other days I’ve worn a shell jacket over the Carnot from the start, and even with a waterproof one on top it’s stayed dry inside, any dampness being on the outside and quickly dispersing once open to the air. It would have to be well below freezing for me to need more than the Carnot and a shell jacket to keep warm.

For the warmth the Carnot is a reasonable weight (505g for size L). The price is higher than for many fleece jackets, but Power Stretch is one of the best fleece fabrics there is so I think it’s justified.

If you’re looking for a fleece for cold weather I don’t think you’ll find anything much better than the Carnot.

BEST BUY: This product has been awarded our ‘Best Buy’ endorsement, meaning our reviewer believes it to be one of the best items of its kind available.