Chris Townsend reviews a thick, warm, furry fleece

ThruDark’s new Mantra jacket is made from Polartec Shearling fleece, a thick, shaggy fabric with a soft feel. It’s the original synthetic fleece according to Polartec. “Before we invented soft, smooth synthetic fleece, Shearling’s bulky warmth was the norm”. And forty years ago it was, though then it was called fibre-pile.

The Mantra has a traditional fleece jacket design with a front zip, high collar, and zipped handwarmer pockets. There are panels of lighter weight, stretchier Polartec Power Grid fleece under the arms and down the sides for freedom of movement and increased breathability. The handwarmer pockets are lined with Power Grid. The double-layer high collar is snug and very warm. The cuffs have thumb loops to stop them riding up.

On the chest there’s a small zipped pocket just big enough for a smartphone that’s made from tough Schoeller Ceramic material. Inside there are two lower open topped pockets useful for keeping gloves warm when you take them off or for stopping water bottles freezing. Like the handwarmer pockets they’re cut off by a hipbelt.

ThruDark says the Mantra is for mid to low temperatures and it is very warm. I wore it at the tail end of last winter and found it excellent in temperatures around freezing worn on its own and a little too warm with a shell over it, necessary in strong winds as it’s not very wind resistant (you can easily blow through it). Breathability is excellent and it is very comfortable.

In recent years lightweight synthetic insulated garments have become popular for cool weather and thick fleece has rather faded into the background. The Mantra shows there is still a place for it.

Wearing the Mantra reminded me that a furry fleece jacket feels cuddly and reassuringly warm in a way that no filled garment with a smooth shell ever does. High-pile fabric like Shearling is very tough too. I have a fibrepile jacket I took on my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1982 that’s still going strong. And the material feels just like this Shearling. If it’s anything like as tough as my old jacket the Mantra will long outlast a synthetic insulated jacket, which would justify the quite high price.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in men’s sizes. The only colour is black.

RECOMMENDED: This product has been awarded our ‘Recommended’ endorsement, meaning our reviewer believes it is a strong product which works well for its intended purpose.