Hiking Gear Guide
|Home > Hiking Gear > Fleece Jackets||Search Site|
|A Cold Morning on the Highline Trail - Remember Your Fleece???|
|Photo Use Guidelines|
I'm very thankful that sheep are part of this world. See, without sheep, there would be no shearling wool. And without shearling wool, there would be no fleece jackets. And that would be ashame, because fleece jackets (or at least good ones), are one of the greatest inventions for a hiker since the invention of uphill trail elevators.
People visiting Montana during the summer often times forget one rather crucial piece of equipment - warm clothing. Montana can get rather cold during the summer - particularly at night and in the early morning hours. This is especially true in higher valley locations, such as Yellowstone National Park, or up in the mountains. While your standard cotton jackets work well enough if you'll be primarily hanging around hotels or car camping, these jackets fail miserably the minute you step out into the backcountry. Read below to find out why.
Well, I'll have no friends in "cotton country" for saying this, but too bad, so sad. Cotton, to put it simply, stinks for virtually any backcountry use - both literally and figuratively. Cotton jackets are a big no-no for backcountry travel in Montana - period. Cotton jackets absorb moisture; both from perspiration and from external sources such as rain. And when cotton jackets get wet, the jackets become completely useless. A wet cotton jacket will only not keep you warm but can even make you colder, greatly increasing the probability of hypothermia - even during the summer.
Because cotton is such a useless garment for serious backcountry trips, and cotton jackets are no exception to this, a quality fleece jacket is highly recommended. Unlike cotton, fleece allows you to retain body heat, even when the jacket is wet. Fleece jackets also dry out very quickly when they are wet, much the opposite of cotton jackets which seemingly take forever to dry. Fleece jackets are also much warmer and, I think, more comfortable than cotton jackets.
Fleece jackets and other fleece clothing are perfect for day hikes, river float trips and extended backpacks. Fleece jackets are easy to clean, dry fast and also make wonderful pillows.
Overall, if you are serious about outdoor adventures, get a good quality fleece jacket - not a fly by night Wal-Mart special which uses very low quality fleece (after getting one, you'll understand what I mean).
When shopping around for a fleece jacket, the main thing is to make sure that the jacket fits, obviously. Also look for fleece jackets that are meant for hiking, as these types of jackets pack down into smaller packages.
Choosing the style of fleece jackets is really up to the user. Both pullover fleece jackets and zip-up fleece jackets are available. Both work equally well for hiking and backpacking purposes, so choose a style that works best for you.
The following features should be found on any fleece jacket you get, no matter who makes it and where you get it from, if you plan on using the jacket in outdoors activities, such as hiking or camping.
Snug Around the Neck? - This little feature is often not thought of until you need it - like hiking on a windy day at elevation. Now, by "snug around the nec", I mean, does the fleece jacket have a neck warmer (either it bundles up around the neck when you want it or you can fold the collar over the neck). Remember, by keeping the neck warm you can substantially reduce heat loss - not an issue on warm days but rather important on colder ones.
Zipper or Pull Over Jacket? - Now, this is as much of a personal preference as anything. However, I've always found zippered jackets to be far more versatile - and thus useful. Having to constantly pull on/pull off a jacket gets old after a while, especially if you are hiking. Additionally, the zippered styles allow you to fully open the jacket to help regulate your temperature. With a pull-over fleece jacket, you have limited choices in how to regulate your body temperature - the jacket is either on or it is off.
Pockets? - Now, if you are looking for a true stylish fleece jacket, you probably don't want pockets. However, that ALL changes when hiking. When hiking, you WANT pockets on your jacket - the more, the better, at least within reason. I absolutely guarantee you'll find all sorts of uses for the pockets on your fleece jacket, from storing sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, contact lens drops and the list goes on and on. It doesn't really matter where the pockets are (waist or chest or both), but make sure your jacket has some!