Perhaps you really feel the cold and want to wrap up warm for a gentle stroll around the local park. Or maybe you’re that highly active long distance trekker who gets hot and sweaty, and opts for a more minimal layering system. Either way, a fleece is just as valid, and there’s an option for both extremes and all in between.

Technically speaking, what is a fleece?

Typically, a fleece is made from polyester (ie, plastic). The polyester fibres are then woven into a light fabric which is brushed therefore increasing its volume – and so the fleece is born. Frequently now, the more eco-conscious companies are using polyester from recycled plastics such as plastic water bottles – so do keep this in mind too when choosing.

What’s so great about a fleece?

The humble fleece is ideal for any physically demanding outdoor pursuit. It’s second to none in terms of warmth to weight ratio, plus being flexible and highly breathable means your body won’t feel constricted. From a practical perspective, they dry quickly if they get wet, they’re durable and they’re easy to look after and care for. Oh, and by no means least, let's not forget they’re super soft and comfortable to wear.

Different types of fleece

Depending on your level of activity, the types of weather you’ll be going out in, and for how long, there’ll be a fleece to suit you. Some will have a thick and fluffy feel to them, while others will be more minimal and lightweight. Some fleeces will be made from wool or other natural fibres too, these will have other qualities such as added warmth, natural odour resistant and naturally biodegradable.

How should you layer with a fleece?

A fleece is typically used as a mid-layer, worn over a moisture-wicking base-layer, and in warmer or high demand activities, this will suffice. Should the weather turn bad, a waterproof and/or windproof outer layer worn over the top will keep you in perfect shape.

Mammut Innominata Advanced Jacket: £99, Mammut

If you’re looking for a soft, cosy and warm fleece to keep the cold out, this one ticks all the boxes. Made throughout from a generously thick premium grade fleece, there’s also a few other great touches that make this our top choice; an adjustable hem drawcord, a neat internal zipped pocket, a strip of slightly harder wearing fabric sewn to the inside of the cuffs for added durability, a hanging loop on both the inside and outside – the attention to detail is excellent.

It’s a well cut and a great fitting jacket, the warm collar is a perfect height and holds itself nicely even when unzipped. It’ll cross over perfectly into everyday life too – this is difficult to fault, particularly at this price point.

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Montane Wolf Hoodie: £124.49,

Featuring a particularly soft and cosy premium grade fleece on the body and arms, you’ll certainly feel warm and comfortable in this great piece of kit. A more technical choice, it’s a more athletic fitting fleece, without being too tight or constrictive. You won’t be overheating in higher exertion scenarios, with a thinner and more stretchy fabric on the side, underarms and hood, it’s well balanced for those into high exertion physical activities in cooler temperatures. The hooded neck section sits well as a collar and it has nicely sized pockets.

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Rab Alpha Flux Jacket: £140, Rab

This is great fitting, lightweight and hard wearing hooded jacket for active scenarios. The only one of its kind in this list, it’s made from a durable nylon outer fabric, and is then lined with premium fleece on the inside. This combination of materials makes it a great option if you’re likely to be scrambling, carrying a backpack or other gear – it’ll stand up to these rigours where some fleeces might frey quite quickly.

The side panels are made from a stretchy fleece which offers both breathability and comfort. The sleeves are long and armed with thumb loops, the neck and hood fit neatly and it’s also treated with an odour resistant treatment.

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Sherpa Sonam Jacket: £90, Sherpa

Sherpa is a brand founded on Himalayan tradition, with strong ethical considerations. This is a really nice looking and fitting premium fleece – not athletic but not too baggy – it has a super warm and soft, yet durable feel. The collar is really well considered as it fits perfectly around your neck. Its seams are placed away from shoulders and hips to avoid chafing under pack straps, and it’s mostly made of recycled polyester. Less on the technical end of the spectrum, this fleece is a top choice for casual hikes and general use, and comes at a great price too.

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Fjallraven Keb Fleece Hoodie: £175, Fjallraven

This beautifully crafted jacket might be one of the most expensive options on this list, but if the outdoors is your playground, it's an ideal option. Made from a blend of polyester (mostly recycled), wool and some elastane (for stretch), this no nonsense jacket is ideal all year round – it’s warming yet wicking and breathable, and very much intended to be worn whilst active. The outside has a pretty hard wearing finish while the interior is softer, providing a good level of insulation. There are patches over the tops of the shoulders which makes it good for carrying a backpack.

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Musto Shearling Polartec​ Fleece: £165, Musto

This more relaxed and comfortable fitting jacket is made from a warm and super cosy premium high loft fleece (this more fluffy style has the highest warmth to weight ratio of any). In a nod to Musto’s maritime pedigree, it’s also your best all weather option – with a ripstop nylon overlaid on the upper front and back sections offering added resistance to wind and water. It’s very well made, and will be equally wearable at home in a more casual scenario, which is always handy.

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Patagonia Men's Synchilla​ Snap-T Fleece Pullover: £120, Patagonia

The most iconic of all fleeces, Patagonia's design has stood the test of time and remains unchanged since its creation decades ago. This is a super comfy and generous fitting pullover, made from a heavyweight polyester. It doesn’t try to be a fancy or particularly technical, it's simply a great looking, hardwearing and capable top that’ll be good in pretty much every scenario, whether it be hiking or down the local pub. Elasticated cuffs and hem keep warmth in, and as ever with Patagonia’s eco-credentials, it’s made from around 80 per cent recycled materials, so you’ll sleep easy.

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Haglofs Micron Wool Hoodie: £180, Haglofs

This fleece is made from 100 per cent merino wool, and you’re in no doubt of this the moment you put it on – it's so soft, comfy and warm. The jacket fits really nicely too, it’s more towards the relaxed end of the spectrum, not the athletic, as it doesn’t have elasticated hems. But with simple yet elegant design that’s all natural, biodegradable and naturally odour free, this is a top choice for the more eco-conscious, as well as those looking for a well made jacket.

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Arc’Teryx Delta LT Zip Neck: £75, Arc'Teryx

The lightest weight fleece in this line up, this a more minimal fleece option, intended to be used as either a base or mid layer. If you’re really active, this is a great option. At just 230grams, you can easily pack it into your rucksack should you got too hot, or to have it as a backup should temperatures fall. It’s an athletic snug fitting piece and is well suited to high intensity activities, but for relaxed hiking in cooler conditions it works perfectly layered with an outer jacket. This is an essential stock item for any adventurer's wardrobe.

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Columbia Marley Crossing Fleece: £70, Colombia

Probably the least traditional fleece in this lineup – this does not have that soft touch as many of the others are – but if you’re expecting to be active and wearing a backpack, it’s a great option. Made from a high wicking fabric, this will deal with perspiration very well; under the arms and on the sides and back is a slightly thinner material that’ll allow that excess heat to dissipate should you get hot. With a handy chest pocket and a collar that comes high to keep out the chill, this is a lightweight, technical hardwearing fleece for a decent price.

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Berghaus Tulach 2.0 Fleece: £85, Berghaus

A nice mid-weight fleece, this is a no-nonsense option with a well proportioned and fitting neck to keep you warm should you need, as well as elasticated wrists and hem to keep out drafts. It fits nicely with just the right amount of room for you to comfortably wear a base layer or shirt underneath, it also has big handwarmer pockets too. A very versatile and durable piece that’s well suited to a wide spectrum of activities and occasions.

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The North Face Denali Fleece: £150, The North Face

A design that’s stood the test of time and is somewhat of a classic, this is technically a pretty capable fleece as well as bridging that gap perfectly into daily use too. There’s no denying with its thick pile style finish that this a really comfortable option, it includes a fleece lined collar and offers a relaxed fit. Elasticated cuffs and an adjustable hem means it’ll fit well for a variety of shapes and sizes, pit zips under the arms offer good airflow for when you get hot, and there’s plenty of nicely placed handy pockets. This is a very stylish yet warm and well thought out fleece, available in some quirky colours.

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The Verdict: Best men's hiking fleeces

If you’re active outdoors and cross over into disciplines such as mountaineering, the Rab jacket is just the job. If you’re eco-conscious and want the cosiest hooded fleece ever, look no further than the Haglofs. However when all is considered – price, fit, performance, materials, attention to detail,and suitability to hiking – the Mammut is a great all round package.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.