Imagine you’re out for a long hike in the early spring, or you’re cycling late into autumn, or you need to be outside, but the days are getting colder. You need an outer layer, but you want to be able to move. You don’t want a constricting winter jacket or a thick parka getting in your way, but you need a material that will keep you comfortable.
There are many things to consider when picking outerwear for chilly days outdoors, but if you want something warm and comfortable, look no further than a trusty tactical fleece. ‘Tactical’ is carefully planned with a specific end in mind. Your thermal layer should be carefully planned.
- Top 8 Tactical Fleece Jackets
- What to Look for in a Tactical Fleece
- Final Thoughts
A tactical fleece can be your outerwear or an extra layer under your favourite outerwear. It depends on what you’re doing and the temperature reading, but there are many advantages to having the right fleece. There’s a variety of fleece types out there, so how do you choose? We’ve made a list of the best tactical fleeces to get you started.
Top 8 Tactical Fleece Jackets
Check out our top recommendations for the best tactical fleece jackets.
1) Champion Glen Fleece
Padded and lined, Champion Glen makes a lightweight tactical fleece you can wear as an outer layer. The fit is loose, and that allows some extra give when choosing a size. There’s an inside pocket with a Velcro close, handy for tucking in your phone or wallet. You also have two external zippered side pockets. The cuffs are banded, and the hem is adjustable with a drawstring.
2) Rothco Spec Ops Tactical Fleece Jacket
Two words: tricot lining. You might be asking, what is that? It’s a type of polyester knit that makes for smooth, sturdy material. With tricot lining and a heavyweight fleece, you’re covered for cold days.
You have your pick of zippered pockets with two small pockets on both upper arms, two large pockets on the front, and a small upper chest pocket. There is a drawstring waist and foldout cuffs to seal out the chill.
3) Magcomsen Military Tactical Fleece Jacket
You want a tactical fleece that’s easy to care for? The Magcomsen is anti-shrink and anti-wrinkle. Do you want to be warm even when you’re fighting the wind? Try a tactical fleece jacket with a windproof outer layer, and you won’t need another jacket when the breeze is blowing.
As a middle-weight, you’re good to go for middle-vigorous activities like jogging and cycling, and you’ll still be warm if you slow your pace. The trend of sleeves with thumbholes and a drawstring waist is here too.
Magcomsen’s tactical fleece has exterior pocket space with two zippered chest pockets, two small zippered pockets on each arm, and a wide lower back pocket with zippers left and right.
4) Tavasen Softshell Fleece Jacket
Did you want another windy day option but with a foldable hood? Tavasen’s tactical fleece offers a hood for extra protection from the elements, but when it’s in the way, you can fold it up and zip it into the collar.
If braving the wind isn’t enough, how about a little rain? Lightweight, waterproof, and windproof, you’ll have a lot of movement options.
Tavasen doesn’t shy away from zippered pockets with four sleeve pockets (upper and lower arms), two chest pockets, and a wide lower back pocket. There are also two small front-interior pockets. If you have a camping trip planned, packing a versatile tactical fleece jacket prepares you for whatever weather the great outdoors throws at you.
5) Kefitevd Military Tactical Fleece Jacket
For another hooded option, try this hood with a stiff brim that stops water from dripping down or moisture breaching your collar when folded back.
Kefitevd combines windproof and waterproof again with middle-weight fleece. You have Velcro cuffs and a drawstring hem for easy adjustments. One less arm pocket than the last entry on our list, with the left having only one lower arm pocket, but these front chest pockets are extra roomy.
Know your size, and don’t second guess for bigger, or you’ll be able to fit a second fleece inside.
6) Viper Tactical Fleece
If you’re looking for a tactical fleece to fit like a glove, you want a “sport fit.” Lightweight fleece, cozy fit, elastic cuffs with thumbholes, and an elastic waistband seal in warmth without turning into a sauna.
You can wear this on its own for warmer autumn days or easily slip on another layer, like a windbreaker or raincoat, for any weather. With Viper, you get a double-walled drawstring hood to keep the cool off your neck or pop it over your head to warm your ears.
7) Inbike Tactical Fleece Jacket
What if you need something to keep you warm but in the dark, maybe jogging or cycling near traffic? Inbike has safety in mind by adding a reflective back strip.
Water-repellent, windproof, and breathable, the middle-weight fleece material is sweat-wicking for keeping dry while keeping active. The hood is detachable, but that doesn’t mean detaching the collar—a nice inclusion if you want to keep air off your neck, but you don’t need a hood flapping behind you.
The design is sleek, with two concealed zippered pockets on the front. A small zipper on the upper right side of the chest opens to allow ventilation. The inner pocket is loose, so keep your more jangly and breakable items in the zippered outside pockets. The sleeves have elastic inner cuffs to keep heat in.
8) Helikon Security Hood Patriot Fleece
If you’re thinking about below zero temperatures, you need a true heavyweight tactical fleece. You get a bulky, loose fit, but seal your heat inside with a drawstring hood, drawstring waist, and Velcro cuffs. A chin guard and two-way zipper with a wind flap add extra defence against the cold.
No tactical fleece is complete without zippered pockets, and Helikon has the usual suspects lined up: two upper sleeve pockets, two outer chest pockets, lower back panel, and one lover left sleeve pocket. You can wear this as a jacket for dry frosty days or under something with waterproofing for wetter cold days.
What to Look for in a Tactical Fleece
Tactical fleece jackets are as versatile as the way you wear them. Here are a few things to consider when searching for the right fleece.
Fleece was created as a wool replacement. Instead of shearing an animal, it’s made with oil. A petroleum polyester has the warmth of wool, but it can handle getting a little wet—but it’s always a smart play to check for that ‘waterproof’ label. Double-check if it says ‘waterproof’ or ‘water-repellent.’ Rain gear experts will tell you that this can be a big difference.
If you’re looking for fleece, you want 100% fleece. Some fleece jackets have more than one layer or have sewn-on other fabrics or Velcro. That’s fine. You don’t lose warmth points for style additions that aren’t 100% polyester. But the jacket, the fleece itself, needs that 100% polyester to be effective fleece.
If you’re going for an easy hike or you’re hefting a heavy workload outdoors, if you’re out enjoying a frosty early morning or sunny but cool midday, you’re going to need different fleece weights. Before you choose your fleece, decide if you want it to fit under a raincoat or if you need something thicker for dryer, crisp days.
Lightweight fleece is best for cool days when it’s above zero. It’s the most breathable of fleece weights, making it optimal for more rigorous outdoor activities. If you plan on doing a lot of outdoor jumping jacks, choose lightweight. Lightweight fleece is also useful for putting under other layers, like a waterproof jacket or windbreaker.
The in-between weight, a middle-weight, can be worn under other layers or worn on its own. If you can see your breath, you might want some extra warmth, but you don’t want to overheat. Middle-weight fleece is the best for activities that keep you out in the cold, but you’re moving, think of days skiing or long winter walks.
Heavyweight fleece is for when you’re out in the cold for long periods. If you’re out winter camping or outside for hours, you need heavier material to conserve as much heat as you can. You can wear a heavyweight fleece as a jacket by itself. These tend to be looser and bulkier, which makes it harder to stuff under most jackets.
If you need the warmth of a heavyweight, but you want it to fit under another layer, that’s where fit comes in.
One man’s medium is another man’s small. Unless you have a personal tailor, you know whether your usual size tends to be too short in the sleeves or not long enough in the back.
Lighter fleeces tend to be shorter in length to make it easier as an underlayer, but if you plan to make your fleece layer your only layer, you might want long sleeves or a long waist. Look for long cuffs or fold out cuffs if you want length.
Keep in mind your activity level. If your activity is casual or the weather is mild, something loose will be comfortable. If you’re jogging or doing a lot of movement, you want a tighter fit to prevent catching. It’s also easier to tug a waterproof layer or a winter coat over a snug fleece for long hours of ice fishing or bird watching.
Fleece has come a long way from being a replacement for wool, and there’s a lot it can do for you.
It can be your everyday outdoor wearable, or it can be an extra layer you save for occasions that need a heat boost. It can be sleek, or it can be bulky. If you’re planning an outdoor event, don’t pass over the common fleece without a second thought. Remember to check the material, the weight, and the fit before you pick.
You might want more than one tactical fleece to keep your options open. You can be ready for whatever weather. Think about staying warm and comfortable. If you’re cosy outdoors, the longer you can stay out there.
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