View Full Version : Fleece or Down/Synthetic jacket?

10-20-2010, 10:45
Newest advice seems to favor the down or synthetic jacket. But I generally use the tried and true fleece.
Fleece offers warmth, water resistance, and part of a layering system. Cons: I guess would be bulkiness and weight.

What are the advantages/cons of the down/synthetic jacket?


10-20-2010, 11:16
I love down sleeping bags. For true winter, use of a down parka/jacket would be good for in camp.

If you want something that you can hike in in extreme conditions, fleece is fine but has the drawbacks you mentioned (bulk and weight). Synthetic insulating jackets offer warmth, compressibility, light weight, and less negatives to sweat.

I use a REI Gossamer jacket with hood (no longer available) and/or a MicroPuff vest for most summer/shoulder season hikes and for winter in the south. If it's too cold for that, it's time to get into the sleeping bag. If extended rain/sleet is a norm, then I like the idea of having both down (sleeping bag) and synthetic (jacket/vest) with me as insurance. Down bag has NEVER failed me, but there may be a first time.

For true winter in the north, where single digit and below zero are the norm, wetness is less of an issue. A full fledged down coat makes it's way into my bag in these conditions.

Generally, while hiking, even in the north, multiple wool/silk/polypro layers under wind layer are sufficient. Often I see people who are chilled in the morning when they start their hike, and they remain all bundled up in all their insulating layers as they start hiking. They don't want to stop in the first few minutes or half hour, so they end up overheating and sweating, making their insulation damp. Best to strip down to what you know you will need after starting to exercise. The chilled feeling will go away very shortly, you will end up perfectly comfortable, and your insulation will be completely dry when you hit camp that evening. Knowing this will come with experience, and is a valuable lesson to learn early on.

10-20-2010, 11:19
I bought a down UL jacket last april, havent used it yet on a trip though (life gets in the way sometimes). It packs down to the size of a fosters can, and is almost a pound lighter than my lightest fleece.

10-20-2010, 12:16
Yeah, you have the cons for fleece -- heavy and bulky for the warmth. But fleece can be a lot cheaper than down or synthetic puffy jackets, and most people already have a nice fleece.

I think I have five or six different puffy layers, from a really light down vest to a big winter down jacket, some synthetic pullovers, etc. (I can quit any time I want.) Overall I prefer a lightweight down sweater for most cool weather use. Just personal preference, really.

Brian (aka Skippy)
10-20-2010, 15:10
I had a fleece jacket from the thrift store...it worked great the whole way. I didn't carry an insulating jacket from Waynesboro, VA to Hanover, NH.

I also used a fleece bag liner instead of my down sleeping bag from Waynesboro to Manchester, Vermont.

Point being...you don't have to spend a lot of money to stay warm and dry

10-20-2010, 18:53
One advantage is that the puffy has a wind barrier. I have a fleece with a wind membrane/layer and it is stiff and noisy.

It is all about the wind. sort of...

10-20-2010, 20:24
All I know is I love my lightweight down jacket. :D Fleece is alright, but down is just so nice. Take a look at the overstock section at Land's End's webstore, I got my 700-fill jacket there for $50, and it weighs about 11 oz.

10-21-2010, 20:31
I wore a synthetic insulated jacket on my AT thru-hike (a used Patagonia Puffball that I'd bought inexpensively from a needy Penn State student). Glad I did -- the jacket was wet quite a bit of the time and I stayed quite warm. In harsher weather on the AT I wore my raincoat overtop of the synthetic jacket and just let massive condensation happen inside the rain jacket and still stayed quite warm, even in heavy rain and heavy snow with my synthetic jacket soaking wet (warm while I was hiking in those conditions, got into my sleeping bag when I stopped for the evening in those conditions).

It rains so much on the AT I would always use a synthetic jacket on the AT. Now on other trails like the PCT I might take a down jacket if I hiked the PCT again since hiking there was a bit dryer for me.

From a sleeping bag standpoint on the AT, you're not having to hike in the rain wearing your sleeping bag and you can take precautions for keeping your sleeping bag dry. So a down sleeping bag would be fine on the AT (I used a down sleeping bag -- Feathered Friends 20*F bag for much of the way -- it got wet a few times but overall was fine).

Fleece alone wouldn't have been warm enough for me on my AT thru-hike. I'd have froze if I'd only had a fleece jacket.