Stretch Fleece Tops
Puzzled by their lack of popularity amongst walkers
CHRIS TOWNSEND has tested a selection for Trailwalk
There can be few walkers who don't
own at least one fleece jacket, probably a mid-weight one. Heavyweight
and windproof fleeces are quite popular too. But lightweight fleece,
especially stretch fleece, doesn'tseem to find much favour with walkers.
This puzzles me as it's the ideal weight for wearing as part of a layer
system, the most efficient way to cope with varying weather conditions
and levels of activity. I use this type of fleece all year round, as
my main warm wear in summer and as a base layer or mid layer in winter.
When it's really cold I often wear two stretch fleeces, a more versatile
combination than a thicker single fleece. I also like stretch fleece
because it's lightweight and fairly low in bulk and so takes up little
room in the pack, adding very little to a backpacking load.
Stretch fleece doesn't lend itself to complex
designs. All those tested are simple pullover styles. A few have small
chest pockets but other than that there are no features at all. I prefer
fairly loose hems so I can tuck the garment into my trousers without
it riding up and pulling out. I also like sleeves that can be pulled
up when it's hot, which requires very stretchy or adjustable cuffs.
Other points to look for are flat seams, especially over the shoulders
and in garments that will be worn next to the skin, and sleeves that
don't ride up when you extend your arms, as when scrambling or using
trekking poles. The last are surprisingly hard to find.
There are several different stretch fleece
fabrics available. Some are two-way stretch, some one-way. The first
are closer fitting and so better for wearing next to the skin. Either
will work well as a mid layer. All the fleeces tested breathe well.
In particular bi-component fleece wicks moisture away from the body
amazingly quickly and is superb as a cold weather base layer. This fleece
has a fluffy raised inner that takes moisture off the skin fast and
a smooth outer on which the moisture can spread out for quick evaporation.