Like a go-to coffee mug, everyone has that favorite hoodie; some plain, others emblazoned with their alma mater, or a brand they particularly align with. The hooded pullover brings an extra layer of comfort, whether at home, around town, or deep in the backcountry. Among outdoor apparel brands, we’ve taken notice of a new generation of performance hoodies made from lightweight, breathable, and insulative grid fleece that’s perfect as an active mid or outer layer, and even just lounging around.
A grid fleece hoodie is suitable anywhere a standard hoodie is, with considerable added versatility. Skinning up the hill, chilly trail hikes, and even as a sleeping layer on a cold evening are perfect examples of where these layers shine.
Unlike a standard fleece jacket that’s fuzzy on both sides, a grid fleece material consists of a smooth outer-facing side and a fuzzier, grid-lined underside of soft insulating fleece. The grid pattern encourages a high level of breathability by channeling airflow through negative spaces in the fabric to help evaporate built-up moisture brought on by levels of high activity.
A special partnership between Polartec and Patagonia led to the development of the Micro Grid fabric, making its debut on the R1 fleece. Today, Polartec’s name brand fabric is known as Power Grid, but many brands have also developed their own renditions based on the same construction principles as the Polartec fabric for their base and mid-layer products.
Best Grid Fleece Hoodies
The hard-to-catch Polartec grid hoodie that helped jumpstart the entire craze, presently available only at their Leadville, CO retail shop (where they’re also made) by a scheduled appointment visit, with a limit of one visit per customer, per season. The scuba hood fleece comes in a number of bright and fun colorways, but you’ll have to see what’s available in your size when you get to Leadville.
In the fall of 2020, Patagonia introduced a new zig-zag pattern to their R1 fleece family to increase breathability and speed at which the lightweight layer dries accumulated moisture. The slim-fitting zip hoodie layers well under a shell and wears well with just a base layer for quick movement through alpine environments. The slim hood doesn’t adjust but fits nicely under a climbing helmet.
California running apparel and athletic mindfulness brand District Vision sources an Italian-milled grid fleece for their quarter-zip hoodie, whose tight hood plays well with climbing, cycling, and skiing helmets. The curved zipper raises a gaiter over the wearer’s nose for high levels of protection against the cold air. And, if you find yourself without gloves, a set of concealed thumbholes and built-in fold-over provide impromptu coverage.
Women's Option: No
The Ozark Mountains lifestyle brand sews their Polartec Power Grid hoodies right in the US of A and still offers the pullover Livingston ($98) and zip-up Loma ($128) at very fair prices. Features like the generously sized kangaroo pocket, thumbholes, and drawcord-adjusting scuba hood make this easily-attainable option a fierce competitor for the Colorado-made hoodie.
For their hoodie, the highly stylish Swedish mountain apparel brand uses a material woven from polyester and 17% wool called Wuru, benefitting from the natural moisture wicking properties of wool and the lightness of polyester. The blended fabric is woven into a chainmail-like pattern to give a similar insulation method and wicking to that of other grid fleeces. The Huge’s raglan sleeves, hidden thumb grips, and close-fitting hood make for a grid fleece pullover made for movement on the mountain.
TNF’s quarter-zip Polartec Power Grid hoodie stands out by going for a looser, more regular fit than some more fitted grid fleece hoodies here. A set of side-entry zip pockets cozy up hands, and a small zipped back pocket is handy for storing devices out of the way while hopping up and over trails. For extra durability, four-way stretch panels double up forearm areas.
This hoodie blends the lines between fleece mid-layer and softshell outer by combining a grid fleece with Eddie Bauer’s lightweight, stretch Sandstone fabric treated with a durable waterproof repellant to withstand moderate weather. The athletic-cut hoodie includes a secure zip chest pocket and two more for each hand, plus a hood sized to fit over alpine helmets.
Clean and modern lines make Goldwin’s Polartec Power Grid zip-up hoodie a perfect option for wearing on the street or backcountry. A dropped rear hem keeps lower backs covered, while a trim hood holds close to the head. There’s just one zip pocket on the chest, making for an all-around minimal grid fleece hoodie.
Women's Option: No
OR is well aware that plenty of us like to lounge in our activewear when we’re not out there getting it. The zip-up grid fleece hoodie fits more like a casual hoodie, and open kangaroo pockets help push its vibe in that direction. Once out in the world, the brand’s ActiveTemp fleece regulates temps and dries accumulated moisture.
OG snowboard brand Burton’s AK collection consists of the brand’s most high-performance apparel and accessories for wear on the mountain. The brand chose none other than Polartec Power Grid fleece for their pullover hoodie to outfit boarders working their way up the skin track. We’re not huge fans of the large bracketed logo, but if you stan for Burton, wear it in pride.