wool or fleece for a midlayer?

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Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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    Brett Peugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    Okay I am wanting to know if people would pick a fleece top like an R1 or a similar one in wool for a midlayer and why? Down and high loft synthetic insulation are not options. Thanks.

    Mark Fowler
    BPL Member


    Locale: Namadgi

    While wool (merino is just a breed of sheep that produces very fine wool fibres) is great for base layers in very lightweight fabrics (150 – 200gsm), you will find heavier weight wool fabrics can become quite heavy and take a long time to dry if saturated. This occurs in the lightweight wools as well, but in this instance the trade off between the water absorption and wool's beneficial properties is acceptable. In heavier weight wool garments the increase in weight and long drying time become less acceptable and IMHO fleece is a better midlayer.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    something along the lines of R1 is going to breathe well, provide warmth and possibly most importantly- dry quickly

    Eric Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    i agree completely on fleece. however, on short trips (<3 nights) i tend to always wear my Pendleton wool button-down shirts because i just plain hate the way fleece looks and fits on me. wool button-downs remind me of camping with my dad as a kid. that being said i only wear my waffle stompers (which are also nostalgic w/ red laces n' all) in the winter now.

    in winter or shoulder seasons i'll bring a down shirt to wear under my rain gear if it gets cold.

    Ken Bennett


    Locale: southeastern usa

    I love my wool base layers (mostly Icebreaker 150) so much that I went and bought a 290 weight zip tee. It's great — but not for backpacking. Way too heavy for the warmth, and it takes a long time to dry. I wear it as a winter base or mid-layer for less aerobic activities, like birdwatching or photography.

    Stuart Burke


    Locale: Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

    I would also recommend choosing a fleece midlayer. I had the pleasure of rediscovering fleece this year. When I joined this site i kinda forgot that fleece existed. I thought that wool, eVent, and lightweight down jackets were the only things you could wear outside ;) But this year I started telemarking and I discovered that a lightweight wool base layer, a R1 type fleece and a thin softshell jacket are the perfect layers to go skiing in. I have a first ascent copy of the R1 hoody and I never want to take it of during winter. From now on I think that for any trip where the temps are not going to be much above freezing I will be bringing my fleece hoody to wear over a thin baselayer.

    Andy F


    Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic

    I've wavered back and forth on wool vs. fleece over the past few years. My conclusion is that in dry-cold conditions (< 20F or so), wool is an option. Warmer than that, and I sweat too much to wait for wool to dry. Fleece garments seem nearly dry after shaking them out, while wool still feels cool.

    The stink issue is irrelevant because I don't stink! ;-)

    James holden
    BPL Member


    i use them all … a westcomb wool/synth hoody with a very open weave … and polartec fleece with very open weave … as well as R1 style fleeces … and 290 wt merino

    – IMO heavier merino with dense weave are not as suitable because they take longer to dry …
    – wool/synth with an open weave works quite well … breath very well and doesnt stink … more durable than merino, dries quickly, the fluffiness allows it to be totally wet yet you just wring it out and itll feel no more than damp against the skin
    – R1 style … works well, breathes fairly well though not as well as an open weave fleece, and not as warm … very trim and durable, dries quickly
    – open weave fleece … breathes extremely well, not windproof at all but it isnt meant to be, very warm under a windshirt, dries the quickest, the fluffiness allows it to be totally wet yet you just wring it out and itll feel no more than damp against the skin

    IMO the westcomb pinnacle hoody is the best of both worlds with italian wool, synth fibers, and highly breathable .. doesnt stink … expensive, but picked mine up for ~100$ …. not to mention its exremely high quality with double stiching all around and is made in vancouver, bc … i take it instead of an R1 anyday unless ill be doing handjams and offwdiths, in which case i take a cheaper R1 copy instead

    theres a review by someone here …

    Jim W.
    BPL Member


    Locale: So-Cal

    I'm with Mark- Light wool as first layer, then fleece as mid.

    For cool to cold weather I prefer 200 weight wool rather than 150 or 260 because it seems to buffer moisture enough without taking too long to dry. (Feels more comfortable and stinks way less than synthetics in my opinion) Depending on expected temperatures, my wool layer may be short sleeve or long.

    Over that a thin fleece (probably about equal to R1 thickness) which passes moisture well and provides some compression resistance against wind, contact with cold surfaces, etc.

    Then a windshirt.

    That covers me for active hiking down to about 15 or 20 degrees. When I stop a puffy layer goes on.

    For my legs I go with only synthetics because I'm more likely to get wet, and the stink/comfort issue doesn't happen the same as on my torso.

    Jim Morrison


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    thanks for all the comments.  I was about to switch from my fleece mid layer (I have several weights/styles) to merino.  The information provided here convinced me that for my purposes, most of the time, that my fleece mid layer is still doing an adequate job and would be difficult to improve on.


    Eric Osburn
    BPL Member


    I wear a thin wool t-shirt, wool underwear and 50% wool socks but other than that it’s fleece as a mid layer and down as an insulation layer. I have some heavier ~200 weight wool long sleeve shirts I’ll wear as my base layer in the winter. I like wool for it’s anti-odor properties and for how it feels next to your skin.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Using polyester fleece due to performance in conditions (crappy) when I would need a mid layer .. an Arcteryx Delta LT (lightwt) pullover to be exact.  Also good for town at the opry.  Now to find running shorts which double as formalwear…

    BPL Member


    Seems like many of the respondants have come to the same conclusion I have.  Light (100-150wt) wool is great for next-to-skin (and my choice) but for an insulating mid-layer I prefer fleece.  Current favorite is Cap Thermal Weight as it is so flexible.

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