Recommended Price: £80
The Patagonia Better Sweater is a fleece whose outer fabric is woven into a sweater-knit face, making this a garment that looks smart both on the hill and off it, and avoids the unsightly pilling that affects many alternatives after a few washes. The interior is more obviously traditionally fleecy, and wicks moisture well.
Although it’s really a warm mid-layer – and it works well under a waterproof shell in cold conditions – it’s great to wear as an outer layer on dry days too. I’ve found that its both a little warmer and more wind resistant than a traditional Polartec 200-type fleece, so you’re getting a garment that not only looks smart and is extremely comfortable to wear, but functions well too. The long back ensures its comfy worn with a pack, and the raglan sleeves give good freedom of movement.
Patagonia is justly renowned for the eco-credentials of its gear, and the Better Sweater is no exception. Although it’s made in Thailand, the sewing is certified Fair-Trade, so those who made it were paid fairly, and the dyeing process used on the polyester fabric is said to minimise the use of energy and water.
I tested the quarter length zip pullover version which only has a chest pocket, but a full-zip version with hand-warmer pockets is also available, as is a hooded version; there’s also a ‘performance’ variant that has stretch side panels. There’s a choice of 6 colours (or 8 with the full zip).
Pros: sweater knit of outer fabric looks smart and prevents pilling, good warmth, eco-credentials.
Cons: quite heavy.