Recommended Price: £70
Weight: 385g (men’s large)
Fleece jackets (and sweaters) were once the ubiquitous outdoors kit. Easily to wash, pretty durable, comfy to wear and warm for the weight, it’s easy to see how they expanded out from being walkers’ gear into the mainstream. There were downsides though – the fabric tended to pill over time, leaving the jacket looking a bit of a mess, whilst synthetic insulated jackets surpassed fleeces for warmth-to-weight ratio.
Fleece does remain popular, though, whether worn as a mid- or outer-layer. The Vaude Rienza – which is available both as a pull-over as reviewed here, or as a zipped jacket (£20 more), deals with that old issue of pilling by having a woven texture to the outer face, whilst the inside is traditionally fleecy. This means it retains its very smart looks, and is as at home for that post-walk pint as it is on the hill. In this it is similar to the Patagonia Better Sweater I tested this time last year. It is, however, a fair bit lighter, which is a good thing.
Whilst a zipped jacket is more flexible for year-round use, I find a pull-over a good choice in the colder months to be worn all day, whilst an outer jacket can be put on over the top when not toiling uphill. The Rienza is ideal for this, providing a good base amount of warmth for the weight; I’ve not had problems with sweat building up inside. The seams are flat and I’ve found the cut and fit to be excellent.
On ethics, Vaude are amongst the strongest brands – alongside Patagonia, whether your concerns are about the people making the garments being paid a fair wage, or for their environmental credentials. The dyeing process here is said to cut CO2 usage by 50% – though ultimately the fabric is polyester, and thus oil-based as with most fleece. We’ll be looking much further into the environmental credentials of outdoor gear in a new article next week.
The Rienza pull-over is available in 3 colours and 6 sizes for men, as well as in a jacket version. For women there is no pull-over – but the Rienza jacket is available in 7 colours and 8 sizes.