Let’s set aside the jokes around polar fleece as the uniform for us Pacific North-Westerners. First of all, I can take it and secondly, dude, polar fleece works. And really, it’s getting better, the fabrics are getting softer and hold up longer and wash better. Even while I’m developing a preference for natural fibers, I’m finding myself pawing the new polar fleece performance clothing and thinking, “Hey, not bad, actually.”
LL Bean has a new line of jackets out that are lightweight and weather resistant and really warm. Bonus, they’re cut with quite a nice mind for style and have some details that make them worth packing.
Heads up — they’re not water proof, they’re water resistant, that’s a different animal. You’ll be fine running for the car or the bus, or in transitional weather, but you’ll want to add a rain jacket if it’s really coming down.
LL Bean’s insulated fleece jacket has all the basics that I look for in this kind of gear. There are zippered side pockets and a zippered upper pocket for your phone or wallet. And yes, there’s a pull through for your headphones. The waist has an elastic pull so you can cinch it in place to keep the wind out. There’s soft stuff where you want it — the neck is lined with a fluffier material and the collar with a slightly smoother fabric that won’t scratch your face when you’re all zipped in against the cold.
Some additional nice details… the sleeves have a narrower cuff, great for keeping the wind out. Also on the sleeves, a heavier, wind-stop fabric. The jacket feels well constructed with double stitching and flat seams. The fit seems true to size, I got a medium, and it fits as I’d expect. It looks nice, too; I’ve had compliments when I’m wearing it. And it comes in a couple of different colors, a cranberry and a teal for women, and a gray, a dark blue and a burgundy for guys.
I’d have liked the black/gray to come in women’s sizes too, I have a personal preference for neutral colors for the travel wardrobe. I’d also have liked to have a two way zip in the front, again a personal preference that helps with fit.
LL Bean rates this jacket as good down to 35 degrees/ -15F. I’ve been wearing it out in 40 degree temps and really liking it — I’m warm without being weighed down. I stayed dry in damp, not quite pouring conditions, and I haven’t felt constricted, it’s great for running around in. A little bit of insulation combined with the Polartec wind-stop fleece seems to be doing its job.
Right now,the jacket is $124.00 directly from LL Bean, down from the original $149.00. Want one? Get it directly from LL Bean.