how to choose a hiking jumper, fleece or padded jacket

How to choose a hiking jumper or fleece?

To stay warm, the famous "fleece" is available as a gilet, hoodie or jacket... 
On the other hand, there are cotton blend hiking jumpers... it's sometimes difficult to find your way through so many options.
We'll help you make the right choice!

Jumpers and fleeces are perfect as a second layer to keep your body warm, whether you’re hiking or in your daily life.

The choice of a hiking jumper or fleece garment depends on 3 main criteria:
The intensity of your effort, which will require more or less breathability and zips to regulate your temperature
The weather outside, especially the temperature and rain, which will require more or less warmth and water-repellency
The duration of your hike or trek, which will require more or less compactness to fit in a backpack

The minute dictionary to differentiate between "jumper" and "fleece"

Before we get started, let's start with a not-so-slight detail: we're going to talk about jumpers AND fleece.
A jumper can be made of fleece, and a fleece is not necessarily a jumper.
Fleece is a "highly insulating polyester fibre", and a jumper is a "wool or cotton knit covering the upper body, which is pulled over the head".
OK so far, even for those at the back of the class🤓?
Great, now we can start!

Have a good read 😀

How to recognise a good fleece or jumper?

The choice of fleece clothing is extremely wide: from the ultra-warm, ultra-thin jacket to the plush sweater that makes you feel like you're in your duvet.
Jumpers, on the other hand, have become such a classic that they all seem to look the same... no wonder it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the different levels of quality and choose one model over another.
So let's start by looking at the basic characteristics of jumpers and fleeces to get a clearer picture.

  • How to recognise a good fleece or jumper?


    Country walking jumpers are designed for moderate efforts.

  • How to recognise a good fleece or jumper?


    Mountain walking jumpers are designed for more intense efforts. The clothing will then be more technical to accompany your movements, the intensity of your effort and to better protect you from the wind while keeping you at the right temperature.


What is fleece made of?

Although we have become accustomed to calling the garment itself "fleece", it’s actually a textile material that can be used as a jacket, gilet or jumper. "Fleece" is made of hollow fibres that will retain the heat emitted by your body and keep you warm.
These "small hollows" filled with warm air will therefore provide insulation and thermal comfort.
Made of synthetic material, go for those made of recycled plastic which have a lower environmental impact.
At Decathlon, we have been interested in recycled fleeces since 2010: it's been more than 10 years since we took this environmental turn and produced Quechua warm and comfortable fleeces from recycled bottles!


What materials are used for hiking jumpers?

Jumpers can be made of synthetic materials, wool (often Merino wool for its special qualities) or a mix of synthetic and cotton. 
Some jumpers are also "brushed" on the inside (the soft side) for a "fleece" effect to retain the heat. If you're more of a cotton person, a jumper made of a half natural, half synthetic material may be just what you're looking for, but it won't dry as quickly if you're sweating inside. 
A Merino wool jumper is extremely technical and practical because the natural material retains less bad odours. On the other hand, it’s more expensive than a fleece and its not as easy to look after. The fleece will give you a faster drying time and more technicality in general, with relatively simple maintenance at an affordable price.


How do you judge the quality of a fleece or jumper?

A good fleece garment is one that will not pill.
This is especially true for hiking fleeces, which may be subject to rubbing from shoulder straps or the back of a backpack. 
This is why some fleece garments are actually hybrids and reinforced in areas of friction.
Choose a very "breathable" fleece that will easily evacuate your perspiration thanks to a specific mesh that lets the water vapour generated by the body pass through.
To get a better idea of the quality of a fleece, look for the mention of laboratory tests, as is the case for our Quechua hiking fleeces. 
The material itself is tested for its properties. 
As for abrasion resistance, this is measured by a test called the martindale. This machine rubs a sample of the fabric on a reference surface with a weight on the end to reproduce the friction of the bag on the garment, for example. 
Then the whole garment is tested on a moving mannequin in a chamber that reproduces outdoor conditions. 
Finally, at Quechua, our design offices at the foot of Mont Blanc mean we can test our products in the field with real hikers.

In fact, when should you wear a fleece or a jumper when hiking?

Feeling "a little chilly"?
A jumper or fleece jacket can give you that extra bit of warmth and a soft feeling of comfort.
The key is to wear it as a second layer, which has a thermal insulation role.
If the term "second layer" doesn't ring a bell, you can read this article on the three layer technique.
Above a cool temperature, the fleece alone is recommended if it’s not raining.
If you ever find yourself in a light rain, remember to check that your fleece is water-repellent (i.e. water droplets will "slide off" the material as long as it's not raining too hard), or add a thin waterproof layer on top.


What type of fleece or jumper for everyday?

The fleece has become an essential part of our wardrobe, whether we're into hiking or napping on the couch.
And why deprive yourself of it?
Practical, warm, cosy and comforting, the fleece has many advantages for indoor use or everyday life.
But is it better than a good old jumper? 
We help you choose the right jumper or fleece for your daily life.

Choosing a fleece jumper, gilet or sweatshirt for the home

For "athleisure" use (for the non-English speakers in the room, this is a contraction of ""athlete"" and ""leisure"": a sort of cross between sports and urban fashion), you should choose fleece jumpers and jackets designed for cooler weather, i.e. between 4 and 13°C.
You don't need a super-compact fleece, because you don't have to pack it in a backpack. You can then opt for thick, soft fleeces that will make you feel like you're walking around wrapped up in your duvet.
Normally, you won't be going for an indoor sports session. So you won't particularly need a fleece with zips, which are used to regulate the temperature during intense exercise by letting in more or less outside air. Beyond the warmth, it’s ultimately the look and your body shape that will determine your choice!

Several styles of fleece or jumper are available depending on your tastes:

Curved shape: ideal if you want something a little more aesthetic, if you like to wear your clothes close to the body or if your 3rd layer (coat or other) is already quite thick. 
Loose fit for a relaxed silhouette: ideal if you don't like tight fits, if you have an "A" or "H" shape, if your first layer (your first garment against the skin) is quite thick, or if you just like to have your top below your hip drop. 
On the aesthetic side of things, the finish is what will guide your choice. 
Do you like hoods? Do you prefer a full zip to wear your fleece as an open jacket or a half zip to wear it as a jumper? Do you need pockets to put your keys or even your mobile phone in? Do you like colours or basic all-purpose items? Are you a little cold, but not that cold? Perhaps a gilet (which keeps most of your vital organs warm, without restricting the freedom of movement of your arms) would be more appropriate, especially in the mid-season? 
In short, choose the finishes and models of fleece clothing that suit your lifestyle and style.

Choosing a fleece garment for outdoor work

If you are looking for a fleece that can be used for hiking as well as for outdoor work (for example, the terrace you started 3 years ago and then left aside... or gardening), you will need warmth without necessarily needing the same technicality as for a fleece for trekking at 2,000 metres of altitude. You don't need a super thin fleece, because you don't have to pack it in a backpack.
The above-mentioned temperature criteria still apply. However, we recommend a fleece jacket with a zip or inserts that help wick away perspiration, rather than a jumper. This lets you manage your temperature changes between exercise and rest phases. You should also opt for a hybrid fleece jacket with a windproof material in the chest area, with as many pockets as possible.


What type of fleece or jumper for hiking in cold weather?

For hiking all year round, in mid-season and for cooler evenings, between 4 and 13°C, the mountain and country walking fleece and jumper models will be the most suitable for your need for warmth. They are laboratory tested to give you enough warmth without an extra layer in the 4 to 13°C range.

Did you know...? If it’s very windy then the temperature will drop. In this case, hybrid jumpers or fleeces with a windproof insert are more suitable.

Why a specific fleece for outdoor sports?

A jumper that isn’t designed for sports will not necessarily be brushed on the inside, and therefore less warm.
There is also a good chance that it will be very windy and not sufficiently insulating.
Whereas at Decathlon, all our jumpers and fleeces are designed according to the constraints of the sport practised, by design teams who are adept at hiking, and tested in the laboratory and in the field!

Jumper or fleece for a mid-season hike?

Are you getting ready for a hike on the beach or in the woods with your family? If there is no gradient, your effort will be less intense so you can choose a country walking jumper, comfortable and suited to this type of exercise. If you prefer hikes with gradient, your effort will be more intense and you’ll perspire more. For hikers in the mountains, to avoid staying in damp fabric or being too hot, choose a breathable fleece instead.

Zipped or not zipped? This isn't only a question of style

Zips are mainly a means of circulating air and therefore cool you down after a big effort. They are all the more useful when the effort is intense. They are complemented by the breathability of the material, which will help wick away perspiration. Together, they will prevent you from getting hot, but also from sweating too much then being cooled down by your own perspiration and therefore getting cold.

Compactness, essential for your long hikes or treks 

If you're going on a day trip or one that lasts several days, and you know that the temperatures are going to be changeable, that the sun is going to be temperamental and that your effort is going to vary, opt for a technical fleece. It will adapt better to the outdoor conditions than a simple jumper. In addition, some fleeces are very thin and will easily fit in your bag. What's more, a fleece will dry more quickly than a jumper containing cotton.


What type of fleece or jumper for winter hiking?

If you are hiking in the snow, the air will be cold and your body will need more warmth. In this case, we recommend you choose a hiking fleece suitable for temperatures below 4°C. Jumpers are much less suitable.
We advise you to keep them for evenings by the fire when you return from your snowy outing.


What are the differences between winter and mid-season fleeces?

The material of a fleece designed for winter will be more insulating, i.e. it will have a higher density, expressed in g/sqm.
In addition, to prevent cold air from entering through the sleeves they are fitted with cuffs.
We also warmly recommend winter models with a hood.
After all, we lose a lot of heat through our heads.
So at least if you’ve forgotten your hat, you'll have a hood to keep you warm!
Many fleeces designed for winter also have inside pockets made of fleece (brushed mesh) to keep your hands warm. These pockets are also equipped with a zip, so that your phone doesn't jump through the powder.
Did you know ? More warmth doesn't mean less breathability - you could end up sweating at the slightest incline!
For this reason, there are winter fleeces with an opening in the back so you can regulate the temperature without losing overall thermal comfort.

BONUS: windproof and water-repellent in winter, down jacket or fleece?

Are you undecided between a down jacket and a fleece? The down jacket will be more windproof and water repellent than a fleece.
However, the advent of hybrid fleeces has changed all that! There are fleeces with waterproof inserts on the shoulders, lower sleeves and hood.
This means you don't necessarily need an extra layer if a few flakes fall.
Check out our hybrid fleece jackets for adults with a body-mapping design to give you warmth where you need it.


If you’re hiking for several days and are worried about varying weather conditions, a trekking down jacking will probably be more suitable!

You know more about choosing your jumper or fleece depending on your purpose: sipping hot chocolate by the fire in a chalet (or elsewhere, but you get the picture), or hiking in different temperatures and terrains.
We wish you beautiful and comfortable adventures (inside and/or outside) with your jumper or fleece!



Hiking enthusiast


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