Question: I do a fair bit of trekking with heavy packs. For comfort, I prefer not to wear a shell jacket (either hard or soft). Unfortunately, I have had some durability issues with fleece. Could you please suggest any materials that are comfortable enough to wear as a mid layer yet durable enough to withstand my pack?
Answer: Hi there,
The name is Gear, Richard 'Mid-Layer' Gear. Pack straps can take a
heavy toll on standard fleece mid-layers particularly if the fabric
they're made from is particularly abrasive - check some packs out and
you'll see this varies a lot between different packs and different
brands, it would be great if pack manufacturers started looking at
clothing friendly fabrics for their straps.
That said, I can
suggest a few
options for you. First, you say that you
don't want to wear soft shell for comfort and I'm assuming, by that,
you primarily mean breathability. However there are some soft shell
options out there that are both quite tough and also very breathable,
mainly woven fabrics.
One option I'd consider, if you want some insulation as well, is
something from Rab's
Vapour-rise range of clothing. It uses a
micro-velour fleece liner, a very thin one, teams with Pertex
Equilibrium, which is high wicking and also more breathable than fully
windproof fabrics like standard Pertex. I've found it a really good
compromise between breathability and insulation making it an ideal UK
conditions hill top and the outer is far more abrasion-resistant than
If you don't want an insulation element to the jacket, then have a look
at the Montane
Dynamo Jacket which uses a
stretch version of Pertex Equilibrium, which gives great wicking and
breathability and some wind resistance, but without fleece warmth,
though you could always layer a fleece underneath.
I'd also look at other woven soft shells. the North Face's range of
Apex tops uses very breathable but acceptably tough fabrics for example.
If you want a fleece-type garment, I'd suggest a couple of options. On
is Polartec PowerStretch, which won't be as tough as the soft
shell-type garments listed above, but is more durable than fleece. Lots
of brands use this fabric and it's approximately as warm as 100-weight
If you want something warmer, have a look at Rab's new Shadow
uses wind-resistant Polartec Windpro with Hardface technology. The
Hardface bit is important because it means there's a tougher outer face
to the jacket which is more abrasion resistant than standard fleece.
Warmth is closer to mid-weight fleece and it also has more wind
resistance than normal fleece, rather like the old Ultrafleece fabrics.
Finally, you might be able to find a fleece with reinforced / patched
shoulders, but off the top of my head, I can't think of one, mostly
because soft shell has superceded fleece for a lot of active use.