Best Microgrid Fleece Jackets for Backpacking

With the rise in popularity of grid fleeces, thru-hikers now have more options than ever to choose from when hunting for a reliable midlayer that’s catered to their needs.

The hallmark of microgrid fleece is its moisture-wicking capability. Whether you’re in search of a lightweight fleece that offers minimal insulation while actively trekking, a packable and warm layer to keep the cold out during chilly nights around camp, or something in between, there’s something out there for you.

This type of midlayer operates best as an extra layer of warmth in conjunction with a wind or rain jacket. While I wouldn’t recommend swapping out your insulated puffy for a microgrid hoodie just yet, the microgrid + windproof shell combination does offer a formidable alternative to traditional midlayers.

Best Microgrid Fleece Hoodies for Backpacking: Quick Navigation

LightHeart Gear Fleece Hoodie | Best Fully-Featured
SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie | Best Warmth-to-Weight Ratio
The Squak Fleece Mid-Layer Microgrid Hoodie | Best Budget
Melanzana Micro Grid V2 Hoodie | Fan Favorite
Senchi Alpha 60 Hoodie | Best Ultralight

Best Microgrid Fleece Hoodies FAQs:

Regular Fleece vs Microgrid Fleece: What’s the Difference?
Fleece vs Puffy: How Much Insulation Do You Need?
Features to Look for in the Best Thru-Hiking Microgrid Fleeces

Shop Where You Hike

Why not shop local if you can? Melanzana and Lightheart Gear have showrooms where you can try on garments to ensure a great fit and see the manufacturing process in action.

Even for brands that don’t offer in-person shopping, you can reduce emissions generated during the shipping process by ordering garments that are manufactured in your region.

Mountain West – Melanzana, SkyGOAT
Southwest – The Squak
Pacific Northwest – Senchi Designs
East Coast – LightHeart Gear

Best Microgrid Fleece Hoodies: FAQs

Regular Fleece vs Microgrid Fleece: What’s the Difference?

A standard fleece is likely what you picture as your go-to midlayer (think: Patagonia Synchilla Pullover). It’s a solid fleece that’s fuzzy, fluffy, and insulated, often used as a standalone layer. It can be reasonably wind-resistant, ultra warm, and is known for being durable.

The popular microgrid fleece has changed the midlayer game. In this type of garment, the fleece is laid out in a grid pattern on a matrix of stretch fabric. Grid fleeces operate best when layered underneath another jacket, like an ultralight wind jacket. Although they aren’t quite as warm or durable as traditional fleece, microgrid hoodies offer unparalleled temperature and moisture management and are ideal for those who want a breathable, lightweight active layer.

Many fleeces on this list utilize industry-leading Polartec fleece.

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Fleece vs Puffy: How Much Insulation Do You Need?

For many hikers, the decision whether to carry a fleece or a puffy is a common dilemma. In fact, most thru-hikers opt for one over the other in an effort to save on weight, space, and cost. However, it’s prudent to consider bringing both if you anticipate chilly or changeable weather conditions (or if your puffer jacket doubles as a pillow!).

Let’s break it down. If you’re prioritizing warmth and excellent wind protection in one garment, go with a down-insulated puffy. Just keep in mind the delicate face fabrics that most puffy jackets are made out of. Prone to snagging and wear if not handled carefully, down jackets are particularly susceptible to damage from rain or sweat. Both down and synthetic insulated jackets may prove overly warm for active hiking.

In contrast, go with a microgrid fleece if you care most about breathability, moisture management, and a more affordable price tag. Though it won’t keep you quite as warm on its own, a microgrid fleece plus wind layer will keep you pretty invincible to the elements on a spring, summer, and early fall thru-hike.

Microgrid fleeces and insulated jackets fall on roughly the same spectrum in terms of weight.

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What are some features to look for in the best microgrid fleece hoodies?

Weight: Under 14 ounces.

Jacket vs. Pullover: Most microgrid fleeces are pullovers, frequently with cinch cords to seal out drafts. Though pullovers can be annoying to take on and off, the lack of a zipper minimizes heat loss and saves a few ounces. Full-zip grid jackets do exist, offering better ventilation and convenience but adding more weight. For the sake of consistency, in this review I solely tested pullovers and one half-zip option.

Hood and Cinch Cord: All of the pullovers in this review included hoods. Many, but not all, also include a shock cord hood adjustment to dump or hold in heat, which can be very effective, especially in windy conditions. The lack of a cinch cord opens the door to cold drafts, rendering a hood somewhat useless.

Pockets: Most microgrid fleeces feature a spacious kangaroo pocket. This large front pocket was most useful for keeping my hands warm, but I didn’t fully trust stashing any goods in there during the day as it does not have zippers and is just one large pocket with no compartments.

Fit: Opt for a slim, comfortable fit to reduce cold spots and dead air space between layers. That said, you also want to avoid going too tight – you’ll likely have another form-fitting layer underneath your midlayer hoodie, so keep this in mind when sizing. Most of these fleeces have some stretch, offering decent mobility in the arms while still being thin enough to layer a puffy and/or wind layer over it. 

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The Best Microgrid Fleece Hoodies for Backpacking of 2024

LightHeart Gear Fleece Hoodie Men’s | Women’s (Best Fully Featured Microgrid Fleece)

best microgrid fleece hoodies

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking: LightHeart Gear Fleece Hoodie

MSRP: $99
Weight: 11.7 oz (men’s medium) | 10 oz (women’s medium)
Materials: 100% polyester micro grid fleece
Size range: S – XXXL men’s | XS – XXXL women’s

Beloved by the thru-hiking community for garments that are made for hikers, by hikers, LightHeart Gear hit their mark with the Fleece Hoodie a thoughtfully-designed fleece that incorporates many desired features into a reasonable 10-ounce package.

While it’s not the lightest or most affordable on the list, the thick, warm polyester grid design of this fleece makes it the closest to a standalone layer of any fleece I tested.

This was one of the only microgrid fleeces on the list that performed well in winter temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit without supplemental insulation. As long as the wind didn’t blow, I found myself frequently opting for the LightHeart fleece as my primary insulation on cold days in the alpine.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend hiking in this fleece on milder days. On warmer treks, I’d stash it away as an extra layer for evenings around camp.

Materials and Features

The construction of this grid fleece excels at increasing warmth while venting excess heat.

With a dropped hem in the front and back, the Fleece Hoodie has a long torso that extends to the top of the thigh. It also has an extra-large kangaroo pocket that offers plenty of space for snacks and gadgets. This fully-featured hoodie also incorporates long sleeve cuffs with thumbholes, an adjustable scuba hood with impressive coverage, and a cowl neck to cozy up during cold spells on trail.

Compared to other fleeces on this list, the LightHeart Gear Fleece Hoodie is one of the pricier options, though not by much. However, with the added bonus of nearly every additional feature you could want on a hoodie, the $99 price tag seems justified.

Pros: Fully-featured with cinch-cord hood, thumbholes, and pocket; warm enough to work as a standalone layer; material stayed soft even after multiple washes; lots of color options; online ordering with no wait time

Cons: Longer hemline made for an awkward fit, more comparable to a tunic; bulkier material (which contributed to better insulation, so pick your battles); ventilation wasn’t it’s strong suit, so would avoid hiking in; not impressively lightweight or packable

What Won Me Over: Large kangaroo pocket that didn’t sag when filled and adjustable scuba hood with a cozy turtle neck

Ideal For: Primary insulation on cold  days

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SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie Men’s | Women’s (Best Warmth-to-Weight Ratio)

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking: SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie

MSRP: $99
Weight: 9.4 oz (men’s medium) | 9.1 oz (women’s medium)
Materials: Custom GOATgrid fleece fabric (recycled polyester)
Size range: XS – XXXL men’s (tall sizes available) | XS – XXL women’s

If you aim to go fast and light, the SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie will be your go-to fleece to layer under your puffy. Made from their custom, high-quality GOATgrid fabric, which is a recycled polyester yarn, the grid construction offers superior breathability, moisture control, and efficient compression, enhancing packability for outdoor adventures.

Based in Summit County, Colorado, SkyGOAT offers online ordering and a quick turnaround time. This is a stark contrast with the brand’s other Rocky Mountain counterpart (ahem, we’re looking at you, Melanzana).

SkyGOAT’s fleeces stand out from the crowd with their funky multicolored paneling.

Materials and Features

The hydrophobic GOATgrid fabric repels light drizzles and splashes, through it’s not a replacement for waterproof attire. The CAMP Hoodie has an athletic, stretchy cut and a kangaroo pocket, although no thumbholes — the company will be adding them to their updated model this spring — and a shallow hood that gave minimal protection.

My biggest qualm with this fleece was the lack of adjustment on the hood. The overlapping V-shaped collar was no match for breezy days, and the hood easily fell back.

Still, the pullover itself provided plenty of warmth and was one of the more versatile options on this list. I often found myself instinctively grabbing for the CAMP Hoodie on any adventure where I wanted a reliable, packable layer.

I also tested the SkyGOAT CAMP Half-Zip Pullover with Hood. This partially zippered hoodie costs $119 (9.6 oz men’s, 8.9 oz women’s). It features a half-zip collar with an open hood, elastic trim on cuffs and waist, thumbholes, and no pocket. While both hoodies had a similar warmth-to-weight ratio, my ideal hoodie would have utilized the style of the CAMP Hoodie but with thumbholes and elastic trim on the cuffs.

Pros: Ultra soft and comfortable fabric; flattering women’s fit; best warmth-to-weight ratio; unique multi-colored design; online ordering and quick turnaround time

Cons: Hood is shallow and not adjustable; no thumbholes; lean fit makes sizing more difficult to dial in, size up for a relaxed fit; sleeves fit short and rode up on arms when moving around

What Won Me Over: The unique multi-colored side panels and softest material, even after multiple washes

Ideal For: When you need a reliable midlayer for fast and light efforts

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The Squak Fleece Mid-Layer Grid Hoodie Men’s | Women’s (Best Budget Microgrid Fleece)

best microgrid fleece

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking: The Squak

MSRP: $59.99
Weight: 12 oz (men’s medium) | 10.3 oz (women’s medium)
Materials: Polyester grid fleece
Size range: S – XXXL men’s | XS – XXL women’s

The Utah-based Squak Fleece Mid-Layer Grid Hoodie offers excellent value for budget-conscious backpackers. At just $60, you’d be hard pressed to find another hoodie that provides reliable warmth and comfort on the trail with a price tag so low.

While it was the heaviest and least packable option I tried, there’s something to be said for a burlier take on polyester grid fleece. On a thru-hike that requires extensive bushwhacking, I’d have no concerns about how this fleece would hold up. The material was thick, therefore warmer and more durable.

I found myself overheating when hiking in this fleece, so this became my go-to layer around camp. I also enjoyed layering it underneath jackets for cold days skiing.

Materials and Features

With functional thumbholes, an adjustable scuba hood with shock-cord cinch, and a large kangaroo pocket, it offers essential features at an affordable price. It’s slightly heavier than other options at 10.3 ounces for a women’s medium, but its durability and versatility stood out during rigorous testing.

The fit of this hoodie is large, better suited for someone with a longer torso and arms. The polyester grid fabric stretched more than others on the list and often bunched up when I was testing. However, a size smaller would have likely fit too tight. As an average-sized hiker, I struggled to dial in the fit of this midlayer.

Pros: Most affordable; thumbholes; adjustable cinch-cord hood; super soft material; durable fabric minimizing concerns of it snagging; large kangaroo pocket; stretchy; online ordering

Cons: Heaviest hoodie on the list; best fits folks with a long torso and arms; bulky, heavy material that’s hard to pack; doesn’t dry as quick as other options

What Won Me Over: Functional thumbholes, large kangaroo pocket for stashing snacks, and the affordable cost for a high-quality fleece

Ideal For: Off-trail adventures that require burly material to withstand snags

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Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie V2 | (Fan Favorite)

best microgrid fleece

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking: Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie V2

MSRP: $86
Weight: 12.1 oz (men’s large) | 9.3 oz (women’s medium)
Materials: Polartec Micro Grid (100 percent recycled polyester)
Size range: S – XXL men’s | XS – XL women’s

It’s no secret that owning the elusive, highly popular Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie V2 is a status symbol on trail. But when put to the test, does it truly live up to the hype?

The short answer? Yes.

The “Melly” not only boasts a cult following, but also offers an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio, comfortable and soft material, plentiful features, and an affordable price tag.

The catch? You can only acquire a Melanzana fleece in-person at their store in Leadville, Colorado, where appointments are often booked out months in advance. For the lucky few, this fleece is well worth the hassle to own a coveted Melly.

Materials and Features

This iconic hoodie is decked out in features: an adjustable scuba hood to seal out drafts, kangaroo pocket, raglan sleeves for better mobility, and impressive warmth. Sadly, it does not have thumbholes.

Melanzana utilizes a fabric made from 100-percent recycled post-consumer waste. The brand is built on a commitment to sustainability and intentional manufacturing. Melanzana employees hand-sew each fleece in their Leadville factory, which also doubles as their storefront. This Polartec fabric embodies the best microgrid benefits by guaranteeing wearers a breathable, moisture-wicking, fast-drying, and warm garment.

This hoodie performs reasonably well as a standalone layer in warm, summer months above treeline. It can also be used in your layering system with an insulated jacket during colder endeavors. For a lighter fabric, I’ve had no complaints with the durability of this fleece, either. After a full year of wearing it nearly every day on adventures of all intensities, there’s no visible wear and tear.

Pros: Versatile; lightweight; adjustable scuba hood; sustainably made with no outsourcing; surprisingly durable for how thin the material is; best athletic fit

Cons: Exclusive and hard to get; kangaroo pocket sags when full; not as warm as other options on the list; no thumbholes

What Won Me Over: Lightweight, packable material that’s versatile in a myriad of environments; status symbol of being a Melly owner

Ideal For: Moderate summer weather on the Colorado Trail or CDT

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Senchi Alpha 60 Hoodie Unisex (Best Ridiculously Ultralight Microgrid Fleece)

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking

Best microgrid fleece hoodies for backpacking: Senchi Alpha 60

MSRP: $85
Weight: 3.7 oz.
Materials: Polartec Alpha Direct 60 (78 percent recycled polyester)
Size range: XS – XXXL

At just 3.7 ounces, the Alpha 60 weighs next to nothing yet provides shocking warmth on mild days and while active.

While this midlayer only performs as a standalone in optimal conditions, mild temperatures, and while you’re exercising, it’s a great ultralight addition to your layering system. It becomes functional in colder temperatures when paired with a windproof shell.

I found this fleece ideal for trail running, ski touring, and steep ass-kicker hikes at low elevations. During these high-output activities, it provided just enough warmth while seamlessly regulating my body temperature to dump heat as needed.

Materials and Features

Portland-based Senchi utilizes Polartec Alpha Direct, an open knit lattice fleece. The material effectively manages heat and moisture while you’re moving. Alpha Direct doesn’t hold up against wind very well on its own. It performs best when supplemented with another windproof layer or puffy.

Although it has a balaclava hood and elastic cuffs to keep the material close to your body, this hoodie isn’t feature-rich. However, that’s the tradeoff for it being so ultralight. The balaclava hood kept drafts out but proved less functional than the adjustable cinch-cord hoods on many other microgrid fleeces. While a shock cord allows you to adjust the hood’s tightness as needed, there were only two options for the Alpha 60’s hood: on or off.

I was disappointed by the Alpha 60’s fragility, even beyond what I expected for an ultralight hoodie. After just a few day hikes in open environments, I found two large holes near the wrist cuffs. Given how delicate the fabric seems, I would be concerned about bringing this hoodie along on a longer, tougher thru-hike, where protecting gear is often an after-thought.

To extend the life of the garment, the company does recommends storing and washing hoodies in the bag they provide (which also filters microplastics released while washing). Senchi may be able to repair damage on a case-by-case basis.

Pros: Stupidly ultralight; surprisingly warm for how lightweight and breathable; moisture-wicking; fast-drying; best venting system; cool colors

Cons: Fragile; limited to high output activities unless paired with a shell; doesn’t maintain heat; no pockets; balaclava hood proved less functional than cinch hoods

What Won Me Over: Breathability when actively hiking; ridiculous weight savings

Ideal For: High output activities like running or ski touring, or warm summer days

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More of the Best Gear of 2024

Why should you trust us?

As I write this article, I can already hear the voices asking, “But which one did you like best?” Unfortunately for you, the answer isn’t all that straightforward.

There wasn’t one perfect hoodie that truly had it all. Each performed best in varying conditions, temperatures, and environments.

On my coldest, windiest days, I found myself reaching for the Squak or LightHeart Gear fleeces for their thicker material. These two both did a better job maintaining warmth than ventilating.

On warm days when high-output activities like ski touring or trail running were on the agenda, the Senchi Designs Alpha 60 Hoodie was a no-brainer.

Finally, on days where I needed a versatile, reliable all-weather layer, it was typically my Melanzana Microgrid Hoodie V2 or SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie that I took for a spin.

Whether you prioritize warmth, weight, versatility, or affordability, there’s a fleece on this list to suit your backpacking needs. Hopefully this resource will help you find the perfect microgrid fleece for your next thru-hike.

The Squak Fleece Mid-Layer Microgrid Hoodie, LightHeart Gear Fleece Hoodie, SkyGOAT CAMP Hoodie, and Senchi Alpha 60 Hoodie were donated for purpose of review.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm.

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Comments 7

  • totti10 : Mar 13th

    Excellent review of jackets so you don’t get fleeced. Big fan of the LightHeart gear.

  • Rolf Asphaug : Mar 15th

    Great review! I own a Melly and your pros and cons were spot on. As for lighter Alpha Direct type fleeces, I’d like to put in a plug for the Eddie Bauer – yes, Eddie Bauer! – ultralight fleece hoodie called the Super Sevens. At under $75 it’s a steal, it’s very comfortable, it’s well made and it’s ultralight. It will be my go-to fleece for future long-distance backpacks where I’m cutting ounces.

  • Ken W : Mar 15th

    I love the length on the Lightheart Gear fleece so when you’re backpacking and wearing a wide hip belt, the hem of the fleece is well below the hip belt. I truly hate when the hem of whatever top I’m wearing ends under the hip belt, absolutely drives me to distraction. Especially important for hikers with a bit of a belly but a small waist, when you cinch the hip belt tight on a shorter fleece you find the hem of the fleece disappears under the hip belt, and starts chafing between you and the buckle. Garments that err on the side of being a touch longer are the answer to this. Bonus points: with longer length tops, we don’t show plumber’s crack when bending over to refill a water bottle at a water source or when stooping over to adjust tent guylines.

  • Leslie Hanes : Mar 21st

    Excellent article. One thing that often gets ignored is that so many people are sewing their own gear, and hoodies are a fan favorite. You can get excellent patterns from experienced hikers such as Tim at and the same high tech fabrics from
    LeanMYOG patterns are beginner friendly. There are other pattern and ultralight fabric choices suitable for hiking gear as well, such as camp pants, hats and easy base layers.


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