Not for packing light
About the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket
Patagonia’s Better Sweater line of clothing is named for its environmentally friendly—or ”better”—production process. Presently, anything in the Better Sweater collection is made with 100% recycled polyester sweater-knit fleece. Patagonia claims that all Better Sweater pieces are also made with “low-impact” dye that conserves water and energy, and are Fair Trade Certified, meaning its factory workers are paid a living wage. Other pieces in the Better Sweater family include gloves, vests, beanies, and shirt jackets.
The Better Sweater Fleece Jacket and its 1/4 zip brethren retail at $139 and $119, respectively, and are two of the company’s bestselling items. The Better Sweater Fleece Jacket comes in men’s sizes XS to 3XL and in 11 colors, and in women’s sizes XXS to XXL and in 9 colors.
What we like
Worn-in fabric feel
Because I’m in Florida, I turned down my air conditioner and put my home-office ceiling fan on high to mimic how my old workspace used to feel: like the arctic. The Better Sweater jacket, unsurprisingly with its fleece lining and heavy weight, successfully helped me brave it out. What’s more, wearing this piece over the course of a few days of doing ice-cold office work made me appreciate its construction in a way I don’t think I’d have been able to otherwise.
Let’s start with its fabric makeup, which, exclusive of trim, is 100% recycled polyester. I’m a huge fan of recycled fabrics, not just for sustainability reasons, but for their feel. Recycled fabrics have a worn-in texture that reminds me of the clothing that I love and refuse to get rid of, despite years of launder, wear, and (minor) tear. The Better Sweater fleece jacket gives me that pre-owned feel that I like in what's a brand-new garment. Its fleece lining—which backs the sleeves and most of the jacket’s interior—is soft on the skin. The outside knit feels hardy, padded, and plush, and the vertical rows of knitting adds an interesting visual texture.
While some of the jacket’s coziness comes from its fabric feel, the other part is in its weight. I don’t have a scale, but I’m estimating this XL sweater weighs about a pound and a half; Patagonia’s website states the piece weighs 22.5 ounces (about 1.4 pounds), though it doesn’t specify for what size. Either way, I’m satisfied with how hefty the jacket is and how much its thickness covers my torso without bulking it up. Zipped all the way, it even protects my neck with a thick collar. With my arms resting at my sides, there’s a nice plush feel against my body from the armpit to the elbow.
Roomy top with a tapered bottom
The Better Sweater jacket fits loosely around the shoulders and armpits and tapered in the body and around the waist. The sleeves extend just past my knuckles (more on that later) and are snugger in the forearms. Due to the sweater’s raglan stitching, which means the shoulder seams cut diagonally instead of sitting on top of them, it’s also super maneuverable. There’s an extra amount of fabric under the armpit that makes for a wide gusset—like the crotch area in a roomy pair of jeans—and it offers a lot of room for movement. I love raglan stitching because I don’t like the feeling of my entire shirt lifting up while I move around or raise my arms overhead. This construction prevents that, and its flat seams—which extend all the way down the sleeve to the wrist—add more visual flavor to the piece’s knit-sweater weave.
Pocket-wise, this jacket’s loaded. Both front-hand pockets feel silky smooth with a soft polyester lining. The zippered chest pocket is actually large enough to carry a modern smartphone—something that’s irked me in other functional garments before. On the inside of the jacket, there’s a handy pocket for carrying goods like a wallet or keys, and a very deep pocket that starts at roughly where the Patagonia logo is and ends at the hem of the jacket. I’m not exactly sure what this pocket is for (maybe a stash pocket for hiding goods?), but I love rummaging through my brain to find ways to fill it out.
Feels built to last
Finally, the construction feels and looks top-notch. The zippers are sturdy and lined with a light green contrast color that accents the “Dark Borealis Green” of my jacket well. The stitching along the flat seams and inside of the jacket appears tight and tidy. The detailed micro-polyester trim at the end of the sweater’s sleeves and hem look attractive and add flair. I can’t imagine this sweater fraying anytime soon.
This jacket is cozy, dense, and feels more like a hefty blanket covering my body. Its classy appearance only makes it better. I could go on and on about this jacket, but I’ll put it simply: I love the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket.
What we don't like
I’m in between an L and XL in men’s tops, and when in doubt, I order the latter. I found Patagonia’s online sizing charts unhelpful as they use the same broad measurements for jackets and tops: an L fits chest sizes 22 to 24, an XL 26 to 28. Wary of getting a piece on the lower end of an L, I ordered an XL and, unfortunately, it’s too big. I measured the garment at home and found it’s a 25 in the chest—an inch larger from my preferred size, not to mention outside the measurement range listed on Patagonia’s sizing chart.
While it doesn’t look huge on me, it also doesn’t look as flattering as the model images I see online (though when does anything ever?). These depict a waist-length hem, sleeves that extend just below the waistline, and an overall more tailored look. I have too much room in the shoulders, and the sleeves are so long they stack at my wrists. I did a quick search through reviews on the Better Sweater Fleece Jacket’s product page at Patagonia and saw that I wasn’t the only one let down by sizing—lots of users shared their struggles with tight-fitting sleeves around the forearms, too much room in the chest, unwanted looseness, and my specific struggle: “the L was too small, the XL was too large.” I wish I’d gone down a size because I think this sweater looks, uh, better when it hugs the body, but I also don’t know if I’d be happy with a smaller size.
Too heavy for on-the-go
My other beef with this sweater is in one of its strengths: its weight. Although I love the heaviness of the Better Sweater Fleece Jacket, it’s not an ideal piece when it comes to packing lightly. Its thickness makes it tough to stuff into a backpack or carry along while on the move. This isn’t a dealbreaker if you’re looking for heft or are located in an area where it’s really cold, but those who need a lightweight jacket to keep in their car or backpack for cool occasions may be unhappy with its build.
Should you buy it?
Yes, it's a classic for a reason
If functionality is at the forefront of your potential purchase, by all means, grab a Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket. This piece is heavy, plushy, snug, and practical, equipped with five useful pockets and lined with soft polyester fleece that’ll help you survive the cold. In my mind, you can’t go wrong with recycled fabrics, and here that reused polyester elevates the jacket’s feel with a worn-in texture that’s unmatched by new materials. This is a must-have for cool fall days and as insulation under a coat for harsh winter nights.
If you’re interested in a layering jacket to throw on before leaving your home and carry around with you, this one might be too heavy. Its weight and build make it less ideal as a portable garment. Still, if you’re in the market for a sweater that can get the job done and give you a list of reasons to love it, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Kevin Cortez is a staff writer for Reviewed’s style section. He’s lived in Florida since birth and is still unsure if he enjoys it.
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