Gear Bargain Hunting: Fleece

Here’s how to score a great deal on the fuzzy stuff.

>> Websites like sierratradingpost.com, campmor.com, departmentofgoods.com, and outlet.altrec.com carry a constant flow of brands and styles that are up to 75 percent off the suggested retail price. Typically, these are clearance deals on last year’s models—not a big concession for a basic fleece midlayer.

>> Columbia’s proprietary fleece is practically ubiquitous on the above websites. We tested the three-pocket, collared Fast Trek Full Zip Fleece Jacket, and the fabric has held up well, with no signs of pilling after several months. Even at full retail ($48, columbia.com) it’s a good deal, though the fit is boxy.

>> Melanzana, in Leadville, Colorado, turns out nice designs using Polartec fleeces (which have held up longer and packed better warmth-to-weight ratios in our fleece testing). Our fave: the Micro Grid Hoodie, a thin waffle fleece ($61, melanzana.com). We like the roomy kangaroo pocket and cinchable hood, which fits under a helmet. “And it’s perfect for sleeping,” said one tester after a Norway ski tour. “Fuzzy, warm, and roomy enough to pull over your eyes for snoozing in.”