Editors' Choice 2019 Snow: Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Hoodie

There's no such thing as a "perfect" insulating midlayer, but this is as close as we're going to get.

Brand: Appalachian Gear Company

Model: All-Paca Fleece Hoodie

The perfect midlayer is soft over just a T-shirt, warm when wet, odor-resistant, and light and packable and durable. We’re never going to call any product perfect, but the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie comes awfully close. It’s made from 100-percent alpaca fibers, sourced from animals that have adapted to the temperature swings of the Andes. Like wool, alpaca has natural temp-regulating and odor-fighting properties. But compared to other natural-fiber apparel we’ve used, the Fleece Hoodie is exceptionally soft, breathable, and warm for its weight.

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“I didn’t expect something this light to be this warm,” says a tester. “And even though I wore it for five days in Banff, I didn’t need to change into a fresh layer for the trip home.”

How does alpaca fleece beat wool at its own game? The fibers are hollow, so they’re lighter and trap more air for insulation. And alpaca has few scales and is lanolin-free, making it naturally soft and hypoallergenic. But until now, alpaca hasn’t been a great performance fabric because of durability and cleaning concerns. Thanks to a patent-pending process, Appalachian Gear Company’s alpaca fleece—which comes from animals in Peru—is durable under pack straps, without the need to blend it with synthetics. And cleaning? We’ve barely needed to wash our sample, but it’s easy to launder in cool water and doesn’t require special detergents. Like we said, it’s pretty close to perfect.

$137; 11 oz. (m’s L); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL

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