Gear Bargain Hunting: Fleece

september 2010 fleece columbia fast trek 445x260

Columbia Fast Trek Full Zip Fleece Jacket (Courtesy Photo)

september 2010 fleece microgrid hoodie 445x260

Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie (Courtesy Photo)

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

>> Websites like,,, and 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, 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, 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.”

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