Dave tests out the new technical midlayer fleece from The North Face.
The North Face Men’s Granular Hooded Fleece Jacket is a technical mid-layer fleece with FlashDry technology to keep alpine athletes dry.
I’m a fan of midlayer fleeces, I like the versatility, I like the warmth and I like the breathability of them. If I wear the right combination of layers I can really have great control over my moisture regulation with little extra weight.
The North Face Granular Fleece is a great, fully spec’d midlayer fleece that is suitable for all three season use (you could even use it in a typical British summer on those colder August days) and has been my jacket of choice all season for rock climbing. The combination of the Granular Fleece and a lightweight windproof has been pretty much hard to beat. On most days the hard fleece technology, which gives the jacket a smooth shell like finish, was more than enough to keep the breeze at bay.
The North Face have made the main body of the fleece in a Hard fleece material, this is a hard faced material designed to offer some weather resistance without the need for a membrane layer. The North Face has a great record of investing in fabrics that perform as well as branded fabrics and the hard fleece fabric didn’t disappoint.
The fabric is a three season midlayer weighted fabric, so I found it a little too warm for most summer activities as the fleece performed best when worn as an all-day layer. It was too bulky and heavy to be a stowaway type of fleece that you can throw on mid route, but for all but the hottest of days it was fine. The stated weight for the fleece was 490g and the trusty CGR scales (upgraded to digital for 2014!) weighed it in at just over 500g for a size Medium.
The FlashDry panels provided good moisture control and dried out superfast. The FlashDry panels ran through both sides of the jacket, up under the armpits and down on the underside of the arms to the wrist warmers with their well-placed thumb loops. The FlashDry fabric was really quick drying and took no time to dry out after that, there is also a FlashDry panel in between the shoulder blades so that moisture can escape when loaded up with a full pack.
The fit of The North Face Granular Fleece was excellent, I don’t know what it is with The North Face clothing but it seems to fit me perfect. The cut is athletic but not constricting and overall the fleece hugged well even with a full baselayer on. It was maybe just a little tight around the forearm area but the articulated elbow compensated and allowed good arm flexibility for those reachy holds. I consider myself a normal (all mountain) build with a 38-40” chest and a 32-33” waist and the test size, which was a Medium, fitted great.
I found the style of the jacket good enough for me to wear both for climbing, recreationally and for working inside, delivering staff training in those cold climbing walls or working with clients. Recreationally the fleece looked great for urban wear, heading to the climbing wall and chatting down the pub.
One of the great reasons I am still a fan of fleeces is the versatility, especially the cleaning. No faff needed just chuck them in the wash with everything else, no special washing liquids, and no finishing products to revive the DWR. The fleece does benefit from a quick tumble-dry to revive the loft but that’s not absolutely necessary. It is as easy as that to maintain as that, especially on extended trips and the fleece dried out superfast.
The North Face Granular Fleece has three pockets, two large hard warmer pockets that although big enough to get an OS map into are placed just a little too low to be useful with a harness on (I often just shove gloves or the guidebook into the jacket though so don’t use pockets when actually climbing). The chest pocket was well placed to either hold my phone, camera, walkie talkie or an energy bar or two to chomp on the route. The zips worked well with gloves on and the main body zip has a storm flap to help keep the breeze off. The hood was tight fitting and worked well under a climbing helmet or over a peaked cap when hiking. It was made from the hard fleece material so was very warm and such a great fit that there was no need for any adjusters, this was also the case for the hem.
So in conclusion The North Face Granular Fleece is a great three season technical fleece that is suitable for all mountain sports from back country skiing to rock climbing. The FlashDry fabric is great at getting that moisture out and really does dry in a flash. The fit is good, if a little tight for my rock climbing forearms and the hard faced fleece fabric is hard wearing and keeps most of the windy weather at bay. It looks good both on and off the mountain and is easy to wash and keep clean. When used in combination with a windproof top or lightweight hardshell it is a hard system to beat.
The North Face Granular Fleece comes in three colour choices: Monterey Blue, Cheery Stain Brown and Asphalt Grey (I tested the great looking Monterey Blue) and comes in sizes S, M, L and XL.
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