Comparison of Mid-Layer Materials


The mid-layer is one of the most important parts of the layering system. It provides insulation, enabling you to stay warm in various weather conditions.

A mid-layer can be any garment worn between the base and outer layer to provide insulation. Down jackets, fleece jackets, and woolen sweaters, all fall under mid-layers.

In this post, we are going to compare fleece vs down mid-layer, as these are the most commonly used mid-layers by outdoors enthusiasts. They are different both in performance and in composition and each will give you a different experience. Let’s get started!


Fleece typically mimics wool fabrics and therefore performs in the same way as wool. It has the following characteristics:


Fleece can wick moisture, preventing you from overheating and the clothes you are wearing from soaking in sweat. It keeps you warm without making you feel sticky from excess sweating. It is due to its breathability that fleece is regarded as great material for hiking, snowboarding, and skiing mid-layer.

Quick Drying

Fleece dries pretty fast when it gets wet, making it one of the best materials to wear when skiing or backpacking in the rain.  The ability to dry quickly is also a great quality because it allows you to stay dry for long and reduce your risk of hypothermia.


Compared to wool and other similar fabrics, fleece is significantly lighter, an important quality for any athlete looking for something that doesn’t add too much weight to the body. But not all fleece materials are similar; if you prefer something thicker, there are plenty of options in the market.


If you live in an area where temperatures dip significantly, down should be the insulation to consider. Down, itself is made from material sourced from geese, ducks, swans, and other waterfowl.

Its ability to provide insulation depends highly on its fill power (fluffiness or wooliness of down). Higher fill power means a higher ability to insulate. In general, down has the following qualities:

Incomparable Insulation

Of all the fabrics used for insulation, down is way better. Well, there are synthetic options that compare to down but down remains the best. Its clusters trap more air, which helps keep you warm when the temperatures drop.


The breathability of down fabrics depends on the material used. However, by itself, down is still pretty breathable and great for outdoor activities.


A down product can last for years if properly cared for. To make sure that yours is giving you the service you paid for, make sure to follow the right care and maintenance procedure. For instance, when you wash your down jacket, be sure to dry it completely before storing it away to prevent mold and mildew build-up.

The Difference Between Fleece And Down


Now that we know what makes fleece and down such great fabrics, let’s now do a comparison of down vs fleece mid-layers to see how both differ in their functionality. Ready?


Ever wondered why many skiers prefer investing in a down jacket to a fleece jacket? The former keeps them warmer even in exceedingly low temperatures.

Even though the warmth of your product will depend on the down’s fill power or the construct of the fleece fabric, overall, down is much warmer than fleece. It is, therefore, the best material to consider when hiking or skiing in extremely cold areas.

Resistance To Weather

When it comes to fleece vs down mid-layers, none of these two materials fare well in weather resistance. Nevertheless, fleece is considered more weather resistant because of its ability to repel water than down. It also dries faster.

It is worth mentioning that neither down nor fleece insulates when wet. Down is particularly notorious because it tends to lose all of its fluffiness when wet leaving you with no air pockets to trap heat. This makes you vulnerable to cold, which can increase your chances of catching hypothermia.

To always stay on the safe side, always have a waterproof outer layer with you when heading out to protect yourself from changing weather conditions. Something like a rain jacket could be a great place to start.


As mentioned earlier, down products can last for many years if maintained and cared for properly. But if we were to compare down vs fleece mid-layers, fleece seems to hold all the goods cards in terms of durability.

Polyester fleece, for instance, is long-lasting and less vulnerable to damages from chemicals. And since it is synthetic, you won’t have to worry about mold and mildew, unlike down products when left soggy for some time.


The synthetic nature of fleece fabrics makes them easier to maintain and care for. Generally, they don’t need much care overall like down does. You can wash them in a washing machine with the rest of your clothes. They dry quickly and do not shrink when washed at the recommended machine temperature.

Down products, on the other hand, are a little tricky to wash. They required a certain procedure to make sure that they are properly cleaned and careful measures to ensure that they are completely dry and return to their original loft.

Cost And Environmental Concerns

Overall, down products are pricier than their fleece counterparts simply because down is a natural material while the fleece is manufactured from polyester, a way more affordable material. In regards to environmental and sustainability concerns, down carries the day because it is natural and polyester is plastic. However, the fact that down is obtained from living things raises ethical concerns.

Global Surf Overview

Both down and fleece make up for great mid-layers. Which one is better, however, depends on what you hope to accomplish.

If you are looking for extra warmth, then down will be your best bet. For something cheaper and easier to maintain, go for fleece. But just looking at the ability to insulate alone, down is by far the best fabric.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. Which Mid-Layer Is Best For Warmth?
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!