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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody Review
Cons: Not breathable enough for endurance activities, large hood doesn't stay in place very well
Bottom line: This fleece offers a good balance of style and technical features.
Comfortable, warm, and stylish, the Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody is our favorite of the "around town" style focused fleeces in this year's review. The knitted fleece looks and feels great, and an athletic cut and stretchy, breathable side panels make this jacket equally at home at the boulders, on the chair lift, or out on the town for date night. If style is your main priority in a fleece, the Better Sweater is a good option that will keep you looking good while still accommodating light activity. Looking for a fleece with a bigger cut? Check out The North Face Denali 2 or the Arc'teryx Covert Hoody.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The $159 Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hood is a favorite of our testers for its good looks and comfy features. Two handwarmer pockets keep your hands toasty, while a chest pocket secures your keys, chapstick, or an energy bar. Though the hood is too big to fit under a helmet, it kept our heads warm around town and on short hikes. This stylish jacket is available in Bandana Blue, Big Sur Blue, Black, Feather Gray, and Legend Green.
The chart below highlights the Overall Performance score of the Performance Better Sweater.
7.2 oz of polyester knit fleece and a slim fit make the Performance Better Sweater a toasty feeling jacket. On a windless evening at the local boulders, our testers felt perfectly warm in this jacket as the sun went down and temperatures dropped into the upper 50s. The Better Sweater feels warmer than the Arc'teryx Covert Hoody because it has longer, snugger fit, but not as warm as the heavy, weather-resistant The North Face Denali 2.
The Performance Better Sweater Hoody is the most comfortable fleece in its category. Despite the performance-enhancing stretchy side panels, this fleece still has the comfy feel of your favorite cotton sweater, and our testers felt an overwhelming urge to lounge and relax when around the house or between burns at the boulders. The stretchy side panels allow for full range of motion, and the "media compatible" chest pocket has a small hole for your earbuds. Snug elastic cuffs keep the sleeves in place without ever feeling too tight. Finally, two hand warmer pockets with small flexible zippers invite your freezing mitts out of the cold. The hood was the one point of comfort where our testers had issues, as it's too loose to stay in place well, too bulky to fit under a helmet comfortably, and too small to fit over a helmet. The top scorers for the comfort metric include the Patagonia R3, along with the Better Sweater, Arc'teryx Fortrez, and Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid II Hooded.
The stretchy side panels make this fleece more breathable than the similarly styled Arc'teryx Covert Hoody, but the better sweater is nowhere near as breathable as similarly weighted technical jackets like the Patagonia R3 or the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Grid II. We don't recommend this fleece for endurance heavy activities like running or ski touring-- you'll end up a sweaty mess. We were very happy using this fleece for bouldering sessions and mellow bike rides around town.
Amongst the more stylish fleece options in this category, the Performance Better Sweater Hoody excels in this metric. Its slim cut and low-profile zippers allow it to fit nicely under a wind layer or a hardshell — much better than the Arc'teryx Covert Hoody, which has stiff, annoying pocket zippers. It also layers much better than the bulky The North Face Denali 2. Underneath the Better Sweater, you're not likely to want anything thicker than a light base layer.
This fleece is not the best choice if you're in the market for a weather resistant jacket you can wear around by itself in wet and windy conditions. In light rain, it soaked up even the smaller droplets like a sponge. The North Face Denali 2 is a better choice if you want a stand alone, weather resistant fleece. Fortunately, the layering ability of this model is excellent, and it's easy to pair the Performance Better Sweater with a wind layer or a light rain jacket when conditions deteriorate.
Fleece weighs 16.7oz, making it the lightest of the style-centric fleeces in this year's review. It's 2 ounces lighter than the Arc'teryx Covert Hoody, and a full 8 ounces lighter than the heavyweight The North Face Denali 2. It also packs down smaller than both of the aforementioned fleeces.
Style is subjective, but our testers all felt that this jacket looks good! We awarded the Better Sweater a perfect 10 for style. It looks great with a pair of fancy jeans for date night. The tight-knit looks and feels casual, and doesn't have the "tech weenie" look of the high performing Patagonia R3 Hoody. Our lead tester felt classy, maybe even smarter, when wearing this jacket out to the local brew pub.
While the stretchy Polartec Powerstretch side panels greatly enhance the mobility and breathability of this fleece, our testers still felt this jacket wasn't breathable enough for high endurance activities. We also felt it was a little too bulky when under a climbing harness. This jacket excels at mellow bike rides, chilly bouldering sessions, and looking good around town.
$159 gets you a super comfy fleece that is versatile enough that you can wear from the office to the climbing gym without looking out of place at either location. This jacket is backed by Patagonia's excellent Iron Clad guarantee, and we've had great experience with their warranty department regarding blown zippers and cactus-shredded clothes
The Patagonia Performance Better Sweater kept our testers warm while looking good. This is not a jacket for taking deep into the backcountry where more breathable models like the Editors' Choice Award winning Patagonia R3 Hoody are more appropriate for staying dry when you're huffing and puffing up the hill, but for staying warm around town, the Better Sweater is a solid, stylish choice.
— Matt Bento
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