Three Things to Consider When Choosing Fleece Pants

Match the weight of fleece to your outdoor activity to find the right pair of fleece pants.

Cat lying on a fleece blanket
Warm, fuzzy, and water resistant, what's not to like about fleece pants?Tim-Oliver Metz/Unsplash

On those cool evenings in camp or just for lounging around the house, there is nothing nicer than throwing on a soft pair of fleece pants. They’re fluffy, warm, and the lighter weights of fleece and very breathable. Lightweight fleece pants also double nicely if you need an extra layer underlayer during extremely cold weather. Fleece is made of polyester with many brands utilizing recycled plastics that is extruded into fine fibers then woven into fleece cloth. Because it’s made from plastic, fleece is naturally hydrophic (water repellent), so fleece (unlike down or cotton) will keep you warm even when it’s wet. Best of all, it’s machine washable, so if you’ve spent the weekend by the campfire, you can simply toss your fleece pants in the washer and lose the smoke and dirt. How do you choose the right pair? Here are three tips that will help you choose the right pair of fleece pants for the outdoor activities you enjoy.

Lightweight

Under Armour Men's Armour Fleece Pants
These lightweight 100-percent polyester fleece pants are super breathable and stretchable for great mobility. Open hand pockets are great for stashing keys.Under Armour

Fleece's warmth rating is made in grams per square meter (gsm). The higher the gram rating, the warmer the fleece. Any fleece with a rating below 200 gsm is considered lightweight (you'll also see the term "microfleece" used to describe these lighter weights). Lightweight fleece is the most breathable, which is why it works so well as a midlayer with a pair of long johns underneath and waterproof pants over the top. Depending on how hard you're activity is, lightweights can be worn on their own—perfect for working out in.

Midweight

Amazon Essentials Men's Fleece Sweatpants
These pants are 52% cotton and 48% polyester—super soft and perfect for lounging by the fire in.Amazon

This category captures fleece pants with a rating from 200 to 300 gsm. These pants make an excellent outer layer on their own or you can wear them as a base layer under your overpants on cooler days. Midweight fleece pants are perfect for hiking on fall days. If the temperature drops or the wind comes up, simply pull a pair of wind- or waterproof rain pants over them and keep on truckin'.

Heavyweight

Southpole Men's Active Basic Jogger Fleece Pants
Built for workouts, these 100-percent polyester fleece pants have an adjustable waist cord for comfort.Southpole

These are the pants you'll want to reach for on extremely cold days. Any fleece pants rated at 300 gsm or above will be considered heavyweight. They are super warm, but they do not breath as well as lighter weight fleeces, so they're not designed to be worn during strenuous outdoor activities or workouts or you will sweat. If you're looking for something warm and snugly to lounge around the fire on frosty nights in, however, heavyweights are perfect.