Joan’s rocked a Melazana (aka “Mellie”) fleece since 2011. It’s been a staple of her backpacking for well over a decade. And after well over a decade of active use, the Melly fleece needed to get replaced. I told Joan about a Utah-based company, Squak Mountain Co., making a similar fleece style. Intrigued, Joan bought the Squak Mountain Co Microgrid fleece hoodie. Here are her impressions. -PM
Why do I use grid fleece?
I do not own many clothes, and I like to wear the same things all the time. That means I have to love the items I have absolutely. A microgrid fleece hoodie has been one of my clothing staples. In summer, it’s what I sleep in while backpacking. In winter, I live in my hoodie day and night. I wear it over a baselayer while hiking, and it keeps me cozy during the long hours of darkness while snuggling into my sleeping bag.
Because my clothes get this much use, they are bound to wear out eventually. After 11 years of constant use, my two “Melly” (or Melanzana) microgrid fleeces need to be replaced- one got so threadbare it finally ripped to shreds, and the other hardly provides any insulation anymore.
I don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a new one because you can only get them through an appointment now. And Paul cracks too many jokes about Mellys, #vanlife, and Instagram at this point.
Two years ago, I sewed a hoodie fleece clone (out of 100 weight Polartec), though I adjusted the fit to make it better for me with longer arms and a more curvy fit. While I love it for sleeping, non-grid fleece is not as good for hiking as I’ve wanted something else.
In the past year, I tried a simple grid fleece quarter zip on and off, but I missed the pouch and hood. I run cold, and my extremities are susceptible to cold (due to Raynaud’s and my general longer body shape). I need full head and neck coverage if the temperatures are cold enough to warrant a fleece. The integrated hood works better for me (compared to a hat or buff) because it sinches down snuggly.
I also hated the 1/4 zip fleece because it lacked a kangaroo pouch. The pouch is essential for my late fall/winter system. The kangaroo pouch is a game-changer- because my hands lose their ability to give off heat, warming them with my core/belly body heat is critical. Pants pockets are not as warm and certainly not as spacious. The pouch also keeps gear and food warm. I can dry damp gloves or mittens and cold-soak my lunch or dinner. I also keep an extra set of gloves warming in my pouch.
I’ve been using it constantly for my backpacking and hiking/camping trips this fall, and as long as the durability is just as good, it will be my new go-to fleece.
Why the Squak
The Squak is a fantastic grid fleece hoodie. I love the fit, the availability, and the price. It is the right weight for late fall/ winter in Utah’s canyon country. It felt comfortable moving down into the shady cold pockets of air in the canyons, and it was also good in the stiff breezes when emerging out of the canyons into the sunshine.
The fleece is not as fuzzy on the inside as the Melly fleece and is slightly more stretchy. That makes the Squak more breathable.
The hood and sleeves fit me better than the Melly since I have longer arms and a longer neck. It also has thumb loops on the sleeves. Since my arms and hands tend to get cold, I am thrilled about the added warmth. My only complaint is that the cuffs on the sleeves are slightly too tight for my liking,g but the snug fit around the wrists does keep the drafts out.
Time will tell if my new Squaks will last a decade, but I’m glad there is a reasonably-priced replacement for my essential hiking and backpacking staple with the features I love. It’s telling that I purchased two; anything I enjoy using is worth buying twice!
.On a non-technical level, I should note that while Squak’s a Utah-based company, the garment is made in China. No different than much outdoor gear and clothing, but I should mention this fact.
Update – Squak now uses a more subtle and, in my opinion, sharper-looking label. It gives off a retro ski lodge vibe!