Solid (Standard) Fleece vs Grid Fleece

A 100 wt fleece is my go-to layer in all four seasons.

The versatility, durability, breathability,  price, and functionality of this humble piece of clothing make it a crucial part of my kit. For $20 or less, I have a light and trail-proven product that I can’t fathom being outdoors without.

On the way to the 10th Mtn Division Hut. December 2017. PCO Anton S.

Other products gaining traction seem to perform better than the basic fleece pullover in some ways, at least in lab settings. But at a much higher cost. And I question the long-term durability versus the humble fleece pullover I’ve bushwhacked, ski toured, scrambled, and did rough camping over many seasons, miles, and nights in the backcountry. Oils, sweat, and salt are also harder to remove from these newer garments. In addition to compromising breathability and loft effectiveness, these factors also affect the long-term durability of the product for real-world world use.

In Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona.

So, I advocate the basic fleece pullover as a standard part of my kit.

Now that I’ve praised the fleece pullover, the astute reader may notice there are two different types of fleece. These two types of? Solid (standard) fleece and Grid fleece.

What are the differences between solid and grid fleece?


The solid (standard) fleece gets carried in almost every discount, thrift, and outdoor store. You know the type: fuzzy, fluffy,  and comfy—the modern equivalent of everyone’s favorite sweater.

A solid fleece breathes reasonably well, is moderately wind-resistant, dries quickly, is durable, and is warm for its weight compared to a traditional sweater or sweatshirt. I wear my fleece pullover on the larger side, so it ventilates well.

At the Utah / Colorado border near Gateway, CO, on the completion of my Walk Across Southern Utah.

A grid fleece is somewhat newer than the standard fleece. A grid pattern with elastane stitching (spandex) gets woven into the fabric. The breathability is better than the standard or solid fleece, which is the main selling point. A grid fleece is also less bulky vs. a standard fleece, too.   The grid fleece does not dry as well as the solid fleece due to the elastane stitching, does not block the wind, and is not quite as warm for its weight. The grid fleece, however, is a superior layer when worn under a shell due to its breathability versus standard fleece. As with any base-type layer, grid fleece works better when the layer is more form-fitting.

Grid Fleece pullover from Walmart

The grid fleece price is comparable to standard fleece at this point. Discount stores sell grid fleece for a reasonable price. And ECWCS pullovers for the military are made of high-quality Polartec fleece and are sold at a competitive price. I have made good use of the Gen 3 Level II grid layers found inexpensively on eBay or Amazon when winter backpacking.

So which layer to wear?


I think a solid or standard fleece is a more versatile layer overall. It can be worn as a light jacket by itself very easily. And the standard or solid fleece seems to do better in the wind and drizzly conditions. Size the fleece up a bit for maximum ventilation, and the versatility is enhanced.

However, if you tend to wear fleece as a base layer under a shell, the grid fleece will work better for your needs due to its breathability.

As a counterpoint, Joan loves her grid fleece. She tends to wear her layer constantly in the cold, dry conditions of the Colorado Plateau and likes the ventilation properties.

Joan with her Decathlon grid fleece.

In Summary


Wear grid fleece if breathability is the focus; standard or solid fleece if you want a more well-rounded layer.

Or, to put it another way, grid fleece makes a better base layer. Traditional fleece makes a better insulation layer.

When moving, I wear my fleece as a light jacket, so the solid fleece works better for my needs. When moving, the military grid fleece layers work well under my other layers for the rare, very extreme cold weather. And it works well at night or in the camp under my wind layers. Many like a grid fleece in a daypack as the bulk is less vs. a solid fleece.

In the end, it does not matter all that much, however. 🙂  Wear what is most comfortable for you, what is available, and your aesthetic preference.

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4 years ago

I shudder to think what would happen if I were to wear both.

The grid fleece has been very comfortable during our recent arctic weather.

4 years ago

I love my “waffle” tops and bottoms. I generally use them for sleeping wear on the occasional Texas winter night when it gets below freezing.