Midlayers can be used as the outer layer on cool, dry days. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Midlayers can be used as the outer layer on cool, dry days. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A midlayer top can either be used, as the name suggests, between a baselayer and an outer waterproof shell or, on dry cool days, as the outer of two layers.

With cooler days on the horizon, it’s likely you’ll need more than just a t-shirt on the hill. We’ve tested several midlayers in differing conditions. We’ve put them to use in the wet and the dry, and on days ranging from decidedly cool to moderately warm.

The testing took place on upland routes in the UK.

Berghaus Kyberg Polartec Fleece Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Kyberg Polartec Fleece Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Kyberg Polartec Fleece Jacket
Price: £85
Weight: 343g
Colour: black/grey
Material: polyester; panels 87 per cent polyamide, 13 per cent elastane
Country of manufacture: Vietnam
Sizes: XS-3XL
Women’s version: no
Recommended wash: 30C non-bio

The Kyberg is a fleece jacket made with Polartec Classic fabric with added stretch softshell-style panels at the shoulders and upper back.

The rear hem is dropped slightly and the stretchiness of the whole jacket enabled a good, snug fit that kept out draughts.

The sleeve cuffs, jacket hem and collar all have stretch binding, which also helped keep out wind. The jacket has a full-length zip which makes it easy to take off or put on when conditions change, and the collar sits well just under the chin.

There are twin, zipped handwarmer pockets, with half-mesh lining. The Kyberg also has a good sized zipped chest pocket with mesh lining, as well as a single large mesh pocket inside the jacket on the right side.

The Berghaus fleece uses more than 50 per cent recycled material and is part of the brand’s Madekind range, aimed at more environmentally manufacturing processes.

The Kyberg Polartec Fleece provided a comfortable experience on the hill. The stretchy fabric allowed unrestricted movement when reaching for holds. The fabric blocked the wind well and the jacket provided a good amount of warmth when conditions became cooler. Moisture management worked well, with the fleece wicking perspiration to a good degree.

The jacket worked as an outer layer on cooler days and also functioned as the middle layer in a three-layer system, under a waterproof shell.

Best uses: hillwalking, country walking, scrambling, general urban use.

Comfort: 35/40
Windblocking: 16/20
Warmth: 14/20
Quality: 8/10
Value for money: 7/10
Total: 80/100

Craghoppers Bronto Half Zip. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Bronto Half Zip. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Bronto Half Zip
Price: £45
Weight: 367g
Colour: blue
Material: polyester
Country of manufacture: Bangladesh
Sizes: S-XXL
Women’s version: no
Recommended wash: 30C

The Bronto is a nicely styled fleece with a knit-look fabric. The material is recycled – Craghoppers says about 12 plastic bottles are used to produce the jacket’s fabric.

The cut is standard and there’s a good amount of stretch in the Bronto’s fabric. The inner surface of the jacket is soft fleece and was comfortable. The half zip means it does block wind well but is less convenient for slipping the garment on and off.

The Craghoppers fleece has just one zipped chest pocket, which is a good size. The zip, along with some of the jacket’s seams are in contrasting orange.

The collar fits well and has microfleece lining, making it both warm and comfortable, especially on cooler days. The sleeve cuffs are elasticated but they’re quite generously cut so they did allow draughts to penetrate somewhat.

Warmth on the hill was good, and the fleece blocked the wind well. The Bronto Half Zip wasn’t as snug on the body as some, and rode up a little when reaching for holds on more technical terrain.

The styling is good enough to consider the fleece jacket for general use around town too and price was competitive.

Best uses: hillwalking, country walking, general urban use.

Comfort: 33/40
Windblocking: 15/20
Warmth: 14/20
Quality: 7/10
Value for money: 8/10
Total: 77/100

Keela Skye Pro Fleece. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Keela Skye Pro Fleece. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Keela Skye Pro Fleece
Price: £39.95
Weight: 559g
Colour: green
Material: polyester
Country of manufacture: not stated
Sizes: 2XS-3XL
Women’s version: no
Recommended wash: 40C

The Skye Pro Fleece is a traditionally styled fleece jacket with a full-length zip and is part of the brand’s Heritage collection.

The Zetland 200 fabric feels quite beefy and gives good warmth, but at the cost of being the heaviest garment in the test.

The zip is backed by a baffle to keep out the wind and the jacket’s hem has a drawcord with two spring toggles, to cinch it in and keep out updraughts. The collar is quite high and also has a drawcord so it can be pulled in tighter to keep out the wind on colder days.

The sleeves have generous elasticated cuffs, which hugged the wrist well.

The fabric is stretchy and allowed good movement when reaching up. Keela says the material is anti-pilling to minimise those bobbles that develop with wear.

There are two zipped handwarmer pockets and the Skye Pro Fleece also has twin inside pockets, big enough to take an OS map.

The fleece is designed to zip into Keela’s Kintyre waterproof jacket as part of a layering system. There are loops at the sleeve cuffs and at the collar for attaching to the jacket.

The Skye Pro Fleece was among the warmest in the test and windblocking was good. The jacket is comfortable, its soft fabric feeling snug against the body. On warmer days there was a fair build-up of perspiration but it wicked this to the outer surface well.

The traditional looks and regular fit probably won’t appeal to those after a fast and light midlayer – it’s certainly no lightweight – but if you’re after a warm fleece at a good price the Keela jacket fits the bill. It comes into its own on colder days both when worn as the outer layer and also under a waterproof shell.

Best uses: mountain walking, winter walking, country pursuits.

Comfort: 32/40
Windblocking: 16/20
Warmth: 17/20
Quality: 7/10
Value for money: 8/10
Total: 80/100

Montane Forza Pull-On. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Montane Forza Pull-On. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Montane Forza Pull-On
Price: £60
Weight: 375g
Colour: blue
Material: polyester
Country of manufacture: Vietnam
Sizes: S-XXL
Women’s version: no
Recommended wash: 40C

The Forza top is a nicely styled, athletic-fit top that uses Stria Fleece to provide good warmth.

The material is stretchy and has a compact ribbed look on its outer surface. The Forza is a simple design, with just a quarter-length zip – there are no pockets. The pull-on design means its less handy to take off or put on than a full-zip jacket.

The inner surface is soft feeling fleece and the collar has a microfleece lining. The collar fits snugly round the neck, keeping out draughts. There’s no drawcord at the hem, but the stretchy nature of the Forza’s fabric kept it close to the body, similarly with the sleeve cuffs. The zip is reverse coil, and also has a baffle behind it, so kept out the wind well.

There was no restriction on movement when reaching up on technical routes.

I wore the Montane fleece both as an outer layer on cool days and also as a midlayer under a waterproof jacket when things turned wet. It wicked moisture well, while retaining heat on cooler routes.

The lack of pockets or other features might be seen as a disadvantage, but it does allow for a sleek design with no snagging points, which works well under a top layer. The quarter zip was useful for allowing ventilation when heading uphill or moving faster on routes.

Best uses: hillwalking, country walking, urban wear.

Comfort: 36/40
Windblocking: 15/20
Warmth: 16/20
Quality: 7/10
Value for money: 7/10
Total: 81/100

Salewa Light Micro Polarlite Full Zip Hooded Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Salewa Light Micro Polarlite Full Zip Hooded Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Salewa Light Micro Polarlite Full Zip Hooded Jacket
Price: £90
Weight: 346g
Colour: navy blue
Material: 33 per cent cotton, 33 per cent viscose, 26 per cent polyester, 8 per cent elastane
Country of manufacture: China
Sizes: S-3XL; women’s 4-18
Women’s version: yes
Recommended wash: 30C

Salewa’s hooded jacket is a lightweight top designed with sights on the fast and light traveller.

It’s made from a stretchy Polarlite fabric and has a full-length zip. The styling is good, with contrasting orange seams and zip.

It’s one of the more technical tops in the test, and the only one with a hood. The fabric hugs the body well, and also wicked moisture very well on sections of routes when moving fast uphill. The hem is elasticated and kept out draughts and the sleeve cuffs are also well elasticated, feeling comfortable and warm.

There’s good freedom of movement when reaching up, thanks to the stretchiness of the material.

The Light Micro jacket was very comfortable. There’s a soft chinguard liner at the top of the zip, and the hood is simple, with a good elasticated hem keeping it close to the face. The hood is designed to fit under a helmet if you’re tackling a scramble or a climb. The collar keeps out the wind when the jacket it fully closed.

The Salewa jacket also has twin, zipped handwarmer pockets.

The Light Micro Polarlite Full Zip Hooded Jacket packed down smallest of all the tops in the test, and was among the lightest. It dried quickly after getting damp in a sharp shower. The Salewa midlayer performed best in warm to cool conditions and when moving fast. Windblocking was good.

Best uses: hillwalking, fast hill activities, scrambling, country walking, trekking.

Comfort: 37/40
Windblocking: 15/20
Warmth: 13/20
Quality: 8/10
Value for money: 7/10
Total: 80/100

Snugpak Impact Fleece Shirt. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Impact Fleece Shirt. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snugpak Impact Fleece Shirt
Price: £30
Weight: 344g
Colour: black
Material: polyester
Country of manufacture: China
Sizes: XS-XXL
Women’s version: no
Recommended wash: 30C

The Snugpak midlayer is a conventionally styled pull-on fleece with a half zip.

The fabric is soft and comfortable and provided good warmth and windblocking. Being a pull-on garment makes it less convenient to put on and take off on the hoof, but it does help keep the weight down and the Impact shirt was among the two lightest midlayers in the test.

It’s cut in a fairly technical style, so hugs the body well. The half zip allows good ventilation when working hard, and the Snugpak garment wicked moisture well. The brand says its fleece fabric has an anti-pilling finish both on the outer and inner surfaces. The inner side is soft fleece, which feels comfortable and warm.

There’s a slight stretch to the material though it’s a bit more restrictive than the stretchiest tops in the test.

The collar is good and snug round the neck when the zip is closed, and there’s a soft-fabric chin guard at the top of the zip.

The Impact Fleece Shirt worked well on cool days as an outer layer, providing good warmth and windblocking. Used under a waterproof on cooler wet days, it felt warm and provided good insulation while allowing wicking of moisture.

The Snugpak midlayer is a conventional fleece which is ideal for use with just a baselayer on cooler days and also under a waterproof shell on similarly cool to cold days. On hotter days it may feel a little too warm if you’re working hard on those gradients.

It had the lowest price of any garment in the test, so for those on a tight budget, it’s a good choice.

Comfort: 32/40
Windblocking: 15/20
Warmth: 16/20
Quality: 7/10
Value for money: 8/10
Total: 78/100

The Montane Forza just edged ahead to take first place in the test. However, your choice will depend to a large degree on your preferences and the type of activity you’ll use the midlayer for. The Montane top has to be put on over the head, so is less convenient to don and take off while on the hill.

Close behind were three very different midlayers. The Keela Skye Pro Fleece is as traditional as they come, with its heritage colour and design. It was also the warmest and heaviest. The Salewa Light Micro Polarlite Full Zip Hooded Jacket was quite the opposite: technical, lightweight, stretchy and styled for those who prefer to move quickly on the hill. Somewhere between was the Berghaus Kyberg Polartec Fleece, which combined the warmth of fleece with the agility of stretch material, useful for more technical routes when it allowed good movement.

For value, the Snugpak Impact Fleece Shirt was hard to beat. Simple design in warm fleece though, again, it’s a pull-on design so a little less convenient to don. The Craghoppers Bronto Half Zip, similarly, is a pull-on midlayer, with a nice modern look that gives it the versatility of use on technical outdoors journeys as well as not looking out of place on urban streets.

  • All the midlayers were supplied to grough by the brands.

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