>I have had this Men’s 100 Khyber 1/4 Zip fleece top for almost three months now. I have worn it on hills and in fields, on hot days and showery days, whilst on campsites and in pubs – I have even worn it watching TV! North Face describe it as “soft, lightweight, breathable and stylish” and do you know what – it is all those things. I like it!
[Disclosure – this fleece was provided by Webtogs for me to keep and to give my own personal opinions on it and they have no influence on these views and no editorial control. Webtogs have a whole range of fleece tops available on their site]
On initial unpacking, my first impressions were indeed ‘soft’ and ‘light’. The fleece (in large) comes in at 250g which is very acceptable for the kind of hiking I do (which you could broadly describe as ‘sort of lightweight’). Most fleeces can be described as soft when new – but even after three months of regular washing with all my other outdoor kit (on a 30 degree wash using standard non-bio detergent) this fleece still feels like it did when I first put it on. This is due to the Polartech material which the marketing department at North Face describe as “soft to touch yet firmly resistant to piling, fading and shape distortion” – well at least after three months I agree with them.
Colour-wise I went for the black / asphalt – most of the other options were a little bright for me (voyage blue / twilight blue, chilli pepper red, ivy green, molten red, boulder blue and asphalt grey are the other options). The fleece is predominately black, with a asphalt (dark grey) panel on the inner arms and sides (and a thin asphalt line in the inner collar). I think it looks pretty stylish and it is certainly comfortable (presumably thanks to the underarm gussets and raglan sleeves whatever they are!), and I often wear it to the pub or just around the house.
So it is soft, lightweight and stylish – but is it actually any good outdoors? Before I talk about breath-ability and warmth, I should point out other layers also play a part in this – most of the time during testing I was wearing a Chocolate Fish 190 Merino Base Layer underneath. Overall I was impressed – on hot days both the base layer and fleece seemed to do a good job of wicking moisture away from my body leaving me relatively dry (I “run hot” when hiking…) and not too hot (obviously I was hot – I was wearing a fleece on a hot sunny day!), on colder/ windier days I remained warm but again dry and not too hot. On peaks I found the fleece did a really good job of reducing the impact of the wind and keeping me warm during breaks. The only time it failed to perform as well as I would have hoped was hanging around a camp site when temperatures dropped to around 5 degrees – I was not cold or shivering, but I did spend a few minutes day dreaming about my thermal fleece.
The one thing I was really interested in testing was how it performed in rain – fortunately on the Brecon Beacons I was given the chance to walk for a few hours in persistent light rain. The fleece did a brilliant job of keeping out the rain – and even after a few hours the fleece was still dry to the touch inside. I hate having to dive into my rucksack at the slightest hint of rain, and it was reassuring to know the fleece can hold out to a bit of rain. The quick drying characteristics also proved to be accurate, and the fleeced dried quickly despite the light soaking.
One thing that confuses me though is the amount North Face go on about sun protection – perhaps I have missed some alert about sun damage through clothes but I am certainly yet to get anything other than tan lanes from clothing. Anyway if you are concerned the Khyber fleece has UPF 30 sun protection, although the label has the following disclaimer: “Protection offered may be reduced if fabric is wet, stretched, with use and after repeated laundering”. With use? I cannot help feeling this is nothing but a marketing gimmick.
Overall I am really pleased with the Men’s 100 Khyber 1/4 Zip Fleece Top – it does exactly what it promises to do, and since it arrived my other fleeces have been left to collect dust in the corner.
Price: £40.50 from Webtogs