Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Gear Review: The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top – an Excellent Piece of Kit

Modelling the North Face fleece on Shutlingsloe - 1/1/11 

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has legitimately been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs recently sent me this item, for review by the end of the month.  After wearing it virtually constantly for a fortnight, here are my first impressions:

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top
The manufacturer’s product details and specification is provided at the foot of this posting. I do not take issue with them.

First impressions:

This is a standard Polartec® 100 fleece top, currently retailing at £49.00, less 10% from retailers such as Webtogs.  Many readers will be familiar with the quick drying Polartec® 100 polyester fabric used in many lightweight fleeces.  This particular item, manufactured in the Philippines, is made to a very high standard
  • all the sewing is perfect
  • there’s a good solid baffle behind the front zip
  • the zipped handwarmer pockets are roomy and robust
  • the feel of the fabric is soft and velvety
  • the medium size fits my 38” chest with room to spare
  • the fleece is comfortable without being snug
  • the length is generous
  • there are some curious studs on the cuffs that may be useful to retain a compass or similar - I now understand this to be needed for attachment to other compatible layers from The North Face®
  • there is no drawcord, nor any elasticity to the cuffs, etc, so in time the stretchy fabric of the garment could become a little ‘loose’ 
  • the zip on my garment is left-handed, which (not being left-handed) I find a little strange, though not inconvenient - perhaps that is needed for the 'zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®' feature to work
  • at 275 gm out of the packet, this garment is about 40 gm heavier than the ‘smock’ style of fleece of the same material that I am used to wearing, so for lightweight summer backpacking when it may be carried for most of the time, the smock would be a little lighter to carry, but it’s really down to personal preference
Practical Use:
  • I’ve been using this fleece top as a casual top, indoors and outdoors, including several wintery walks.  The Polartec® 100 fabric should be fine in most UK conditions, over a wicking base layer
  • in cold weather an extra layer or a thicker fleece will be needed by most people
  • from my previous experience with this fabric, I have no reason to believe that this garment won’t last for years.  Indeed, whilst testing I’ve mentioned it to others who have unzipped their waterproofs to reveal an old model of the same top which has indeed lasted them for years
  • numerous manufacturers make similar products, with leading producers like RAB charging similar prices
  • there may be cheaper alternatives, but the price may reflect the finish, fit and durability
  • if you are looking for a lightweight full zip fleece top, I doubt you’ll find one better made than this one from TNF
  • the top is ideal for indoor casual use all year round, and for outdoor use between spring and autumn together with a base layer, and in winter with an extra outer layer
  • I could quite happily use this garment for UK backpacking trips from May to October, if I didn’t prefer the ‘smock’ style of fleece for that purpose
  • I’ll be using it for day walks, suitably layered, all year round
That’s it for now.  I’ll add to this review when I have been using the fleece for a longer term.

See foot of this posting for more.

The North Face’s own product details and specification are reiterated below.

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top


Product Details and Specification:

Engineered for optimum thermal efficiency, the Polartec® fleece makes the Men’s 100 Full Zip a hiking essential. It’s a lightweight, warm and breathable fleece, able to retain crucial body heat in the cold while letting moisture escape through its lofted fibres. There’s durability too, making the fleece resistant to pilling, fading and shape distortion, plus soft-to-touch comfort courtesy of the brushed face. Pockets provide space to warm chilly hands or stow belongings, and a full-length zip runs up to the high neck for comprehensive insulation. Quick to dry, a cinch to care for and zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®, this will quickly become an essential part of your packing for outdoor adventures.


  • Brushed face for soft handfeel
  • Fabric resists pilling and fading and maintains shape
  • Full length center front zip
  • Quick drying
  • set-in sleeves
  • Soft, thermally efficient Polartec® Classic Micro
  • Zipper hand pockets
100% Polyester - Polartec® Classic Micro
S, M, L, XL, XXL

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Further observations:
1.  [23/1/11]  James Boulter has reviewed the equivalent NF smock (or 'pullover') here.  Note that his NF fleece has no chest pocket, unlike its Rab equivalent.

2.  [14/2/11]  I've continued to wear my full zip fleece top for a number of day walks, and whereas the side pockets aren't easily accessible when wearing a rucksack, it's good to be able to unzip the 'Full Zip' to keep cooler on ascents, now the weather is warming up.  So - chest pocket vs full zip?  I suppose I'm easily pleased - happy with either.

3. [10/3/11]  After another month of fairly constant use, both in and out of doors, mainly over an Icebreaker 200 Men's Oasis Crewe (long-sleeved shirt), and several washes, the garment remains 'as new'.  It continues to be a delight to wear, and soon recovers from any condensation that forms inside waterproofs on wet days.  By my normal standards it looks quite smart as well!


James Boulter said...

Martin I am currently wearing the smock one from Webtogs as I write this. In fact I have worn it every day this year so far! I think that it will be coming on the TGO challenge with me. That reminds me that I do need to get the review written and finish my route planning!

Laura said...

Good review - it reminded me that last Autumn I bought a Microjacket made by Mountain Equipment which is to all intents and purposes almost exactly the same as the one you reviewed here. Of course, it's a Women's version and a bit more colourful. I bought it because although I have plenty of 'over-the-head' fleeces I thought a light-weight jacket would be more flexible to carry in my rucksack. Actually I've worn it more than carried it - indoors, as a mid-layer, extra warmth under a ski jacket etc etc Brilliant piece of kit - don't know why I didn't buy one before...............

Phreerunner said...

Laura, you're right, the jacket is excellent for use indoors and outdoors, but James, it's your smock that I'll be wearing on the TGO Challenge, simply because it's lighter to carry (yes, you do get t-shirt weather in Scotland in May) and I find the chest pocket preferable when backpacking with a hip belt. (I use a Rohan t-shirt as base layer and take a RAB Super Dru jacket in case it rains.)

G said...

The studs on the cuff Martin are because this is a zip in compatible jacket and will zip in to an appropriate outer jacket. If it's any consolation though, it took me around 4 years to figure this out after buying a windproof fleece in the early noughties!

The Odyssee said...

Excellent review there Martin.
I might be a tight B but i think £50 is a bit steep for a micro fleece when you can pick one up for about £10 at go outdoors. I know the fit/design won’t be as good as the TNF but material wise very similar.

I did have a look at these below (see link). At M&S. I was impressed with them. They do both smock and jacket models. Smock are £15. Jacket £19.50 and are polyester micro fleece.
Just thought i would throw this in. Hope you don’t mind.

Phreerunner said...

Thanks G. I should have asked Hazel about that - she was showing off her old compatible fleece and jacket when I was wearing the fleece on Shutlingsloe.

Alan, you are of course entitled to your opinion, which is appreciated. I have seen these cheaper fleeces in various places but have never been tempted. On grounds of weight, fit and perceived durability to name but three, and I've certainly never spotted any outdoor gear that I've fancied in M&S. Their fleeces do look as if they could be serviceable, but 'you pay for what you get', methinks.

The Odyssee said...

I agree with you Martin. You can certainly tell the difference in design between a £50 one and a £10 one and you are correct you only get what you pay for.
I threw in the M&S one because i tried them on and i think they are good fit and value for money.
I agree with you again that a lot of their outdoor gear is not for us but occasionally they come up trumps.
Like these fleeces and their sports undies which are 3 pairs for £15.
I bought a pair and i find them very comfy. (I read about them on Robins blog. blogpackinglight). He thinks they are good too.

Trekking Britain said...

Give me hand warmer pockets and a full zip any day over a few grams saving in weight :-)

Phreerunner said...

Jamie, I don't disagree for use as a 'casual' top, but for summer backpacking such as the TGO Challenge, when the fleece can spend a lot of time in the rucksack, I prefer a slightly lighter smock. Also, when walking with a rucksack belt the jacket pockets aren't accessible, whereas some smocks (not the NF one) have a very useful small chest pocket - the Rab Men's Pullover Fleece is an example, and that's what I have always used for the TGO Challenge.