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Patagonia Better Sweater Rib Knit 1/4-Zip

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Patagonia Better Sweater Rib Knit 1/4-Zip fleece top

Polyester fleece with a soft fleecy interior and a sweater-knit exterior. Heavier and less breathable than a comparable technical fleece like Patagonia's R2; not what I would think of as a great technical mid-layer fleece. More a heavy sweater for colder weather. Looks great—love the heathered color and rib knit.


  • Warm
  • Comfortable
  • Great Looking
  • Wicks moisture


  • Heavy
  • Not as breathable as other fleece mid-layers

In fairness, this is not generally the kind of fleece I gravitate toward for harder outdoor activities. There are better choices for wicking moisture, warmth-to-weight ratio, technical features. On the other hand, if you compare it to a similarly warm wool sweater (maybe they called it "Better Sweater" for a reason), it has a lot of great qualities. It also flat-out looks great and feels comfortable.

20191201_143136.jpgThe ribbed better sweater laid out on the floor. The curious puppy does not come with the sweater.

20191201_142937.jpgAt the end of a cold, rainy walk today. 

The basics. This is a Patagonia polyester fleece where the inside surface is a familiar soft fleece. The outside looks like it's a knit sweater. (In fact, it's more polyester.) The outer surface doesn't feel like fleece. It's more firm, more tightly knit, and heavier than, say, a synchilla fleece. In this case, the outer part has a green heathered color and ribs. Otherwise, it's a pretty simple design—quarter-zip, one chest pocket, elastic at the neck, cuffs, waist.

20191201_142940.jpgAbove, you can see the pattern better, the zipped-up quarter zip, and the only pocket it has.

20191201_142945.jpgAbove, the cuffs are finished about the same as other Patagonia fleece tops.

20191201_142949.jpgThe hem, like the cuffs, has light elastic bound around it.

20191201_142958.jpgThe photo above shows the difference between the woven exterior and the inside fleecy surface.

20191201_143141.jpgCloseup view of the quarter zip opening—fuzzy interior, a hang loop, and you can see that the inside of the neck is finished with a smooth material.

It also functions, basically, like fleece. Even if it gets damp/wet, it will still keep you reasonably warm, and it dries out in a reasonable amount of time. It allows some air to get through, no windblock layer. It wicks moisture away from your core. At the same time, it functions somewhat differently. I don't think this wicks as well as some of the more technical fleeces (think Patagonia R1 or R2). It is a tad less air-permeable and feels both warmer and heavier weight.

It isn't quite as stretchy as fleece without the knit sweater-looking exterior. It doesn't have some technical features (though Patagonia does make a technical Better Sweater with side panels that wick better and help regulate heat better). In some ways, I think of it in the same vein as The North Face's ubiquitous Denali Fleece Jackets in terms of its weight, warmth, and basic function (the Denali is a heavy grade fleece that has some wind-blocking panels, is a full zip jacket, and has more pockets, though). If you are primarily focused on functionality, this may not be the right fleece for you. 

On the other hand, it's pretty functional compared to a ribbed wool military sweater—less itchy, dries faster, wicks better, easier care, etc. It also looks a fair bit less like a fuzzy marmot and more like a sweater, so it's great for a light duty hike or other outdoor activity, then works really well for around town, at the local restaurant or watering hole, at less formal work settings. It's also quite obviously a better choice for being outside in any kind of damp or wet weather than a heavy cotton sweatshirt. I think of this top in the category of casual vs. technical, so I think it's worth thinking of it compared to a sweatshirt or sweater as opposed to a more traditional fleece.  

How I have worn it: with a wicking nylon or merino wool T-shirt and with long sleeve merino or synthetic base layers, using the Better Sweater as the outer layer, on several walks and hikes, always toting a small day pack. Though a few of those hikes were fairly windy or drizzly, I warmed up enough as I walked that I did not feel the need to pull on a light shell, though I would have if it had started raining harder or really blowing. I also wore it a lot knocking around central Massachusetts last week in temperatures ranging from high 20's to mid-40s, varying what I wore underneath. 

Durability/quality is high. It's a nicely-finished pullover. Zippers, stitching are impeccable. It runs pretty much true to size with room for a light or light-mid layer underneath. 

Environmental conscience: Made from 100 percent recycled material. It's a fleece, so washing it could be putting microfibers into the water supply. I really try to limit how much I wash fleece garments and wash them on a gentle cycle to try to limit that. 


Lots of hours outside, in weather ranging from high 20s to mid-40s. Generally walking or hiking. Also, quite a bit of time running errands, tossing a ball with the dog, meeting up with people for dinner.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $119

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Price Current Retail: $73.78
Historic Range: $58.83-$119.00
Reviewers Paid: $119.00
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