Patagonia Better Sweater Vest
The Better Sweater Vest is a slimmer fleece-like vest that functions well for both outdoor and casual pursuits.
- Capable in multitude of scenarios (outdoors or casual)
- Slimmer fit
- Soft trim around openings
- Holds shape
- Easy to launder
- Just a wee bit short in torso length
- Lint attractor (perhaps more noticeable with dark color)
- Starting to pill after one year
In January 2015, I put a call out for recommendations (link to thread) to the Trailspace community for good-quality vests that could pull double duty; warm enough for cold season layering, stylish enough for occasional wear in business casual situations. After looking at many suggestions and weighing prices, I settled on the Patagonia Better Sweater Vest. Fortunately, I found it at my local gear store on a end-of-season sale.
I’ve worn the Better Sweater Vest for an entire year now in spring, fall, and most commonly in winter months in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I’ve worn it on the trail, in the field, on the stream, around the house, and in the office.
Outdoor uses have included as mid-layer vest in cold weather (hunting, hiking, and fishing) and as an outer-layer vest in warmer temps (mountain biking, camping, and hiking). Outdoor temps have ranged from -5° to 60°F (-20.5 to 15.5C), and I occasionally wear it into the office in the chillier months atop a long-sleeve collared shirt.
Fit & Comfort:
I was skeptical buying a “regular fit” vest because I was accustomed to that meaning “boxy fit” for other brands. Although Patagonia lists this vest as “regular fit,” it really fits more like the “slim fit” offerings of many apparel companies. This vest fit is more snug and responsive than I anticipated, which I am grateful for. It took me trying it on in-person to convince me that it would meet my needs.
In this vest, I wear a men’s medium, for which I am on the upper end of the measurements for (41" chest and 16" neck) but overall it fits well and is comfortable. The only area I could use an extra inch or two of fabric is in the torso length, but at 6'2" (1.88m) this is often the case with clothes I buy. If something like a men’s medium long existed, that would be ideal for me. Another option would be if it had a slight drop tail, extending the fabric over the rear slightly.
As with any vest, an important area is arm openings. These opening don’t chafe and don’t stretch — problems that I’ve encountered in the past with other, thicker vests. The arm openings, as well as the vest’s bottom opening, both have a thin, soft micro-polyester trim that increases comfort and decreases stretching out.
For being a 14 oz. polyester fleece, I’m surprised how warm it actually keeps me. Attributing to the overall warmth is likely the fleece-like fabric as well as the snug fit that is better at trapping heat than a boxy, loose vest would be. The warmth and breathability of the fabric does somewhat depend on what is worn underneath, so layering is key.
When wearing to the office, it’s not uncommon for me to ditch the vest after a few hours, even if all I’m doing is sitting at my desk. I simply start overheating (Note: I do tend to run hot).
I haven’t experienced overheating while outdoors though or while active when wearing the vest. Giving a temp range is a bit difficult as it largely depends what is worn underneath and overtop. As a stand alone with nothing overtop and only a cotton or polyester layer underneath, I’ve been comfortable down to 45°F (7.2°C). Anything colder and I add a layer on top.
Vests are, by their very nature, meant for layering. Adding layers on top of the vest is no problem at all because of its low profile and slimmer fit. Even my slimmest jacket, a Patagonia Dual Aspect Hoody, fits just fine over top. When adding layers underneath, I am usually limited to two layers maximum, which are typically either a polyester or wool baselayer and/or a t-shirt, collared shirt, long-sleeve shirt.
The jackets I’ve layered on top of this are of a wide variety, including the aforementioned Patagonia Dual Aspect Hoody, Polartec military fleece, Gore-Tex hunting rain jacket, TNF Apex Bionic soft-shell, Columbia Sleeker rain jacket, and a no-brand second-hand down vest. With each of these, the outer layer zipper raises up past the end of the vest zipper. This is particularly helpful in cold or rainy weather, so no extra cold or moisture creeps in under the neck.
Being a Polartec, polyester fleece, this vest isn’t meant to handle excessive abrasion, but can withstand some bumps and bruises. I’m not particularly keen on purposely testing its abrasion qualities to the fullest extent, but within the confines of how I've used it, I think it has held up admirably.
The company’s only claim that alludes to abrasion is, “…a resilient sweater-knit face that resembles wool,” so I wouldn’t say that the company is overselling its ability to handle abrasion. For my mostly gentle, although frequent uses, there has been no issue with abrasion.
There are four total zippers on this vest: one full-length front zipper, two hand-warmer pocket zippers, and one vertical chest pocket zipper.
Full-length frontal zipper:
The full zipper was a little worrisome at first when thinking about using it on the trail or in the field. In my eyes, the more zippers, the more chance for failure. However, while in some select cases it would probably be more ideal to have a button or pullover vest, I find this zipper to provide the right level of ventilation options in the field and on the trail.
When mountain biking, I drop the zipper in order to ventilate. When winter hunting, I pull up the zipper in order to add warmth. For me, the zipper ends right at the Adam's apple, and includes a small zipper guard housing for the chin and neck.
Right side hand-warmer pocket zipper:
Some of the Patagonia jackets and hoodies I’ve worn have really large, deep pockets. Not so with this vest. I would label the right side hand-warmer pocket as average to slightly small. I can get some essentials in the pocket, but don’t care to use it for much else aside from occasionally warming my right hand. No stashing extra layers or loads of goodies in these pockets. The right side pocket has a secure and easy-to-locate zipper by using one's right hand.
Left side hand-warmer pocket zipper:
Mirror image of everything I just wrote about the right side pocket. Imagine that! ;-)
Vertical chest pocket:
I’ve never been a fan of such chest pockets and very rarely use them. This vest is no different. The zipper and pocket work just fine, but I simply don’t care for keeping things in chest pockets.
Another noticeable feature is the shoulder seams which are lower on the shoulder, allowing for less friction when wearing a pack.
Construction & Durability:
As a company, Patagonia is pretty transparent about their manufacturing and supply chain practices. I appreciate any company that values openness, but I also believe a piece gear or garment still has to be made well and perform well.
With that said, I think this vest fits both categories—made well and performs well. All seams and stitching remains perfectly in tact. The fabric has not noticeably stretched or worn thin in any areas. All zippers work flawlessly.
Maybe it’s more noticeable with the black or darker color models, but the fabric, especially around the neck catches a lot of lint. Simple solution is tape or lint roller.
After about a year of use, some pilling has started to occur, most concentrated in the areas along the frontal zipper and the neck.
Patagonia’s recommendation for this vest is a warm gentle cycle wash and tumble dry low, which is very basic for most folks. I’ve experimented between tumble dry low and hang dry, but don’t think there is much of a difference in terms of feel or comfort.
I recommend this vest to individuals looking for a slimmer-fitting vest for added warmth and looking for an overall appearance and function of causal, and not overly technical.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $70
It's a good lookin' fleece vest.
- Looks good
- Handwarmer pockets
- No sleeves (only joking)
It fits nicely like most pata stuff. It is a little big in the arm holes. Fits nicely in the chest, fairly slim. I'm 6' 160 and I have a medium. It looks nice in the reddish color.
The vest is not super warm, it is only about 150 weight fleece, but for the weight it is very good. The zippers on it are kind of loud and have lots of resistance which is strange. Bought it off ebay NWT.
It is a good piece for skiing or casual wear. I don't think it will make the cut into my winter day hiking kit.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $25
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