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The Ultimate Guide to Fleece vs Wool: Pros, Cons, and Costs


Article Categories: Gear | Hiking Tips
Article Tags: Clothing | gear | Hiking Gear

Making the decision between fleece and wool can be difficult. Both materials have their own pros and cons, and it can be hard to determine which is the best choice for you. In this guide, we will break down all of the information you need to make an informed decision about which material is right for you. We’ll cover the benefits, cons, and costs of both fleece and wool, as well as how each material performs in different situations. By the end of this guide, you will be able to confidently choose between fleece and wool.



Fleece Vs Wool


Insulation / Warmth

Both are great insulators, but wool wins out on overall warmth. The moisture wicking ability also makes it win for a variety of temperatures.

Winner: Wool


Water Resistance

Wool wins in terms of water resistance. It holds off water absorption longer, and still retains insulation even when wet. Once a garment is wet however, wool dries substantially slower than fleece. Once completely wet, fleece wins because it will dry out quicker.

Winner: Wool



Wool tends to be heavier than fleece. This can make it less comfortable in fleece. It will add slightly more weight for the same level of insulation when compared to fleece.

Winner: Fleece



Fleece is considered more comfortable. It is lighter, and doesn’t cause any itchiness when some wearers experience some itchiness from wool products. Merino wool tends to be particularly comfortable however but often costs a little more.

Winner: Fleece


Odor Resistant

Wool is extremely odor resistant. Being that these layers are often warn during strenuous activity, this can be an important feature, as fleece, like many other clothes can get a bit smelly.

Winner: Wool



Fleece wins on cost. It is simply less expensive. There are more expensive sustainably sourced / fleece options, but wool also has some even more expensive options. Merino wool for example tends to be more expensive.

Winner: Fleece


Moisture Wicking

Both materials are moisture wicking, and you’ll find different opinions which wins this battle. Wool is able to absorb more moisture than fleece, but fleece can dry extremely quickly.

Winner: Tie



Both materials are extremely versatile. Wool is used in even more ways than Fleece due to having different weaves, thicknesses, antimicrobial properties and flame resistance.

Winner: Wool



Both materials are likely to last a substantial amount of time and resist wear and tear quite well.

Winner: Tie


What Is Wool?

Wool, unlike fleece, is a naturally occuring material. Sheeps produce wool to keep them warm in cold climates. Wool is a very good insulator and can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water without feeling wet. This makes it a great material for winter clothing by keeping the warmth in, and wicking moisture away. Because wool is a natural material, it is a sustainable fabric, biodegradable, and most wool is sustainable sourced from sheep in a manner that causes no harm to the animals.


What Is Fleece?

Fleece is a synthetic fabric. It was first introduced to the public in the early 1980s as a wool alternative. Fleece fabric is often made from PET, a type of polyester called polyethylene terephthalate or other synthetic fibers. These fibers are woven and brushed into a fabric we call fleece. Sometimes fleece blends can be made with natural materials. Because of the nature of fleece, it tends to not be considered sustainable, though sustainable fleece and recycled fleece options to exist in the marketplace.


Where Should You Wear Fleece And Wool?

Both fleece and wool are worn as insulating fabrics. They’re designed to keep you warm when the weather gets cold, so they’re both commonly used in winter clothing. Both materials are known as moisture wicking materials, warm materials, quick drying, and lightweight. As insulating layers that are often used as mid layers, above a base layer, and under an outer layer. This means, that most people are considering wool, fleece, down, or synthetic down as an insulating layer. Both are also commonly worn as base layers, or outer layers when the weather isn’t as cold.


The Advantages Of Wool

  • Wool is naturally water resistant and can be a good choice for cold weather or wet climates.
  • Wool has fantastic wicking capabilities which makes it versatile for all temperatures
  • Wool tends to be extremely durable
  • Wool has fantastic odor resistant properties meaning it needs to be washed less, and is great for longer trips and even use as a base layer
  • Still keeps the wearer warm even when wet
  • Wool is a sustainable product
  • Wool has great UV protection


The Advantages Of Fleece

  • Fleece is generally less expensive than wool.
  • Fleece is a great insulator
  • Fleece has great moisture wicking abilities (breathable, and lets moisture pass through)
  • Dries quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Comes in various weights for ability to have different levels of warmth


Washing Fleece

Fleece clothing, jackets and blankets can be washed in the washing machine. Wash fleece on a gentle cycle with cold water only and use mild detergent. Do not add any fabric softener as it will reduce fleece’s ability to insulate against cold temperatures. Tumble dry fleece on low heat or allow it to air dry if possible. If you have a very large fleece blanket that won’t fit in your washer or dryer, you might consider having it professionally cleaned at a laundromat or elsewhere depending on where you live.

Be sure to follow the directions from the direction of the clothing manufacturer.


Washing Wool

Wool layers, jackets, socks, and blankets can be washed in the washing machine. They should be treated delicately, and because wool is odor resistance, you can often wash it less than other clothing types.

Be sure to follow the directions from the direction of the clothing manufacturer.


Summary: Which is Better? Wool or Fleece?

The answer is truly dependent on your particular needs. For the most part wool wins out on a lot of factors, but fleece is super comfortable, lightweight, and a bit better on the wallet. For this reason, it truly is up to personal presence, and most avid outdoorsy people own both fleece and wool and use them for different situations.

If worried about getting wet, needing optimal moisture wicking, and want the most warmth, wool is the better option, but if needing a more budget friendly option, or wool irritates your skin, fleece is always going to be the better option.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about