Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody Review

Autumn Hiking in the Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody
Intro: 
The Fortrez Hoody from Arc'teryx has been a piece I've wanted to test for many years. The idea of a fleece having a hardface with DWR is a concept that many manufactures haven't done. I'm not talking about hardfleeces that resemble softshells like the Gamma MX or an Epsilon LT, I'm referring to highly air permeable fleeces like the Patagonia R1 and Black Diamond CoEfficient jackets. For many years I thought fleeces were dead - heavier than synthetic or down jackets and provide less warmth. Perhaps I've been simply using fleeces the wrong way or not in the right context?

Construction/Material:
The Fortrez Hoody uses Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology (88% polyester, 12% elastane) with an area mass density of 230 g/m². The Fortrez Hoody is a medium-thin thickness fleece, just slightly thicker than an R1 but less thick than most Polertec Power stretch Fleeces, Patagonia R3, or Denali Fleece.  Total weight about 13oz, average for a standard fleece - not heavy but also not lightweight either

The inside is a the standard brush fleece while the exterior is very smooth due to the hardfleece design which makes layering over it easy and allows the fleece to shed light moisture like snow and rain drops.

One large zippered pocket on the chest which is highly elastic to accommodate everything from maps to a bulky cellphone.
Two hand pockets that use a perforated liner against the body that acts surprisingly well to ventilate the fleece if one gets a little hot. The pockets are fairly large so they easily fit anything one might want to place inside.

How it Fits:
The Fortrez Hoody has a trim fit which means don't expect to layer anything underneath it besides a standard base-layer or a thin wind-shell/softshell. The zipper doesn't have a fabric backer to it so it may not be the most comfortable piece if you plan to use it as a heavy weight base-layer. The length in the arms is perfect for a size medium, and the cut around the waist and underarms are extremely well done. No excess material but articulated so it doesn't bunch up under the arms when trying to climb or in normal camp life activities like melting snow for water.

Fortrez Hoody on Mt. Rainier 
The Hood fits perfectly under a helmet or standalone when you need some additional warmth. The balaclava pulls down out of the way when you don't need it but is always available when the winds pick up against your face. I've used quite a few jackets and the Fortrez hoody has the best built in balaclava of them all; you never have to worry that it makes you hot and sweaty nor is it too thin and has you wishing for more. Simply put, it's very soft and thin, the perfect fabric weight.

Performance:
The Fortrez Hoody is a mid-layer I never expected to find so much versatility from. For a long time I have overlooked fleeces, maybe it was the simplicity of them or perhaps the poor warmth to weight ratio that they have to their synthetic and especially down cousins. Perhaps a lot of these have to do with how one uses or layers with fleeces.

Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody on an unusually cold June on the Muir Snow field
Mountaineering on Mt. Rainier in June can go from being fried on the glacier to down right frigid winter conditions. Layering correctly in these conditions can make a huge difference in your overall comfort and even safety. Layering the Fortrez hoody over a very thin softshell allowed for exceptional breathability and warmth during high aerobic output, yet still blocked most of the wind. Using this combination allowed me to travel very comfortably up to high camp on Rainier in the coldest day in June I've ever experienced on the mountain. When the weather changed from the crisp cold morning to a snowy white out, the Fortrez hoody is equally good acting as a mid-layer when under a hardshell.

Arc'teryx Fortrez Hoody show casing the hardfleece exterior with DWR 
The Fortrez hoody was never designed to be an exceptionally warm fleece, it's much more on the thin side because it's really fleece for designed for movement, not static activity. Alpine starts for summer mountaineering takes advantage of the Fortez as it fits snugly over a baselayer and keeps you warm in the cool mornings without getting overheated. For overnight trips, the balaclava adds a lot comfort to your chin and cheeks when the temperature drops.

The Fortrez Hoody is under the Ascent line for Arc'teryx as it really shines in climbing and mountaineering related activities. For summer time hiking and backpacking, I would leave the Fortrez behind because doesn't provide any benefit over a standard puffy or synthetic midlayer.  On the other hand, I would considering packing it with me on certain hiking/backpacking trips in the Autumn. While The Fortrez hoody has a slight technical look to it, I think it works equally well off the mountain as it does on the mountain.

Is the Fortrez Hoody revolutionary? Certainly not, but Arc'teryx took a fleece and refined it down to a highly functional and streamline garment. Everything from the hard-fleece exterior to the large elastic chest pocket makes you appreciate the detail and care that went into this seemingly simple fleece.
Fortez Hoody out on an alpine climb in Snoqualmie Pass, WA.
Summary:
No design feature was overlooked or too small for Arc'teryx in making the Fortrez hoody. If price is no obligation, the Fortrez is one of the best fleeces for high output pursuits in cold/cooler weather.

Pros:
  • Highly Breathable Fleece
  • Fantastic DWR on the exterior face fabric
  • The best built in balaclava (face mask) I've used
  • Phenomenal cut on the jacket 
Cons:
  • Why no Monkey thumbs?
  • 200$ for a fleece 

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