Unless you live on the East Coast, winter is here for just a few months. Whether you’re just making the morning commute, heading out to an outdoor range, or hitting the trail, it’s time to start thinking about layering. For every day use, you’ve got a few different options, but the most versatile is technical fleece. Featuring a good warmth-to-weight ratio, excellent wicking properties, and even the ability to be treated with a DWR, one of your best bets is a jacket or hoody from Arc’teryx. We have been putting the latest edition of the Naga Hoody ($199), as well as the all-new Arenite ($179), through their paces the last couple of months hiking, climbing, and skiing and we can’t recommend any other fleece garment as much.
The Arenite and Naga have similar silhouettes, but are built of entirely different fabrics. The Gen 2 Naga Hoody uses Polartec PowerStretch fleece, with a hard face finish. Essentially, it is built like a cold weather combat shirt, with specific attention to where seams are placed, and serious finish work in high abrasion areas. The Arenite in contrast, is an all around piece and emphasis is placed on both fit and warmth. It uses Arc’teryx’s Cobblecomb fleece that is both well lofted for warmth, and features 6% elastane for stretch (this was especially important for us doing some fall climbing and having our arms and shoulders stretched out for long periods of time). Both the Naga and Arenite feature fine attention to detail at all the seams, but it’s especially noticeable around the pockets and cuffs.
The Naga has a very athletic fit, with a little extra length in the arms to accommodate its thumb loops. For reference, I am 5’10” and 170 pounds. I found the medium to fit me perfectly in all regards. The shoulder area felt a little tight at first, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much stretch it had. It never once pulled the bottom hem above my belt when reaching up or bending. It should be noted that the waist is quite trim, so if you’re looking for a concealed carry garment, I would look elsewhere. The hood fits next to skin, but is not overly tight. It was a nice bonus that it fit under both my climbing and ski helmets with ease on colder days.
The Arenite fits very similar to the Naga, but has a more generous waistline. The hood is also a little more spacious, easily covering a ball cap and pair of Peltors at the range. The cuffs are sewn flat rather than a cheap elastic like many brands add to fleece. It is a nice touch for standalone wear, but I did find that the sleeves would ride up a few inches when under a larger shell jacket. The biggest difference though is the full zip and hand pockets. For general use outdoors and even to the office, I found myself reaching for the Arenite more often than not.
The Hard face fleece that Arc’teryx uses is a nice touch that I wish we’d see more of in the market. With the Arenite, It seems that the Cobblecomb fleece has more stretch than similar materials, but retains its wind resistance throughout range of motion. The inner face is much more plush as well, helping to trap a little extra warmth. I treated mine with Nikwax Polar Proof after a few washes. Not only does it protect against dreaded pilling (although even after three washes and some hard wear, I didn’t have any problems) it imparts a DWR treatment that also aids in wicking.
The Naga really shined though on the hard face front with abrasion resistance. I definitely wore it in some sketchy situations both rock climbing and ski touring that involved a lot of rubbing on rough granite and ice with hardly any wear. I expected the cuffs to take a beating, as I like to loop them over light gloves, but the updated materials have handled ski poles, climbing chalk, and pistol grips without so much as a scuff in over a month of use.
For fleece, staying warm is the big test. Many technical fleeces are great when you’re moving, but leave a little to be desired when you’re static for long periods. The Naga Hoody definitely leans this direction, as the PowerStretch material is much lighter than Cobblecomb. On its own, I was comfortable in just a t-shirt and the Naga to the mid 40’s.
The Arenite is warmer, especially after the Polar Proof Treatment. It cuts wind out better, and the inner finish is definitely fluffier, letting you trap more body heat. The trade-off is that the hood doesn’t fit under a shell quite as well, but if you’re in a milder climate that might be a moot point for you.
Is a new piece of Arc’teryx your next purchase? I’d say both the Arenite and Naga Gen 2 are excellent winter layering and standalone pieces. If you’re looking for high abrasion resistance, kinetic performance and excellent wicking, the Naga is your go-to for cold pursuits. If you’re looking for a fleece hoody that can handle fall climbing, days on the river, and even pull office duty with a collared shirt when it has to, then look no further than the Arenite. Regardless, either of these will be excellent picks for seasons to come.
The Naga Hoody Gen 2 retails for $199 and is available in sizes Small through XX-Large and you choice of Black, Crocodile, or Wolf. Click here for more information on the Naga and to find out where you can buy one. The Arenite retails for $179, is available in sizes Small through XX-Large, and comes in your choice of six different colors. Click here for more information on the Arenite and to find out where you can buy one.