I am a big fan of Topo Designs. I’ve carried and used their Rover Pack almost everyday for well over a year now. So, when I received their take on the traditional quarter-buttoned fleece jacket, I had nothing but high hopes for it. With bigger companies like Patagonia making similar style jackets, is there a place for Topo in the jacket market?
(Note: I received this jacket for review from Topo Designs. However, my opinions in this review are my own. Please contact me with any concerns.)
Material: Polartec 200 and Nylon
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large
Place of Manufacture: USA
The jacket came only with the same tag that all Topo Designs products come with.
There is a sticker on the back of the tag with a barcode, item name and price information.
The jacket has been produced in many different colors throughout the years.
Besides the color of the fleece fabric, design of the jackets are almost identical except for the buttons, which come in both a shiny silver finish as well as a blackened finish.
The fleece jacket is a quarter-buttoned style. There are three snap-closure buttons that extend up through the high collar. The buttons are mounted on top of nylon strips that run up and down the opening. The collar itself is also lined with nylon all around.
The large breast pocket is also secured using a snap-closure button. The pocket is very large and can hold my 5.5 inch screen phone with ease. The pocket is entirely nylon and overlays the fleece. The inside is a bright neon yellow that greatly contrasts with the rest of the jacket. There is a thick red tab on the top of the pocket. While I think it might have been designed to assist with opening the pocket, I have not found it useful.
The sleeves are tightly cinched with elastics at the wrists. On the forearms, there are nylon patches that extend from the elbow to the elastics. They are positioned so that they face away from the body when the jacket is being worn
There are a few tags on the jacket including a Topo tag, a “MADE IN USA” tag, and a size tag. There is a small nylon loop for hanging the jacket.
Fit and Finish
The stitching is uneven in some places. By this, I mean that the stitching sometimes doubles over and the ends are not that pleasantly finished off. Since the threads used are the same color as the fleece, these issues are quite hard to see. However, I have not had the stitching fail in any location and the dimensions seem symmetric.
The buttons are firmly attached and feature the words “TOPO” stamped on them. They take a bit of force to snap together, but it is easy enough to do it with one hand. My OCD-self has a bit of an issue with the button on the pocket. It is rotated about 10 degrees or so. It does not affect the functionality, but it is an annoyance.
Being Polartec, the fleece fabric is consistent throughout the panels. I have washed the jacket once and there does not appear to be any thinning.
The jacket wears quite well. It sits well on the shoulders. The sleeves are a bit on the longer side, but the elastics prevents them from becoming an issue.
If anything, my one complaint is with how high the jacket sits. I don’t wear my jeans low, but the bottom edge of the jacket still exposes my belt loops.
I often push up my sleeves and have noticed a ridge and crease pattern on the forearm area. The elastic on the wrists also seem to loosen a bit over time. However, the crease pattern disappears and the elasticity goes back to normal after a wash.
Since the collar is so high, they can either be left up or rolled down. It has the natural inclination to stay away from the neck when unbuttoned, so when left high, it is not a bother.
The tag on the inside of the jacket gives information on the materials used, where the jacket was made, and, most importantly, how to clean it. As with most fleece products, I buttoned the jacket up and turned it inside out. I set the washer to a warm, gentle cycle and then let it air dry overnight. There was no deformation or thinning that I could detect.
The fabric used in the jacket, Polartec 200, is not rated to be highly wind resistant. I found this to be true. Unless I wore some sort of shell on top of it or wore a thicker layer underneath it, I found my forearms to be a bit chilly.
On some cold days, I wore the jacket indoors and found the softness to be super comfy. It was difficult to tell myself to take it off before bed. It is also great for layering. I wore it under a rain jacket and a hard shell and found myself walking to class in the last snow storm without shivering.
The jacket is compact and folds up quite well. I wore the jacket during mid to late spring where chilly mornings led to warm afternoons. I rolled up the jacket and slipped it in my Rover Pack. It didn’t take up much internal volume from the backpack at all.
How does the jacket compare?
The jacket is of a very similar style to the Patagonia Snap-T Series.
The Patagonia comes in many different forms but is, on average, around ~$10 cheaper than the Topo. It has more buttons in the front, which can allow for some more flexibility as well as elastics on the bottom edge to help prevent wind from getting in.
Having tried on the Patagonia in a store, I can say that their in-house fleece material is of the same quality as Polartec’s.
The Topo jacket has a few notable advantages over the Patagonia. The pocket is bigger (alas, for some it might be an eyesore) and the elastics on the sleeves are better than those on the Patagonia. The buttons are mounted on nylon instead of the fleece itself which may help the fabric last longer.
I love my Topo fleece jacket, but it is important to remember what role it has in a wardrobe. It will not keep one warm on a windy day if you are not properly dressed underneath or on top. It will, however, be very comfortable to wear on a mild spring day or as a layer during the winter. The quality is, as always, above par and I have no doubt that the jacket will be a staple in my wardrobe for years to come.