Topo Designs Fleece Jacket Review

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.)

Specifications

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Material: Polartec 200 and Nylon
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large
Place of Manufacture: USA
Price: $129

Packaging

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.

Design

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Functionality

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.

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IMG_20160509_171716If 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.IMG_20160430_005133

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.IMG_20160430_005431

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.

Conclusion

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.

Topo Designs Rover Pack Review

Introduction

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Topo Designs is a outdoor gear company based in Colorado. All of their products are designed and constructed by themselves in Colorado. While their most famous bag is the Klettersack, when I was in the market for a backpack, I instantly fell in love with the Rover Pack. After a few months of use with my Red and Blue model, they produced a limited edition with the English company TSPTR, which I eventually purchased as well. It’s an amazing bag with a few flaws that don’t hinder its usefulness to me. However, this bag will falter when put to certain tests.

Specs

Dimensions: 18″h x 11″w x 5″d
Volume: 16.2 L
Price: $139 (basic editions), $159 (limited editions)

Packaging

The bag comes with a simple tag with the Topo Designs logo on one side and a short blurb on the company. Other than that, packaging was minimal.

Design

 

The bag features a main compartment with a laptop sleeve. On newer models, the laptop sleeve divider has a flat zippered compartment. There is a flap that covers over the opening of this compartment and is held down with two buckles. The flap has a small zippered compartment for small items. On each side of the main compartment, there are two bottle holders. On the front of the main compartment, there is another flat zippered compartment. There are D-rings on both shoulder straps that can be used to hold gear and other accessories. I often hook my watch to the left D-ring.

The TSPTR limited edition model has a snoopy theme. There are five patches spread about the bag. Overall, I would say that the color scheme of the bag, brown and tan, work as a good background for the patches. The red paracord act as a nice contracting detail.

Fit and Finish

The bag is handmade and, as such, the stitching is noticeably uneven at times. It is most apparent where the stitching ends. However, they are not visible from the outside of the bag and, honestly, the touch of imperfection adds a personal touch. I have no fear that the bag will fail at its stitches.

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The bag itself is made of 1000d Cordura fabric (spec sheet). The material is tear resistant and quite resistant to fraying. While it is stated that the bag comes coated, from experience, the bag is not very water resistant. This is not a big issue as it does not claim that it is, although it would have been a useful feature. In email correspondence with Topo, they recommended using Nikwax Tent Spray to waterproof the bag.

The bag cinches closed using 550 Paracord. The ends are singed and knotted. I often hold the bag by the paracord and have not had any problems with the stitching around the paracord.

It would appear as though the should strap padding got thicker in later models of the backpack. My TSPTR Rover Pack has straps that are almost twice as thick as my original red and blue model.

Functionality

I use this backpack as a day pack. As a student, I regularly carry a laptop (I have an XPS 15 9550 and it fits quite snug), notebooks, pen roll and occasional textbook. Water bottles can be a tight squeeze depending on the shape of the bottle. This is because the water bottle pouch is flat with the side of the bag. As such, larger water bottles will diminish the interior space of the bag.IMG_20160228_164342

The flap with buckles is useful for holding a jacket by simply clipping the jacket in between the flap and the bag. This can be done even when the bag is full.

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As previously stated, the strap padding got thicker with later models. The thicker padding makes a big difference when the backpack is heavy. I much prefer to use my TSPTR bag when I am carrying my laptop.

The bag is not a jack of all trades. While it is very portable and has much to offer for its size, its small size prohibits its use for carrying larger items. For example, it starts to struggle with more than two full size textbooks. I have used the bag for camping really had to pick and choose what items I was going to bring.

Conclusion

Topo Designs has created an great bag for everyday use, if you don’t have to carry a lot. I comfortably chuck my school supplies in and it holds itself quite well. I don’t have to baby it or worry about where I put it down. It looks and works as well after 1 year as it did on day 1. However, if you need to carry larger or heavier gear, I would recommend getting a different bag. For me, though, this bag is just what I need.