Winter is basically here in my town. The temps are down, the frost is out, and the time to prepare is now. So, let’s start talking about jackets. The L.L.Bean Stormfleece Pro is a hybrid soft shell/fleece jacket that’s designed to shed light rain, snow and wind. This is my review.
The Stormfleece technology combines a weather resistant soft shell exterior with a piled, fleece like interior. This combination provides warmth, but also helps to resist cold breezes, rain and snow. The jacket has two raised, zippered hand pockets, a three-point adjustable hood, adjustable waist, and a full frontal zipper with a padded chin. It’s made of 92% recycled polyester, and 8% spandex, so it has a bit of stretch to it. It retails for $129, comes in a variety of colors, including olive pictured here, and is available now.
What I liked
As with any jacket, the performance is the first consideration. The Stormfleece Pro is designed to be a high performance layering garment, and performs accordingly. On its own, the jacket works great into the 50’s (F), or even into the low 40’s when active. When combined with a base or even a hardshell, the comfort range can be pushed into the 20s. The smooth, tightly woven exterior does an excellent job of blocking wind as air molecules can’t force their way through, while the interior adds some extra warmth by trapping warm air in the piled polyester fibers. The adjustable hood can be closed off on the top and the sides, creating a tight seal around the face. The stretchy cuffs do a good job of sealing up around the wrists, blocking drafts and flurries. The jacket also breaths quite well, with moisture and hot air slowly diffusing through the fibers. This makes it an excellent jacket for times of high mobility. Luckily, the synthetic build also allows it to dry rather quickly.
The jacket can be somewhat tuned to better fit the weather situation. The full frontal zipper can of course be undone, but also the hand pockets can be used as vents. Their interiors are mesh instead of full fleece, which allows them to dump hot air when undone.
The Stormfleece Pro holds true to name as it also performs well when it comes to weather resistance. While it’s not designed to be a hard shell (rain jacket), it does a good job of shedding off a light drizzle, for a time, and will dispense snow without issue. I’ve also found that it cleans up quite nicely, with mud and grime come off easily with a light brush of a damp cloth.
Comfort wise, the jacket is great. It has a somewhat fitted cut, but still provides enough room for a lightweight layer to be worn underneath, such as a thermal, or a very thin down or synthetic. The fleece interior feels great to the touch and slides nicely across the skin or other layers. The hood/chin is completely lined with a soft, microfiber like material to prevent friction and chafing too. The cuffs are stretchy, similar to Lycra, and do a good job of keeping the jacket in place while in motion. While the jacket starts out relatively stiff, a few hours of use softens it up nicely, putting it somewhere between the pliability of a lightweight fleece and a traditional soft shell.
Visually, the jacket is a looker. I adore the complex texture. It looks almost like a subtle diamond tread steel, with high tones of gloss and and overall matte texture that radiates performance and style. The light interacts with it in a way that’s very modern and sporty, but at the same time not flashy at all. In a way, it’s understated and bold at the same time. Simply put, it looks great. Other color options, ranging from the muted olive shown here all the up to the attention demanding orange, provide an option for all taste.
The Stormfleece Pro is also a good value. At $129, it isn’t the most affordable option out there, but it is also way better priced than most jackets that perform on the same level, or even worse. Most jackets in this range fall short on durability, but this jacket is built exceptionally well. Everything from the zippers to the stitching feels decided top shelf, and the general aesthetic backs that up. Paired with the all around good performance, it starts to look like a real bargain.
The elevated hand pockets stay out of the way of backpack straps.
What I didn’t like
Just like any soft shell, the weather protection and warmth does come at the expense of weight and packability. It isn’t as light or warm as some filled jackets, but it isn’t as heavy as many traditional soft shells either. It fits squarely in the middle, but does also brings the benefits listed above. It is still fairly packable at an appreciable weight, but not exceptionally so.
As the mercury drops, it becomes vital to have a sturdy, reliable, warm jacket to get you through it. Contrary to popular belief, a thick single layer solution is never the best option, and the Stormfleece Pro uses this knowledge to its advantage. The fit is perfect for layering, both above and below, and when worn as a lone garment it provides excellent wind, precipitation, and cold resistance, well suited for hiking and other forms of activity. When stacked with other layers, it becomes a toasty mid piece, providing a lot of flexibility with changing conditions. It looks great, feels just as good, and is a viable jacket for hiking, biking, backpacking, and even urban travel. Considering the price, build quality and performance, it is hard to not recommend this one.
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