Patagonia Synchilla Fleece JacketThe Synchilla is a lightweight fleece jacket perfect for evening summer hikes. It boasts glove-friendly zipper pull tabs and breathable mesh on the inside.
Patagonia Better Sweater JacketThe Better Sweater is a thick fleece jacket with great wind resistance. It features Raglan sleeves for great mobility, as well as soft trims on the cuffs, hem and collar.
Fleece jackets are essential gear for hikers – they are perfect for chilly evenings when you need just a little bit of extra warmth, but don’t want to carry anything too heavy in your backpack. The best fleece jackets are lightweight, warm, soft and feel really comfortable against your skin.
That’s exactly how I would describe the Synchilla and Better Sweater from Patagonia. Both are great fleece jackets, but I want to know which one is ultimately the better option. And if you are wondering the same thing you can find out in the rest of this detailed comparison!
Patagonia prides themselves in being an environmentally friendly brand. It’s actually one of the reasons why their clothing is so pricey, but I think it’s a reason we can all get behind. When you shop Patagonia gear you can be entirely certain that you’re getting ethically sourced materials, and that whoever put together that jacket was actually paid for their work.
Both the Synchilla and the Better Sweater jacket are made from recycled polyester fleece. Patagonia uses a lot of post-consumer recycled materials, in order to really get the most out of every fabric. But these two jackets aren’t identical – Synchilla is made with 8-oz fleece and weighs a total of 16 ounces. The Better Sweater jacket is made with 10-oz fleece and has a total weight of 22.5 ounces. It’s not a massive difference but it does make it much easier to distinguish between these two jackets.
If you are prioritizing warmth and need a fleece jacket that you plan on wearing in really cold weather, the Better Sweater is the best option for you. The heavier construction means more warmth, making this jacket an excellent mid-layer. Pair it with a lightweight waterproof shell for ultimate protection from the elements!
But if you would prefer something lighter and you don’t mind sacrificing some warmth, then the Synchilla jacket is the best pick for you. The lightweight construction makes this jacket great for those summer evening hikes when you need just a touch of extra warmth. Also, this jacket is lighter and more portable, so it’s the option to get if you’re already concerned about the weight of your pack and you simply can’t spare the extra six ounces.
Both these Patagonia jackets boast a total of three zippered pockets. And even though they are quite similar, there are certain differences that will ultimately help you decide which jacket is a better fit for you.
The Better Sweater fleece jacket has two hand warming pockets on the sides and an extra chest pocket. All three are zippered, but only the chest pocket has an exposed zipper – the other two are covered with protective flaps that will shield them from the weather.
The Synchilla jacket also has three pockets that are identical in size and shape. The key difference is that all of the zippers on the Synchilla are exposed, so there’s really no weather protection for the items inside them. But those exposed zippers also feature glove-friendly pull tabs, as opposed to the regular metal pullers of the Better Sweater.
Also, look at the interior of the jacket and the material of those pockets. The Synchilla jacket features breathable mesh fabric, which is a great inclusion! Fleece jackets aren’t really too breathable, and this mesh certainly helps regulate your body temperature. The Better Sweater jacket, on the other hand, just has more recycled polyester fleece inside.
If you look closely at the sleeves and shoulders of these jackets, you can notice that the two jackets are quite different. The Synchilla features set-in sleeves, which basically means that they are just sewn onto the body of the jacket. And you can see the seam that starts at the shoulder and goes all the way around the armhole.
These sleeves are quite articulate, and are generally more comfortable when you are wearing a backpack. But they are slightly more restrictive than the Raglan sleeves of the Better Sweater, so there’s that. It’s not a massive difference by any means and most people rarely ever notice the type of sleeves on their jackets and hoodies. My suggestion is to look at the jackets you have now and try to find one with set-in sleeves and one with Reglan sleeves. Try them on and see which one you find more comfortable to wear with backpacks, so you can know exactly what to expect from there two Patagonia jackets.
In addition to that, we also have to talk about the cuffs of these fleece jackets. They are not adjustable on either jacket, which is a shame. It is worth noting that the cuffs on both Patagonia jackets feature a somewhat tighter fit, so their wind resistance isn’t impacted too much.
One thing both these jackets share is a full-zip stand-up collar. It means that the main front zipper goes all the way up to the collar, ensuring that it stays up even after hours of wear. This is pretty great not just because it keeps your neck warm, but also because it creates kind of a seal on your neck so that cold air can’t get inside the jacket. Plus it’s a super soft collar and it feels really nice against your bare skin.
There’s also the hem, which plays a pretty big role in the comfort of this jacket. The Better Sweater jacket actually features micropolyester-jersey trims at the hem that resist abrasion and keep it in place. So, even though you don’t exactly get a drawcord to adjust it, the trim really does help with the overall wind resistance of the jacket.
The Synchilla jacket doesn’t have this feature, so it has slightly worse wind resistance. However, the cheaper Patagonia fleece jacket actually boasts a somewhat longer body for better coverage. This makes it a bit more comfortable to wear with hip belts and harnesses, so there is an upside to its lack of internal trims.
Even though these two fleece jackets are quite similar, they actually have pretty different prices. The Better Sweater jacket is some $40 more expensive than the Synchilla, thanks to the extra features that make it a better option for really cold weather. But honestly, the differences between these two jackets are barely even noticeable, so unless you really want those Raglan sleeves and the trimmed hem, you’re probably better off getting the more affordable option. But only if it is available in your size.
The Better Sweater fleece jacket is actually available in more sizes than the Synchilla. You can get it in 3XL, while the sizing of the Synchilla jacket only goes up to XXL. If you normally wear 3XL jackets, there’s really nothing to consider here since you only get the one option.
Both these jackets boasts a regular fit, but the better sweater is somewhat tighter on the body thanks to all those trims on the hem, cuffs and collar. The Synchilla jacket is a bit looser overall and if that’s what you prefer, you should definitely go with the cheaper jacket.
The Synchilla and Better Sweater from Patagonia are both excellent fleece jackets. They are made from recycled polyester fleece, and they’re both super warm and comfortable. There are some differences between the two jackets but they’re honestly barely noticeable, like the type of sleeves and the trim on the collar.
The most important difference between these two jackets is the price point – the Synchilla is some $40 cheaper, so it’s certainly the more popular option among casual hikers. This jacket also boasts a more lightweight construction, which makes it the perfect spare layer for chilly summer evenings.
On the other hand, the Better Sweater jacket is thicker and has better wind resistance, which ultimately means that it’s the better option for cold weather. This jacket is also available in a 3XL size, which can’t be said about the cheaper Patagonia jacket.
It’s ultimately your decision, so ask yourself what would you prefer. A thin jacket with glove-friendly zipper pullers, or a thicker fleece jacket with excellent wind resistance?
You can see the prices of both these fleece jackets on Patagonia’s website. And go check out our related posts, for ideas on other amazing gear from this awesome environmentally friendly brand!