When you think of outdoor gear, companies like Patagonia, Columbia, North Face, Marmot or REI probably come to mind. You probably don’t think of the Duluth Trading Company, but the company is working hard to change that.
Unlike companies like Patagonia, Marmot and REI, a lot of the Duluth Trading Co.’s products are marketed as work wear — think Carhartt.
The company prides itself on beefing up common failure points with reinforced joints and thicker materials that are better at keeping you comfortable no matter the weather.
This doesn’t mean the company doesn’t make any outdoor wear. In fact, the company has a growing collection of outerwear market under its Alaskan Hardgear line, which is tailored specifically to cold weather activities.
The company’s Bear Hide Fleece Jacket is a prime example. Such a good example in fact, I took one home with me (On sale of course).
Duluth Trading Co. Bear Hide Fleece
The heavy 400-weight fleece makes this jacket one of the heaviest I’ve ever owned.
On first inspection, it might not be obvious what makes this jacket any different from the dozens of fleeces already on the market, that is, until you pick one up. The thick fleece jacket is so heavy it seems to defy logic.
All that weight comes from the jacket’s thick dual layer construction, which bonds a microfleece exterior with a luxurious shearling fleece lining that extends the full length of the arms.
Duluth Trading Co. claims this fleece will keep you warm down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and I actually believe them. I’d wager this jacket will keep you warm to temperatures far colder than that, though I’d advise pairing it with a hat, gloves and some long underwear.
Vented pockets were a nice surprise on the Duluth Trading Co.’s heaviest fleece.
I was surprised to see vented pockets left off the list of features. The jacket’s two chest pockets feature a double lined mesh which can of course be used for storage, or to help ventilate this heavy jacket.
Speaking of overheating, the 400-weight fleece may be a bit too heavy for more active pursuits, like hiking or climbing. In this case, a lighter fleece, like the company’s Shoreman fleece, might be a better choice.
This textured finish on the chest, arms and shoulders of the Bear Hide Fleece were the only detractors on an otherwise premium jacket.
What I didn’t like is the rough textured material covering the chest, shoulders and forearms of the jacket. It does a pretty good job of breaking even the stiffest wind and sparing the fleece from abrasion, but it feels cheap. This is somewhat disappointing on an otherwise premium feeling product.
The fitment of this jacket was also somewhat perplexing. I’m pretty tall and skinny guy at 6-foot-4-inches tall and 160 pounds.
I found this jacket surprisingly constricting in the armpits and shoulders in a size large. This is no doubt because of the added padding and reinforcement in the joints. More surprising, however, was the availability of big and tall sizes, which for me solved this issue entirely.
What we liked
- Thick fleece insulation
- Wind resistant
- Reinforced joints
- Vented pockets
- Available in big and tall sizes
- Excellent warranty
What we didn’t
- Bulky and heavy
- 400-weight fleece may be too much in milder climates
- No hood
- Cheap material choices detract from otherwise premium jacket
The Duluth Trading Company’s Bear Hide Fleece is a tremendous value, especially if you’re looking for a thick insulating layer to keep you warm in the extreme cold. When combined with a light hard shell or wind breaker, this jacket easily could replace a bulky parka.
In temperatures above freezing, however, I found the jacket’s thick fleece lining a little too warm for comfort. So, for those of you living in climates where winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing, a lighter fleece might be a better investment.
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