Fleeces and Softshells are ideal for lightweight protection in moderate conditions, particularly transitional times of the year when you need light insulation or weatherproofing. We stock Hi-vis Fleeces and Softshells and flame retardant fleeces. Our range includes products from quality brands such as Portwest, Regatta, Dickies and Click.
All of our Fleece and Softshell garments are suitable for name or logo embroidery to personalise your workwear. Where waterproofing is important on Softshell garments we would recommend printing as the embroidery process can negate the waterproof properties in the embroidered area. Fleece is not typically suitable for printing.
Fleece is a fairly generic term for fabric with a deep pile, giving it a very soft, comfortable handle. It is a durable fabric which holds in heat whilst resisting moisture and being quick drying. Polyester fleece has been found to be lighter in weight than even the lightest natural wool whilst providing superior insulation and retaining the best properties of wool. It is hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water and and can retain most of its insulating properties even when wet. Some fleeces will be treated with a water-resistant coating such as teflon for added durability.
The hydrophobic properties of the fabric do mean however that breathability is compromised and fleece is not efficient at transporting moisture away from the skin, through the fabric.
Insulating fabrics work by trapping a layer of warm air between the skin and the inner surface of the garment. Most fleeces are not windproof meaning that on a windy day the layer of warm air can be stripped away.
Fleece is inherently flame retardant and if exposed to flame will melt rather than burn.
Some fleeces will be labelled as 'anti-pill'. Anti-pill fleece will not 'bobble' after wear or washing, meaning it's appearance will remain smarter and 'newer' for longer.
The term Soft Shell is almost an umbrella term for a range of garments which feature a differing array of qualities and properties. They range from highly air permeable garments with some wind resistance, right through to fully waterproofed garments with taped seams and greatly reduced breathability.
To generalise, it is fair to say that on the whole Soft Shells are not fully waterproof, rather 'weather resistant' with the benefit of having much greater breathability than fleeces. Softshells are a good option if you are happy to trade off some of the weatherproofing for greater breathability.
However, Softshell garments sit on a sliding scale of weatherproofing and breathability; at one end you have extremely breathable garments with moderate weatherproofing and at the other end are fabrics which have total wind and water resistance but at the cost of greatly reduced breathability.
What Fabric Should You Choose?
The fabric you choose should be based on the weather conditions you will be using it in and how 'hot' you run when working or exercising. If you have a tendancy to run very hot a softshell is a better option than a fleece as it will provide better breathability - you may have to trade off some weatherproofing to achieve the highest level of breathability or, trade off some breathability for improved weatherproofing.
If you feel the cold, an insulating fleece would make sense if you are happy to sacrifice breathability for a good layer of insultation. However, in windy conditions the fleeces insulating performance may be drastically reduced.
Because of the variety of garments available under the Softshell banner it is worth considering the activities you will be using the garment for and look for the most relevant, important features that you would expect for the conditions you will face.
For example, for mountaineering or working in very poor weather you will ideally be looking for a stiff peaked hood, adjustable cuffs, hem and neck and taped seams for protection against the extremes of unpredictable weather.
To achieve the maximum performance from activewear you will need to layer your clothing with a combination of wicking, insulating and protective garments. This is achieved in three layers:
The Base Layer is the closest layer to your skin and will be responsible for wicking away sweat and should be quick drying. An antibacterial fabric will also be very beneficial here. You can find some great options on our Performance Tops page.
The second layer should be an insulating fleece. This layer should be quite close fitting to allow for a layer of warm air to be trapped between the fleece and the base layer.
Finally a weatherproof outer layer will prevent wind stripping the insulating layer away and will offer protection against bad weather.