Best synthetic mid-layer
November 4, 2017 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a new mid-layer for general winter use, as well as winter sports (skiing, snowshoeing, etc.). What's good?

I have an aging Patagonia Better Sweater, which has served me quite well, but is pretty worn and extremely pilled up at this point. Looking for something to replace it. (I have a shell, so don't need anything water/wind resistant -- I'll probably wear it as an outer layer occasionally, but not in snow or rain or the likes).

  • cool looking (whatever that means)
  • warm
  • synthetic
Hail mary requirements:
  • won't pill (this drove me nuts about my Better Sweater)
  • won't collect pet hair like a purpose designed pet hair magnet (related to pilling)
Tell me about your mid layer that you love!
posted by so fucking future to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a bunch of fleeces and sweaters from Columbia and I love them. Bonus is that Columbia is also cheaper than brands like Patagonia if price matters to you. Mountain Hardwear also has some nice mid-layers.
posted by FireFountain at 11:52 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

It ain't cheap at $250, but the Patagonia nano-air jacket is my favorite piece of clothing.
posted by MillMan at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2017

I have the LL Bean version of the Better Sweater and it doesn't really pill. I really, really love it and wear it almost every day in the winter. If you like the aesthetics of the Better Sweater, they're almost identical.
posted by raspberrE at 1:25 PM on November 4, 2017

Are you sure the Better Sweater is beyond repair? There may be options! (The Sweater Stone is pretty neat.)

I love my Better Sweater, and mine's going on three years with no major pilling, but if/when it starts I'm ready with a pumice stone -- I once got a cashmere sweater on extreme clearance because it was shopworn and pilling, and my cheap pumice stone fixed it right up.
posted by halation at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a Patagonia Air jacket, nano air I think but not sure, that I got in sale this time of year for $90. It's a good time to look for deals on last year's because I like it but it ain't worth $250. My arcteryx Atom I paid $150 for maybe 8 years ago and it doesn't owe me a thing and is still going strong. That I would pay a lot of money to replace, I wear it every, day. It looks similar to the Nano Air on paper but it just so much better designed and more versatile. I ski in it, ride horses, go to work, hike. And then I toss it in the wash and do it all again. And the sleeves are long enough which is a problem for me usually. So if you're going to invest in a jacket layer I'd go for the Atom, hands down.

For fleece etc I'd always go with mountain hardwear or REI house brand. I have an REI fleece that is no joke 20 years old. And I've never actually worn out a piece of My Hardwear gear, my shell was eaten by a dog or I'd imagine it would've outlived me. All my butterlicious stuff is eons old and in perfect shape. Their fleece jackets will survive the apocalypse.
posted by fshgrl at 2:43 PM on November 4, 2017

Nthing mountain hardware for holding up well compared to patagonia. I wore one of their coat everyday (maybe 2 hours a day average) for 2.5 years worth of days including skiing and around town before it wore down. Loved that thing but if you have taken a coat off 3000 times, it had a good run.
posted by Kalmya at 3:29 PM on November 4, 2017

Synthetic? Can I ask why? (Vegan?) Because Uniqlo's ultra light down hooded parkas are on sale, hit all of your other requirements and is water and wind resistant. Wear it under stuff or over stuff. It's super-light (like the whole thing literally weighs like 1 ounce), comes in a ton of colors (mine is bright lime), folds up into a tiny bag that fits in a pocket, has seams that don't allow moisture in, and the exterior is some super-ultra-mega-space-age material that also manages to actually breathe (you can wear it in a blizzard or in the middle of's surreal) short, it's so fucking future.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:04 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Oh, and the hooded one is's just really well designed so it doesn't catch the wind and blow off. Also, if you can make it to the store it comes in like 80 colors)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:11 AM on November 5, 2017

I have an REI fleece that is no joke 20 years old.

I just last week retired an REI fleece jacket that I realized I bought almost exactly 20 years ago. I replaced it with one from Eddie Bauer because they were having a 50% off sale, but if this one doesn't hold up I will go straight back to REI for the next one. Quality-wise, I agree with all of the comments above about Mountain Hardwear, too.

Your build is going to determine which brands work, also -- some don't have tall and/or petite sizes, some don't work if you aren't skinny, etc.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:32 AM on November 5, 2017

I also love my patagonia nano air. Check out Patagonia's worn wear program, for either refurbishing your better sweater or trading it in.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2017

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