For a little while I've been looking for a new fleece jacket, since my trusty old Columbia Titanium jacket is starting to show its age. However, spending North of a hundred clams for something made from recycled soda bottles wasn't sitting well with me. For example, I am very unimpressed with the very popular Denali from The North Face, and the only heavyweight fleece from Mountain Hardware that my local REI carries is the Monkey Man. No thanks, I don't want to look like Sasquatch.
So, in looking around online at the beginning of January I ran across the "Polartech Fleece Jacket, ECWCS Liner" at Omaha's. This is a black fleece jacket made of Polartech 300 issued to GIs as part of the ECWCS layering system. I've seen the same jacket advertised as a "SPEAR (Special Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements) jacket." For $39.95 and made in the USA, I figured it was worth a shot.
The shipment from Omaha's arrived six days after I ordered for the jacket, along with a few other items. Upon inspection, the ECWCS Liner is a pretty standard fleece jacket. The labels inside show that it was made for Goodwill Industries and there is a NSN (NATO Stock Number).
It has two handwarmer pockets and two large mesh pockets inside. The zipper is two-way. The ends of the sleeves are adjustable with Velcro tabs. There is a windproof nylon yoke, along with nylon patches along the outsides of the forearms. The yoke does not cover the back of the two-ply collar, which is a bit disappointing. Also, the collar cannot be fully zipped all the ay up over my 17" neck. Sizing in the rest of the torso is a little generous. I ordered a Large and while the sleeve length is perfect the body is a bit long, which is OK because it won't ride up if I bend over. (I am 5'6" tall, with a 44" chest, 34" sleeves, and a beer gut.) I suspect a Medium would've fit but this fits comfortably over a sweater. The armpits have pit zips for ventilation. The bottom hem can be tightened with elastic shock cords on both sides.
Like most fleece jackets, the ECWCS Liner is not very wind resistant. To test it I took a walk around my block the night it arrived. The temperature was 29 degrees F., with a 5 MPH breeze. I wore the jacket over typical city clothes: a cotton undershirt and a cotton/poly button down Oxford shirt. What I found was that as expected, the breeze -- whether from my walking or the wind -- penetrated the fleece easily. Until I warmed up from the walk I felt a chill where the breeze was blowing against me. However, it wasn't too bad and I could tell that if worn under a shell, the ECWCS Liner would provide good insulation. I tried it out under my EOTac Field Jacket and my Mountain Hardwear soft shell, and it seems to layer a bit better than my Columbia jacket. The sleeve adjustment tabs slip inside the outer garment more easily.
Since getting the ECWCS jacket I've worn it into work a couple of times. Once was under my soft shell and once by itself layered over another fleece, on a calm day.
I am happy with this purchase. The jacket is warm, comfortable, pretty well made, and a good alternative to the high priced fleece jackets from name brands.