On the surface, it can seem like all fleeces are created equal. Most are made of the same materials, and there is little to differentiate one brand from another outside of fit and color. I’ve tried fleeces from just about every brand on the market and despite an ever-spinning revolving door of gear to test, one fleece has remained my go-to. It sees use for everything from travel to mountain biking to hiking to snowboarding: the Arc’teryx Stryka Hoody.
I picked the hoody up on the sale rack at an REI back in 2012. I wasn’t sold on the color (a burnt orange hue), but it was dirt cheap, and I needed a fleece. That same fleece remains in my kit today, eight years later. For someone in my line of work, that’s a pretty astounding statistic. Virtually every other part of my outdoor gear kits has been completely turned over multiple times, but the Stryka remains — not just in my snowboard kit, but across each of the outdoor activities that I partake in.
Maybe it’s the bit of elastane that’s added to the fleece. Maybe it’s the long cut. Maybe it’s the balaclava hood. Or maybe it’s a combination of those things that has endeared the Stryka to me. The memories made in it undoubtedly played a part; countless winter summits in the Green and Worcester mountain ranges, bone-chilling first chairs at Stowe Mountain Resort and ripping singletrack on a brisk morning in Sedona with my dad.
But memories can only take a piece of outdoor gear so far. An active fleece needs to perform, and perform the Stryka does. It’s breathable, impossibly stretchy and about as soft as curling up in bed with a Chow Chow. It’s smooth on the outside and brushed on the inside for warmth. The zipper pocket on the chest is surprisingly functional and is the perfect place to stash a smartphone to save battery during cold days on the hill.
Throughout the years, I’ve used the Stryka primarily as a mid layer, but on extra cold days, it makes an excellent base layer — in combination with a puffy and shell. Perhaps it’s the versatility that has cemented the Stryka in my outdoor gear hall of fame. Whatever it is, the original Stryka is simply the best fleece on the market and will continue to be my companion on every winter outdoor adventure. Though they’ve changed the Stryka quite a bit since the original, the fleece is still a part of Arc’teryx’s line today.