Layers, layers, layers. It’s hard to understate the importance of layering when it comes to outdoor recreation during cold-weather months, whether you’re going on a high-alpine elk hunt or hitting the backcountry on a hut-to-hut snowshoe trip. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and have long understood the importance of layering properly. That said, my main focus—and where I spend my money—has been on getting solid base layers—my favorite is the Smartwool merino base layers—and a nice outer shell. I’ve never put much thought into choosing a high-quality mid-layer. So, when I got the chance to try an Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Hoodie this fall, I jumped at it.
The Appalachian Gear Company Hoodie is a well-made, comfortable, and lightweight mid layer option. It’s made with 100% alpaca fiber, which is comparable to merino wool for its insulating and moisture-wicking qualities. Unlike some crew-neck style mid layers, the hoodie’s hood provides the added option for increased insulation to your head—a potential game-changer if you forget a hat or find yourself in some serious weather. In short, the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie is a versatile and effective mid layer option.
How I Tested the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie
I wore the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie on a variety of adventures throughout the fall and winter and compared it against more standard mid layers such as my Patagonia Synchilla Fleece Pullover, as well as cotton hoodies. I used my All-Paca Fleece Hoodie for everything from a November mule deer hunt in northern Colorado to winter camping in the Sierra Nevadas in mid-February—when the temperatures reached down to below zero—to lounging around the house on brisk days. In short, I put it through the wringer in situations where insulation really mattered—and also wore it when it didn’t, because it’s just that comfy.
One thing to note is that I almost always layered my All-Paca Fleece Hoodie with a merino wool base layer. In my opinion, a good mid layer is nothing without a good base layer. You won’t be able to reap the benefits of the hoodie’s moisture-wicking warmth if you layer this over cotton or even, a thick standard wool base layer. If you’re considering shelling out for a high-end mid layer, it’s important to make sure you have something to wear it over that will maximize your comfort and insulation.
Pros and Cons of the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie
- Non-bulky, lightweight material
- Versatility—can be worn as a legitimate mid layer and also, as a standard hoodie
- Great insulation
- Somewhat pricey
- Fabric is slightly scratchy
- No pockets
- Fabric gets beat up easily
- Doesn’t come in camo patterns
How the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie Performed
I was quite happy with my All-Paca Fleece Hoodie overall. It was comfortable and warm enough to lounge around in, and it also performed well when I was out in the field. I wore it constantly when I was at deer camp—both when I was out in the field hunting in single-digit temperatures and when I was back at camp hanging out and refueling. It was warm, and I wasn’t bothered by the slight scratchiness of the alpaca fibers. I was particularly impressed by the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie’s odor resistance. No matter how many days in a row I wore it, or campfires I gathered around with it on, it didn’t seem to pick up any major scents—a major pro for hunters and for anyone who doesn’t want to smell bad.
Is it really worth it to shell out well over $100 dollars for a mid layer that’s made with alpaca fibers—or any similar material? That’s harder to say. On most days, when the temperatures are above the single digits and you aren’t overexerting yourself, I’ve found that pretty much any mid layer will do just fine. That said, products like the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie shine when you’re in particularly strenuous situations when it’s really cold out—and you’re sweating or getting wet. In those cases, my All-Paca Fleece Hoodie worked in tandem with my base layer to wick away moisture and keep me well-insulated—allowing me to focus on the task at hand.
Final Thoughts on the All-Paca
Above all, the All-Paca Fleece Hoodie is a well-made mid layer that I would recommend. Entering the summer months, I’ll likely throw it over a cotton t-shirt on cool evenings like a normal hoodie and when the cold weather rolls back around, I’ll definitely keep it in my rotation when I layer up. Yes, the hoodie retails at $153—which is no small price for a mid layer—but if you want to layer up properly, you’ll enjoy the payoff when you’re out in the field on a truly cold day.