The Best Mid Layers of 2024

Mid layers, there are a lot out there ‒ but which one is the best for you? Here, ThruDark’s in-house experts break down the best mid layer fleeces and jackets for 2024.

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Anthony “Staz” Stazicker CGC

Staz spent 13 years serving in the UK military, 10 of these were spent within UK Special Forces as a highly experienced, multi-skilled, chief sniper instructor and demolitions expert. He has been involved in a range of operations across every hostile environment on the planet from desert to jungle, and Arctic tundra to mountain regions. Staz has also been awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for combat actions conducted in Afghanistan in 2013.

“As snipers we were considered kit pests. We were forever doctoring our kit to make it fit for purpose whether that meant sewing additional insulation for long stationary periods in the cold or constructing our own elbow and knee pads for added comfort when lying prone in firing positions”.


Louis Tinsley

Louis Tinsley has 14 years distinguished and decorated military service, 8 years of which were spent within UK Special Forces. Like Staz, Louis has spent countless hours in some of the world’s most challenging conditions.

“As UK Special Forces operators, we were equipped with the highest specification kit and clothing for the operation at hand. That said, we were always critical of the way it performed and now we find ourselves at the forefront of developing clothing to meet our high demands.”

Product Director

Ben Hewitt

Ben has over 20 years’ experience in product innovation having worked with outdoor and sportswear at Animal, AS Adventure Group and WiggleCRC. His particular interest is in fabric technology and he regularly works closely with leading textile innovators from Polartec, to Schoeller and Primaloft, to name but a few.

"When designing mid layers there are three imperatives to bear in mind: fabric, fit and function. You need to use the right textile innovation for the task and environment, the fit needs to be correct to minimise heat loss, and the jacket itself needs to remain functional whether you’re climbing or on a multi-day trek."

Best mid layer for: Comfort


“This iconic fleece is one of our most trusted designs for a reason. It has been so popular over the years that we persuaded Polartec® to continue making the fabric exclusively for us – this means you won’t find anything like our Phalanx, anywhere else. It’s seen service across the world from the torrential weather of Skye to the tundra of the Himalayas and it’s never let us down.” — Staz

Shop Phalanx Fleece
Shop Phalanx Gilet

But why do we like Polartec® HighLoft™ so much? What makes it so special? Quite simply it is one of the best fleece fabrics we have worked with when it comes to matching insulation with breathability. Not only that, it’s also one of the most comfortable mid layers we’ve ever worn.

The patented high loft construction that gives the fabric its name helps trap more body warmth with the use of longer fleece yarns than conventional insulation. As an experience, the lengthened fleece yarns create a softer feel and provide maximum comfort when worn under an outer shell. Most crucially though — and what really sets it apart from the rest — HighLoft™ features a unique open mesh stitching which helps vent excess heat during exercise. This will prevent you overheating and minimise the adverse effects that sweat build up has on not just user comfort but garment wear and tear.

In terms of the details, the Phalanx features elasticated cuffs and hems which keep the fleece taut against the wearer’s body. This effectively minimises heat loss and makes for an unhindered feel when worn as part of a layering system. Thumb loops make it easier for you to put on your outer layer and provide that bit more insulation when you need it most. Underarm side panels made from another Polartec® fabric, PowerGrid™, provide added breathability at targeted areas and allow greater stretch for improved range of movement.

Best mid layer for: Insulation


“Our Mantra range is designed to give you all the comfort of traditional shearling with the added performance of a synthetic fleece fabric.” — Ben

Shop Mantra Black Ops Fleece
Shop Mantra Gilet

Every piece in the Mantra range is constructed from Polartec® Thermal Pro® which builds in technical fibre compositions for both a soft texture but also air pockets for thermoregulation and breathability. As with the remainder of Polartec’s® synthetic fleece fabrics, Thermal Pro® provides excellent warmth to weight ratio, plus the added advantage of anti-pilling technology. This means that whilst your fleece will perform even better than a pure wool alternative, it won’t look as tired with repeat use as we’ve come to expect from natural fleece fabrics.

The most popular design in our Mantra range is the Mantra Fleece, a classic silhouette zipped through and high collared for maximum insulation. Our Mantra Gilet provides a similar design, albeit sleeveless which works well as a versatile layering option for winter and mid seasonal conditions.

The latest addition to the Mantra range, the Mantra Black Ops is a heightened design – hooded for added insulation coverage and bolstered with stronger than steel Dyneema® reinforcements at targeted areas for increased abrasion resistance and minimal wear and tear. Our mantra is “Endeavour Through Adversity” and our Mantra range is designed to enable you to do this no matter your layering requirements.


Best mid layer for: Technical Ability


“Every detail on the Centurion has been thought through with the benefit of our experience. We’ve climbed mountains, abseiled backwards, abseiled forwards, down waterfalls, cliff faces and man-made structures. Pockets are placed on the chest and upper arms to ensure you can still get to your belongings whilst wearing a harness. The chest pockets in particular point inwards, towards the body, ensuring that things don’t fall out when you’re leaning back into an abseil.

Every pocket has an oversized zip pull which aids access when wearing gloves and the hood is cut away at the sides to improve visibility without compromising protection from the elements. It’s features like this where you see our real world experience and testing translate into product design.” — Louis

Shop Centurion Alpine Jacket
Shop Centurion Alpine Gilet

Proudly championing an Apex Award for innovation, the Centurion makes use of three different Polartec® technologies to create a soft-shell optimised for climbing, abseiling, and all-round active pursuits. Each Polartec® fabric has been chosen specifically to maximise function.

Polartec® Power Air™ makes up the main body of the Centurion in order to best target the body’s core. It features a revolutionary knit construction that encases fleece fibres within small chambers rather than leaving them exposed on the fabric surface. In practice, this works to boost warmth retention (as the chambers store heat more effectively) and minimises shedding by up to 5x with washing and wearing. This novel way of protecting fleece fibres is better for the garment lifespan and better for the planet. Power Air™ is also a dual layered fabric which reduces friction and minimises wear and tear, making the Centurion a harder wearing layer than conventional soft-shells and fleeces.

Polartec® Power Stretch™ is a performance-fit fabric used on the arms of the Centurion to allow greater range of movement when climbing or scrambling over adverse terrain. Another dual surface knit, this double structure allows Power Stretch™ to expand without compromising on durability meaning the arms on the Centurion can stretch over repeated use without losing its elasticity or shape. With high breathability, moisture wicking and fast drying capacity, Power Stretch™ allows those wearing the Centurion to vent at critical areas whilst climbing without compromising the insulation of the body’s core.

The entire Centurion is then bolstered with Polartec® HardFace™ technology, a patented polymer surface treatment applied to enhance durability. With uncompromising attention to detail, every fibre on the soft-shell is fused to increase abrasion resistance and water repellency without sacrificing breathability. This creates a smoother exterior fabric surface that helps prevent snagging and prolongs the lifespan of the garment.

For added impact, the garment is then treated with a Durable Water Repellent to further improve weatherproofing. 

Best mid layer for: Versatility


“The Veles is a really exciting development for us as its the first time we’ve worked with graphene – which is a real super material. It’s the hardest natural element on the planet, but it yields numerous performance benefits in thermal regulation and mobility, giving the durability, temperature control and stretch demanded of a modern, performance soft shell.” — Ben

Shop Veles Jacket
Shop Veles Gilet

The key to understanding the Veles Soft Shell Jacket is its graphene-enhanced construction. The strongest natural element on the planet, graphene is incredibly durable yet remains light and malleable making it ideal for use in technical performance clothing.

With Veles, graphene helps create a tough soft shell able to withstand the scrapes and abrasions of rock climbing or scrambling across challenging terrain. However, strength isn’t its only benefit. Graphene is also an excellent thermal conductor. It is able to effectively store heat generated by the body’s core, distributing this through the length and breadth of the Veles jacket to best manage your body temperature in changeable climates.

Otherwise, the design of the Veles Soft Shell Jacket has been carefully considered for use with a climbing harness. Its ergonomic cut features pocket placement for accessibility when roped up and/or to avoid obstruction when using a backpack with hip belt. At just 410g, the jacket is light enough to be packed down into a day sack, making it a versatile option for day hikes and multi day expeditions where carry weight is a key concern.


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