When it comes to warm, comfortable, and stylish winter clothing, it's hard to beat Sherpa fleece.

This distinctive material is found in all sorts of cold-weather garments and accessories (including from Free Fly), but some still aren't sure exactly what the exotic-sounding fabric really is.

Let's take a closer look at Sherpa fleece and explore what you need to know about wearing and caring for it.

What is Sherpa Fleece?

Sherpa fleece is a specific style within the broader fleece family designed to simulate the warmth and comfort of natural sheep's wool. It takes its name from the Sherpa people of the Himalayas, a group with a long history of using wool to stay warm in frigid, high-altitude locales.

The fabric, typically made from a blend of synthetic materials and cotton, is designed to keep wearers just as warm, whether they're hitting the trail for a winter hike, running errands around town, or relaxing around the campfire with friends.

While it's popular as a main material for various types of outerwear and accessories, it's also commonly used as a liner for boots, hats, and other items.

Man and woman wearing Free Fly sherpa fleece pullovers

Sherpa vs. Fleece

Sherpa fleece fabric differs from ordinary fleece (sometimes called polar fleece) in a few key ways. The most important is texture. Traditional fleece is smooth and flat on both sides, while sherpa fleece is woven with one or more bumpy or textured sides. This gives sherpa fleece its distinctive warmth and insulation, as these bumps trap warm air close to the wearer's body. It also provides additional cushioning and comfort, a critical factor for extended wear.

Finally, you can't discount the fashion element of sherpa fleece texture, which can prove a wool-like appearance and a more rustic look. On the flip side, polar fleece tends to be more breathable, as well as lighter weight and packable. 

Sherpa Fleece Care

For all their benefits, sherpa fleece items need a bit more specific care than other types of fleece to keep them at their best for many seasons to come.

Washing and Drying

As always, the best and most specific instructions for washing your garment or accessory can be found on the care tag. However, in general, sherpa fleece can be washed in a washing machine using cool or cold water and mild detergent on the gentle cycle.

If it's practical, washing your Sherpa fleece separately from other items will help keep it in top shape. Never use fabric softeners, which can harm the item over time. Those who want to be extra careful with their Sherpa fleece can also handwash it in the sink or tub with cold water and mild soap or detergent.

When possible, protect your Sherpa fleece by air drying it, either hung or laid flat on a towel. Be patient, as this can take up to a full day. If there's no alternative, you can also briefly dry your Sherpa fleece in a regular clothes dryer set on low or no heat. Limit this to just a few minutes, as dryers can cause Sherpa items to lose their shape or pill.

Other Sherpa Maintenance

If parts of the Sherpa fleece become pilled or matted, use a soft-bristled brush to help fluff the fibers and restore the texture. When storing your Sherpa fleece for the summer, don't compact it down into a drawer or container. This can damage the fibers and reduce the heat-trapping effects of the pile. Keep it in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space and out of direct sunlight.

Tips for Wearing Sherpa Fleece

A significant benefit of Sherpa fleece is its versatility. The casual but slightly upscale look allows it to be worn everywhere, from backcountry adventures to nights out on the town.

Sherpa fleece is also an excellent layering choice for outdoor winter activities where warmth is the top priority, and you're not as worried about breathability, like easy hikes or tailgating. However, remember that Sherpa fleece can add a bit more visual bulk to your outfit than Polar fleece, which is an important consideration for some.

Stay Cozy with Free Fly Fleece and Sherpa Apparel

There's no better place to outfit your wardrobe with top-quality fleece clothing for men and fleece clothing for women than Free Fly. Our collection spans a variety of hoodies, pullovers, joggers, and zip-ups, all marrying style, functionality, and unparalleled comfort.

The Women's Sherpa Fleece Pullover stands out with its cozy half-zip design and relaxed fit, while the Men's Sherpa Fleece Pullover features a sleek quarter zip and stand-up collar. Also noteworthy is our unisex Sherpa-lined Elements Jacket, a versatile full-zip outerwear piece. Each item in our lineup benefits from the unique warmth and softness of our Sherpa blend, meticulously crafted from polyester, cotton, and bamboo-derived viscose.