The softshell jacket, which sits between a fleece and a waterproof coat, can be the most versatile piece in your collection. We examined a wide selection of jackets that address various demands and hobbies.
The softshell serves as the go-to jacket, the dog-walking jacket, the mountain-climbing jacket, and the long-distance walking jacket. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a men’s softshell jacket is that they are simply comfy, even though they provide a lot of important advantages.
They lack the crackling of waterproofs but can typically withstand most types of weather, plus they are frequently elastic and breathable. Any attempt to tie them all together must end because softshell is a vague term.
What Should You Look For While Buying A Softshell Jacket
We’ve gathered a variety of jackets that have been tested, ranging from insulated jackets that are quite warm to thin, lightweight tops that are good for jogging (all weights shown below are for a men’s large). Most have tightly woven, elastic outer fabrics that provide good wind and rain protection. They are well-liked by climbers and mountaineers, who are constantly searching for handholds because of their stretchiness.
Additionally, they are frequently treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) to cause water to bead off them (they do need reproofing over time). Although they are not usually totally windproof or waterproof, the idea behind these coats is that you may wear them in all but the wettest weather circumstances.
The end user is, of course, the determining factor in the decision. We’ve included what we believe each test is best suited for below, but there are other things to consider immediately. You would probably want a good hood for wind and rain if you planned to wear the item as your primary coat. A hood is not as necessary if it serves as a mid-layer. The best hoods feature reinforced peaks and are adjustable.
Think about the pockets as well as their placement. Are the pocket openings on your backpack free of your hip belt if you want to wear one? Does a map fit inside? The cuffs and cords that draw the hems are different things to look into. The comfort, though, comes first. Is it well-fitting?
See Also: Summer Fashion Guide for Men
Like rain jackets, the softshell industry is substantial (and expanding), but it may be divided into two broad categories: performance and casual. The basic feature set and wide fit of casual softshells make them ideal for usage as an outer layer from fall through spring. Since their stretchy fabrics are far more comfortable and sweat better than a rain jacket, they shine as an everyday garment. So long as there isn’t a chance of significant precipitation, we’ll still opt for our softshell jacket throughout a Seattle winter.
Performance softshells take advantage of the two main advantages of a softshell: breathability and mobility, and are designed for activities like climbing, mountaineering, and ski touring. These jackets also contain outdoor-specific characteristics, including hoods that can support helmets, pockets raised to accommodate a hip belt or harness, and a specialized fit.
Because the technology is generally the same across the board, the price between the casual and performance versions doesn’t rise significantly compared to other performance outerwear. The Arc’teryx Gamma MX and Rab Kinetic 2.0 are two prominent outliers that provide outstanding weather protection for strenuous outdoor activities.
Wind And Water Resistance:
One of the reasons individuals are hesitant to purchase a softshell is because it doesn’t provide the same level of waterproofing security as a rain jacket or hardshell. But most softshells can withstand light rain showers or wind gusts, thanks to robust, water-resistant coating (DWR) to bead up and shed water and a piece of the sturdy outer fabric.
But because they don’t have impermeable membranes or seam tape, most jackets will let in persistent wetness. Ultimately, we advise against using a softshell for prolonged exposure to rain; hardshell jackets are still the most effective in that kind of climate. And if you need a waterproof garment in a pinch at sea level, a lightweight, packable rain shell makes a great backup.
Hybrid hardshell/softshell designs have become more prevalent recently, with jackets like the Rab Kinetic 2.0 leading the way. The Kinetic meets the criteria for a hardshell with 3-layer waterproof construction, seam taping, and water-tight front zip. Still, a stretchy face fabric gives the mobility and breathability of a softshell. On the other hand, Kinetic 2.0 is a fantastic jacket for those seeking a middle ground.
One of the primary benefits of buying a softshell is its breathability, which is second only to its stretchiness. They perform significantly better than waterproof hard shells in strenuous sports like climbing or backcountry skiing. A few basic characteristics are typically linked to a softshell’s ability to breathe well.
Softshells without a closely woven, incredibly durable (and less air-permeable) outer covering tend to be thinner and more breathable. Air permeability is your buddy since it allows more air to enter and exit the shell, increasing breathability. On the other hand, excessive airflow reduces warmth and weather resistance.
Although there is always a trade-off, most softshells provide excellent breathability for an outer layer, with the Arc’teryx Gamma LT, Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Marmot ROM, and Black Diamond.
Stretch Fabrics And Mobility:
Although there are no precise requirements for what constitutes a softshell jacket, the stretchiness of the outer fabric is one distinguishing characteristic. A softshell jacket moves with you, unlike a hardshell or rain jacket, which is inflexible and can occasionally constrict. This stretchiness is very beneficial for physically demanding activities like climbing or vigorous aerobic exercises like hiking or cross-country skiing. They are all the more advantageous for the activities mentioned above because of the additional give in the fabric, which also means you can be fairly comfortable even with a trim, athletic fit.
The flexible outer layer, known as a softshell, can be used in place of a conventional hardshell jacket. This jacket category encompasses a broad range of items, but all softshells are constructed from woven nylon or polyester, giving them their recognizable elastic feel. The interior often consists of a brushed polyester or fleece grid that offers variable degrees of warmth. The face fabric is smooth and fairly durable. Softshell jackets are aimed to balance performance features like breathability and mobility with water and wind resistance rather than being completely weatherproof.
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