The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Softshell Jacket for Outdoor Adventures - Maves Apparel

10 Best Softshell Jackets for 2024: Unleash Adventure!

Softshell jackets, known for their exceptional breathability and mobility, are essential gear for outdoor enthusiasts who value a balance between weather protection and comfort. These jackets, unlike their hardshell counterparts, provide the flexibility needed for a multitude of activities, including hiking, climbing, skiing, and biking, making them a versatile addition to any adventurer's wardrobe.

With a plethora of options on the market, selecting the best softshell jacket tailored to your needs can seem daunting. That's precisely why we've curated a guide to aid you in making an informed decision. This ultimate guide is to help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Softshell Jackets

Softshells are engineered to strike a perfect harmony between weather protection, breathability, and mobility. Crafted from softshell fabric that's stretchy, water-resistant, and windproof, they offer the freedom of movement essential for outdoor pursuits while providing sufficient protection against light precipitation. These garments are incredibly adaptable, serving as standalone outer layers in milder weather or as insulating mid-layers beneath a shell jacket when facing more severe elements.

In the quest for the ideal softshell jacket, it's crucial to weigh several factors such as weather protection, breathability, mobility, weight, and versatility. Each aspect is pivotal in assessing the jacket's overall performance and its compatibility with various outdoor activities. Our jackets review will delve into some of the top softshell jackets on the market, highlighting their distinctive attributes.

Best Overall Softshell

Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody

Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody Men's | Warm Durable Softshell for Mixed Conditions

The Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody stands out as a premier softshell jacket, expertly crafted for mixed conditions. It offers an exemplary fusion of weather resistance, breathability, and mobility. Designed to accommodate a wide spectrum of activities, from skiing and rock climbing to daily excursions, the Gamma MX is a highly versatile choice for those who love the great outdoors.

Features:

  • Weather-Resistant Outer Layer: Stretchy, water-repellent, and windproof, offering robust protection.
  • Mobility and Breathability: Designed to keep you comfortable during high-intensity activities without sacrificing movement.
  • Helmet-Compatible Hood: Cinchable design ensures maximum protection.
  • Storage: Equipped with ample pockets for gear storage.

Pros:

  • Versatile design suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities.
  • Superior craftsmanship and attention to detail, enhancing durability.
  • Offers excellent protection against various weather conditions.

Cons:

  • Higher price point, reflecting its premium quality and brand.
  • Heavier than ultralight options, which might not be ideal for those prioritizing minimalistic gear.

Best Ultralight Softshell Jacket

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

BLACK DIAMOND Men's M Alpine Start Hoody

For those who prioritize minimalism without sacrificing protection, the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is the ultimate lightweight softshell jacket. Tipping the scales at a mere 7.4 ounces, this ultralight softshell is ideal for climbers and hikers who demand lightweight versatility in their gear.

Features:

  • Ultralight Construction: Extremely lightweight and packable, easily stowing into its own chest pocket.
  • Schoeller Stretch-Woven Nylon: Offers breathability and temperature regulation.
  • Carabiner Clip: For easy attachment to a backpack, enhancing its portability.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally lightweight, promoting ease of movement and convenience.
  • Breathable material that provides sufficient protection for various conditions.
  • Versatile for both active outdoor pursuits and casual daily use.

Cons:

  • While the Alpine Start provides less warmth and weather protection than some of the heavier warm softshell options, this may be a trade-off in colder climates where additional insulation is necessary.
  • Limited storage options, with fewer pockets compared to some alternatives.

Best Anorak

Klättermusen Lodur

KlÄttermusen Fjorgyn Anorak Jacket S

The Klättermusen Lodur is a top-tier softshell jacket engineered for extreme cold climates and demanding outdoor environments. Functioning akin to a parka, this robust 3-layer softshell is crafted to provide exceptional weather protection and durability, making it the go-to gear for skiing, mountaineering, and a variety of winter sports.

Features:

  • 3-Layer Softshell Construction: Provides superior weather protection and durability.
  • Functional Design Elements: Includes reflectors for visibility, ventilation systems for breathability, and side zips for easy wearability.
  • Helmet Compatibility: Ensures safety and convenience during outdoor activities.
  • Reinforced Areas: Shoulders, long sleeves, and hips are reinforced for added durability.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally durable, designed to withstand harsh environments.
  • Offers significant flexibility necessary for demanding outdoor sports.
  • Thoughtful features such as helmet compatibility and ventilation enhance comfort and safety.

Cons:

  • Lacks pockets, assuming users will carry a backpack for storage needs.
  • While its specialized design makes it a high-performance softshell jacket, the Klättermusen Lodur may not offer the versatility desired for more casual or less intense outdoor activities.

Best for Climbers

Rab Borealis Jacket

RAB Men's Borealis Softshell Jacket for Hiking and Climbing

The Rab Borealis Jacket stands out as a lightweight yet durable softshell jacket, specifically tailored for climbers. It strikes an impressive balance between mobility and breathability, ensuring climbers have the flexibility and protection they need without sacrificing comfort or freedom of movement.

Features:

  • Lightweight Construction: Designed for climbers who need to move freely without excess weight.
  • Slim Fit and Harness-Friendly: Ensures the jacket does not interfere with climbing gear or movements.
  • Breathability and Durability: Keeps climbers comfortable and protected during their activities.

Pros:

  • Highly flexible and breathable, ideal for the dynamic movements of climbing.
  • Affordable, offering great value without sacrificing quality or functionality.
  • Slim fit and harness-friendly design enhance usability for climbers.

Cons:

  • Although versatile, the Rab Borealis softshell jacket might fall short in providing the necessary warmth or weather protection for extremely cold or wet conditions.
  • Its climbing-centric design may narrow the Rab Borealis softshell jacket's appeal for those in search of a more all-purpose versatility.

Best City-to-Mountain Jacket

Western Rise AirLoft Hooded Jacket

Mountain Equipment Shelterstone Jacket - Men's, Majolica/Mykonos, ME-006280-S-Majolica-Mykonos

The Western Rise AirLoft Hooded Jacket is a multifaceted softshell jacket that exudes both urban style and outdoor practicality. Crafted with advanced Japanese Toray fabric, it offers a harmonious blend of warmth, comfort, breathability, and durability, positioning it as an ideal companion for everything from daily commutes to outdoor excursions throughout the fall to spring seasons.

Features:

  • Four-Way Stretch Japanese Toray Fabric: Enhances mobility and comfort while being durable.
  • Water-Resistant and Packable: Offers protection against light precipitation and easy storage.
  • Lightweight Insulation: Provides warmth suitable for multiple seasons.
  • Hooded Design: Adds an extra layer of protection against the elements.

Pros:

  • Versatile design suitable for both urban environments and outdoor activities.
  • Breathable and durable fabric ensures long-lasting use and comfort.
  • Water-resistant and lightweight, making it easy to carry and wear in unpredictable weather.

Cons:

  • While versatile, it may not offer sufficient protection in extreme weather conditions.
  • Limited insulation compared to heavier jackets, making it less ideal for deep winter use.

Top Performer

Foehn Magna Polartec Power Stretch Pro Hoody

The Foehn Magna Polartec Power Stretch Pro Hoody is a high-performance softshell jacket that excels in challenging conditions. Utilizing fleece-lined Polartec Power Stretch Pro fabric, it provides superior comfort, enhanced breathability, and effective moisture management, making it perfect for a broad spectrum of high-octane activities in cooler climates.

Features:

  • Fleece-Lined Polartec Power Stretch Pro Fabric: Offers excellent warmth, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying properties.
  • Wind-Resistant Nylon Overlay: The Japanese-made overlay provides additional protection against the wind.
  • Laser-Cut Ventilation: Underarm and back holes allow for effective heat dissipation.
  • Adjustable Bungee Cords: Enable a customized fit around the waist and hood.

Pros:

  • High-performance materials ensure comfort and protection in cold, challenging environments.
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties keep the wearer dry and comfortable.
  • The jacket is versatile, suitable for activities such as hiking, running, and skiing.

Cons:

  • The specific focus on high-intensity activities may limit its casual wearability.
  • The price point might be higher due to the specialized fabrics and features.

Best for Moving Fast

Tracksmith Nor'Easter Jacket

The Tracksmith Nor'Easter Jacket, a premium softshell jacket, is meticulously crafted for runners and cross-country skiers who brave the winter chill. It masterfully balances speed and warmth with a Schoeller Dryskin shell that offers 4-way stretch, ensuring superior breathability and comfort during high-energy activities.

Features:

  • Schoeller Dryskin Shell: Water-resistant and wind-resistant, providing excellent protection against harsh weather.
  • Merino Liner: Acts as a built-in baselayer to keep muscles warm and prevent tightening.
  • Reflective Details: Back seams and pockets are reflective for increased visibility.
  • Athletic Fit: Designed to offer minimal resistance during high-intensity activities, enhancing performance.

Pros:

  • Superior protection against cold, wind, and light moisture, making it ideal for winter runs.
  • Built-in merino liner adds warmth without the need for additional layers.
  • Reflective details improve safety in low-light conditions.
  • Athletic fit supports a wide range of motion and reduces drag.

Cons:

  • Lacks a hood, which may limit protection in rainy or snowy conditions.
  • While it excels as a softshell jacket for athletic pursuits, its specialized design may not offer the same versatility for non-athletic or casual wear.

Best Packable Softshell Jacket

On Running Weather Jacket

BALEAF Men's Rain Jacket Waterproof Windbreaker Running Cycling Golf Hiking Gear Hood Lightweight Reflective Packable

The On Running Weather Jacket distinguishes itself with its lightweight softshell design and exceptional breathability, making it an ideal choice for runners, hikers, and travelers in need of a versatile softshell jacket. Its construction, a blend of polyester and elastane, provides flexibility, while a DWR coating adds a layer of light moisture resistance.

Features:

  • Polyester and Elastane Fabric: Offers exceptional stretch and breathability.
  • DWR Coating: Repels light rain and moisture, keeping you dry.
  • Ventilation Holes: Ensures proper airflow, preventing overheating during intense activities.
  • Cap-Design Hood: Ingenious hood design stays secure, even in high winds or speed.
  • Packability: This softshell jacket boasts a packable design, easily folding down into its breast pocket for enhanced portability, complete with a palm loop for effortless carrying on the go.

Pros:

  • Highly flexible and breathable fabric, suitable for a wide range of activities.
  • Water-resistant and wind-resistant, offering good protection in various conditions.
  • Extremely lightweight and packable, ideal for travel and spontaneous weather changes.
  • Innovative hood design provides stability and protection without sacrificing comfort.

Cons:

  • Although this highly versatile softshell jacket offers excellent weather protection, it may require additional layers to provide sufficient warmth in extreme cold conditions.
  • The focus on lightweight design might compromise on durability in rough conditions.

Best for Winter Adventures

Beringia St. Elias 2.0

The Beringia St. Elias 2.0 is engineered for avid skiers and snowboarders who take on the alpine backcountry. As a robust softshell jacket, it provides unparalleled weather protection and is specifically designed to excel in deep snow conditions, ensuring your mountain adventure is nothing short of epic.

Features:

  • Helmet Compatibility: Designed to be worn with a helmet, enhancing safety in alpine conditions.
  • Ample Storage:This softshell jacket is thoughtfully equipped with specialized pockets for goggles and gloves, guaranteeing that your essentials are always within easy reach during your snowy escapades.
  • Ventilation System: Features long zippers for ventilation, allowing for quick temperature regulation.
  • Protection: Offers robust protection against snow, wind, and cold, tailored for winter sports enthusiasts.

Pros:

  • Exceptional functionality and protection in deep snow and alpine environments.
  • Ample storage for essential gear and accessories.
  • Effective ventilation system for managing body heat during intense activities.
  • Helmet compatibility, catering to safety-conscious adventurers.

Cons:

  • High price point reflects its premium quality and specialized design.
  • May be overkill for casual winter activities due to its targeted alpine features.

Best for Biking

Patagonia Dirt Roamer

The Patagonia Dirt Roamer excels as the quintessential softshell jacket for mountain biking enthusiasts. Tailored to the unique demands of bikers, this dirt roamer jacket merges breathability and lightweight packability with ample weather protection, delivering comfort and performance on the trails.

Features:

  • Breathable Material: Keeps you comfortable during intense biking sessions.
  • Packable Design: Easily packs into its own side pocket for convenient transport.
  • Wind and Mild Rain Protection: Offers a shield against chilly winds and light precipitation.
  • Helmet-Compatible Hood: Ensures compatibility with biking helmets for added protection.
  • Streamlined Fit: A functional fit that excels in dynamic biking movements.

Pros:

  • Tailored specifically for mountain biking, ensuring optimal performance.
  • Lightweight and packable, making it easy to bring along on any ride.
  • Provides essential protection against wind and light rain without sacrificing breathability.
  • Functional fit that supports active biking movements.

Cons:

  • While versatile for biking, may not provide adequate protection in severe weather conditions.
  • While the specific biking design of this softshell jacket enhances its appeal to cyclists, it may not be the first choice for those in search of a versatile, general-purpose outdoor jacket.

Additional Recommendations

Beyond our top picks, numerous softshell jackets merit attention. The Columbia Ascender Softshell Jacket, with its big and tall size options, stands out for its versatility, catering to a broad spectrum of body types.

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoodie is a standout softshell jacket, offering not only versatility but also UPF 50+ sun protection, making it an excellent choice for sun-intensive activities. Meanwhile, The North Face Verbier Futurelight Jacket is engineered for skiing and snowboarding, ensuring top-notch performance in snowy conditions.

Summary of all softshell jackets

Below is a summary table of the best softshell jackets discussed, providing a concise comparison of their key features and specific uses, aiding in a quick assessment for potential buyers.

Jacket Name

Best For

Key Features

Material

Ventilation

Packable

Price Range

Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody

Overall Performance

Weather-resistant, helmet-compatible hood, stretchy

Weather-resistant outer layer

Adequate

No

High

Black Diamond Alpine Start

Ultralight

Lightweight, packable, water-resistant

Schoeller stretch-woven nylon

None specified

Yes

Moderate

Klättermusen Lodur

Alpine Conditions

Helmet-compatible, reinforced areas, long ventilation zippers

3-layer softshell

Long zippers

No

High

Rab Borealis Jacket

Climbing

Lightweight, harness-friendly, breathable

Not specified

None specified

No

Moderate

Western Rise AirLoft

Versatility and Style

Insulated, water-resistant, four-way stretch fabric

Japanese Toray fabric

None specified

Yes

Moderate-High

Foehn Magna Polartec Hoody

Adverse Conditions

Fleece-lined, moisture-wicking, wind-resistant

Polartec Power Stretch Pro

Laser-cut holes

No

Moderate-High

Tracksmith Nor'Easter Jacket

Winter Running

Water-resistant, wind-resistant, merino liner, reflective

Schoeller Dryskin

None specified

No

High

On Running Weather Jacket

Lightweight Packable

DWR coating, breathable, cap-design hood

Polyester and elastane

Ventilation holes

Yes

Moderate

Beringia St. Elias 2.0

Winter Adventures

Helmet-compatible, loaded with pockets, long ventilation zippers, maximum protection

Not specified

Long zippers

No

High

Patagonia Dirt Roamer

Biking

Breathable, packable, helmet-compatible hood, wind and mild rain protection

Not specified

None specified

Yes

Moderate

The table succinctly captures the unique attributes of each softshell jacket, underscoring their adaptability for various outdoor activities and conditions. The price categories are labeled as 'Moderate,' 'Moderate-High,' or 'High,' offering a general sense of their market positioning, though actual prices may fluctuate based on the retailer, geographic location, and promotional deals.

How We Choose the Best Softshell Jackets

Our selection process for the best softshell jackets is comprehensive and detailed, ensuring that each jacket we recommend excels in performance, durability, and functionality. Here's a glimpse into the criteria we use to evaluate these essential outdoor garments.

1. Material Quality and Technology:

Our selection of softshell jackets is crafted from premium materials that strike the perfect balance between breathability, water resistance, and wind protection. We utilize advanced fabric technologies such as Polartec, Schoeller, and Toray to enhance the performance of our outdoor apparel. The durability of these materials also contributes to the longevity of the jacket, ensuring it can withstand the rigors of wear and tear.

2. Weather Resistance:

The primary role of a softshell jacket is to offer robust weather protection to the wearer. Our jackets are engineered to shield against the wind and repel water while promoting moisture vapor escape, which is essential to prevent overheating during intense activities. While softshells are not fully waterproof, their capability to manage light precipitation like rain and snow is a key aspect of their design.

3. Breathability and Ventilation:

When it comes to active pursuits, the breathability of a softshell jacket is paramount. We evaluate the fabric's proficiency in allowing perspiration to evaporate and incorporate ventilation features such as underarm zips. These are vital for maintaining a comfortable body temperature during activities that require a high level of exertion.

4. Fit and Mobility:

Optimal mobility in a softshell jacket is achieved through a fit that ensures comfort while enhancing functionality. We design our jackets with stretch fabric, articulated elbows, and gusseted underarms to support a full range of motion, making them ideal for diverse outdoor pursuits.

5. Functionality and Features:

We scrutinize the specific features that enhance the functionality of a softshell jacket, such as adjustable, helmet-compatible hoods, strategically placed pockets, reflective elements for increased visibility, and adjustable cuffs and hems to keep the cold at bay. Specialized features like reinforced areas for climbing or lightweight designs for trail running also play a crucial role in tailoring the jacket to specific activities.

6. Versatility:

Versatility is a hallmark of an exceptional softshell jacket. We seek out jackets that effortlessly adapt from the rugged demands of backcountry exploration to the relaxed atmosphere of city life, providing value to a diverse user base.

7. User Reviews and Field Testing:

We value the feedback from users who have put these softshell jackets to the test in real-world scenarios, as it offers deep insights into their durability and practicality. User reviews and expert analyses are integral to our process, ensuring that our recommendations meet the high standards of the outdoor community.

8. Brand Reputation and Warranty:

The reputation of a softshell jacket's manufacturer for quality and customer service, along with the warranty provided, can be indicative of the jacket's overall quality and the company's confidence in its outdoor gear. Brands that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices are increasingly favored among consumers.

By applying these criteria, we aim to recommend softshell jackets that deliver the best combination of protection, comfort, and versatility for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you're engaged in climbing, skiing, biking, or simply savoring the great outdoors, the right softshell jacket can significantly enhance your experience, offering the necessary protection without sacrificing comfort or hindering mobility.

Conclusion

When selecting the ideal softshell jacket for your outdoor adventures, it's crucial to weigh factors such as weather protection, breathability, mobility, weight, and versatility. Each softshell jacket boasts its unique features and strengths, designed to cater to a variety of activities and weather conditions. From skiing to climbing, hiking, or biking, there's a softshell jacket tailored to meet your specific needs.

In conclusion, softshell jackets are a versatileA softshell jacket can be a practical, comfortable, and stylish addition to your wardrobe. Whether you're an avid outdoor enthusiast or simply in search of a dependable jacket for everyday use, the softshell jacket has you covered. With an extensive selection from reputable brands, you're sure to find the perfect blend of comfort and style to match your personal needs and aesthetic.

FAQs

Q1: Are softshell jackets warm enough for winter?

Ans: Softshell jackets provide substantial warmth for most winter scenarios, yet in the face of extremely cold temperatures, layering up might be necessary to maintain comfort and warmth.

Q:2 How should I clean my softshell jacket?

Ans: Follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer, typically involving gentle washing and avoiding fabric softeners.

Q3: Can I wear a softshell jacket in the rain?

Ans: Softshell jackets are known for their water resistance, adept at handling light rain. However, during heavy downpours, it's advisable to layer up with a waterproof shell to stay dry.

Q4: Are softshell jackets suitable for outdoor sports like running?

Ans: Indeed, soft-shell jackets are an excellent choice for running and various outdoor activities, thanks to their inherent comfort and breathability, making them a versatile staple in any active wardrobe.

Q5: Do softshell jackets come in plus sizes?

Ans: Numerous brands provide an array of sizes, catering to a diverse clientele including those seeking plus sizes. To ensure a perfect fit for your softshell jacket, it's advisable to consult the brand's size chart for detailed measurements.

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Author

This article was written by Muhammad Saleem Shahzad, Managing Editor of Fashion and Manufacturing. With more than a decade of experience in the Fashion industry, Muhammad reports on breaking news and provides analysis and commentary on all things related to fashion, clothing and manufacturing.