The all-rounder of jackets. It’s an expression that’s been bandied about to describe softshells. There’s no real industry definition for the terms softshell and hardshell, but a softshell is typically thought of as a garment that uses softer fabrics.
One thing is for sure though – when the weather turns, it’s better to carry a softshell than not.
What exactly is a softshell jacket?
Softshell jackets can perform as either mid or outer layers. They’re relatively lightweight, super breathable and can offer you short term protection against wind and rain. In other words, they’ll give you some water resistance.
Combining comfort and flexibility, softshells are versatile garments that can fill the gap between your fleece and hardshell jacket.
Our softshells generally have a fitted look, so you can layer them to suit poor weather conditions without bulkiness.
How does a softshell jacket work?
When you’re involved in outdoor aerobic activities like hiking, trail running, climbing or skiing, it’s inevitable that you’ll sweat. The idea of the softshell is to let air move more freely through the material while offering you some water resistance – making it perfect when you encounter light rain.
The difference between a softshell and a hardshell
Are you more likely to encounter light drizzle, steady rain or thundering monsoons when in the outdoors? There are two major trade-offs between softshells and hardshells. These are:
- Waterproofness – softshells offer varied levels of water resistance depending on their construction
- Breathability – the capability of softshells to manage sweat while avoiding that clammy feeling that’s common with hardshells
Imagine a scale that ranges from ultimate waterproof protection to supreme breathability. Hardshells and softshells each offer degrees of both – but they fall on opposite sides of this scale’s centre point.
Depending on your planned use for the jacket, these two features will be crucial to your buying decision.
When a softshell’s your best option
Arguably the most adaptable member of the jacket family, the softshell is useful in a variety of environments. You’ll get great value out of it as a:
- Hiking midlayer – that extra layer of protection when wet, cold weather sets in
- Stylish outer layer – when spending time in the city
- Pack-and-go active layer – on trail runs or bike rides when light rain’s possible
Ideal for complementing your active lifestyle, the lightweight, mobile construction of the softshell ensures you’ll keep moving freely even with an extra layer on-board.
However, if you do get caught in a serious downpour, you’ll need a hardshell jacket to stay dry.
A look at some of our softshell jackets
When considering a softshell jacket, look at both the fabric and the construction of the garment – and the way you plan to use it.
If you need a softshell that’s specifically designed for demanding physical activities like hiking and climbing, our men’s and women’s XT Terrno are exceptional choices. Lightweight and highly breathable, they’re constructed ultra-strong with maximum durability.
For a warmer softshell that offers a fleece lining with a durable water repellent finish to keep light rain out, the Malazan Jacket is a great option. It has some insulation making it ideal for everyday adventures.
When wearing environmentally friendly outdoor gear is an important consideration, try our men’s or women’s Arbury. It’s made entirely of recycled materials, is designed to resist wind and repel water, and is great for travel or the outdoors.
Find out more about which rainwear is best for your outdoor activities.