A softshell jacket is a highly breathable yet wind resistant garment that is designed to be worn during high intensity activities in cold and windy environments. They are great layering pieces that can be worn under a waterproof jacket if needed as they don’t have taped seams so they’re rarely fully waterproof. All softshells offer some stretch making them great for climbing or scrambling.
Softshells can either have a stretch woven construction or be membrane lined. Stretch Woven softshells rely on the woven nylon face fabric to block wind and is the most basic form. These stretch, weigh a little more and have increased breathability and durability. Dry air enters the shell, picks up moisture from sweat and then leaves keeping you dry. The thickness of the weave provides wind resistance too. Some brands apply a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating on the outside of the garment to provide some water resistance. Membrane Lined softshells have a membrane laminated to the inside of the face fabric to provide wind and water resistance. These types of softshell are great at blocking weather but aren’t as breathable so moisture is more easily trapped. If the face fabric gets wet this further hinders breathability. GTX membranes will provide wind and waterproofing. Hybrid softshells use more weather resistant fabrics on certain parts of the garment such as front and arms and are combined with a more breathable fabric in areas like under the arms to increase breathability. Some softshells come with a fleece lining for comfort and extra insulation but this isn’t always included so look out for this. If you’re hiking in milder temperatures then choose a non insulated version. Bear in mind that you can always add a fleece or base layer underneath if needed. With this in mind we’ve listed our top 5 best softshells below from a variety of brands to suit your budget.
Jack Wolfskin Muddy PassThe Muddy Pass is a sporty hybrid softshell with a lined, fully windproof front for heading into prevailing wind. Made from Flex Shield, this Jack Wolfskin softshell is highly breathable with 2 way stretch and water resistance. Includes a light hood that stows away in the collar if needed and 4 pockets.