Top 7 Best Softshell Jackets | 2021 Reviews (Arc’teryx)

Softshell jackets are typically a class of layered outdoor clothing that is lightweight and can be worn by themselves in dry weather. They are ideal as a middle layer for cool and breezy weather and fogs and mists.Since these jackets are breathable, they allow the proper sweat and moisture exchange during heavy exertions. They are stretchy, too, and allows free movement in any way so that you can keep comfortable. Although they have limited waterproof capacities, they provide you additional warmth in several different activities.Here is an overview of the top-rated softshell jackets to help you decide for the best softshell jacket for you.

Top 7 Best Softshell Jackets Reviewed

  1. Gamma LT Jacket by Arc’teryx – Best Overall
  2. KOR Preshell Hoody by Mountain Hardwear – Best Value
  3. Ferrosi Hooded Jacket by Outdoor Research – Editor’s Choice
  4. ROM Jacket by Marmot
  5. Kinetic Plus Jacket by RAB
  6. Black Diamond Mens M Alpine Start Hoody
  7. Apex Risor Softshell Jacket by North Face

#1. Gamma LT Jacket by Arc’teryx – Best Overall

Gamma LT Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: Arc’teryx
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: yes
  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Color: Black
  • Material: Wee Burly (56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane)
  • Shell: Air permeable four-way stretch weaved textiles with superior abrasion resistance

Arc’teryx garments are known for their expert tailoring, and its Gamma LT is proof of this feature. This particular jacket offers one of the best fits and style for you to use for daily activities, trails, and work,

What makes this jacket even better is its featured adjustable wrist cuffs, which traps heat and maintains the comfortable warmth. It exemplifies an outstanding standard for softshell jackets. This jacket offers just the right amount of protection for a softshell material, without the bulkiness.

This jacket works perfectly even on demanding climbs in mountainous regions. Inspired by climbing, this jacket is versatile enough for diverse activities and conditions, from rock and trail to daily use.

ProsCons
Great fit and excellent all-weather shieldLimited water resistance
Mobile, stretchable, and durable fabricMinimalist features
Waterproof front zipperFitted cuffs
All-around usefulnessExpensive

#2. KOR Preshell Hoody by Mountain Hardwear – Best Value

KOR Preshell Hoody

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Specifications:

  • Brand: Mountain Hardware
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: yes
  • Weight: 4.3 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Color: Dark Storm, Dark Zinc, Deep Lake, Nightfall Blue, Cosmos Purple, Dark Citron, Manta gray, Void – Fall’19, and more
  • Material: Pertex Quantum Air Ripstop fabric
  • Shell: Full-zip design for custom ventilation in warmer weathers

The Mountain Hardware’s KOR is an ultralight jacket that conveniently folds into its pocket. This jacket is made with a very breathable and durable Pertex Air Ripstop fabric, so it doesn’t overheat the jacket. 

It also comes with a water repellent coating that keeps you from getting wet in the pouring rain. The jacket is kept in place using the elasticated hem, hood, and cuffs while its chin guard and wind flaps protect your face during those bitterly cold winds come through.

It serves as a mid-layer and is reviewed by a lot of users as roomy. It’s a do-it-all stretch layer for just about anything.

ProsCons
Water and wind-resistant for light rain and windReviewed as with little flexibility by others
Ultralight and breathable jacketFixed hood
Pockets are harness-compatible
Stuff into its pocket

#3. Ferrosi Hooded Jacket by Outdoor Research – Editor’s Choice

Ferrosi Hooded Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: Outdoor research
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: yes
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Pockets: 3
  • Color: Black, Solaria, Retro Red, Burnt Orange, Seaweed, Mediterranean/ Lead, Pewter/ Storm, and more
  • Material: 86% nylon, 14% spandex with a woven ripstop body and hood, Cordura 91% nylon, 9% spandex 120D stretch woven shoulders and lower sleeves
  • Shell: Rock-solid softshell

For another year, the Ferrosi Hooded Jacket by Outdoor Research earned its place for the Best Buy award in many reviews. 

Its rock-solid softshell is enough to keep out mild-weather while it stays super breathable and durable in the face of abrasion. Though it runs short for weatherproof functions, Ferrosi has a proven track of protection from light precipitation and winds, making it a good choice for backpacking, mountain range climbing, and mountain biking.

It represents a strategic positioning of performance technologies, insulation, and fabric, which provides it the greatest benefit where it is needed. Most of all, movement mirroring stretch allows you an incredible range of motion. The Ferrosi is a great jacket that provides the best deal for any occasion.

ProsCons
Reinforce shoulders and sleevesBelow-average wet weather protection
Does not restrict movementCuffs are not adjustable
Breathes very wellNot so warm
Lightweight

#4. ROM Jacket by Marmot

ROM Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: Marmot
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: yes
  • Weight: 1 pound and 2.6 ounces
  • Pockets: 3
  • Color: Arctic Navy/ Surf, Black
  • Material: GORE Infinium 3L 92% Nylon, 8% Elastane Plain Weave 4.7 oz/yd
  • Shell: Gore Windstopper softshell, Marmot M2 softshell fabric

Marmot’s Range of Motion (ROM) is designed for various movements, specifically for fantastic climbing ability. It provides you with above-average weather protection with its Gore-Tex Windstopper fabric covering the head and shoulders. Moreover, its Marmot M2 softshell fabric makes it achieve excellent breathability.

The ROM features a sufficient room for layering, coupled with a fully-featured hood, pockets to hold bars and extra gloves, as well as wrist cuffs. Whether you climb walls or navigate a gorge, the jacket allows you to have a full range of movement that can get you through any terrain with maximum comfort.

The arms are also made wind Angel-Wing Movement, where it is breathable and stretchy for air flexibility while the zonal design of the softshell allows more freedom for movement. The ROM jacket keeps you going and lets you free to have the adventure of a lifetime.

ProsCons
Harness-friendly Napoleon pocket layoutHood feels tight.
Combines breathability with durabilityA bit heavy
Wind-resistant fabric

#5. Kinetic Plus Jacket by RAB

Kinetic Plus Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: RAB 
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: Yes
  • Weight: 9.5 oz
  • Pockets: 2
  • Color: Army, Steel, Ink, Dark Horizon/Shadow, Dark Sulphur
  • Material: 100 Polyester
  • Shell: RAB’s Proflex Fabric Technology

The RAB Kinetic Plus is equipped with Proflex stretchy, breathable, and waterproof fabric that allows a good free movement. It also has high gauge wicking lining coupled with a super stretchy softshell, which provides you high breathability levels.

The jacket is ideal for a range of mountain activities. Its built-in stretch grants fast climbing that is designed for all-day use in challenging and dynamic weather conditions. Moreover, it has a hidden waterproof component that high performing and flexible, with a 10,000 mm waterproof measure and 35,000 cc/spm/24hrs level of breathability.

Both inner and outer layers are designed with engineered, high-gauge knits that are usually treated for water repellency. With adjustable cuffs and A-line pockets, this jacket innovates and improves your clothing so you can be ready for every mountain adventure.

ProsCons
Large pocketsExpensive
Sealed seams
Lightweight
Waterproof
Nice Fit

#6. Alpine Start Jacket by Black Diamond

Alpine Start Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: Black Diamond Outdoor Apparel
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: yes
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Pockets: 1
  • Color: Ash, red oxide, Smoke, Verde, Kingfisher
  • Material: 93% nylon, 7% elastane, DWR finish
  • Shell: Schoeller softshell material

The Black Diamond Alpine Start jacket is an ultimately light softshell jacket best for highly aerobic activities such as ice climbing and mountaineering. It was originally designed for climbers, but it became more useful a built-in weather resistance against gusty winds and light rainfall.

Its small pack size fits well with your bag’s back pocket, which you can easily access. The fabric also comes with Nanosphere technology that repels dirt and water. Though it is not waterproof, it is enough to keep light rain off your sleeves.

It’s purposely designed as long and a bit loose to provide you with full arm movement. Though it has only one pocket, it offers enough room to keep your valuables safe.

If you’re a climber up for long hikes and physically demanding trips, then the Alpine Start Jacket by Black diamond is perfectly made for you.

ProsCons
Helmet-compatible hoodOffers little insulation
Freedom of MovementFew pockets
Roomy chest pocketExpensive
Packs into pocketThin
Lightweight

#7. Apex Risor Softshell Jacket by North Face

Apex Risor Softshell Jacket

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Specifications:

  • Brand: North Face
  • Department: Men
  • Hood: Yes
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Color: Turkish Sea or Urban
  • Material: WIndwall fabric with a fleece lining
  • Shell: 100% Polyester lightweight bonded softshell with knit face

The North Face Apex Risor is built to give you an outstanding windproof capacity that will keep you comfortable against all weather conditions

With its Windwall fabric and fleece lining, this jacket keeps you even if winds blow like ice. Moreover, the exterior is made with a water-repellent finish that makes your jacket waterproof. It has a loos comfy fit that will not restrict your movements even with a backpack on. Plus, the cuffs keep the sleeves from going up due to its semi-elasticity.

The zipper itself is durable and almost completely waterproof. With all these specifications, you can literally be on top of the mountains.

ProsCons
The fleece layer keeps you warm.Some users reported it to be a bit tight than their size, so it is recommended to order a bigger size to achieve comfort.
Works well for windy conditions
Almost waterproof
Durable
Light

Top Pick – Best Softshell Jacket 2020 

Arc’teryx is one of the top manufacturers when it comes to outdoor clothing. Their Gamma LT Softshell Jacket is designed to meet all rock climbing needs that smoothly transitions for convenient daily use.

Gamma LT jacket is one of the best models for softshell, and it reaches over 200 dollars. Though it is expensive, it makes a good investment for a high-quality product that can get you through high altitudes and cold breezy conditions. If you’re an active climber, this jacket is the best choice to consider.

Its made from Wee Burly Double weave fabric, which allows the jacket to protect you from the wind while being breathable enough to balance the transfer of sweat and moisture in your body. The fabric also stretches in four directions, which proves its tough material.

Its elastic cuffs and drawstring base keeps it further in place to avoid unnecessary hassles, and its hood is large enough to cover your helmet and gears. This jacket is awesome for some adventure.


Best Softshell Jacket Brands

Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx purpose is always set to design the finest products possible. Their goal is to make equipment that enables users to be immersed at the moment they are in, regardless of external weather conditions.

Minimalism is essential to their design, as they strive to make simple solutions for the most complex problems. Reducing the effects of weather and looking forward to a timeless outdoor experience, they believe that good design is based on art as it is on science, specifically of discovery, instinct, and discipline. They aim to create what still ceases to exist.

Mountain Hardwear

As a group, the company’s mission is to create performance apparel and pieces of equipment that empower users, specifically outdoor athletes, to boldly live their lives.

For them, performance means products are purposely designed to form functions using the highest quality materials and technologies. Moreover, it also means providing customers with better physical and even emotional experience through fit moisture management, temperature regulation, and weather protection.

They further clarified that outdoor athletes refer to anyone in general who enjoys the outdoors. From 8,000-meter climbers to weekend day-hikers aim for a better experience by living boldly outdoors. They encourage users to dare to be different. They pursue opportunities and challenges ahead of them, mainly in the moment of living life fully with a better understanding of yourself and the world.

Marmot

In the early 1970s, Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley, both from the University of California Sta. Cruz, conceptualized a Marmot club when they were in the Juneau ice field in Alaska. Although this club grew into the company it is today, its commitment to design the highest quality performing clothing and equipment persists.

Innovation is at the roots and heart of the mission that Marmot does every day. For the company, innovation means building better human experiences. They do so by offering the best warmth, protection, and ease-of-use. For developing their products, they apply innovation by reducing pollutants, waste, and inefficiencies. 

Marmot strives to give the lowest possible impact on the planet. They make excellent apparel and gears by the inspiration of nature’s beauty.


FACTS 101: Softshell Jackets in a Nutshell

Softshell is a class of woven materials used to provide clothing with both water-and-wind resistance and breathability. Softshell clothing features a warm, durable, water-resistant, and flexible design coupled with comfort-enhancing specs that make it popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

Compared to bulky and heavy jackets, people out in the cold usually wear softshell jackets comprise a fit and smooth exterior made to provide you heat and comfort for spring and fall.

These jackets are so flexible that they breathe while stretching according to your movement. On top of it, they provide you better protection from wind and water than a synthetic or standard fleece jacket.

Softshell is often misunderstood as a warm, insulating piece, and that is fully waterproof. However, what makes softshell unique as a go-to jacket is their balanced design and wide application for various activities all year-round.


What are the Benefits of Softshell?

Softshell clothing is one of the most demanded trends today, as its properties make cold-weather clothing stylish and functional.

Initially, softshell is less bulky yet more stretchable than other materials, giving you more flexibility than other jackets. Most softshell jackets are more water-resistant than they are waterproof. Moreover, they are very breathable, exceptionally durable, and more fit since its external shell offers enough insulation for your apparel.

Softshell clothing is more preferred for aerobic activities and activities that heighten heart rates, such as hiking and cycling. It allows perspiration to evaporate to keep you dry while the sweat does not affect your warmth.


Tips for Proper Care of Softshell Jackets

Many people fear that washing their softshell jackets could ruin their clothing’s breathability and water-repellency when, in fact, doing otherwise would cause their jackets worse.

Softshells often have a membrane filled with pores that can be easily clogged with makeup, sweat residue, and sun cream from intensive usage, obstructing the softshell fabric’s breathability. Moreover, fats and fine salt crystals can damage the porous membrane permanently, which is why it’s a necessity to wash softshell garments regularly.

Machine-Washing Softshell Jackets

Generally, washing softshells is critical, and it is best to follow reliable recommendations from care instructions provided specifically by the manufacturer. Secondly, only use detergents suitable, fabric-specific, usually concentrated yet particularly gentle on sensitive materials such as the membrane. 

If you don’t have that specific kind of detergent for waterproof, breathable fabrics, you can use an organic liquid detergent. It is not advisable to use fabric softeners, powdered laundry detergents, and bleach when washing your softshell clothing,

Moreover, here is an easy step-by-step guide for you to wash your softshell jackets.

  1. Carefully read the washing instructions.
  2. Empty all bags and pockets.
  3. Close all zippers, pockets, cords, and Velcro closures to lessen wear and tear.
  4. Use warm water and only fill the machine halfway to ensure appropriate rinsing.
  5. Set the washing machine to a delicate or gentle cycle.
  6. Add a technical detergent, according to that mentioned above.
  7. Take considerate note of the dosage of the detergent needed forming basis on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Allow the machine to run, then completely rinse to remove detergent sufficiently.
  9. For larger loads, it is recommended that you use a second rinse cycle.
  10. Once the machine stops, take the jacket off and hang it to dry, or put it in a dryer if permitted in the instructions.
  11. When going for the hang dry, let it drip off in the shower first and make sure that you don’t let it get too much extreme heat and direct sunlight.

Waterproofing Your Softshell Jacket

Unfortunately, water-resistance does not last for a long time. Over time, DWRs wears off, and you may observe that your jacket is starting to soak with water even after you dry. 

Most DWRs, especially those on softshells, are hydrophobic treatments that maintain quality by withstanding fabric saturation. However, DWR can wear off with time, and jackets lose their water-repellency.

There are two ways suggested to restore your softshell jacket’s water repellency; either you wash-in softshell waterproofing agents or spray it. 

Wash-in Application

Before you use a waterproofing agent, ensure that the garment is sufficiently washed with your chosen technical detergent. Afterward, follow these simple steps:

  1. Put the jacket inside the washing machine then fill the machine with water.
  2. Add the recommended amount of waterproofing agent from the product instruction.
  3. Run the machine with lower water levels, if possible
  4. You can either tumble dry it or used air dry on the lowest level. (Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding this)

Spray-on Waterproof Application

You can typically clean your jacket 3 – 5 times with any tech detergent before you can direct waterproof it again. For the spray-on method, you may refer to the following procedure below:

  1. Hang your clean jacket outside.
  2. Spray evenly using the bottle while maintaining a distance of 6 inches from the fabric.
  3. After a few minutes, remove any excess drips.
  4. Hang to dry.

Many users apply a combination of the two methods. For instance, you may initially use wash-in for only once or twice each season, then just spray on detected areas where you think may have possible leaks or seams.

You can choose among the following effective waterproofing products available for you to use easily:

  • Grangers
  • Nikwax
  • McNett/ Revivex

Among the options stated above, the most recommended is Nitwax, for it doesn’t need heat to be activated.


Additional Tips for Taking Care of Your Softshell Jacket

  • Keep your softshell on a coat hanger whenever you are not using it and make sure to store it in a dry, airy place.
  • If it got wet, make sure that you dry it properly before hanging it up and putting it away.
  • When only the face material is unclean, a damp cloth is enough to wipe off the dirt. If not, you can also use a clothes brush to brush loose dirt.

Overall, if you take good care of your softshell jacket, it will eventually reflect how it feels better, how you are protected better, and how long it will last. Make sure that these necessary measures to invest in caring for these jackets.


Two Types of Softshell Jackets

Softshell jackets bridge the gap between a less water-resistant fleece and a less stretchable waterproof jacket. However, keep in mind that neither of the two types of softshell jackets is entirely waterproof. They do not have taped seams that prevent water from flowing inside stitched areas.

Inlined with this, there are two types of softshell jackets, namely stretch-woven and membrane softshell jackets.

Stretch Woven 

A stretch-woven softshell jacket contains a membrane softshell with a water-repellent coating, and a waterproof membrane bonded in between two layers of fabric. These are more breathable than a membrane softshell, making them popular for active pursuits like running and cycling.

Pros:

  • Better breathability than membrane
  • More lightweight
  • High wicking properties to keep you dry when active
  • Ideal mid-layer under a waterproof jacket

Cons:

  • Water-resistant, but not entirely waterproof
  • May not be windproof.
  • Less lightweight than fleece

Membrane

Membrane softshells are slightly heavier than the former type, so they are more suitable for outdoor activities that need more protection from elements.

Pros:

  • More waterproof than the stretch-woven jacket
  • More breathable compare to a hard-shell jacket.
  • Offers protection against the elements

Cons:

  • Often heavier compared to a stretch-woven jacket.
  • Not as breathable as the former type
  • Not as waterproof as a hard-shell jacket

 


What to Consider When Buying Softshell Jackets (Buyer’s Guide)

While many features set a good softshell jacket apart from an excellent one, here are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a softshell jacket. 

  • Warmth

A softshell jacket is used to keep you warm as you become active with your everyday activities. Concerning this, your jacket should have excellent breathability and heat power. Some jackets are made with fleece linings to help you keep warm while others have a moisture wick lining to keep you cool in warm environments.

  • Water resistance

Although all softshell jackets are waterproof, it does not necessarily mean that they are already waterproof. Keep in mind that you still need an additional hard shell for heavy rain conditions.

  • Movement

You can have more freedom of movement with softshell jackets than when you have backpacks or hard-shell jackets. Its breathable and flexible fabric allows you to engage in aggressive activity pursuits without restrictions usually felt.

  • Windproof

Good softshell jackets usually keep you warm by restricting wind from entering inside. It’s important to strike a balance in terms of being breathable and being windproof. After all, it will not feel comfortable if softshell jackets keep you cool while it does not protect you well against cool winds.

  • Handwarmer Pockets

This feature is crucial to provide your softshell jacket with additional warmth. These pockets are specifically designed to be cozy warm places for your hands when it feels a bit colder, so it is important to zipper them up if you’re not using them to preserve the heat.

  • Chest Pockets and Other Pockets

Chest pockets are convenient for you to easily store and reach any essential and valuable items without needing backpacks. On the other hand, pockets on your sleeves are used to store essential equipment and gain instant access to them, while the inner mesh pockets can help you save items like gloves when you are not using them. 

  • Hoods

Although most heated jackets don’t come with hoods, hoods are used to protect you from rain. Consider buying a jacket with a detachable hood so that you can use it when needed. Sometimes hoods can get out of the way, especially for an athlete. Additionally, hoods are more appropriate to wear if your softshell jacket is worn as an outer layer, rather than a mid-layer.

  • Adjustments

It’s a must for softshell jackets to have adjustments related to closing the sleeves to keep the cold out while keeping the person warm at the same time. This mechanism can either be made by tightening a drawcord or through a featured hook or loop system to strap them shut.

  • Zipper Pulls:

Zipper pulls can come in handy to help you open zips easily at all times, either with or without a glove on. Zippers are essential to ensure that your valuables are safe, so see to it that your jacket’s zipper pulls are durable. Concerning this, some softshell jackets use YKK zippers.


Conclusion

Softshell jackets are great for keeping you warm in ideal conditions. They protect you from elements as you stay active in running your daily errands. Its breathable and flexible material provides you great freedom of movement and comfortable warmth that feels dry. Though they cannot be used alone during extremely cold weather, they surely provide you an additional layer of heat for spring and fall. 

In this article, we featured some of the best manufacturers of these excellent pieces of heated equipment. Though the market can be confusing, consider paying attention to more important features other than the physical style. Note that some features may only be important for some people than others, so choosing the best softshell jacket requires an informed decision.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between a rain jacket and a softshell jacket?

Softshell jackets differ from rain jackets with their heat properties. Softshell jackets have fleece inside and are made from comfortable and stretchy material that is also breathable. Moreover, softshell jackets functions to protect you against the rain, though not as good as hard-shell and rain jackets.
They are ideal for day hikes and in fast-changing weather. However, they are heavy and dry slowly. Unlike hard-shell jackets that have hoods and are more durable, wind and water-resistant, softshell jackets are very comfortable to wear. You can go outside for long periods, given that they are also wind- and rain-resistant.

Why should I get a softshell jacket?

Softshell jackets are perfect when you are searching for light protection against elements, how fleece jackets are made wind- and waterproof for your protection. Softshell jackets are ideal for the fall season, where rain is usually not predominant, and the weather is not too cold yet. As the jackets protect you from elements, they also provide you the flexibility of movement.

Do inner jackets have an inner membrane?

Softshell jackets feature a wind-blowing membrane together with the DWR fabric treatment. Wind-blocking membranes are different from waterproof membranes, and they have larger micropores. Softshell jackets work great to provide you with good protection without decreasing breathability functionality. 

Are softshell jackets good for winter hiking?

Although softshell jackets offer some form of insulation in dry and windy weather, they are ideal for fall and spring than winter. As a matter of fact, heated garments, like down jackets or winter jackets, offer more synthetic insulation during winter than a softshell jacket does.

Are heated jackets wind and waterproof?

While softshell jackets have water resistance, they are not exactly waterproof. They can only withstand mild rains but not heavy ones, where they can get you instantly wet. Moreover, softshell jackets can also be effective in blocking light winds during cold weather. When you opt for maximum protection, it is advised that you go for either a hard shell or a rain jacket.

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