The Best Softshell Jackets for 2017


Arcteryx Gamma LT

Arcteryx Gamma LT

Hiking in cold and windy weather is no fun unless you wear appropriate clothing that keeps you warm and snug. This includes a high-quality base layer, insulation layer and an outer layer. A softshell jacket comes in very handy as the outer layer because it provides some insulation as well as protection against the wind and light rain. Hikers and mountaineers often face a dilemma when having to choose between a softshell jacket or a rain jacket.

Softshell jackets differ from rain jackets (hard shells) by providing insulation (fleece on the inside), being more comfortable (stretchy material) as well as more breathable. However, softshell jackets do not provide as good protection against the rain like rain jackets do. They are also heavier and dry slower. Nevertheless, softshell jackets are perfect for day hikes in semi-cold windy and quickly changing weather as they are very comfortable to wear, highly breathable as well as wind/rain-resistant. At moderate temperatures they can be worn directly over a base layer while they should be worn over a (thin) mid-layer in colder conditions.

Here we selected and reviewed the best softshell jackets currently available in order to make your buying decision a little easier. We only selected products that offer great weather protection and breathability while being fairly light in the category of softshell jackets for hiking.

If you think that you need better protection against the rain than what a softshell jacket can offer, you might want to check our reviews of the Best 2.5-layer Rain Jackets and Best 3-layer Rain Jackets. As for insulation layers we also made reviews of the Best Fleece Jackets, Best Down Jackets and Best Jackets with Synthetic insulation.

If you are looking for women’s softshell jackets, please check out our review of the Best Softshell Jackets for Women.

1. Buying a Softshell Jacket – What is important?

Material:

A softshell jacket should provide insulation as well as protection against wind and light rain while being breathable, light, relatively quick-drying and comfortable to wear. Softshell jackets normally consist of two fabrics that are bonded together; a polyester fleece fabric and a woven face fabric.

The face fabric is normally treated with fluorocarbon-based durable water repellent (DWR) coating which bonds to the fabric’s exterior. Due to the DWR-treatment, the face fabric repels the water rather than absorbing it. A DWR-treatment does not reduce the breathability of the fabric, but on the other hand DWR-treated fabrics can only resist water for short periods of time – not for daylong rain showers.

Some softshell jackets also feature a wind-blocking membrane  in addition to DWR treated face fabric. Wind-blocking membranes differ from waterproof/breathable membranes (used in hard shells) by having much bigger micropores. Therefore, they do not decrease the breathability as much as waterproof/breathable membranes do, but on the other hand also don’t offer as good protection against the rain. Popular softshell fabrics that use wind-blocking membranes are Gore Windstopper and Polartec Windblock.

The polyester fleece fabrics on the inside of softshell jackets are usually relatively thin. They provide insulation by trapping the body-warmed air within their fibers. Furthermore, they also wick the moisture outwards in order to keep the inner layers close to the skin dry and warm.

For more information about materials check out our Comparison of Shell Materials and Comparison of Mid-layer Materials (insulation). To learn how to properly layer your clothes for hiking read our Hiking Clothing Guide.

Weight:

A softshell jacket for hiking should be light so that it doesn’t slow you down on your trips. Softshell jackets in general have higher weight-to-warmth ratio than fleece jackets and rain jackets combined but on the other hand they also provide better breathability and comfort.

Pockets:

Because softshell jackets are worn as an outer layer they should be equipped with well-placed pockets. This allows you to keep your essential gear within easy reach.

2. The Best Softshell Jackets Review

Best Softshell Jackets for 2017

Best Softshell Jackets for 2017

  1. Arcteryx Gamma LT
  2. Patagonia  Adze Hybrid
  3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  4. Mountain Hardwear Super Chockstone
  5. Marmot Gravity

Comparison

Feature/Product Arcteryx Gamma LT Patagonia Adze HybridOutdoor Research FerrosiMountain Hardwear Super ChockstoneMarmot Gravity
Weight445 g586 g
321 g371 g 686 g
MaterialWee Burly SoftshellPolartec Windbloc86% Nylon, 14% Spandex,
Cordura
Chockstone Doubleweave SoftshellSoftshell WPB 88% Nylon, 12% Elastane
Pockets33334
HoodNo No YesYes No
Arcteryx Gamma LT

Arcteryx Gamma LT

1. Arcteryx Gamma LT

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing

The Arcteryx Gamma LT is an extremely durable softshell jacket and thus best for those who need reliable and robust outerwear for their outdoor adventures. The jacket is made of Wee Burly softshell fabric which consists of two interlocking stretch weaves; a face made of nylon which protects against abrasion and weather and a liner made of polyester that efficiently wicks the moisture away from the base layer to keep you dry. The fabric is also treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) in order to additionally increase the rain resistance. As the fabric includes elastane fibers, the jacket offers great stretch and thus doesn’t restrict you when doing more technical tasks such as for example climbing. The freedom of movement is additionally increased with articulated pattering and underarm gussets.  The jacket is also equipped with two zippered hand pockets, internal zippered pocket, hem drawcord, collar with soft lining and a front zipper that uses No Slip Zip technology. The No Slip Zip technology prevents the zipper from self-opening. The pockets are placed a little higher so that they allow easy access even when wearing a climbing harness or a backpack.  The Arcteryx Gamma LT is a great jacket as it offers great durability, functionality and comfort.

 

Pros:

  • Stretch
  • Design
  • Durability
  • Functionality

Cons:

  • No wrist cuffs

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Patagonia Adze Hybrid

Patagonia Adze Hybrid

2. Patagonia Adze Hybrid

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking

The Patagonia Adze Hybrid is another extremely durable softshell jacket which is perfect for hiking, mountaineering or trekking in quickly changing weather. It is mainly made of the high-quality Polartec Windblock fabric. The Polartec Windbloc fabric consists of an abrasion-resistant outer layer, a micro-porous membrane and insulating inner layer. The micro-porous membrane blocks wind and water from the outside but allows moisture to evaporate from the inside. Therefore, the jacket provides great protection against weather but at the same time offers high breathability. The inner layer is made of a very soft grid fleece and thus offers great comfort as well as moisture-wicking performance. The outer layer of the fabric features a DWR finish (Durable Water Repellant) for increased rain resistance. On the sides, underarms and cuffs the jacket is made of a more stretchy (but still DWR-treated) material in order to offer greater freedom of movement. The jacket has two zippered hand pockets, one inner pocket and an adjustable hem.  Like at the Arcteryx Gamma LT jacket, the hand pockets are placed a little higher so that they can be accessed when wearing a climbing harness. The hem can be conveniently adjusted by pulling the cords in the hand pockets. The Patagonia Adze Hybrid is a great jacket with one downside. It’s relatively heavy (it weighs 586 grams) and thus we would recommend it to recreational hikers and mountaineers.

 

Pros:

  • Fabric
  • Durability
  • Comfort

Cons:

  • Weight

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Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Outdoor Research Ferrosi

3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is a very light softshell jacket (it weighs merely 321 g) and thus great for those who want to carry as little as possible on their hiking trips. Although the jacket is light it still offers superb performance. It is made of 90-denier nylon and features reinforced shoulders and lower sleeves. The reinforcements are made of Cordura which is known for being super light and very durable. Due to the sophisticated fabric the jacket also dries fast and offers good weather protection and breathability. The jacket features two zippered hand pockets, zippered chest pocket, adjustable hood and a drawcord hem. The hand pockets are placed slightly higher to allow easy access even when wearing a climbing harness and are equipped with coated zippers for weather protection. The jacket is also very stretchy and thus offers great freedom of movement. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is an incredible jacket which is best for those who need fairly light gear in order to hike faster and easier.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Durability
  • Fit

Cons:

  • Lacking insulation/thin

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4. Mountain Hardwear Super Chockstone

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing

The Mountain Hardwear Super Chockstone is another super light softshell jacket which offers great performance. The jacket is made of the Chockstone Doubleweave softshell fabric which consists of nylon and elastane for extra stretch. The fabric is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) to offer rain resistance. As the fabric is relatively thin, the jacket dries fast and efficiently wicks the moisture to the outside. The jacket has two zippered hand pockets, zippered chest pocket, discreet hood and an adjustable hem. The pockets are climbing harness compatible and the hood fits tightly in order to provide good insulation. The hem can be adjusted by using only one hand. The Mountain Hardwear Super Chockstone is best for those who need a light softshell jacket for their hiking and mountaineering trips.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Useful hood
  • Breathability

Cons:

  • Insulation

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Marmot Gravity

Marmot Gravity

5. Marmot Gravity

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking

The Marmot Gravity is a very sturdy and warm softshell jacket that will keep you comfortable in relatively cold conditions. But the warmth comes for a price; this is the heaviest jacket in this review as it weighs 686 g or more than twice as much as the Outdoor Research Ferrosi jacket. The jacket is made of nylon and elastane. The inner layer features soft fleece that provides good insulation. However, due to the relatively thick insulation the jacket takes longer to dry and does not provide as good breathability as the other jackets in this review. The Marmot Gravity features two zippered hand pockets, inner pocket, shoulder pocket, adjustable hem and elastic wrist cuffs. The hem can be adjusted by pulling the cords in the hand pockets. The Marmot Gravity provides great weather protection but due to its weight we would mainly recommend it to backpackers and those who want a softshell jacket for everyday use.

 

Pros:

  • Weather protection
  • Warmth

Cons:

  • Weight
  • Breathability

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