Best Women’s Softshell Jackets


Mountain Equipment Vulcan

Mountain Equipment Vulcan

A softshell jacket typically combines the qualities of a fleece jacket and a rain jacket by offering warmth as well as decent wind- and water-resistance. It is worn directly over your base layer or on top of an insulating mid-layer in cold weather. Wearing a softshell jacket for hiking is a lot more comfortable than using a rain jacket (“hard shell”) as it is made of a stretchy fabric which provides enhanced freedom of movement as well as more durability and breathability.

However, softshell jackets are not as water-resistant as proper rain jackets, often twice as heavy and take longer to dry which make them unsuitable for hiking in incessantly wet weather or hikes longer than one day. To learn more about how the different types of shell layers (rain jackets, softshell jackets and insulated shells) measure up to one another, please read our Comparison of Shell Materials. A softshell jacket is perfect for those who predominantly execute day hikes in dry (if windy) weather with possibility of rain while those who do longer hikes, also in persistent rain, will be happier with a proper rain jacket – potentially layered over a fleece or down jacket, depending on the temperature.

1. Buying a Softshell Jacket – What is important?

Material

The main characteristic of softshell jackets in comparison to rain jackets (hard shells) is that they are…. well, soft – meaning that they are made of more or less stretchy materials which are comfortable to wear and enable a tighter fit. Hard shells are cut to fit slightly looser; otherwise you wouldn’t be able to move your arms. A softshell jacket is usually made of two fabrics that are bonded together; a woven face fabric and a polyester fleece fabric. However, softshell jackets can differ widely in the insulation they offer; some merely have a brushed soft surface inside which can only trap very little body heat while others have a proper insulating fleece layer. The latter do tend to be heavier. This is also true for the softshell jackets in the selection below; the lighter the jacket, the less insulation it provides. Consider your needs thoroughly before deciding on a jacket, but remember that you can always compensate for lack of insulation by wearing a warm mid layer.

Hood

When deciding for a softshell jacket with or without a hood, you need to consider how much you will actually use it. Hooded softshell jackets are designed to mainly trap the heat around your neck when the hood is up and in use, which means that more heat escapes when the hood is down, while those without usually have a high, relatively tight-fitting collar which traps heat superbly. We have included softshell jackets both with and without hoods in the list below.

2. The Best Softshell Jackets for Women Review

Best Women's Softshell Jackets

Best Women’s Softshell Jackets

  1. Arcteryx Gamma LT
  2. Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  3. Dynafit Mercury
  4. Mountain Equipment Vulcan
  5. The North Face Calentito 2

Comparison

Feature/Product Arcteryx Gamma LTOutdoor Research FerrosiDynafit MercuryMountain Equipment Vulcan
The North Face Calentito 2
Average weight 1 lb. (hooded)11 oz.1 lb.1 lb. 6 oz.14 oz.
Average weight (Metric) 465 g (hooded)313 g467 g630 g390 g
Material56% Nylon, 34% Polyester, 10% Elastane86% Nylon, 14% Spandex 90D Ripstop65% Nylon, 26% Polyester, 9% ElastaneWindstopper 290 Softshell Fabric50D 95% Polyester, 5% Elastane
HoodAvailable with and withoutYesYes YesNo
Center back lenght
Hip-lenght26.4 in. (67 cm)Hip-lenghtHip-lenght25.6 in. (65 cm)
Arcteryx Gamma LT

Arcteryx Gamma LT

1. Arcteryx Gamma LT

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

 

The Arcteryx Gamma series consists of stretchy softshell outerwear and the Gamma LT is the lightest softshell jacket. It is available both with and without a hood; the hooded version is only 75 g heavier due to the helmet compatible StormHood with a laminated rim. The Arcteryx Gamma LT is made of the wind- and water-resistant Wee Burly fabric (56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane) and offers two-way stretch as well as great breathability. The jacket has articulated patterning for increased freedom of movement and an athletic fit for a slimmer, more flattering profile while also helping to entrap heat better. Additional functional features include a laminated chin guard, laminated stretch cuffs, gusseted underarms and an internal laminated zippered pocket besides two zippered handpockets. The Arcteryx Gamma LT softshell jacket is available in black and a handful of funky colors.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Breathability

Cons:

  • /

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Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Outdoor Research Ferrosi

2. Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

 

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi hoody is very light, but nevertheless offers incredible durability due to the 90D body fabric (86% nylon, 14% spandex), reinforced with 120D stretch-woven Cordura around the shoulders and lower sleeves. This makes it particularly suitable for climbing, but outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will appreciate this breathable, water- and wind-resistant softshell jacket which has movement-mirroring stretch for optimal comfort and freedom of movement. Functional details include an adjustable hood, DWR-treated YKK zippers and conveniently placed hand pockets (climbing harness compatible), of which the left doubles as a stuff sack. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi hoody will be great for all kinds of outdoor activities but as it offers less insulation than some of the other softshell jackets on this list you might need to wear it over a warm mid-layer if you plan to use it in cold weather.

 

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Great durability

Cons:

  • /

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Dynafit Mercury

Dynafit Mercury

3. Dynafit Mercury

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

 

Dynafit specializes in ski mountaineering clothing and equipment, but the Dynafit Mercury softshell jacket will be just as functional when you are not wearing skies. The Mercury jacket is made of the brand’s stretch woven Dynastretch softshell fabric (65% nylon, 26% polyester, 9% elastane) which is very breathable and durable while offering great wind-resistance and decent water-resistance as it is water-repellent. The jacket also has pit zips for added ventilation. The hood has an almost scuba-like appearance but is helmet compatible and can be adjusted with a drawstring cord in the back using just one hand.  Besides a zippered chest pocket and two zippered hand pockets, the Dynafit Mercury also has internal mesh pockets for storing essentials. It comes in three different colors and five sizes (34/XS-42/XL).

 

Pros:

  • Breathability
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Price

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Mountain Equipment Vulcan

Mountain Equipment Vulcan

4. Mountain Equipment Vulcan

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

 

British brand Mountain Equipment (not to be confused with the American webshop) has been manufacturing technical outdoor clothing and equipment since the 1960’s and offers several high-quality softshell jackets. The Mountain Equipment Vulcan softshell jacket is made of the GORE Windstopper Softshell fabric which is completely windproof and very water-resistant. The fabric consists of three layers as the Windstopper membrane is bonded between DWR-treated stretch polyester on the outside and quick-drying polyester fleece on the inside. The Mountain Equipment Vulcan jacket was designed especially with climbers in mind and has a helmet compatible hood, conveniently placed hand pockets and an active fit with articulated and pre-shaped sleeves. The only downside of the Vulcan jacket is its weight, so if you are looking for something lighter, you might want to check out the Mountain Equipment Squall and Frontier softshell jackets which are made of lighter EXOLITE fabrics.

 

Pros:

  • Windstopper membrane makes jacket completely windproof
  • Great warmth (hence the name!)
  • Articulated and preshaped sleeves

Cons:

  • Weight

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The North Face Calentito 2

The North Face Calentito 2

5. The North Face Calentito

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Everyday use

 

The North Face has a broad range of good-looking softshell jackets, but many of them are quite heavy. The North Face Calentito 2 is one of the lightest (390 g) and is made of stretchy 50 denier TNF Apex Universal fabric (95% polyester, 5% elastane) which is DWR-treated in order to increase water-resistance. The fleece backer is a WindWall fabric which means that it has been bonded to the face fabric in a manner that ensures good wind-resistance. The North Face Calentito 2 does not have a hood, but the collar is quite tight-fitting and has a snap closure to keep your neck warm and snug. The jacket has two zippered hand pockets and two internal mesh pockets, of which the left is “media-compatible” meaning that it has a small opening for headphones. The Calentito 2 is available in a wide range of colors – even a few with a tweed-like appearance which will look just as stylish in town as on the trails.

 

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Wide range of colors

Cons:

  • Limited insulation

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