Having the right gear whilst you’re adventuring around the outdoors is key to keeping you warm, dry, and ensuring you enjoy the magical times the wild has on offer. One of the most important things to have is the right clothing and the layering options you choose will help you stay comfortable and keep your pack weight down.
A softshell jacket is a lightweight layer everyone should have in their arsenal. A good softshell jacket will protect you from wind and water while being breathable to keep you from overheating on those long hikes. They’re stretch-woven too and won’t restrict your movement in any way, so you can keep going comfortably.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of softshell jackets on the market, each made with different features and from a variety of fabrics. It’s hard to know which ones will work well for you while you’re reading through the product descriptions and that’s where we come in.
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Softshell Jackets
We have taken some of the best softshell jackets and put them into this handy review so you can be confident in choosing the right one for you.
Best On A Budget
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Best Of The Best
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Best For Rain
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Best For Wind
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The Mountain Hardwear KOR softshell jacket is super light and folds neatly away into its own pocket, making for easy and practical storage in your backpack. It stuffs down pretty small, so you can keep it in an outer pocket and access it quickly when you really need it.
It’s made from Pertex Quantum Air Ripstop fabric which is durable and very breathable so that you don’t overheat on those steep ascents. The material is also great at keeping the wind out and is coated with a water repellent treatment that ensures you don’t get too wet in a downpour.
The hem, hood, and cuffs are elasticated to make sure the jacket stays in place and doesn’t ride up or move around in strong winds. There’s also a chin guard and wind flaps to protect your face when those bitterly cold winds come through.
It’s designed as a mid-layer, so you can wear it over your base and pre-mid layer or under your final outer layer. It has two harness-compatible zippered hand pockets to keep your hands warm too.
This is a great softshell jacket at a good price.
Arc’teryx is one of the top manufacturers when it comes to outdoor clothing and the Arc’teryx Gamma LT softshell jacket got its inspiration from the need for a rock climbing jacket and was then refined to make it ideal for any outdoor use.
The Arc’teryx Gamma LT is one of the best quality softshell jackets around and it should be at over $200. It truly is an investment but well worth it if you spend a lot of time being active at high altitudes or in chilly windy wet conditions.
Made from Wee Burly Double Weave fabric, the jacket offers great weather protection – firstly from the wind, but also while being breathable enough to stop you from sweating. This is key to staying warm, as sweating creates moisture in your base layers which can make you very cold.
The Wee Burly Double Weave fabric stretches in 4 directions, is water-repellent and it’s tough. The stretch and durability make the jacket very abrasion resistant so it won’t rip while you’re doing any adventure activity.
The jacket comes with elastic cuffs and a drawstring base to keep it in place. And for all you climbers out there, the hood is also large enough to go over a helmet. The front zipper is also made to keep water out and stop your inner layers from getting damp.
Note: If you are looking for a nice Arcteryx down jacket to go with it, try the Cerium or Thorium.
This is definitely one of the top softshell jackets, especially if you’re planning on some adventure sports but it’s very expensive. Remember, there is also the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody if you want that little extra head warmth on a cold day too.
If your time in the outdoors is quite often spent in a very rainy area or you simply hate getting wet, then the RAB Kinetic Plus is a great soft jacket for you. Most softshells aren’t waterproof in order to keep them breathable but the Kinetic Plus is a little different.
Rab has created its own Proflex fabric that is not only stretchy and breathable but waterproof too. They have added a hydrophobic membrane between two layers of polyester and dropped it in a moisture-wicking lining on the inside to ensure you stay dry.
The zippers all have water guards and the seams are sealed to stop moisture from getting in. And the hood is stiff to protect your face in heavy rain. You couldn’t be more protected from getting wet.
The side pockets are deep for keeping your hands warm and storing anything you want to have quick access to like your phone or camera.
This is an awesome softshell that’s perfect for keeping you warm and dry in heavy rainfall while still having all the breathable, windproof qualities of a normal softshell. Of course, if you hike often in the wet, you definitely need a rain jacket or hardshell to really keep you dry.
The Black Diamond Alpine Start was originally designed for climbers. It is a handy softshell that packs into its own pocket that you can then clip onto your harness. It has found a greater purpose than just being a standby climbing jacket and is perfect for shielding you against gusty winds and light rainfall with its built-in weather resistance.
It packs down very small, making it an ideal match for your backpack’s outer pocket which you can access quickly if a sudden gust or shower catch you by surprise. It’s made from a Schoeller fabric that is durable and stretchy.
The fabric has been treated with Nanosphere technology to repel dirt and water. It’s by no means waterproof but will keep you protected from light showers. The jacket is quite long to protect you from the wind and the sleeves are made to be a bit loose to give you full arm movement.
There’s only one pocket on the Black Diamond Alpine Start softshell jacket. It’s quite roomy for any valuables you might want to keep close by, but it would be nice to have some hand pockets too.
The Alpine Start is a great lightweight softshell jacket for long hikes, but it is just that. Also handy if you’re a climber.
Patagonia love pushing the boundaries and the Nano Air is one of their best efforts yet. It is both a casual and active wear jacket, so has you covered for a trip into town as well as winter hiking or ski touring.
The stretchy fabric they use – in all the right places – means it’s a joy to wear no matter what activity you are doing. It’s made using polyester, and 87% of it is recycled. Another of Patagonia’s great benefits – they love the outdoors and want to protect it as well.
Although this jacket is meant to be worn as an in-between softshell, it also acts well as a decent mid-layer too. It comes with synthetic insulation (60g weight) that also stretches with you, and allows air through. Great news if you are sweating your way up an incline in snowshoes or touring, as having to constantly take off your jacket on a tour is something I absolutely loathe!
Patagonia loves details too, and the Nano Air has them in spades. The handy pulls on all the zippers mean you won’t be fumbling with gloves on, and the large zippered chest pocket is great for storing maps and other quick-access items. The chin guard is also high enough to make a huge difference in the cold and wind, but not so high it’s annoying when you don’t need it.
On top of that, the elastic cuffs are going to keep the wind out when things get nasty too. And, this jacket folds into its own pocket, so it’s easy to stow and have with you at all times.
All in all, this is a great option for those of you who love to keep active in fall or winter and want something that looks great oo.
If you’re looking for a jacket that comes into its own in windy, cold conditions, then The North Face Apex Risor is right up your street. It’s made to be warm and windproof to keep you comfortable no matter the weather.
The jacket is made from WindWall fabric which, as it sounds, is 100% windproof. It has a fleece lining to keep you warm when the winds blow like ice. The outside is has a durable water-repellent finish that makes the jacket virtually waterproof. If you like being on the top of mountains, this jacket will have you back, literally.
It has a loose but not sloppy fit to give you a full range of movement even with a backpack on. The cuffs are semi-elasticated to keep the sleeves from riding up and the zipper is durable and almost completely weatherproof.
There are three pockets, two for your hands, and one zippered chest pocket for easy storage and quick access to anything you want to carry on your person.
The North Face Apex is an extremely durable and warm softshell that’s ideal for spending time on cold windy mountains. Of course, it’s no Gore-tex jacket, but it does have some water resistance.
The Marmot ROM (Range Of Motion) is designed to move with you. Whether you’re climbing a wall or navigating a gorge the jacket is completely unrestrictive to give you a full range of movement and get you through any kind of terrain comfortably.
This softshell has a zonal design so as not to inhibit movement. The arms are made with Angel-Wing Movement, the sides are breathable and stretchy for air and flexibility, while the cuffs, hem, and hood are all adjustable to keep the warmth in.
The ROM is made from a combination of Marmot M2 softshell and Gore Windstopper fabrics that make the jacket breathable, windproof, highly water-resistant, and comfortable.
There are three pockets, two on the sides and one on the chest. Perfect for storing any valuables and keeping your hands warm at the same time. It is a bit heavier than other jackets in the review but a few extra ounces aren’t much to worry about.
A great jacket overall, perfect for any adventure.
If you’re looking for a good value allrounder softshell that can handle most of what the outdoors can throw at it, then the Outdoor Research Ferrosi should be top of your list. Outdoor Research really did think of everything a softshell needs when they made the Ferrosi.
This softshell jacket is made with a hybrid-mapped construction. What is that you might ask. This means that they have strategically placed the right fabrics, insulation, and technology around the jacket to give your body the greatest benefit. Smart hey.
This Outdoor Research Ferrosi Jacket features reinforced shoulders and sleeves to reduce abrasion. The hood is adjustable, the hem has an elastic drawcord to fit, there are elastic cuffs to stop the sleeves riding up, and the YKK zipper is treated to be water repellent.
This jacket is made of a huge combination of materials to ensure its quick-drying, breathable, light, water-resistant, wind-resistant, UPF 50+, gives freedom of movement, and more.
There are three pockets; two on the sides for your hands and one on the sleeve which doubles up as a stuff sack, ideal for easy storage and quick access. There is a key clip and a carabiner loop too.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is an awesome jacket that comes at a great price and is fit for any occasion.
The Marmot Tempo is another great all-round softshell for any outdoor activity. It’s been designed so that you don’t overheat while running around the outdoors.
The M3 softshell fabric keeps you warm and dry, protecting you from wind and the odd shower. It’s not made to deal with anything but light rain and if you’re looking for something that’s good in heavy rain, this is not it.
Where the Tempo does excel is during high tempo activities, like running and climbing. It’s exceptionally breathable to ensure you don’t sweat while you’re being active. It features Marmots Angle Wing Design, ensuring your arms aren’t restricted from moving freely while you’re clambering around.
The cuffs are elasticated and the hem is adjustable to ensure the jacket doesn’t ride up. This keeps you protected and stops you from having to adjust and faff around your jacket while you’re busy having fun.
There are three pockets, one on the chest for your valuables and two on the sides for keeping your hands warm.
The Under Armour Barrage is a pretty solid allrounder too as far as soft shell jackets go. It’s made to be light and warm for those long days in the outdoors.
Made from 100% polyester, it features a bonded three-layer design including a warm brushed inner layer. The inner layer is effective at wicking moisture from your skin and circulating your body heat, to keep you warm but not too warm.
The fabric is treated with UA Storm technology to repel water while still being breathable. And the outer layer is made with windproof construction to keep protected from those icy gusts we all know and kind of love.
The jacket comes with hand pockets and in a range of colors. It’s pretty good value too.
The Columbia Ascender is perfect for those that don’t venture into the extreme that often, but who want a quality soft shell.
It’s made from quality polyester that is good at keeping you warm and dry. It’s wind-resistant and water-resistant to a point but it’s not made for heavy downpours and strong icy winds. You’ll need another layer on top of the Ascender in those conditions.
It has a narrow fit to it and comes with bounded cuffs, an adjustable drawcord hem, and a quality zipper to give you a good fit. There are two zippered handwarmer pockets too so you can keep your digits toasty on the trail.
Overall a great value soft shell for everyday use.
There’s a range of softshells in this review and some are better for different conditions than others. Here are some factors to consider when looking for the one for you.
The whole idea of a softshell is to keep you warm while not making you overheat, especially while being active. This means they need excellent breathability, and you should check this is the case.
Some come with a fleece lining that makes them ideal for cold and wet weather and some with a moisture wick lining to keep you cool in warmer places.
Every softshell is designed to be water-resistant but most are not waterproof. This is always something to bear in mind and the additional layer of a hardshell rain jacket is needed for anything above light rain conditions. That being said, there is one softshell jacket in the review that has been designed for heavy rain environments, the Kinetic Plus.
While wearing your softshell, you’ll most likely be being quite active whilst wearing a backpack. There is nothing more annoying than feeling restricted by your jacket and a good softshell will give you excellent freedom of movement. Almost all of the softshell jackets in the review give you great freedom of movement.
A good softshell jacket will keep most of the wind out in order to keep you warm. There is a balance though, between being breathable and windproof. Softshells aimed at keeping you cool during heavy activity won’t be great in heavy winds and vice versa.
The best budget softshell jacket is the Mountain Hardwear KOR. The KOR is very well made and comes in at a great price. It has all the assets you’d expect of a good softshell plus it’s light and packs down neatly for storage.
The best softshell jacket in the review is the Arc’teryx Gamma LT. If you’re looking for a softshell that’ll last a lifetime, this is the one for you. It’s been made to the highest specifications and should never fail you in a time of need.
The best wet weather softshell is the RAB Kinetic Plus. The Kinetic Plus has all the benefits of a softshell while also being fully waterproof. Everything from the fabric, the zippers to the welded seals does it’s utmost to keep you dry.
The best softshell jacket for windy conditions is The North Face Apex Risor. The Apex Risor is made to be windproof and warmer than most softshell jackets. It’ll keep you toasty on the top of a mountain in an icy breeze, while still doing everything a softshell is meant to.
The best allrounder softshell jacket is the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. The Ferrosi is very well made, exceptionally durable, practical, and does everything you want from a softshell extremely well. It’s also an excellent value.