Updated on June 17, 2021

Softshell jackets are a key piece in your layering system for outdoor adventures. They are useful in a variety of conditions, since they are water and wind resistant, while also being breathable and stretchy, to move with you and keep you dry when you’re in action outside. With so many softshells constructed of different fabrics with different features, it can be difficult to choose which one will work best. We at The Adventure Junkies are here to help you understand the options and pick the best softshell jacket to keep you warm and protected from the elements on all your outings.

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Softshell Jackets for Women

 

Quick Answer - The Best Softshell Jackets

  1. Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody
  2. Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  3. Black Diamond Alpine Start
  4. Black Diamond Dawn Patrol
  5. Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell
  6. The North Face Apex Risor
  7. Patagonia R2 TechFace
  8. RAB Kinetic Plus

 

Comparison Table - Best Softshell Jacket

PictureNameWeightHoodThumbholesPriceRating
Arc’teryx Gamma LT HoodyArc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody1 lb 3.2 ozYesNo$$$5.0
Outdoor Research Ferrosi11.7 ozYesYes$4.9
Black Diamond Alpine Start6.7 ozYesNo$4.3
Black Diamond’s Dawn PatrolBlack Diamond Dawn Patrol1 lb 3 ozYesNo$$$4.6
Marmot ROM1 lb 2.6 ozYesNo$$4.4
Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell4.3 ozYesNo$5.0
The North Face Apex Risor1 lb 5.5 ozNoNo$4.9
Patagonia R2 TechFace13.4 ozNoNo$5.0
RAB Kinetic Plus9.5 ozYesNo$$$4.8
Mammut Macun14.67 ozYesYes$$5.0
PictureNameWeightHoodThumbholesPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Softshell Jackets for Hiking

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb 3.2 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Gusseted cuffs paired with 4-way stretch lay-up supplies mobility
  • Harness compatible hand pockets secure your snacks and essentials
  • Streamlined fit allows layers underneath or overtop and free movement
Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody

BEST OVERALL SOFTSHELL JACKET

If you’re looking for a versatile piece that works equally hard out on the trails as it does for wearing around town, look no further.

The Arc’teryx Gamma LT is the lightest weight jacket in the brand’s Gamma series, a line of moderately warm yet breathable and stretchy pieces of apparel. The DWR-coated synthetic fabric is double woven, making for added abrasion resistance without added bulk.

What I like most about the Arc’teryx Gamma LT is that the helmet-compatible hood can be adjusted at three different points to make for the perfect fit.

Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Specs
  • Weight: 11.7 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: Yes
Features
  • Shoulders and Sleeves are Reinforced to Prevent Abrasion
  • Hem Cord Keeps Wind & Water Out
  • Sleeves Stay in Place Thanks to Thumbholes

BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND USE

Even when you check the weather ahead of time, it can be hard to predict the exact conditions you’ll find outdoors, but the Outdoor Research Ferrosi is a softshell hoody that  will keep you comfortable no matter the weather. The jacket is constructed of stretchy material on the main body to allow full range of motion, and the reinforced proprietary Cordura fabric on the shoulders and arms is both durable and abrasion resistant. The jacket keeps the elements out and the warmth in with water and wind resistance.

To keep your valuables safe on the trail, the Ferrosi has zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket. You can cinch the waist with an adjustable cord at the hem, and thumbholes keep your wrists warm and hold the sleeves in place.

Black Diamond Alpine Start

Specs
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Zippered Chest Pocket Has Plenty of Room to Secure Valuables
  • Underarms are Gusseted to Allow Full Range of Motion
  • Compresses to Fit into Chest Pocket

BEST FOR: LONG TREKS

If you’re looking for a packable softshell to take with you on long alpine adventures, the Black Diamond Alpine Start is what you want. It compresses into its own chest pocket, and has a loop to attach a carabiner so you can clip it onto your harness or pack. The Alpine Start is constructed from special Schoeller fabric which is durable yet stretchy, and the Nanosphere technology treatment repels dirt and water.

The underarms of the Alpine Start have a gusseted construction, so you have full freedom of movement in this softshell jacket. A longer than average torso length with an adjustable drawcord at the hem really keeps the wind away, and the hood can be worn over a helmet for extra protection from the elements.

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb 3 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Four-way stretch fabric is water-resistant and moves with you
  • Adjustable hood
  • Designed for technical layering
  • Primary fabric is bluesign approved
Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol

BEST FOR: WET WEATHER CONDITIONS

When you need a softshell with better weather resistance than traditional alternatives and the same breathability, you should take a look at the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol — it might be just what you find yourself reaching for.

The Dawn Patrol is a technical piece that serves to blur the line between a soft-shell and a rain shell. It boasts a fleece lining, large internal stash pockets, and a zippered exterior chest pocket. 

What I like most about the Dawn Patrol is how backcountry-specific it is.

Marmot ROM


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb 2.6 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Vented Side Panels Are Stretchy to Move With You
  • Hood, Hem, & Cuffs Can Be Adjusted
  • Plenty of Pockets to Keep Your Valuables Safe

BEST FOR: MOBILITY

The Marmot ROM actually stands for “Range of Motion”, so this softshell is made to move with you on the trail, whether you’re scrambling up rocks or descending steep scree. A proprietary Angel-Wing Movement design allows your arms to move with no restrictions, while side panels on the body of the jacket are ventilated and stretchy for extra flexibility. Special GORE Windstopper fabric makes up the rest of the jacket to keep out gusts of wind and repel rain.

The hood, hem, and cuffs are all adjustable to keep warmth in, and handwarmer pockets keep your hands toasty, too. A zippered chest pocket and internal pocket also keep your valuables safe from getting lost on the trail.

Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell

Specs
  • Weight: 4.3 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Hood, Hem, & Cuffs Stay in Place with Elastic
  • Chin Guard and Windflap Protect Your Face
  • Compresses Into Front Pocket for Easy Packing

BEST FOR: MINIMAL & LIGHTWEIGHT HIKERS

The Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell is a very light softshell made from Pertex Quantum Air, a proprietary fabric which is extremely breathable yet also wind resistant. Durable water repellent treatment on the fabric keeps you from getting soaked in wet conditions.

The hem, cuffs, and hood all feature elastic to stay in place, and the hand pockets are zippered to securely stow your important items. The Kor Preshell can compress down quite a lot in order to stuff into one of the pockets and then into your pack. The jacket is also made to be part of a layering system, so you can wear it over base and mid-layers or under a thicker outer layer, depending on the weather.

The North Face Apex Risor

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb 5.5 oz
  • Hood: No
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Very High Wind Resistance
  • Backed with Fleece for an Extra Layer of Warmth
  • Pocket on the Forearm to Keep Essentials at Hand

BEST FOR: WINDY SUMMITS

If you often find yourself above tree line, the North Face Apex Risor provides excellent protection from the gusting winds you’ll find there. A special WindWall fabric prevents wind from blowing in, and the jacket has a fleece backing for extra insulation. The outer fabric is also treated with a durable water repellent to keep you dry if you get stuck in the rain.

In place of a chest pocket, the Apex Risor includes a zippered pocket on the forearm which allows you to keep small valuables literally at arm’s reach. The side hand pockets also have zippers to keep the rest of your stuff safe and secure.

Patagonia R2 TechFace

Specs
  • Weight: 13.4 oz
  • Hood: No
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Breathable and Moisture-Wicking Fleece
  • Cuffs Are Low-Profile & Snag Resistant
  • Chin Protected From Zipper by Soft Lining

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY

The Patagonia R2 TechFace features all the advantages of a fleece layer with added protection from the elements thanks to the wind and water resistance of the TechFace exterior. The fleece is stretchy and soft, while also being extremely breathable and moisture-wicking so you don’t get clammy when you’re in action. The fabric is also abrasion resistant to handle all your adventurous activities.

The side pockets on the R2 Techface are placed high on the jacket to stay out of the way of your pack’s hipbelt or a climbing harness, and the interior has two drop-in mesh pockets for snacks and more.

RAB Kinetic Plus

Specs
  • Weight: 9.5 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Waterproof Protection from Wet Conditions
  • Seams Are Sealed to Prevent Water Leaks
  • Side Pockets are Extra Large & Zippered

BEST FOR: WET WEATHER

If your outdoor adventures usually find you in the rain, the RAB Kinetic Plus is  game-changer as a true waterproof softshell. Unlike a waterproof hardshell, the Kinetic Plus is still both breathable and stretchy due to RAB’s proprietary Proflex fabric featuring a hydrophilic membrane sandwiched between two separate layers of knitted polyester. A moisture-wicking lining also keeps the jacket dry on the inside.

A stiff outer brim on the hood keeps rain from falling on your face, and the zippers have an AquaGuard to protect from moisture leaking through. In addition, all the seams on the Kinetic Plus are sealed to protect against water.

Mammut Macun

Specs
  • Weight: 14.67 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: Yes
Features
  • Hood Has Dual Adjustments for a Perfect Fit
  • Low-Profile Thumb Loops Keep Your Hands Cozy
  • Can Compress Very Small for Packing

BEST FOR: COMFORT

The Mammut Macun is a stylish softshell that keeps you comfortable with a stretchy fabric that feels good when you’re on the move. The cuffs feature low-profile thumb loops so the sleeves stay in place and keep your wrists from getting chilly. The hood can be adjusted at two points so you can find your exact fit, and the brim protects your face from raindrops.

When compressed, the Macun is low volume so it doesn’t take up too much space in a pack and is great to take on the go, just in case you need it if the weather conditions take a turn.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING SOFTSHELL JACKETS

You definitely want a softshell jacket in your outdoor gear closet, since it is an extremely versatile layer that is useful in a variety of conditions. A softshell is breathable to keep you ventilated and stretches for freedom of movement, all while keeping you both dry and warm. However, softshell jackets aren’t designed to stand up on their own to tough winter conditions, so you’ll want a hardshell for that. But many softshells are treated with durable water repellent to keep you dry in less than extreme weather.

WARMTH

The key to a good softshell is to find the balance between keeping you warm while not overheating, especially when you’re active outdoors. If you adventure in cold conditions, a fleece lining might be appropriate for your needs, while warmer climates could require a lining that is moisture-wicking to keep you dry when you sweat.

 

WATER PROTECTION

Nearly all softshells have a durable water repellent treatment, but hardly any are truly waterproof. If you usually play outside in very wet conditions, you might want a hardshell instead, although the Rab Kinetic Plus is an option as an actual waterproof softshell.

 

HOOD

A hood comes in handy when you don’t want to deal with having to dig a hat out of your pack, plus they protect you better from the rain. But hoods can be somewhat bulky, so figure out if a hood is necessary for what you usually do outdoors. If you do go the hooded route, keep in mind that climbers will want a hood that is helmet-compatible.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

WATER REPELLENT

The fabric features a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating so water beads up instead of soaking in, but it is not completely waterproof.

WIND RESISTANT

Breathable fabric that blocks wind from reaching your body.

HELMET-COMPATIBLE HOOD

Hood is constructed with space to fit a helmet underneath.

 

READ MORE

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