Staying warm when you’re hiking is about smart layering. From your base layer to your outer layer, your clothing should work together. Every layer you wear has a purpose, and the best softshell jacket is a key component in keeping you warm.
Softshell jackets are the most breathable outer layer option. These kinds of jackets are ideal for aerobic activity in cold weather. They will also prevent you from overheating as you hike.
One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help you when it comes time to gear up for the outdoors. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to choose a softshell jacket and show you our selection of the best models of the year.
For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Rain Jackets for Hiking.
Quick Answer - The Best Softshell Jackets
- Outdoor Research Ferrosi
- Arc’teryx Gamma MX
- Arc’teryx Gamma LT
- Mountain Hardwear Fairing
- The North Face Apex Bionic 2
- Patagonia Adze Hybrid
- Columbia Ascender
- Marmot Gravity
Comparison Table - Best Softshell Jacket
|Outdoor Research Ferrosi||No||12.4 ounces||Stretch Woven||$||4.6|
|Arc’teryx Gamma MX||No||20 ounces||Stretch Woven||$$$||4.0|
|Arc’teryx Gamma LT||No||15.7 ounces||Stretch Woven||$$||4.0|
|Mountain Hardwear Fairing||Yes||20.8 ounces||Stretch Woven||$||4.5|
|The North Face Apex Bionic 2||Yes||24 ounces||Stretch Woven||$||4.5|
|Patagonia Adze Hybrid||Yes||20 ounces||Membrane/Stretch Woven Hybrid||$$||4.4|
|Columbia Ascender||No||22.4 ounces||Stretch Woven||$||4.6|
|Marmot Gravity||Yes||22.4 ounces||Stretch Woven||$||4.4|
MULTI-DAY HIKING PACKING LIST
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Reviews - The Best Softshell Jackets for Hiking
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Arc’teryx Gamma MX
Arc’teryx Gamma LT
Mountain Hardwear Fairing
The North Face Apex Bionic 2
BEST FOR: COLD WEATHER HIKES
PROS: Water-resistant, breathable, fleece backer, chest and hand pocket zips, drawcord hem
CONS: No hood, material is stiff, restricts movement
Patagonia Adze Hybrid
BEST FOR: BUDGET-CONSCIOUS HIKERS
PROS: Inexpensive, wind-resistant, water-resistant, breathable, hand and chest pockets, adjustable cuffs
CONS: Not windproof, no hood, runs large
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SOFTSHELL JACKET
Your softshell jacket is intended to be worn over other layers. When you’re at the store, try the jacket on over a base and mid-layer. Check that your movement isn’t restricted. The best pick for you should be roomy enough to accommodate extra layers comfortably — one thing to consider when picking out a softshell jacket.
Softshells are designed to breathe while you’re on the move. Unfortunately, this can leave you cold when you stop to rest. In winter weather, you’ll need to pair your jacket with an insulated layer when you take a break. Try out this combination in advance to confirm that you’ll be warm enough during your rest stops.
Unlike rain jackets, most softshell jackets are water and wind-resistant. Not being fully weatherproof is the trade-off for superior breathability. Some newer models of softshell jackets have greater defenses against wind and rain. If you need more protection from the weather, then look for a jacket with these features.
STRETCH WOVEN OR MEMBRANE
There are two types of softshell jackets: Stretch woven or membrane. What’s the difference?
Stretch woven jackets tend to be the most breathable and lightweight softshell jackets. However, they are less weather resistant. They usually come coated with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. Over time, DWR treatment will wear off and need to be reapplied.
Membrane lined jackets have a membrane laminated inside the two layers of fabric. This membrane offers water and wind resistance but also reduces breathability. This type of softshell jacket tends to be less effective at wicking away water.
Some of the softshell jackets recommended in this guide have a fleece lining. This insulated lining makes these jackets warmer. If you hike in cold weather, this might be a good choice for you. If you plan to hike in warmer temperatures, you may want to opt for a non-insulated softshell jacket. Remember, you can always pair your jacket with a few removable base and mid layers.