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

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Quick Answer - The Best Softshell Jackets

  1. Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  2. Arc’teryx Gamma MX
  3. Arc’teryx Gamma LT
  4. Mountain Hardwear Fairing
  5. The North Face Apex Bionic 2
  6. Patagonia Adze Hybrid
  7. Columbia Ascender
  8. Marmot Gravity

Comparison Table - Best Softshell Jacket

PictureNameWindproofWeightTypePriceRating
Outdoor Research FerrosiNo12.4 ouncesStretch Woven$4.6
Arc’teryx Gamma MXNo20 ouncesStretch Woven$$$4.0
Arc’teryx Gamma LTNo15.7 ouncesStretch Woven$$4.0
Mountain Hardwear FairingYes20.8 ouncesStretch Woven$4.5
The North Face Apex Bionic 2Yes24 ouncesStretch Woven$4.5
Patagonia Adze HybridYes20 ouncesMembrane/Stretch Woven Hybrid$$4.4
Columbia AscenderNo22.4 ouncesStretch Woven$4.6
Marmot GravityYes22.4 ouncesStretch Woven$4.4
PictureNameWindproofWeightTypePriceRating

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Reviews - The Best Softshell Jackets for Hiking

Outdoor Research Ferrosi


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 12.4 ounces
  • Windproof: No

BEST FOR: LIGHT DAY HIKING

PROS: Wind-resistant, water-resistant, breathable, lightweight, adjustable hood, hand and chest pockets, pocket doubles as stuff sack, drawcord hem

CONS: Not windproof, no hood, thin material

Arc’teryx Gamma MX


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 20 ounces
  • Windproof: No

BEST FOR: BACKCOUNTRY ACTIVITIES 

PROS: Wind-resistant, water-resistant, breathable, hand pocket with mesh pocket bags, watertight zippers, drawcord hem

CONS: Expensive, no hood, not windproof, not very warm

Arc’teryx Gamma LT


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Windproof: No

BEST FOR: MINIMALIST HIKERS

PROS: Water-resistant, wind-resistant, lightweight, drawcord hem, hand pockets

CONS: Expensive, not windproof, no hood

Mountain Hardwear Fairing


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 20.8 ounces
  • Windproof: Yes

BEST FOR: WINDY HIKES

PROS: Water-resistant, hand and chest pockets, mock style collar, interior lining

CONS: No hood, not breathable, sleeves run long

The North Face Apex Bionic 2


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 24 ounces
  • Windproof: Yes

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


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Membrane/Stretch Woven Hybrid
  • Weight: 20 ounces
  • Windproof: Yes

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY 

PROS: Water-resistant, breathable, fleece backer, fleece-lined, soft-lined hand and chest pockets, drawcord hem

CONS: Zipper tends to get stuck, no hood, no cuff cinches, thin material

 

Columbia Ascender


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 22.4 ounces
  • Windproof: No

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

Marmot Gravity

Specs
  • Type: Stretch Woven
  • Weight: 22.4 ounces
  • Windproof: Yes

BEST FOR: EVERYDAY USE

PROS: Inexpensive, water-resistant, fleece lining, adjustable cuffs, hand, sleeve, and internal pockets, thumbholes, drawcord hem

CONS: No hood, runs small

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SOFTSHELL JACKET

LAYERING

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.

Looking for more tips on how to layer? Our guide on how to layer clothes for the outdoors can help you dress right for your cold-weather hikes.

 

WEATHER RESISTANCE

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.

 

INSULATION

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.

 

 

READ MORE

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

Rain Jackets for Hiking | Hiking Shoes for Flat Feet

Hiking Sandals | Hiking Hats

Trail Running Shoes for Hiking | Socks for Hiking

Convertible Hiking Pants

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