Updated on April 25, 2020

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. Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  2. Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell
  3. Marmot ROM
  4. The North Face Apex Risor
  5. Patagonia R2 TechFace
  6. Black Diamond Alpine Start
  7. Arc’teryx Sigma SL Anorak
  8. RAB Kinetic Plus
  9. Arc’teryx Gamma LT

 

Comparison Table - Best Softshell Jacket

PictureNameWeightHoodThumbholesPriceRating
Outdoor Research Ferrosi11.7 ozYesYes$4.9
Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell4.3 ozYesNo$5.0
Marmot ROM1 lb 2.6 ozYesNo$$4.4
The North Face Apex Risor1 lb 5.5 ozNoNo$4.9
Patagonia R2 TechFace13.4 ozNoNo$5.0
Black Diamond Alpine Start6.7 ozYesNo$4.3
Arc’teryx Sigma SL Anorak10.7 ozYesNo$$4.9
RAB Kinetic Plus9.5 ozYesNo$$$4.8
Arc’teryx Gamma LT1 lbYesNo$$$4.8
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

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.

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.

Marmot ROM

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.

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.

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.

Arc’teryx Sigma SL Anorak

Specs
  • Weight: 10.7 oz
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Half-Zip Pullover
  • Hem Designed to Stay in Place Under a Harness
  • Helmet-Compatible Hood

BEST FOR: ALPINE ADVENTURES

The Arc’teryx Sigma SL Anorak has a number of special features that make it awesome on alpine outings. It does not have a full-front zip, so it’s not designed to be a layer that you take on and off a lot, although the deep half-zip does provide plenty of ventilation.

The hem is constructed to stay out of the way of a climbing harness if you need to rope up on your adventure. It has dual drawcord adjustments as well as a proprietary HemLock design to secure it in place. The hood can also be adjusted at two points, and even rolled out of the way when you don’t need it.

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.

Arc’teryx Gamma LT

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Hood: Yes
  • Thumbholes: No
Features
  • Hem Drawstring Keeps Jacket in Place
  • Front Zipper is Designed to Keep Water Out
  • Hood Can Fit Over a Helmet

BEST FOR: QUALITY

Thanks to the proprietary Wee Burly Double Weave fabric, the Arc’teryx Gamma LT hoody offers both breathability and wind-resistance to keep you warm without making you sweat. The fabric is also plenty durable to hold up on your adventures, and is water repellent if you get caught in the rain. In fact, the front zipper is specially designed to make sure water doesn’t leak through as well as to prevent accidental unzipping.

The wrist cuffs stay securely in place with elastic, and the hem has an adjustable drawcord so you can cinch the jacket down tight around your waist to prevent the cold from seeping in from below. If you’re hiking in order to climb, you’ll also appreciate that the hood of the Gamma LT is helmet-compatible.

 

 

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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