10 Best Softshell Jackets Tested & Fully Reviewed

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No one enjoys the crinkling, swishing sound and stifling insulation that comes with waterproof hardshell jackets. Particularly for running and other outdoor activity, we are seeking apparel that breathes easily, has a good stretch and moves silently with us along the path. If that sounds good to you, you may want to consider a softshell jacket as more breathable protection from the wind and rain.

Arc’teryx Gamma MX
  • Arc’teryx Gamma MX
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • DWR Coating
  • Price: See Here
Patagonia Adze
  • Patagonia Adze
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Microfleece Lining
  • Price: See Here
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  • Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Packable & Lightweight
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Softshell Jackets

1. Arc’teryx Gamma MX

The versatile Gamma MX Hoody has a performance fit and stylish look that makes it ideal for outdoor activity as well as city wear. Stretch panels and ergonomic seams allow for an unrestricted range of motion. Solid windproofing and water resistance provide excellent warmth in wind and light rain and the regular fit is designed to accommodate extra base layers for added warmth when needed. The cuffs are a bit tight and the price tag is high but this high-quality jacket is an attractive performance option.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
The Arc’teryx Gamma MX provides excellent warmth in windy conditions. It blocks wind very effectively and has a durable water-resistant coating to keep you dry in light rain and snow. Despite the wind resistance, this jacket remains lightweight and breathable making it ideal for a variety of activities.

Fit:
This jacket has a regular fit that allows more room for layering items underneath. Users love the larger hood that can be worn comfortably over a beanie and the ample room in the chest that allows you to tuck in a scarf. There is just enough room for layering without leaving excess material to get in your way. Stretch fabric, underarm gussets and a dropped rear hem create a comfortable fit that does not restrict range of motion. The only downfall is the tighter cuffs on the sleeves which reviewers find a bit too constricting and difficult to pull on over gloves or a watch.

Features:
The Gamma MX features four pockets with mesh lining and watertight zippers. Two side hand pockets are perfect for your cell phone or just warming your hands. The right chest and right arm pocket allow for easy access when wearing a backpack or a harness. A drawcord hem can be drawn in for more effective water sealing while skiing.

Style:
The clean look of this jacket is right at home on the mountain or in the city. The neat seams and smooth fabric look expensive and show off the high-quality design. It is available in 7 attractive colors.

Value:
This jacket retails around 300 dollars and like all Arc’teryx gear should be viewed as an investment. The high-quality design and performance features make this a great versatile layer for any outdoors enthusiast or weekend warrior.
Pros

DWR coating

Good wind resistance

Lightweight

Breathable

Regular fit works great for layering

Hood fits with a hat

Stretch panels for unrestricted range of motion

Cons

Cuffs are a bit tight

Expensive

2. Patagonia Adze

The Patagonia Adze is a serious winter jacket with the streamlined appearance and flexibility of a softshell. The signature Polartec shell and insulating fleece lining keep reviewers warm in subfreezing temperatures. The micro-fleece lining creates a great next-to-skin feel that is comfortable to wear with short sleeves but can easily be layered with warmer layers when the temperature drops. Stretch material allows for unrestricted range of motion and breathability that is ideal for skiing and climbing.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
The Patagonia Adze is one of the warmer options on this list. With Patagonia’s signature Polartec shell and durable water-resistant coating, this jacket protects well from the elements while the soft microgrid fleece lining provides excellent insulation and great next-to-skin feel. Users find this coat is adequate for wear in sub-freezing temperatures, down to the single digits when layered appropriately. Despite the heavy nature of this jacket, it remains breathable during vigorous activity.

Fit:
The athletic fit of this jacket strikes the perfect balance for athletic performance. The fit is relaxed enough to accommodate a fleece base layer but remains streamlined enough to stay out of your way while climbing or skiing. Strategically placed seams on the arms allow for unlimited range of motion so you can reach that next hold while climbing.

Features:
Hook and loop cuff closures and a drawcord hem add improved weather sealing for this jacket.
The Adze features two zippered hand pockets as well as an interior chest pocket.

Style:
With its low profile appearance and significant warmth, this jacket offers an attractive alternative to puffy down when running around in cold weather.

Value:
Retailing at around 200 dollars, Patagonia provides a good value for a reliable and versatile winter jacket.
Pros

Warm enough for sub-freezing temps

Good for layering

Microfleece lining insulates and provides comfortable next-to-skin feel

Wind resistant Polartec shell

Works well for cold weather climbing or skiing

Breathable

Cons

May be too warm for casual performance

Heavier

3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi

The Ferrosi Hoody has everything you need in a softshell jacket. Users are impressed with the durability of the abrasion resistant sleeves and solid wind protection that still remains flexible and breathable through activity. The athletic fit and stretch make this jacket a go-to for cyclists, hikers, and climbers. The best part is that the lightweight jacket packs down into its own pocket and is available at a bargain price. It falls just short of number one because it has less effective water resistance than some of the heavier weight softshell and the style does not double as well as a city jacket.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
This jacket strikes the perfect balance between warmth and breathability. The abrasion resistant sleeves provide good weather protection while the softer body provides ample stretch and cool breathability. Users are very impressed with its ability to maintain warmth without ever causing you to overheat.

Fit:
The athletic fit of this jacket is snug like a performance jacket but still leaves adequate room for layering.

Features:
This lightweight jacket packs down into one of the two hand pockets. Reviewers using this jacket for climbing and backpacking do find the pockets are a bit low for easy access when wearing a harness or a backpack but the jacket does feature a chest pocket that is more accessible. The hood is comfortable and easy to adjust but is not ideal for wearing with a helmet.

Style:
This jacket has a more athletic style and color options than some of the higher end performance options. It is not the most stylish for city wear but looks good during activity.

Value:
The Ferrosi hoody is one of the best values around for a softshell jacket. For under 150 dollars you are getting a durable jacket that performs well.
Pros

Breathable

Packable

Lightweight

Abrasion resistant

Wind resistant

Good for activity

Cons

Not very water resistant

Does not double as well for city wear

Pockets are not harness compatible

4. Columbia Ascender

4. Columbia Ascender
This casual softshell from Columbia is frequently compared to the North Face Apex. While the North Face provides slightly more warmth and more room for layering, many users prefer the Ascendant for its lower cost and more flattering fit. The soft polyester shell does its job when it comes to protecting from wind and rain. Like all softshells, it is not waterproof but it will dry quickly if you do get caught in a storm. Although it does not have the same mobility features as performance jackets, it does have a comfortable fit that allows for light activity.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
The light fleece lining provides some insulation while the soft polyester shell protects from rain and wind. Users report it repels light rain and snow very well and takes a while to soak through if you are a caught in a heavier downpour. Moisture-wicking polyester dries quickly and keeps you warm.

Fit:
This jacket has a more athletic fit that provides more room in the shoulders but tapers in at the waist. It will be snug over heavy layers but has a more flattering fit when worn over a light base layer of T-shirt.

Features:
Adjustable drawcord hem and sleeves are great when you do want to take this jacket out for some weekend activity. The jacket features 2 zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket that are great for activity as well as running around town.

Style:
Available in 28 color options you are bound to find a color that works well for you. The clean lines on this jacket are suitable for commuting to work and most users prefer the more flattering fitted appearance of this jacket to other larger casual softshells.

Value:
This jacket is flattering, versatile and has a price point well below 150 dollars, helping us to definitively set it above the North Face Apex and Marmot Gravity when it comes to casual wear.
Pros

Flattering athletic fit

Better for light layers and commuting

Good movement for light activity

Wind and water resistant

Quick drying

Lower price

Cons

Not much room for heavy layers

5. Arc’teryx Squamish

5. Arc’teryx Squamish
The Squamish hoody blurs the line between a softshell jacket and a windbreaker. At first look, it appears more like a hard shell but it is not waterproof and has the breathability and stretch definitive of a softshell jacket. It is a lightweight and packable layer that offers good wind and water resistance while remaining very breathable and flexible during activity. Users love having this layer on hand for tough hikes, bike rides, and climbing.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
This lightweight wind layer focuses more on breathability than warmth. It is ideal for high-intensity outdoor activity as it offers some protection from the elements without trapping too much heat.

Fit:
The regular fit of this jacket allows for layering while the gusseted arms and articulated elbows provide unrestricted range of motion. These design elements make it a great, lightweight option for any activity.

Features:
This jacket features Arc’teryx’s StormHood which is helmet compatible, has a soft brim and adjustable drawcords to maximize visibility. Velcro cuffs and a drawcord drop hem keep this jacket close to your body and out of the way when it comes to activity. It does not have any hand pockets but it does come with a zippered chest pocket that it packs down into.

Style:
The Squamish Hoody appears more like a rain jacket than a softshell but does not have the glossy finish or loud crinkling material. The bright color options are ideal for helping you be seen on the trail.

Value:
At under 200 dollars, this jacket is rather expensive for the lightweight layer that it is. However, if you are counting weight and want a high performance, breathable wind layer, this packable jacket is a great option.
Pros

Packs into its own pocket

Lightweight

Very breathable

Great for biking, running and hiking

Allows for good range of motion

Cons

Pricey

Not the best wind resistance

Not too much stretch

6. Marmot Tempo

6. Marmot Tempo
The Tempo Softshell Jacket is made from Marmot’s M3 softshell material which favors breathability and silky texture over waterproofing. It does offer adequate protection against wind and very light rain but really shines when it comes to comfort and mobility. The relaxed fit, angel wing movement, and good stretch keep this jacket moving with you through any activity.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
The Marmot Tempo has a 100% Nylon Ripstop shell that offers soft and breathable protection from the wind with limited protection for light rain. Users find that it keeps them warm at the beginning of an activity and allows them to cool off as they get going.

Fit:
The regular fit of this jacket has a bit more room in the shoulders and a straight hem. The hem is dropped in the back and can be cinched down with a drawcord. Angel-wing movement in the arms and elastic cuffs at the wrist keep this jacket moving with you through activity.

Features:
Zippered handwarmer pockets and a zippered chest pocket are perfect for keeping items close while running or biking. The lightweight, wrinkle-resistant material helps this jacket pack down to a small size, making it ideal for day hikes and cycling.

Style:
This lightweight jacket is available in black, gray, bright blue and bright red. The bright colors and a relaxed fit make it better suited for outdoor activity but the clean lines and smooth material will not look out of place in the city.

Value:
At around 100 dollars, some users feel this jacket is a bit spendy for its lightweight. However, the breathable performance and comfortable material make it worth the price.
Pros

Soft, wrinkle-resistant material

Good stretch

Comfortable

Lightweight

Angel-wing movement for good mobility

Breathable

Cons

Not very water resistant

7. Under Armour Storm Dobson

7. Under Armour Storm Dobson
The Dobson jacket is part of Under Armour’s ColdGear line which works to keep athletes warm without adding bulk or sacrificing breathability. The cotton and polyester blend helps to establish a balance between weather resistance and light breathability. The slimmer fit of this hoody is not ideal for heavy layers but is a great option for those looking to cut back on bulk and use their own body heat to stay warm.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
This jacket features UA’s ColdGear Infrared lining that provides soft insulation to maintain body heat. Higher insulation in the core keeps you warm while allowing your arms to breathe and move more freely. The polyester in this fabric blend also helps block wind and repel moisture while cotton remains breathable.

Fit:
This jacket has a loose fit like your average zip-up hoody. There is room in the sleeves for adding layers but not too much extra fabric to prevent you from moving around.

Features:
2 zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket are great for activity and commuting. The drawstring hood is more casual but can still be tightened for running.

Style:
The casual fit, relaxed hood and contrasting zippers give this jacket the classic appearance of a hooded sweatshirt. However, the polyester blend material gives the Dobson Storm a cleaner and more expensive look than your typical cotton zip-up.

Value:
This jacket retails for just under 150 dollars but many color options are available at a much lower cost. The price may seem steep for what appears to be a hooded sweatshirt but the effective insulation and improved wind protection make it worth it for many reviewers.
Pros

Casual look and fit

Good insulation

Wind and water resistance

Less bulky

Soft material

Cons

Expensive for a hoody

8. The North Face Apex Bionic

8. The North Face Apex Bionic
The Apex Bionic from The North Face is a great option for those seeking a casual soft shell jacket. It has a neat and versatile look that fits in well in the city and it blocks wind and rain very effectively. It does not have the same stretch materials and athletic fit of the high-end athletic jackets but it comes in at half the cost and works great for commuters and casual activity.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
This polyester softshell jacket has a durable water repellent coating that works very well to block wind and rain. Some users find the solid shell blocks wind too well and wish it was just a bit more breathable for higher intensity activities.

Fit:
The relaxed fit appears a bit boxy. There is plenty of room for layering a sweater or hoody underneath but the extra fabric and stiffer material do not provide the same stretch and range of motion as the more athletic performance jackets.

Features:
Two zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket provide ample storage for whatever you may need on your commute. A drawstring hem also allows for a snugger fit when needed.

Style:
The North Face Apex is available in a wide range of bright and neutral colors. It has a clean and casual look that looks great for running around town or hitting the trail.

Value:
This water-resistant shell retails for about half the price of the higher end performance jackets. The clean, versatile look and effective wind resistance make it a great option for the casual wearer.
Pros

3 zippered pockets

Relaxed fit is good for layering

DWR coating

Effective wind resistance

Classic North Face look

Many color options

Cons

Not very breathable

Not much stretch

9. Columbia Prime Peak

9. Columbia Prime Peak
The Prime Peak Softshell is a popular option for those who prefer to layer as it fits easily over a base layer or two and does a great job of blocking wind and repelling rain. It has a more solid and less breathable construction than some of the lighter weight options but, unlike a hardshell, it remains soft and flexible. It is unlined and does not provide much insulating warmth on its own but for less than 100 dollars, it is a versatile layer for any outdoors wardrobe.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
Without the fleece lining common to many softshells, this is not the warmest standalone jacket. However, with a solid base layer, it provides excellent warmth and effectively keeps out wind and light rain. It is not the most breathable when the temperatures rise but cold weather hikers and cycling commuters appreciate the break from the wind.

Fit:
Columbia calls this fit modern classic. This jacket has ample room for accommodating layers without becoming tight or restricting. The easy fit provides a good range of motion even when paired with heavier sweaters and vests.

Features:
The Prime Peak jacket features 2 zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket as well as a drawcord hem and adjustable cuffs.

Style:
The color blocked designs gives this jacket a more sporty look.

Value:
This jacket tends to run below 100 dollars and is a great piece to have on hand for a variety of outdoor activity and will not look out of place in the city.
Pros

Good wind and rain protection

Great outer layer

Casual fit with good range of motion

Inexpensive

Cons

Not the warmest standalone jacket

10. Marmot Gravity

10. Marmot Gravity
The Marmot Gravity Jacket is a solid casual softshell that offers very good protection from wind and rain. It is designed more for city wear but users find its breathable nature translates well to casual ventures into the outdoors. The fit is a bit looser so it is ideal for layering over heavier items to keep you warm when the temperatures drop. It is a good value but falls a bit lower on our list because the sleeves run long and the hand pockets lack zippers.
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Warmth & Weatherproofing:
Being a bit heavier, this jacket offers solid protection from wind and rain. It is not completely waterproof but it will take a while it in heavy rain to soak through. Fleece lining makes it comfortable for wear with short sleeves but there is plenty of room to accommodate heavier layers. Reviewers report that it remains breathable and is ideal for layering for added warmth.

Fit:
This jacket has a regular fit that runs large and has more room in the shoulders and torso to make it easy for layering items under. Some users find the sleeves run a bit long but they do have velcro closures at the cuffs for a better fit. It is more of a casual jacket and although it does not have the performance features for mobility many reviewers love it for light hiking and trekking.

Features:
This jacket features 2 slit hand pockets and a zippered sleeve pocket.

Style:
The Marmot Gravity has clean lines and dark color options that make it perfect for wearing around town.

Value:
At around 150 dollars, this jacket is a good value for a go-to fall and spring jacket that can be used outdoors as well.
Pros

Clean look for city wear

Solid wind resistance

Highly water resistant

Good for layering

Cons

Hand pockets do not have zippers

Sleeves run long

 

The Metrics We Used to Determine the Best Softshell Jackets

Warmth & Waterproofing

Softshell jackets are designed to be more breathable than a rain layer and have better weatherproofing than a fleece or down jacket. Therefore, they are not going to be the warmest layer you have and will not be completely waterproof. We looked for jackets that have reasonable warmth and wind and water resistance without sacrificing their breathability and stretch.

Fit

Most softshell jackets can be worn as an outer layer or mid layer for outdoor activity. As such, they typically have a roomier fit that can accommodate multiple base layers for added warmth. Jackets intended for performance also have strategically placed seams around the arms to increase range of motion for a variety of activities.

Features

Zippered hand pockets are standard for most softshell jackets but many also come with additional chest or sleeve pockets that can be accessed while wearing a harness or backpack. Additional features such as a helmet compatible hood, adjustable wrist cuffs, and a drawcord hem can be of added benefit during certain activities. Consider what you will need your softshell jacket for to determine what elements are most important for you.

Style

When shelling out over 100 dollars for an item, you want to make sure it makes you feel and look good. Softshell jackets are often your outermost layer and many have a sleek style that makes them appropriate for city wear and commutes. Whether you are choosing your jacket primarily for casual wear or active wear, it never hurts to find something with a versatile appearance.

 

Other Things to Consider 

Performance vs Casual

Softshell jackets are popular among commuters and outdoors enthusiasts alike. Performance jackets are designed with technical activities in mind. Features such as packability, drawcord hoods, and ergonomic arm seams are designed to increase range of motion and stay out of your way when climbing, biking or skiing. Many of these jackets can double for city wear but these features tend to add to the cost. If you are planning only light activity for your softshell jacket, casual jackets offer similar breathability and warmth at a lower price and they still perform well in most situations. 

 

FAQs

Q: When should I wear a softshell jacket?

A: Softshell jackets are ideal for moderately cold weather with little precipitation. They are ideal outerwear for fall and winter sports as they offer more stretch and mobility than most hardshell jackets. They are not as effective at sealing wind and water out but they do repel both to a moderate degree and will dry much faster than fleece jackets or other insulating layers.

Q: How do I care for my softshell jacket?

A: Most softshell jackets are treated with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating that caused water to bead and roll off the garment rather than soaking into it. The DWR coating does wear off eventually so it can be retreated when the material does not repel water as effectively.

Sources

  1. Reeves, Emily, Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell Jackets: What's The Difference, Web Article, Jan 07, 2017
  2. Ellings, John, What Is a Softshell Jacket?, Oct 12, 2016
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