So what’s softshell and what’s it for? As far as these seven lightweight versions go, we’d say that they’re ideally suited for those spring and summer mountain days when you need a little more weather protection than you get from a fleece, but more breathability than you’d get with a full waterproof jacket or a windshell.
They should be able to take the edge off the wind and cope with light to medium rain, but still be breathable enough to cope with you going hard and fast in milder conditions. Team with a lighweight base layer and throw one of the new generation of lightweight waterproof jackets in your pack and you’re good to go.
Softshell is confusing because the term has been applied to so many different types of fabric from barely wind-resistant stuff right through to material that’s near enough waterproof. But for our money the best options are non-membrane, densely woven fabrics with a water resistant treatment that retain a lot of breathability but still keep the worst of the weather out.
Again there’s a lot of choice here from simple smocks through to fully-featured mountain jackets. It’s all down to personal choice and what you’re doing. Do you need a helmet hood? Are you a runner who’ll carry next to nothing and can make do with a single small pocket? Do you like your fit to be snug, loose or somewhere in between – stretch fabrics give a lot of lassitude in fit, so that too might be a consideration.
We’ve picked out seven – yes, we know there are only six in the image above – of the best softshells from well-known outdoors brands ranging from the minimal and simple through to more complex designs and outlined the pros and cons of each along with an idea of what each jacket is best for. Just scroll down the page on jump straight to your favourite brands using the links below.