Craghoppers Roag Softshell Jacket
Cosy. That’s how we’d describe this jacket. Cosy. The interior is like crawling into a soft, thick pile rug. It’s lovely to touch and have against your skin. It’s a jacket, no doubt, built for cold, windy days on the hill. The kind of days that turn your cheeks red. The exterior too is built for the sharp weather. The material is AquaDry, a laminated, waterproof membrane. A DWR finish helps water fall off. The seams aren’t taped as they would be on a fully waterproof jacket, but we’d be surprised to see much water come through this.
Feature-wise, it’s pretty straightforward. There are two large handwarmer pockets, big enough for a map, but if you were wearing a backpack with a hipbelt, access would be hindered. There’s also a zipped chest pocket. There’s no hood, but the collar comes up to the chin and is comfortable. The fit is quite bulky but extends farther down the waist than most. This is a lovely, warm winter jacket, and all the better considering when we last looked, it was only £47.70!
Super snug jacket that will keep you warm through the winter. The soft waterproof outer will keep the rain out too.
The fit is a little boxy.
Columbia Steel Cliff Hooded Softshell Jacket
There’s a lot to like about this hooded softshell. It has an excellent stretch for starters. This is all the more impressive because on the inside there’s a really warm microgrid that traps the heat efficiently and still gives a four-way stretch. The Steel Cliff is designed as a winter jacket, one that could be happily worn on snowy, winter days. The outer fabric is water and wind resistant, and there’s a DWR treatment to it meaning that the water from snow or a bit of drizzle won’t enter. We’d throw a light waterproof in our bag if we were walking with it.
It’s also well tailored and is reasonably long (compared with others here). The collar zips up nice and high and is comfortable even when the hood is down. The hood itself extends a fair way out, and a cinch around the head helps it move with the head. I didn’t find the movement in the hood that good. There was resistance as I turned my head fully.
There are two really cosy handwarmer pockets, but they’d be cut off with a hipbelt on, and one small chest pocket. The cuffs are comfortable too. There’s no velcro to tighten them. Instead, it’s a snug fit.
It manages to be both well insulated and stretchy at the same time, it fits well and is an excellent option for snowy days.
The hood could do with more movement in it, as well as a wired peak.
Salewa Pedroc 2 Stormwall Durastretch Jacket
One of the lightest (310g) and the thinnest in this round-up, Salewa’s, deep breath, Pedroc 2 Stormwall Durastretch Jacket, is designed for ‘mountain training and speed hiking in colder conditions’. There is definitely a place for a piece like this, especially if you’re a runner or like to move quickly (it’s a good option for mountain biking too).
The Stormwall part of the name refers to its windproofing and water resisting properties. It stands up brilliantly against the wind and light rain. What makes it even more impressive is the large amount of four-way stretch. It’s a hybrid jacket, meaning it intelligently uses different materials on different parts of the body. For instance, there are thinner panels down the back and sides in the places where less protection is needed (particularly if you’re wearing a backpack) and where you’ll tend to sweat more.
Every layer of clothing acts like a little hindrance to your natural movement, but garments such as this go a reasonable distance in minimising the effort needed. Bear in mind it’s also a very snug fit; it worked best over a single long-sleeved base layer.
The hood is equally snug with a simple elasticated binding. It moves correctly with the head. There are two chest pockets and a small stuff sack that fits in an upturned baseball cap. Now my go-to running jacket.
It’s light, very windproof, and has an incredible four-way stretch. It’s small enough to throw in a bag ‘just in case’.
It’s a snug fit, so try first. Not really a disadvantage!
Jack Wolfskin Whirlwind
To be filed along with the more substantial softshells, Jack Wolfskin’s Whirlwind is a pretty traditional jacket; one that would work well for long winter hikes and short pub walks. It’s impressive against strong winds and, thanks to the DWR, will stand up to a little rain too. Like all softshells, you’ll need a waterproof in the worst storm, but in this case only a light one.
Putting it on, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the tailoring. It’s also reasonably long. The collar wasn’t very comfortable when it was zipped all the way up, it was too tight, so I had to leave the zip down a couple of inches. Inside is a cosy fleece lining.
The features could be diplomatically described as ‘no-nonsense’ (as you’d expect at this price). There are two handwarmer pockets, which would be cut off wearing a backpack, and a good sized chest (but not OS map shaped!). There are drawcords at the hem. The cuffs are simply elasticated – many have velcro here – but I didn’t find it a problem. This is a good, basic all-rounder for cooler weather.
Reasonable price, warm and well-tailored around the body. Sturdy feeling.
The collar was not too comfortable when zipped up. One of the pockets could have been big enough for a map.
Rab Kinetic Plus
The Rab logo is a sign of quality. You can generally be assured of a functional fit and quality build. The Kinetic Plus is their softshell, and it’s a mostly wonderful jacket – the very stretchy, and fully waterproof material makes it stand out alone.
The fit is particularly good: slim, well-tailored and with a nice length. Raising the arms doesn’t lift the jacket. The part we liked most about it was the material. It’s very soft, even against the skin, and very stretchy. It would be great for climbers. The material is the manufacturers’ own Proflex fabric. On runs and high energy activities, I’ve also found it to be pretty breathable. The outer has a water repellent finish, and the interior wicks away the moisture effectively. There are two large pockets.
So far, brilliant. The hood when it is pulled up is also one of the best. There’s a stiffened peak, plus a stretch section that makes for a great fit. The zip comes up to around the upper lip. The main issue I found with the Kinetic Plus was that when the hood is down, and the zip is done up high, the stretch on the hood pulled it uncomfortably tight around the neck. If you have the hood down, you really need to undo the zip a couple of inches. It’s an annoyance in an otherwise brilliant jacket.
The true waterproof material that is very stretchy, and comfortable. Very light.
A bit pricey. The collar is uncomfortable when the hood is not up but the zip is.