BlackYak Mishima Hoody
Best for: Climbing, scrambling
Key attributes: Stretch, lightweight, breathability
This is a specced-out climber’s softshell that will also serve any hillwalkers that are after a decent midlayer. There are a lot of things about the Mishima that climbers will like – the articulation, durable weave and breathability for instance – but it’s also one of those items that ticks all the right boxes for hiking, scrambling and even cold weather trail running.
The Mishima is made from two types of Cordura: a Cordura 4-Way Stretch on the outside and then a Cordura Heavyweight Fleece on the inside. Both are soft to the touch – kind of like a cross between standard fleece and standard softshell. The tight, dense nylon weave of the outer fabric offers a good level of durability, enough to easily withstand a sharp rock face, but it also has a nice bit of stretch to it so it won’t hinder your movement. There’s also some weather resistance – certainly enough to keep the wind off you and to withstand some light rainfall.
The inner Cordura is a brushed nylon fleece that’s soft and comfortable against the skin and offers a light level of insulation. The wicking qualities, we found, were good as well. The Mishima also features an elasticated hood, elasticated cuffs, zipped handwarmer pockets and a fairly athletic cut.
Read our full BlackYak Mishima Hoody review
Salewa Pedroc 2 Stormwall Durastretch Jacket
Best for: Trail running, mountain biking
Key attributes: Lightweight, superb stretch, windproof
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.
Jack Wolfskin Whirlwind
Best for: Winter hikes, pub walks, general hillwalking
Key attributes: Good price, warm, well-tailored around body, sturdy
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.
Rab Kinetic Plus
Best for: Hiking, trail running
Key attributes:Waterproof, stretchy, comfortable, very light
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.