Best Softshell Jackets 2019 | Top 9 - Outdoors Magic

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Softshell Jackets

Best Softshell Jackets 2019 | Top 9

The latest and greatest put to the test, plus our in-depth buyer's guide

The softshell jacket can be the most versatile item in your wardrobe, falling between a waterproof jacket and a fleece. We’ve tested a diverse range of nine that cover all activities and needs.

The softshell is the everyday jacket, the throw-on-dog-walk jacket, the scale-a-mountain jacket, the long-distance-walk jacket. While they offer a number of useful benefits, one of the defining features of a softshell jacket is that they’re just, well, comfortable.

They don’t have the crackle of waterproofs, but they can usually stand up to much of the weather thrown at them, plus they are often stretchy and breathable. And that’s where any attempt at tying them altogether stops; the softshell is a nebulous concept.

What To Look For When Buying a Softshell Jacket

Among the eight jackets tested, we’ve brought together a wide range of examples, from super warm, thick, insulated jackets to thin, lightweight tops suitable for running. On most of them, the outer fabric is a tightly-woven but stretchy material that offers a good deal of wind and rain resistance. The stretchiness makes them popular with climbers and mountaineers for example who are always reaching for handholds. Plus they are usually treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) that makes water bead off (they do need reproofing over time). They are not, however, always completely wind and waterproof, but the idea is that you can wear these jackets in all but the most torrential rain conditions.

The deciding factor for which to choose is, of course, end use. In our tests below, we’ve stated what we think each is best suited to, but there are factors to consider from the beginning. If you intend to wear the garment as your main coat, then you’d likely want a good hood for wind and rain. If it’s more as a mid-layer, a hood isn’t so important. The best hoods are adjustable and have stiffened peaks.

Also, consider the pockets and where they are placed. If you’ll be wearing a backpack, are the pocket openings clear of the hipbelt? Do they fit a map in? Other features to investigate are the cuffs and cords that pull the hems in. But most of all is the comfort. Does it fit well?

You can simply scroll through the softshells or jump straight to your favourite brands via the links below. All weights given are for a men’s large.

The Best Softshell Jackets Of 2019

Montane Dyno Stretch Jacket

Price: £100
Weight: 523g

There are a diverse range of softshells in this test, but if you were to imagine a classic softshell, this would be it. It is reasonably thin, with loads of stretch. The material is also impressively wind resistant. One of the key selling points is its versatility. It is light enough to run with, in fact, it’s perfect for mountain running when you’re not expecting torrential rain but the wind is up. It works well as a mid-layer too with a hardshell easily slipping over it.

I particularly thought the hood was excellent. It has a stiffened peak and a cord around the back of the head that draws in well. It moves perfectly with the head. Another aspect is that the collar zips up to the lips, and comfortably so. And something that’s forgotten about on many jackets is an elastic loop that allows the hood to be stored – handy. It’s really well designed in this area.

The sleeves are long (this would be good for climbing and mountain biking for example), with Velcro cuffs. There are two large handwarmer pockets big enough for a map and with an opening above any hipbelt, and two chest pockets. An excellent jacket.

Pros

It’s really stretchy and comfortable, with long, well-articulated arms. The hood and collar are among the best we’ve come across. It’s also a pretty good price.

Cons

Some people may prefer it longer in the hem, and it’s not a jacket to buy that will add loads of warmth if you’re looking for that.

montane.co.uk


Fjällräven Keb Jacket

Price: £260
Weight: 803g

Fjällräven don’t really make gear like anyone else, and that’s a big part of why we like them so much. The Swedish manufacturers, in the Keb jacket, have created a piece that can stand up to almost all weather conditions.

The smart part about the Keb is its hybrid construction. The hood, shoulders, front panels, cuffs and hem panel are made from G-1000 Eco which is a recycled polyester and organic cotton blend. It’s a very hardwearing and breathable material that’s impregnated with Greenland wax to make it more water resistant, plus you can buy more wax to up the waterproofness. The back panel, under the arms, and the front pockets use a lightweight stretch material with a PFC-free DWR treatment.

It fits me immaculately, but mostly it just feels great. Slipping it on, you can feel the quality, from the little leather zip pulls to the G-1000 material.

Ventilation is a crucial component, and to keep you comfortable during fast activities there are zipped openings down both sides of the torso. There are also two large chest pockets – easily big enough for a map, and a small pocket on the upper left arm.

Let’s talk about the hood. My kids call it the ‘ET Jacket’, but I’m more inclined to call it the ‘Kenny Jacket’, for those who get the South Park reference. The ‘advanced storm hood’ is ludicrously long. Nothing is getting anywhere near your face for sure. Fortunately, it can be folded back to make it the length of a regular hood. Overall, a brilliant, interesting and useful jacket.

Pros

There’s little doubt this is a brilliantly made product that should last a long time. We love the material, the fit and look.

Cons

It’s not the cheapest, nor the lightest, and we don’t think the hood needed to be quite as long.

fjallraven.co.uk

Craghoppers Roag Softshell Jacket

Price: £79.50
Weight: 863g

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!

Pros

Super snug jacket that will keep you warm through the winter. The soft waterproof outer will keep the rain out too.

Cons

The fit is a little boxy.

craghoppers.com

Columbia Steel Cliff Hooded Softshell Jacket

Price: £115
Weight: 606g

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.

Pros

It manages to be both well insulated and stretchy at the same time, it fits well and is an excellent option for snowy days.

Cons

The hood could do with more movement in it, as well as a wired peak.

columbiasportswear.co.uk

Salewa Pedroc 2 Stormwall Durastretch Jacket

Price: £160
Weight: 310g

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.

Pros

It’s light, very windproof, and has an incredible four-way stretch. It’s small enough to throw in a bag ‘just in case’.

Cons

It’s a snug fit, so try first. Not really a disadvantage!

salewa.com

Jack Wolfskin Whirlwind

Price: £85
Weight: 692g

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.

Pros

Reasonable price, warm and well-tailored around the body. Sturdy feeling.

Cons

The collar was not too comfortable when zipped up. One of the pockets could have been big enough for a map.
jack-wolfskin.com


Rab Kinetic Plus

Price: £180
Weight: 295g

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.

Pros

The true waterproof material that is very stretchy, and comfortable. Very light.

Cons

A bit pricey. The collar is uncomfortable when the hood is not up but the zip is.

rab.equipment

 

Patagonia Wind Shield Soft Shell Jacket

Price: £120
Weight: 453g

Details matter, in fact, when nearly all softshell jackets are pretty good, it’s the details that set them apart. Patagonia, as well as having an excellent environmental conscience, also focus on the minutiae. The Wind Shield is a pretty basic softshell, but it has a hybrid construction, meaning it uses two different types of material in the jacket depending on the zone of the body it is protecting. There are breathable panels of very stretchy polyester/elastane fabric on the back, sides and the underside of the arms. The rest is a slightly less stretchy, soft shell fabric with a DWR finish. Both materials are also permanently treated with Polygiene, a substance that controls odour in the jacket, meaning you can wear it for longer.

The fit is solid, with a hem adjustment if needed. And the arms are long for climbing or biking. Two large handwarmer pockets are ample but would be covered with a hip belt, there’s also a large chest pocket. Within is a small elasticated pocket. There’s no hood, and the collar comes up comfortably under the chin. The cuffs are elasticated.

As described, it is protective against the wind, but for heavy rain, you’d need a light waterproof. This is a jacket that is designed for high activity sports and works well under those conditions. Simple, well made and functional.

Pros

100% recycled polyester material. Comfortable and good fit.

Cons

Not as water resistant as some.

eu.patagonia.com

Salomon RNGER JKT

Price: £130
Weight: 512g

Salomon’s RNGR JKT is a softshell that leans more to the fleece side of garments. It has a beautifully soft inner while the outer is wind resistant enough to stand up to wild mountain gusts. The material has a good stretch up and down, but not so much side-to-side, perhaps one of the reasons why the jacket felt tight across my shoulders. But apart from that, the fit was good and with a reasonable length. It’s also comfortable when zipped right up, with the collar coming out just under the chin.

It’s easy to pull the hood up when the jacket is zipped fully up too. The hood itself doesn’t come forward very far but it does move very well with the head. The peak is a little stiffer as the rest of the hood, but it’s not as effective as a wired peak.

The cuffs are a comfortably elasticated section of fabric. Two handwarmer pockets have a mesh on the inside (not the soft inner material, unfortunately) and there’s a small chest pocket big enough for a phone.

In essence, this is a fairly basic softshell with a cosy inner.

Pros

Cosy inner, good hood.

Cons

Tight across the back for us.

salomon.com

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