What is a “Softshell” Jacket?

I remember the first time I heard the term “softshell.”For some reason, the first thing that came to mind was, “Is that a new way to cook eggs?” But do not worry, we are not discussing eggs here (although they do make a great start to a day of hiking outside!). Rather, we are going to be discussing an extremely versatile, yet often misunderstood, category of outerwear. Softshell jackets provide the perfect “in-between” option. Sometimes it is just a bit too cold for a lightweight insulating jacket, but not quite cold enough for a waterproof hardshell jacket.

So what do you do?

You get yourself a softshell jacket! These wonders of modern clothing engineering are designed to provide an easy range of motion (thanks to being made with stretchy material that also breathes easily). When choosing an outer layer, you have several options that basically break down into 3 categories – hardshell jackets, rain jackets, or softshell jackets. Before choosing, ask yourself a couple questions – how wet is it? How cool is it? And what is my activity level going to be? If your answers are “not very wet,” “cool to kinda cold,” and “high level of activity,” then I would recommend going with a softshell jacket.

Now, while a synthetic jacket or run of the mill fleece jacket might be able to do the same thing, a softshell jacket goes above and beyond by providing a great amount of protection from whatever nature has in store for you, plus the benefits listed below

Work Hard, Play Hard (in a Softshell)

First of all, you need to know what a softshell jacket is made out of. Generally they are constructed of polyester or woven nylon. This combination makes them perfect for high-exertion jobs such as hard hiking, playing outdoor sports in bad weather, cross-country skiing, climbing, etc. If you are planning on working (or playing) hard, a softshell jacket is a great choice.

Also, the mix of materials makes them weather resistant, stretchy (allowing for good range of motion), and breathable. This combination will allow air to regulate your body temperature, while still preventing direct exposure to the elements. It is amazing how versatile these jackets are, with just enough of everything to make them very comfortable whether it is fall, winter, or spring.

It is amazing how versatile these jackets are, with just enough of everything to make them very comfortable whether it is fall, winter, or spring.


Anytime you are outside, there is a pretty decent chance you’ll get wet. It behooves every outdoorsman or outdoorswoman to gear up with clothes that ensure the most comfortable experience.

So when it comes to softshell jackets, what kind of water resistance level are we looking at? The answer is – it depends on how much you want!

Most softshells that you come across are going to have a DWR (durable water repellent) coating. If you are not familiar with this term, it basically means a coating is placed on the jacket from the manufacturer that causes water to form beads and run off the jacket before it has a chance to soak in. This works great in light to medium rainfall. However if there is too much water, it will begin to soak in to your jacket. If this is a problem for you, a lightweight rain shell can be paired quite easily with the softshell, providing you with more options just in case.

Material For Moving

If you are planning on activities that involve high levels of exertion, you need mobility. Clothing that is restrictive can cause any activity to be less enjoyable.

This is yet another reason why softshell jackets are a great choice. Most softshell jackets are designed with what is called “four-way stretch,” which means that you will have easy movement in all four directions.

Keeping You Warm

Softshells come in a variety of different weights, thicknesses, and degrees of insulation. A hardshell or rain shell are merely layers, with the main purpose of keeping you dry by stopping moisture. Softshells are going to be thicker, providing more warmth without having too much bulk. Depending on your weather and activity, all you need beneath a softshell is a good base layer and you are good to go.

Before You Buy, Consider This

By this point, you are probably totally sold on this “miracle outer layer” called the softshell jacket. However, there are some things you should keep in mind before you go out and get a softshell:

  • Weight: softshells typically weigh around 15-18 ounces. This is substantially more than hardshells or rain shells (as they run typically well under 10 ounces). So if you are counting your ounces, keep this in mind.
  • Inclement weather: as mentioned before, the water resistance works for most circumstances, but if you are getting poured on, the softshell probably will not cut it.
  • Extreme wind: so obviously, if softshell jackets are breathable, they are not going to be 100% windproof. In other words, winds traveling at high rates of speed will definitely be felt.

Softshell for the Win

With the weather headed toward the colder side of things, it is time to reassess your closet and make sure you have the gear you need to stay warm.

If you enjoy high exertion activities, a softshell jacket is definitely something you need to look into. Or even if you are just looking for a versatile piece of outerwear for walking the dog or going for short walks, this is a great option.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Brady Smith

Brady Smith is a professional writer, author, and speaker specializing in creative message development for business, politics, non-profit, & more.

An avid archer, political junkie, and aspiring musician, Brady makes his home on the edge of society, just close enough to get good WiFi, but far enough to not be bothered.
Brady Smith

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