HOW TO CHOOSE A SOFTSHELL JACKET
When moving through changeable landscapes and shifting weather a Softshell Jacket is your best companion. Softshell Jackets are lightweight, breathable and generally windproof and water-resistant, too. They are worn as part of a layering system, together with a base layer and a breathable, waterproof outer hardshell (simply known as a shell jacket).
WHAT DOES SOFTSHELL JACKET MEAN?
Softshell jackets are smoother, softer and more ventilating than their hardshell counterparts, which are made using a breathable waterproof membrane. Softshell jackets also offer a level of insulation, regulating airflow while maintaining warmth.
WHAT ARE SOFTSHELL JACKETS MADE OF?
Softshell jackets are usually made from woven synthetic materials, they are pliable and lightweight – not to mention really versatile. Often elastane is woven into the fabric to ensure the material is stretchy and doesn’t compromise body movements.
Some softshell jackets have a fleece lining, others brushed cotton, while others are insulated with down or synthetic insulation.
ARE SOFTSHELL JACKETS WINDPROOF AND WATERPROOF?
The face or outer fabric of softshell jackets is usually treated with a water-repellent, so while not completely waterproof they do offer protection from light rain and snow. In regards to wind, either through a tightly woven structure or a fabric technology, like WindWall™, softshells are highly wind-resistant, if not windproof.
Breathability is an important aspect of softshell jackets, as they’re designed to be used during activity. At The North Face, this is ensured through small perforations and/or wicking technology that help regulate body temperature so heat and sweat can easily escape.
Wind resistant softshells, enhanced with stretch and reduced external air permeability, are the most versatile because they’re both breathable and water-resistant, making them suitable for a wide range of activities and weather conditions.
WHAT ARE SOFTSHELL JACKETS USED FOR?
Softshell jackets are used for hiking, climbing and mountaineering in changeable conditions. Their main purpose is to keep you comfortable when you’re active so you don’t have to layer up or down with a hardshell jacket and a t-shirt or base layer. Though, they do make up an essential piece of kit in any clothing layering system.
They will not provide protection in very cold, wet or windy conditions. For that, additional layers in the form of a hardshell and an insulating layer are necessary.
CAN YOU WASH SOFTSHELL JACKETS?
The simple answer is yes. However, to maintain the lifespan of softshell jackets, we recommend washing only when necessary and to follow the instructions found inside the jacket. For best results, wash your jacket at a low temperature on a gentle cycle.
Never use a fabric softener when washing a softshell jacket, as it compromises the characteristics of the fibres. Also, softshell jackets may not keep their shape when placed in a spin cycle or tumble dryer.
ARE SHELL JACKETS GOOD FOR WINTER?
This depends. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to be active and the temperature is likely to fluctuate, then yes, a softshell jacket is important. You can wear it together with other layers, including a hardshell, to provide insulation and protection from snow and rain.
If, however, you’re going to be less active and the temperature will be relatively stable, you can wear an insulated jacket or a mid-layer jumper or hoodie with a hardshell.
Softshells are handy because they’re technical midlayers. They are lightweight, won’t hinder your movements and provide some weather protection on their own. When you’re active this makes them far more useful than a heavy insulated jacket, which doesn’t have the same breathability and stretch functionality.