Best Softshell Jackets
As the weather turns a bit colder, more people that lead active lives are in search of ways to keep themselves warm without having to bulk up. While cold-weather gear is great for the winter months, the cooler temperatures of autumn or spring often call for something a bit more substantial than a heavy shirt, but less overwhelming than a winter coat. This is where the idea of a softshell jacket comes into play. The best softshell jackets are not only designed to be worn in a wide range of temperatures and weather but are also meant to be used in a wide range of outdoor sports and hobbies. Check our top picks below.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 13 hrs of research
Lightweight and very versatile
Comfortable to wear
Fantastic protection from the elements
Top Ten Softshell Jackets
1. Carhartt Denwood
Lightweight and very versatile
Comfortable to wear
Fantastic protection from the elements
Needs to be paired with layered clothes to keep you warm
If the weather where you are can fluctuate drastically during the early autumn or spring, having a lightweight softshell jacket like this one from Carhartt can be a lifesaver. The lightweight and flexible design offer great overall protection while still offering a great way to add another layer to your outdoor ensemble.Read more
The blend of synthetic materials offers decent breathability overall, and it can be easily layered to provide extra warmth when you need it most.
This jacket fits very well and offers a fantastic range of motion for the arms, shoulders, and back. Some found the lower portion to be slightly boxy overall, but the range of movement wasn’t hampered in the slightest.
Protection from the weather is where this softshell jacket really shines. The outer shell features a Rain Defender water repellent finish, and both the zip front and adjustable cuffs help to keep the water at bay. Add to that the wind resistance that is naturally offered by the synthetic shell and you have a great overall jacket for protection from the elements.
In addition to providing great overall protection, this jacket also provides a moderate amount of warmth through the use of a bonded fleece lining. While it’s not the warmest insulation that we’ve seen, it certainly does the trick during the spring or autumn months when temperatures can fluctuate drastically.
This jacket features a synthetic blend of nylon and spandex with a polyester bonded fleece material. It is extremely lightweight overall and is a great addition to your normal layered outfit.
While we wouldn’t suggest using this jacket as a solo option during the colder weather, it’s a great addition to your layering options during the months when the weather can change from moment to moment.
2. Rothco Special OPS
Triple layer insulation
Great protection from the weather
Lots of useful pockets
Sizing may run bigger or smaller
The Rothco Special Ops Soft Shell Jacket isn’t just for those who work in the military or are recently retired from it. This jacket has a level of overall versatility and comfort that is hard to match.Read more
This triple-layer jacket provides fairly good breathability and allows for good ventilation without sacrificing too much in the way of protection. The jacket is surprisingly thin and allows for air to easily pass through.
This jacket was found to be somewhat stiff in the torso and neck area but provided a great range of motion for the arms and shoulders. Some customers found that the overall sizing seemed to be a bit mismatched, since either the arms or torso fit well while the other did not. Ordering a size larger may solve this problem overall.
Overall this jacket provides for great resistance to the wind and water when fully closed up.
This jacket is fairly lightweight, but still offers a triple layer design that uses body heat and space between the layers to provide for extra warmth overall. The fleece-lined collar and detachable hood also add to the overall comfort and warmth.
This jacket features polyester material and lightweight fleece material.
Overall this jacket is a great general field jacket that can provide a moderate amount of warmth and is excellent at keeping you dry. While the sizing issues were a bit of disappointment, if you find one that fits you well, this is one jacket you’ll probably use time and time again
3. Condor Summit Tactical
Triple layer insulation system
Great flexibility in the arms
Sizing may be an issue
The Condor Summit Soft Shell Tactical Jacket provides a great all-around jacket that provides a way to keep warm on the city street or out in the woods without calling too much attention to you.Read more
Overall the breathability of the jacket is adequate for most situations, but it certainly can be improved, especially in the chest and torso area. The ventilation in this jacket is provided through a special weave technique that provides for a series of microscopic holes that are smaller than most raindrops. However, they can quickly become clogged if the jacket becomes dirty.
This softshell jacket provides a moderate amount of stretchiness, especially in the arms and shoulder area. Most people found that the jacket ran a bit small in the torso area, and the movement was somewhat restricted there.
Overall this jacket offers fantastic protection from wind and water with one notable exception. For many people, during heavy rainstorms, the zippers did allow a good bit of water in. However, the adjustable hood, wrist cuffs, and waistband did offer a good amount of added protection.
One of the nice things about this particular soft-shell jacket is that it has a layered insulation system built right in. The outer and mid-layers are designed to pull moisture away from the skin while the innermost layer provides great warmth.
This jacket features a 100% polyester outer shell, a breathable membrane inner layer, and a super fine knit fleece layer closest to the body.
If you don’t mind a slightly tight fit and the need to waterproof your zippers, this tactical softshell jacket from Condor is certainly an option for everyday use. Benefits not only include good flexibility in the arms and shoulders, but a triple-layered insulation system that is hard to beat.
4. Columbia Ascender
Easy to layer
Great overall breathability
Good weather resistance
Runs a bit small
If you’re looking for a softshell jacket that is truly versatile, it’s hard to go wrong with the Ascender Softshell Front-Zip Jacket from Columbia. Designed to be at home in both the cool weather of autumn and the colder temperatures that welcome the snows, this is one jacket that makes it easy to go places.Read more
Overall, there weren’t many things to complain about as far as how well this jacket allowed for airflow. The polyester material allowed for great breathability and comfort.
While the jacket had a somewhat normal range of motion, most people found that it didn’t provide enough movement or stretch in the upper arms, shoulder and chest area, and was somewhat restrictive when fully zipped up. Also, sizes were shown to run a bit small overall, which contributed to the tight feel.
This jacket provided great overall resistant to water and wind when it was zipped up, and the standing collar did a nice job of protecting the ears and neck from the wind and rain.
This particular softshell jacket didn’t really have any separate layer of insulation but is still fairly thick. It has the equivalent weight of a sweatshirt, so it keeps the wearer relatively warm. However, once it gets wet, the heaviness of the material does become a burden.
This jacket features medium to heavyweight polyester material, adjustable wrist cuffs, and a stand-up collar. Closures include a front zipper and zipper pockets.
The Columbia Ascender Soft Shell Jacket is a versatile choice that can be layered with any number of clothing options for a warmer and more fashionable look during colder weather. While we were disappointed in the overall sizing concerns, this is a great go-to jacket for most people
5. Ash City - North End
Very comfortable to wear
Great overall fit
Not the best in winter weather
If you like the comfort of fleece but feel that it doesn’t quite measure up for use in the great outdoors, you’ll definitely want to consider taking a closer look at this softshell jacket from North End.Read more
Overall this jacket provides decent breathability with normal use, but the wearer can become overheated with too much exercise or activity. However, for just daily wear and normal use, it is a very comfortable jacket that provides good ventilation.
This particular softshell jacket provides some of the best range of movement that we’ve seen. The overall fit in most cases is snug yet flexible, and the upper shoulder area and back are well-tailored and stretch to fit a wide range of people.
While the inner layer of this jacket features warm fleece, the outer shell is designed to resist liquids and repel them easily. This is one of the few softshell jackets that we’ve seen that could easily survive a dash to the car in a sudden downpour.
The inner fleece layer is bonded and provides a good amount of warmth that is perfect for the mid-range temperatures often seen during the spring and autumn seasons. While it certainly should be paired with another jacket or heavy shirt during the much colder weather, for the most part, this jacket can be a great solo choice in moderate temperatures.
This softshell jacket features a blend of polyester material and spandex for added flexibility and stretchiness.
If you’re looking for a softshell jacket that is fleece-lined but still durable enough to be worn with or without added layers, this jacket from North End is certainly worth a second look. It offers both protection and versatility that is difficult to match.
6. Arc Teryx Gamma LT
Very comfortable to wear
Fantastic range of motion
Keeps you warm
Wind and rain protection could be better
The last entry on our list is by no means one to ignore. The Arc’teryx Gamma LT Jacket is a great overall softshell jacket that provides great breathability and functionality at a very decent price.Read more
This softshell jacket provides good overall breathability through the use of a certain type of weave in the material that creates tiny holes that allow air to pass through but keep water out for the most part. The only trouble is that these holes can get clogged if the jacket becomes too dirty.
The same weave that offers great overall breathability also provides for great overall stretch. While some people found the sleeves and shoulder areas to be somewhat restrictive, most people were pleasantly surprised at how wide a range of motion could be enjoyed.
While this jacket does offer some protection overall from the weather, it’s nothing significant. It will do well on a hike through the woods or a run to the store, but don’t expect much if caught in a heavy downpour.
This light to medium weight jacket doesn’t provide much in additional insulation but can serve well as a layer in a multiple-layer ensemble.
This softshell jacket features a combination of spandex, nylon, elastane and polyester material.
Overall this softshell jacket provides a fantastic amount of breathability and stretchiness, but only average protection against the wind, rain and cold weather. It’s a great choice for a quick walk to the store or keeping yourself warm during the morning campfire.
7. Yukon Gear Windproof
Lightweight and warm
Great protection from wind and water
Comfortable to wear
Could use more flexibility in the shoulder area
If our number one entry is a great choice for hitting the slopes, this entry by Yukon Gear is an excellent choice if you enjoy hunting or hiking during the late autumn or the first months of winter. Designed to be lightweight, yet warm, it can easily move with you as you move through the wilderness area.Read more
Overall this jacket does provide for adequate air movement through, and the lining does allow for great heat retention overall. While it’s not as breathable as some we’ve seen, overall it’s good enough for the average person.
The overall stretch and flexibility seen in this particular jacket are quite good, although we would have liked to see a tad more flexibility in the shoulder and elbow area. However, for hunting and hiking, it does allow for a good range of motion.
This jacket offers great resistance to water and is actually windproof because of the shell material, and the hook and loop wrist closures, and wrist gaiters. Wearing this jacket you’ll be hard-pressed to feel any substantial amount of cold.
This softshell jacket features a lightweight fleece lining, that provides great warmth overall, provided that it remains dry. However, like most fleece, if it does manage to get wet, you’re out of luck when it comes to warmth.
The outer shell is a combination of polyester and elastane materials that help to provide a great deal of flexibility and protection from the elements overall. The lightweight fleece lining is surprisingly warm, and the added welded zippers provide another level of durability.
The Yukon Gear Softshell jacket is a great overall choice when it comes to a jacket for hiking or hunting in cool or colder weather. It is designed to keep both moisture and cold air out, and if worn properly, does so beautifully. The fleece lining can become problematic if allowed to get wet, but beyond that, there not much that is worrisome about this softshell jacket.
8. Underarmour Storm Infrared Dobson
Great at keeping you warm and dry
Lightweight and versatile
If you prefer clothing that features natural fabrics, but still want the protection, versatility, and warmth that are common with synthetic softshell jackets, you might want to consider the Under Armour Storm Cold Gear Infrared Dobson Softshell Jacket. It features a great blend of natural and synthetic fabrics that give you the best of both worlds.Read more
This jacket is extremely easy to wear and offers great overall ventilation. The blend of both natural and synthetic material allows for a great combination of protection and ventilation overall.
Overall this jacket provides for a full range of motion, but nothing more than you would expect in a zippered hoodie or sweatshirt. It should be noted that there are some compression and tightness by design in the chest and shoulder area and that this jacket is not well suited for people of a wider girth overall.
Despite its relatively thin nature, this jacket is surprisingly good at keeping both water and wind at bay. While we wouldn’t suggest trusting it to survive a heavy downpour, the outer shell can often withstand a light sprinkle or a brisk wind with ease.
Instead of using traditional insulation, this lightweight jacket features infrared technology and design to help you retain as much of your body heat as possible to keep you warm, and the superior outer shell to keep you dry.
This jacket features a blend of cotton and polyester material as well as an inner lining that is specifically designed to retain your own body heat. The front zipper is magnetic in design, so zippering up is somewhat easier, especially for those with arthritic hands.
This softshell jacket from Under Armour is a great and versatile choice if you want something that is both lightweight and functional. While it may not fit well for larger individuals for the average person it can work quite well
9. Arctix Maverick
Very comfortable to wear
Provides superior stretch and flexibility
Both water repellent and wind resistant
Synthetic fabrics may irritate some people
If you’re looking for a lightweight jacket that can help keep you warm while you’re conquering the slopes but won’t let you overheat as the afternoon sun starts to beat down, the Artix Maverick Softshell Jacket may just be what you’re looking for.Read more
Using a special blend of synthetic fabrics this softshell jacket provides wonderful breathability and flexibility in our opinion.
The material used in this jacket and the style of weave provides stretch in four different directions and extra range of flexibility in the shoulder area which helps when working outside or taking on those more challenging slopes.
This jacket features a water repellent finish and the polyester and spandex blend shell provides a moderate amount of wind resistance as well.
The insulation in this jacket is fairly lightweight, and the jacket isn’t really suitable for weather colder than a crisp autumn day. It can be considered to be a medium weight jacket that can be easily layered to produce a warmer effect.
This jacket is made entirely from synthetic materials including polyester and spandex. While synthetic fabrics might not be always preferable, in this case, they certainly get the job done.
If you’re looking for a softshell jacket that is versatile, offers superior breathability and flexibility, it’s hard to top this one. While we feel it could have used a bit more insulation, overall it’s a great jacket for the price.
10. Kirkland Signature Hooded Softshell Jacket
Great overall fit
Great protection from the wind
Water resistance could be better
If you don’t want to spend a significant amount of money on your softshell jacket, but you want to make sure that it offers the warmth and protection that you need, this jacket from Kirkland Signature is a great overall choice.Read more
This jacket provides a moderate amount of breathability and is very comfortable to wear overall. It features a breathable membrane material throughout that works quite well.
The polyester blend of this jacket provides for a great level of flexibility and movement. Some customers found it to be a bit tight in the shoulder and upper back area, but overall most had no significant complaints.
The outer layer of this jacket features three layers of protective material that offers true protection from the wind that is almost comparable to that seen in a quality windbreaker. In addition, this softshell jacket also provides some protection from the rain but can be quickly overwhelmed in a sudden downpour.
The inner portion of this jacket features a layer of micro-brushed polyester fleece material that adds a great layer of warmth to the jacket.
This softshell jacket features polyester material with a breathable membrane material and a permeable fleece material added for overall warmth.
The Kirkland Signature Softshell Jacket provides a great way to keep warm during cooler days for a fraction of the cost of the other choices on this list. While we found that the water-resistance was somewhat lacking, overall the fit and comfort left us with few complaints.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Softshell jackets are designed to be worn in situations where the weather and temperatures can fluctuate on a regular basis, so having good ventilation is essential to maintaining comfort overall. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including special types of weaves, designs or the use of particular fabrics. While we were disappointed in some of the levels of airflow in each of these softshell jackets, each one provided a good amount of breathability overall.
Unless you’re planning on wearing your jacket to the office cubicle party, chances are you’ll be using the best softshell jacket for something in the great outdoors. So the weather certainly will be a factor to consider when making your purchase. You’ll want to find the best balance between versatility, protection from the elements and flexibility that you can find.
The truth is, though that most softshell jackets, even the best ones only offer a moderate amount of protection from the elements. There are a few of the jackets here that provide either waterproof or windproof features, but most only offer resistance to the rain or wind overall.
There are quite a few different styles of insulation when it comes to these light and medium weight softshell jackets listed here. For example some feature fleece as an inner layer, which provides a relatively lightweight but warm material that is soft against the skin. Still, others rely on layers of air trapped between materials to help the body retain its own heat more effectively. And finally, there are those that use special linings or fabrics that are specifically designed to retain heat and keep it from escaping to the outside.
If you think about it, the best softshell jackets are often determined by what material and equipment are used to make them. After all, the quality you put into something is the quality you get out of it right? That’s the reason why we took a long look at the materials used to make the softshell jackets that we considered. Sadly, in many cases, the material used was relatively low quality and it was clear that the manufacturers took shortcuts to save on overall protection costs. Thankfully, we did find ten examples that we listed here where high-quality materials were used and used effectively. Materials such as high-grade polyester, magnetic zippers, nylon shell, and spandex were used in various amounts to create the best softshell jackets on the market today.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Keep in mind the climate you are purchasing it for and read our criteria to detailed pros and cons list for each item to see what versatility each jacket has. Whether you prefer jackets with practical and easy to access pockets, detachable hoods, or something a bit simpler in design, chances are you’ll be able to find exactly what you need in a softshell jacket.
Other Factors to Consider
The style of softshell jacket that you should consider depends not only on your own personal style and overall physical body but also on the activities that you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy hunting or other sports activities that require you to bring a fair amount of equipment, having a softshell jacket with easily accessible pockets might be a good choice. However, if you enjoy sports like downhill skiing or snowboarding, a jacket that provides more insulation with a simpler design would most likely be your best option overall.
Softshell jackets as a general rule are fairly affordable and their cost can be justified and fit easily into most budgets. However, it’s important to remember that there is still a pretty good range of prices available on the market today. Prices for the best softshell jackets can range from $25.00 all the way past $500. While the price differences may be significant, it’s easy to see that these softshell jackets are of a higher quality overall, and how much you spend depends greatly on your budget overall.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What exactly are softshell jackets?
Softshell jackets occupy a middle ground when it comes to outerwear. They exist in that in-between area between waterproof hardshell jackets like raincoats or heavy winter coats and lightweight insulating jackets. They can be considered medium weight jackets that allow for more stretch and flexibility than their heavyweight counterparts and more protection and warmth than their lightweight cousins. They are intended for high-output activities performed in cooler weather, such as hiking, running, skiing, and climbing.
These jackets are often made from synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and spandex, and are often woven in such a way to allow for maximum stretchiness, airflow ventilation, and versatility. While a softshell jacket can be quite versatile and used just about anywhere, they do have their limits. For example, they really won’t help much in a severe thunderstorm or snowstorm. They will simply get overwhelmed by the weather. Also, if weight is a concern, having something that is heavier than a normal mid-layer may not be exactly what you need.
q: How warm are softshell jackets?
This is a rather subjective question, as each softshell jacket is different and has a different quality. For the most part, however, jackets such as these can be divided into a few categories, or weights, such as lightweight, medium weight, and heavyweight. These terms not only indicate the actual weight or mass of the material used, but also the amount of material and perhaps the type of material as well. Often the heavier the item of clothing is, the warmer it is.
Generally speaking, softshell jackets fall into the medium weight category of jackets. They will often be designed to keep your body comfortably warm in temperatures between 10 degrees and about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
q: Can you wear a softshell jacket in the winter?
It really depends on how cold the weather is, not necessarily the season. For the most part, softshell jackets are designed to be worn during the transitional seasons of spring and fall during the year. They are well suited to help you regulate your body temperature if the outside temperatures are moderate in nature. While wearing a softshell jacket during the winter is possible, you’ll most likely use it as part of a more inclusive layered system of clothing.
q: Why is synthetic material often used in softshell jackets?
While not all of the best softshell jackets feature synthetic materials, most do. There are a few different reasons for this. The first, of course, is that few people have allergic reactions to synthetic material, which makes these jackets more appealing to more people. Second, synthetic fabrics are often more economical in price and easier to produce overall. And finally, synthetic fabrics often perform better in regards to protection from the elements, stretching or shrinkage and overall fit. There are some notable exceptions of course. Some wools and cotton weave, for example, provide great breathability and weather protection, but for the most part, synthetic fabrics are a more viable option.
q: What’s the difference between softshell and hardshell jackets?
The main difference between these two jacket styles is how they are designed, and what they are designed to do. Hardshell jackets are designed to be waterproof and windproof. They act as a shield against the weather, and not necessarily designed to keep you warm or to keep sweat away from your body. Two examples of hardshell jackets are your typical windbreaker or raincoat.
Softshell jackets, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have a hard impermeable shell. Generally speaking, their outer layers only offer some resistance to the weather and allow for your perspiration to be wicked away from your body and pass through the jacket to the outside. The area is also designed to be more flexible and offers more breathability than hardshell jackets. They are also sometimes more versatile to use since they often present the option to be worn as an outer or inner layer of clothing.