If you could only take one jacket with you, a soft shell jacket would be a great choice. The best soft shell jacket gives you plenty of warmth, breathes well and will also keep you dry through a few showers. They're a versatile option for when you don't really know what kind of weather to expect. And if you are a hiker or backpacker, there are some excellent options as far as soft shell jackets go that will perform very well on the trail.
Best Soft Shell JacketA few features that you should be looking for when reviewing soft shell jackets.
- Water Resistant - You wont find any waterproof soft shell jackets, but you should definitely look for soft shell jackets that have some degree of water resistance. A good soft shell jacket should be able to shed enough water to get you through a few showers without needing to pull out a waterproof layer.
- Pockets - Another feature that most people will want on their soft shell jacket is a few zippered pockets. If you're going to be wearing a lot of a soft shell jacket, you will likely want to keep a few things in an easy to access area, especially if you are camping, hiking or backpacking. Most of the best soft shell jackets come with a pocket or two to do just that.
Soft Shell Jacket ReviewsA selection of the very best soft shell jackets, broken down by gender.
Soft Shell Jackets for Men
- Rab Boreas Pull-On - The Boreas was the 2011 winner of the Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice award, so you know it's a quality soft shell jacket. It's a pull on, so the zipper is only half length. It's lightweight and breathable, and even has 50+ UPF rating for those cold, sunny days. It also comes with a hood, which allows you to stay a little warmer when you need to, and a zippered breast pocket for stashing a few small items.
- Arc'teryx Gamma LT Softshell - The Gamma LT is a great jacket for a wide variety of conditions. You don't get a hood, but you do get a total of four pockets and a DWR finish to keep water out. Small touches like gusseted underarms also help to increase the functionality. Finally, a hem drawcord means that you can vary the internal temperature a bit.
Soft Shell Jackets for Women
- Arc'teryx Hyllus Hoodie - Winner of the 2008 Outside Magazine Gear of the Year award, the Hyllus is a fantastic soft shell jacket. It's warm, with a hood for when the temperature really drops. It's also hip length, to give you a bit of extra protection for those who are active, and has three zippered pockets for a few small items. A fantastic soft shell jacket for cold weather.
- Arc'teryx Epsilon AR Softshell - Another soft shell jacket from Arc'teryx, this one a much lighter, breathable option for warmer weather. No hood is a drawback for anyone who is looking for a soft shell jacket that will perform in the widest possible set of circumstances, but a water resistant finish means that it will at least perform well in wet conditions. A total of three zippered pockets is also a nice touch.