Your favorite softshell?

9:52 p.m. on August 15, 2010 (EDT)
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What is your favorite go to softshell? Not necessarily the one that is with you on every hike/climb. But that one you grab to do everything, your utility jacket. I am looking to replace my North Face Apex after 5 years. I don't want another North Face as everyone wears them around here.

This will be worn on hikes, out working, sledding with the kids, and to restaurants. My everyday jacket.

I'm a little leery on Gore Tex, is it a membrane like in boots, that overtime will leak? Or do they construct jackets differently?

I am looking at:

Mammut

-Quest

-Ultimate Pro

-Brisk

Marmot

-Sharp Point

-Leadville

Arcteryx

-Gamma AR

-Zeta

Smartwool

-Not sure what styles they will have for 2010-2011

This gives you an idea of the jackets I like, and the styles.

1:31 a.m. on August 16, 2010 (EDT)
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That, for me, is my Patagonia Talus softshell. It's got a light fleece liner, Polartec Power Shield on the outside, and a perforated membrane between the two fabric layers. It is very wind-resistant, yet breathable, and repels light rain--everything a good softshell should be. I love the double Napoleon pockets and the chamois-lined collar. Plus, it doesn't look all that technical; I wear it nearly everyday during winter, as my "utility" jacket.

7:58 p.m. on August 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the info!

7:37 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Still looking for opinions on softshells. Its hard to find reviews of anything but Northface. Even here there aren't many reviews in the 'gear review' section, most jackets have 1 review.

9:06 a.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't use a softshell jacket. I only use a hard-shell, and to answer your question, the hardshell I use is my military issue gortex parka. It has seen HARD use for about 8 years and is still going strong, never once leaked or wetted through.

I find a softshell jacket to be useless. In late fall and winter I will wear a capaline 3 baselayer, an rei fleece jacket (would just use a pullover but the rei jacket will zip into my parka), and then either my parka(for winter only) or my columbia rain jacket(3 season) on top of that depending on the time of year.

I find a softshell to be useless because it's really just an insulating layer that has some water resistance. Well If I am hiking I want something that is very water resistant or waterproof for my outer shell. I have worn a water resistant/proof midlayer before and I sweated like a stuck pig and will never do that again, and then wearing it as the outerlayer it got soaked after about 30 minutes of hard rain.

Soft shell's have their place, but don't have a place in my typical lineup.

3:59 p.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I find softshells are most useful for vigorous, aerobic activities in cold conditions. They "breathe" better than hardshells, thus helping to prevent moisture buildup. Think fast-packing through cloud forest/fog, mountain running during the shoulder seasons, climbing/scrambling in cold conditions.

5:40 p.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
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At Outdoor Retailer, a Gore-Tex rep told me a soft-shell would change my life -- that I'd never go back to fleece. Well, I never use fleece -- for me it's almost always way too warm. My insulating layer is a Montbell Thermawrap -- I wear that over a silk-weight base layer and use a hard shell for wind/rain.

To me it's a price issue: soft shells always seem somewhere between $200 and the ionosphere, so I have a hard time justifying one when my current setup works fine.

Having said all that, I'm pretty sure my next jacket will be a soft shell, just because I've never had one before.

4:54 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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EMS's endotherm. It's reasonably cheap to begin with and with the deals they frequently have you can save like 20 more bucks on it. It looks good too and I've worn it around town as well as hiking and climbing.

7:12 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I guess I should have been a little more specifc. I am looking for something of more everyday use. Something I can wear everyday, in light rain, snow, wind, etc. A beater jacket, out running/walking trails, climbing trees, etc.

I obviously woul attempt a climb in a softshell, or go out in a sideways blizzard in one either.

Wondering if a fleece would repel enough wind and water, and be cheaper. Or if the fleece would just get soaked to quickly?

8:18 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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One of the problems, nay, the greatest difficulty in picking or recommending a "softshell" jacket and/or pants is that the manufacturers use the term for a wide range of hugely different jackets and pants. Although fleece and pile are not generally considered "softshell", some of the jackets out there are essentially just that - fleece or pile. If you do a search, you will find single layer fabrics (Schoeller, for example), double layer (Marmot's DriClime), stretchy and non-stretchy, completely windproof (and thus not very breathable - WindBloc, for example), sort of windproof, fairly rain resistant or almost waterproof, ....

Here is an article about "what is a softshell" which discusses the "definition".

Some softshells are quite warm, while others (a number of windshirts) are basically just a windbreaker shell of a single layer of ripstop nylon.

Between my spouse and me, we have a variety of "softshells". Some, like the Marmot DriClime that Barb has, are quite windproof, though they breathe well (DriClime is basically a light nylon shell with a thin, fleece-like liner). It is water repellent, though not waterproof in a moderate to heavy rain. I have another Marmot jacket that is similar to the DriClime, except that the outer layer is a heavier, stretchy Schoeller-like fabric. Marmot lists some of their DriClime products as "wind shirts". We each have Schoeller jackets and pants (by Cloudveil, GoLite, REI, Patagonia, and others) which are somewhat wind resistant, very stretchy, and somewhat water repellent. I find fleece to be reasonable in light rains (because it tends not to hold water, though it isn't really water repellent), but not windproof at all (a thin nylon windbreaker over it suffices).

Actually, I do use my softshells in sideways blizzards - they tend to work pretty well for that. If it is cold enough for the precip to be frozen, you really don't have to worry about getting wet from the outside. Note I said "frozen", not on the melting boundary and above.

Fleece is not generally suitable as an outer layer for climbing where you will be contacting rock, though, again, a thin nylon windbreaker over the fleece adds a lot of durability. But I find Schoeller (and the Schoeller imitations) and pile to be just fine in chimneys and jam cracks. Although the article linked above speaks against hardshells for durability, I find my hardshells (Wild Things eVent and Marmot Goretex) to be quite durable for rock climbing - however, while eVent breathes significantly better than Goretex, they both get steamy hot inside, even with all zippers and pitzips open.

10:01 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Great post!

The fabric I am referring to as a "softshell" would be the same fabric that North Face uses in their Apex jackets, a smooth stretchy fabric that is water resistant, and windproof.

5:32 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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My soft-shell is Montane's Lite Speed jacket. Good breathability, wind and water resistance and durability are key concerns for a jacket suitable for outdoor activities. Good breathability and waterproofness are conflictual elements at the moment. I recently reviewed soft-shells as mine needs updating. Patagonia's Houdini is also well respected. I believe that Montane uses a DWR coating to repel the rain while Patagonia uses a proprietary coating. Pertex and Event type soft-shells are effective, but have a durability limitation. I believe Goretex's breathability is lower than the preceding. The jackets with film layers cost and weigh more as well. You'll have greater flexibility in varying temps if your jacket doesn't include insulation as insulation places a temp range usage limitation.

3:27 p.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Since you have no problems with the NF Apex other than the trendy logo, I think any of the jackets you listed will be just fine. Pick one with the logo that says whatever it is you want it to say and styling you like.

There are plenty of reviews of the Marmot and Arcteryx jackets- you just need to broaden your search space a bit. Very few of the Mammut jackets.

11:15 p.m. on August 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Very few reviews on the Mammut but it's say little。 It's the top brand from EU for everyone use with out been the top of the top! any of their gear is great and will serve you well. One thing to say about it is that it does look over technical for me for daily day use.

If you want to life out of your softshell and than my pick will the the Patagonia guide jkt. It's a work horse and nothing less and will feel a bit like your old TNF.

11:00 a.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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My favorite go- to jacket for everything from hiking to everyday stuff is a Marmot Venus Jacket. In fact, I just bought a second one, because my first one is just plain worn out. It's light (11 oz) warm, and layers well with other clothing, over or under it, when necessary. With a water resistant shell (VERY water resistant) and 800 down, you hardly notice you have it on. It packs up nice and small either into its own pocket, or into a light stuff sack about the size of a softball-- or a bit smaller. It's a great spring/fall jacket and even works well into early winter. I dig out the big jacket for deep winter here in North Dakota. (A Marmot Ignition w/removeable hood) Even that jacket, at abt 2 lbs, is a great jacket to take along anywhere it's going to be -10 F or colder.

SS

11:16 a.m. on September 10, 2010 (EDT)
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I have an REI softshell and my wife has a Sierra Designs softshell. I found both at Goodwill. Like all jackets they are a compromise on warmth and weatherproofness and breathability. I am not blown away by softshells in general, for the bush I prefer Tom's method above with a Montbell type thermawrap, but for town use or day trips softshells are fine.

12:24 p.m. on September 11, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't own a softshell, like Tom I typically layer (if needed) with my Acteryx hardshell.

What is/are the benefits of a softshell? I haven't really seen anything in that realm in this post. If I already have a hardshell and have items to layer with, what is the benefit of having a softshell? Any ideas, info?

5:05 p.m. on September 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I have a Marmot Kingpin Softshell I picked up on Geartrade at a very reasonable price. It is made of Polartec Windbloc which is a thin and stretchable material with an athletic cut. (See Polartec Website) Also, it's water resistant and wind proof. I haven't been in much wind to confirm a "windproof" rating but so far so good. I've been down to 50-45 degrees with a longsleeve shirt and felt comfortable. I can say that I use it more than just hiking. This particular model comes with a hood that you cannot tuck away. I must admit at times the hood does seem to get in the way, but I like the jacket. Marmot makes good softshell jackets that are high quality in my opinion. I believe the Marmot Superhero model, if they still make it, has a tuck away hood in the collar. I'm sure there are some pros and cons to that as well. The Marmot Sharp point and Gravity are great jackets; however, I'm not impressed with the Leadville.

As mentioned in a previous post, a softshell is not an insulating jacket and I've not found them to be very warm. However, if you move around a lot, it will eventually build up heat. Softshell jackets were considered an alternative to hardshells because they didn't make much crinkling noise when moving, especially in cold weather. Also, they breath a lot better than most hardshells. I would say eVent might breath equally or better.

Marmot and The North Face make good middle price softshells in my opinion. Cabelas and Bass Pro offer some pretty good priced softshells around the $50-100 range. Of course, Arcteryx, Marmot, Backcountry and Mammut make some good higher end softshells.

1:36 a.m. on September 26, 2010 (EDT)
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What is/are the benefits of a softshell? I haven't really seen anything in that realm in this post. If I already have a hardshell and have items to layer with, what is the benefit of having a softshell? Any ideas, info?

Perhaps it's a marketing gimmick ... e.g. "this is the latest thing, so you need one!" ...

Hmmm ...

(I do have a Mountain Hardwear G50, which I like just fine, thought it's on the heavy side so I don't' carry it backpacking unless I really need it)...

12:53 a.m. on December 7, 2010 (EST)
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I really like the Mountain Hardwear Epic shell. Lite, easily packable, pit zips, roll away hood with laminated brim for rain, chamois like chin guard and of course waterproof. Also has a Napolean pocket on the front and a inside pocket

Team this a with a down sweater and your pretty much good to go.

And yes it doubles as great windbreaker in the spring/summer. 

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