Outdoor clothing terminology.

2:04 a.m. on April 4, 2018 (EDT)
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I am a little confused about hard shells, soft shells, wind shells, rain shells etc. I live in southern Japan, and want to hike and climb (Mt Fuji) etc. all seasons. What do l really need? Thank you.

9:48 a.m. on April 4, 2018 (EDT)
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Good weather.  it's a very straightforward ascent.

10:05 a.m. on April 4, 2018 (EDT)
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What you need is a layering system that is made up of some or all of those things, plus other layers. It depends on the conditions you will be facing and your personal preference -- two different people could have two different systems that both work well for the same conditions.

Baselayer goes on first, it should breathe well, wick moisture and dry quickly. Next you may or may not need a midlayer for warmth, like a fleece. Then an outer layer (shell) for additional insulation and/or protection from conditions like rain, snow, or wind. This outer layer will have limited breathability no matter what the manufacturer claims.

A softshell is a garment that tries to straddle between midlayer and shell -- it offers warmth and the outside is a different fabric or is treated to provide some protection against the elements. Not a true outer shell for protection in a downpour but might do OK against light snow or a drizzle. A hardshell is a true outler layer that offers protection against true wet/snowy conditions -- but keep in mind that what makes it good at keeping moisture out also means it ends up keeping moisture in from your own perspiration.

Rather than going out and buying one kind of garment because you hear a lot about it or because other people are wearing it, they key is to think of an entire layering system and what approach you think would be best for you, then get the pieces that make up your ideal system, which may or may not include certain types of garments. For example, some people love softshells, other people shun them in favor of a midlayer plus outer shell as more versatile and a better combination for a wider range of conditions. So you don't "need" a softshell, but you probably will need what a softshell offers and you may find that a softshell is the best answer for you or that other layers when combined serve that function better for you.

12:07 a.m. on April 5, 2018 (EDT)
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JRinGeorgia, thank you very much for taking the time to clear that up for me. It is greatly appreciated.

10:14 a.m. on April 5, 2018 (EDT)
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A topic which is often confusing because there are multiple interpretations of the terminology.  Here is my take:

Soft and hard shells are outer layer apparel.  Both may or may not have insulating, warm liners.  A hard shell will keep you from getting soaked by rain for extended periods and will block the wind; a soft shell may or may not keep you from getting wet from rain; if a soft shell does repel water, it is usually effective only for a limited period.  But soft shells will block wind.  Hard shells do not breathe as well as soft shells, so they are relatively sweaty when under exertion, compared to a soft shell.  Most prefer using a soft shell if it isn't raining.  Many carry both types of shells and wear one or the other, according to current weather conditions.  

Mid layer apparel should be readily breathable to pass sweat moisture, thus not intended to protect from rain.  The main purpose of mid layers is providing warmth.  Some folks usually use just one mid layer garment at a time, some bring several.  Many have a collection of mid layer garments of various duty ratings they select from for a trip, based on expected weather.

Base layer apparel are items that are worn against the skin.  The ability to wick away sweat is highly desirable, as is how comfortable it feels against your skin.  While most chose skin layers for warmth, in hot climates a skin layer that helps keep you cool is desirable.  Wool and various synthetics will typically make for warm skin layers, while cotton and certain "tech" fabrics are popular skin layers in hot climates. 


10:49 p.m. on April 5, 2018 (EDT)
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Thank you very much Ed. I really do appreciate your time. 

1:51 a.m. on April 27, 2018 (EDT)
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That sounds fun. I've never been to Japan and for sure that would be one of goal when I get there. 

12:24 p.m. on May 30, 2018 (EDT)
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Great advise in layering your clothing.

9:35 p.m. on June 5, 2018 (EDT)
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April 7, 2020
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