7 Best Softshell Jackets

Rilor Staff
Update: October 21, 2021
Table of Contents

The best softshell jackets are highly essential for cold-weather adventures. With their moderate insulation and stretchable trait, these jackets excel as mid-layers. When worn, they provide their users with extra warmth and comfort. 

At the same time, these softshell jackets can be used as a stand-alone clothing layer if the weather is fine and favorable. Since they are breathable and non-restrictive, they allow their wearers to engage themselves in active pursuits, such as running, cycling, and skiing.

Of course, not all softshell jackets have the same quality. Hence, you should refer to the list below if you want to check some of the top-rated softshells today.

7 Best Softshell Jackets

Arc'teryx Gamma SL Hoodie Nylon/elastaneWomen's
REI Co-op Activator Soft-Shell Jacket Nylon/polyester/spandexMen’s
The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket Recycled polyester/elastaneMen’s
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Grid Hooded Jacket Nylon/spandexWomen's
Salomon RS Soft-Shell Jacket Polyester/elastaneMen’s
Cotopaxi Viento Travel Jacket Nylon/spandexMen's
Patagonia R2 TechFace Jacket Polyester/spandexWomen's

1. Arc'teryx Gamma SL Hoodie


This women's softshell jacket is definitely a top-notch option for people who are always on the trail. Specifically, the Arc'teryx Gamma SL Hoodie offers a stretchy feel, allowing its users to move freely. Its weather-resistant construction also guarantees that you can use it on various terrains and weather conditions. The jacket uses the Fortius DW 1.0 fabric, which is both durable and lightweight. It has a four-way stretch, too, so that it can cater to active pursuits. 

Meanwhile, its adjustable low-profile StormHood efficiently protects you from the weather. Its elasticated cuffs can prevent cold air from coming into the jacket. There are zippered hand pockets on this jacket where you can store your small essentials. You shouldn't worry about its fit, as it comes with an adjustable hem cord. Overall, you can wear the Arc'teryx Gamma SL Hoodie as an exterior jacket in fair weather and a mid-layer for colder conditions. 


  • Material - Nylon/elastane
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - 25.8 inches
  • Weight - 9.2 ounces
  • Fit - Women's 

2. REI Co-op Activator Soft-Shell Jacket


The REI Co-op Activator is a premium soft-shell jacket. It has exceptional versatility that enables you to take it on various outdoor trips. It is suitable for both hiking and climbing expeditions, even if the landscapes and weather are changing. Its outer shell is made from rugged nylon with durable water repellent. The shell can easily shed light rain and snow. Moreover, it provides sufficient stretch so that your movements won't be hampered at all. 

Meanwhile, its inner layer has a soft, fleece-like feel. It provides decent thermal efficiency, which guarantees your warmth amidst the cold. But at the same time, it also exudes breathability so that the sunny days won't deter you from doing rigid activities. By the way, the jacket has a four-way stretch with an articulated elbow construction. Hence, it can let you move in any direction that you want. It also has a hem drawcord that lets you seal the warm air inside while preventing cold drafts.


  • Material - Nylon/polyester/spandex
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - 31 inches
  • Weight - 9 ounces
  • Fit - Men's

3. The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket


With The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket, handling the colder regions is a possible feat! The jacket helps you feel the coziness and negate chilling sensations, especially if it is worn as a mid-layer. Its membrane softshell construction guarantees that it is windproof, water-resistant, and rugged against the elements. But at the same time, the jacket offers decent levels of stretchability and ventilation so that you can use it as a stand-alone gear in fair weather conditions. 

The outer fabric of the Apex Bionic Jacket has a durable water repellent that fends off moisture from its surface. Moreover, it has a hem cinch cord that lets you adjust the fit of the jacket, which, in turn, allows you to insulate yourself during cold expeditions. It is also equipped with various zippered pockets on its chest and hand areas where you can stow your essentials securely. You'll have no problems wearing it either, as its middle front zipper lets hassle-free on/off.


  • Material - Recycled polyester/elastane
  • Type - Membrane
  • Back length - 26.8 inches
  • Weight - 19.7 ounces
  • Fit - Men's

4. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Grid Hooded Jacket


If your intended trip is on the frigid terrains and icy paths, then you ought to have reliable winter clothing. For a mid-layer, I suggest that you pick the brand-new Outdoor Research Ferrosi Grid Hooded Jacket. I've said brand new because this unit is an upgraded model. Compared to its predecessors, it offers more cold resistance and durability. It also provides stretchable softshell fabric so that it won't restrict your movements. 

Furthermore, it also features innovative bonding on its fabrics so that they remain extra soft and flexible. With that in mind, you will be able to use this jacket for intensive activities in extremely cold environments. The jacket's structure also has ergonomic mapping, which means that most of its weather protection is allocated to areas prone to cold temperatures. Interestingly, the jacket remains breathable even if it has a buffed structure. It can still ventilate your sweat, which is a nice thing, especially if you will wear it in temperate conditions. 


  • Material - Nylon/spandex
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - 28 inches
  • Weight - 17.8 ounces
  • Fit - Women's

5. Salomon RS Soft-Shell Jacket


This activewear from Salomon is definitely an exceptional clothing layer for those who are always on the move. The Salomon RS Soft-Shell Jacket provides optimal wind protection so that you can move with stability on the most breezy days. On its back, a stretchable fabric has been integrated to generate mobility and breathability to the jacket. Because of its innovative design, the Salomon RS Soft-Shell Jacket is commonly used in cross-country skiing, trail running, and running. 

Furthermore, the jacket has been embedded with a durable water repellent so that it can negate light rain and bead up moisture. It has reflective components to enhance its visibility in low-light conditions. Two zippered hand pockets are within your reach. They will let you stash your small items securely as you are doing your business on the trail or road.


  • Material - Polyester/elastane
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - Unspecified
  • Weight - 11.4 ounces
  • Fit - Men's

6. Cotopaxi Viento Travel Jacket 


By default, the Cotopaxi Viento Travel Jacket is designed to be worn as an outer layer if the atmospheric conditions are tame. In fact, you can wear it in early winter and chilly nights, which testify to its insulation quality. But if the weather is really frigid, then you should stack it with an insulating jacket for optimal warmth generation. On its own, the Cotopaxi Viento Travel Jacket has a soft fabric blend. It has the perfect stretch for unrestricted mobility. Hence, if you are athletic, you'll enjoy the freedom that this clothing layer provides. 

Surely enough, the Cotopaxi Viento is a lightweight jacket. It doesn't add a cumbersome weight to your body. Moreover, the jacket feels cozy to the skin. Even if you sweat, it doesn't get irritating. There are zippered hand pockets and travel-friendly drop-in pockets integrated on the body of the jacket. Again, they are perfect storage spaces for your small essentials. By the way, you can easily pack this jacket and stow it inside the drop-in pocket!


  • Material - Nylon/spandex
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - Unspecified
  • Weight - 10 ounces
  • Fit - Men's

7. Patagonia R2 TechFace Jacket


The Patagonia R2 TechFace Jacket is known for its warmth provision and breathability. Technically speaking, this gear is a versatile jacket that you can take on cold terrains and fair-weather adventures. It also has sufficient weather resistance that allows it to adapt to the changing landscapes and conditions on the mountains. Specifically, the R2 TechFace features a double-weave, high-loft fabric. It is durable but extremely comfortable next to your skin. 

Its exterior surface is abrasion-resistant; it also has a durable water repellent finish that enables it to defend you against the elements. Its two hand warmer pockets and left chest pocket have zipper garages. They are not only efficient in storing your gear, but they are also pack- and harness-compatible. Meanwhile, you can also find two drop-in mesh pockets on its interior. With its snag-resistant, non-bulky Variable Conditions handcuffs, you can prevent cold drafts from entering. 


  • Material - Polyester/spandex
  • Type - Stretch-woven
  • Back length - Unspecified
  • Weight - 11 ounces
  • Fit - Women's 

How To Choose The Best Softshell Jackets 

Every time we tread through different terrains and landscapes, we often encounter changes in the weather. It is one of the reasons why flexible layering is essential. The clothes that you wear should be adaptive enough to handle these regular shifts in temperature and elements. 

Softshell jackets are lightweight versions of your standard jackets. They are highly breathable and provide decent water resistance and windproofing. Usually, they are worn in the middle--specifically, between an exterior shell jacket and base layer. 

Essentially, softshell jackets are the counterparts of hardshell jackets. They excel in ventilation and softness. When they get in contact with your skin, you will feel their suppleness. Furthermore, these softshell jackets can provide a certain degree of insulation so that you will be able to conquer the cold with them. 

Below are some simple yet useful guidelines in choosing softshell jackets. 


Softshell jackets can be classified into two categories: membrane and stretch-woven.

Essentially, stretch-woven softshell jackets feature a water-repellent finish, while membrane softshell jackets have waterproof membranes that have integrated on them. But despite the term "waterproof," this doesn't mean that membrane jackets are fully hydrophobic. After all, they can't prevent water from entering into their seams. 

Furthermore, stretch-woven softshell jackets are highly breathable. They are way better than membrane softshell jackets when it comes to ventilation. Hence, these stretch-woven jackets are ideal for active journeys, such as cycling, jogging, and running. On the flip side, membrane softshell jackets are heavier than their counterparts. Hence, they are more suitable in pursuits where you need extra protection against the elements. 

Weather Conditions

Softshell jackets are designed to be worn as mid-layers, especially if the external conditions are cold and you need more thermal efficiency than what a fleece can provide. But if the weather is fine and cozy, you can wear these softshell jackets as base layers--which means that they are stand-alone. You can also wear them as an outer layer while wearing a t-shirt because of their great defense against the elements. 

Technically speaking, stretch-woven softshell jackets aren't waterproof. However, they can easily deal with light showers. You can use them in fair weather conditions, but don't expect that they can hold up against heavy rain. If you are expecting heavy downpours on your journey, settle for a membrane softshell jacket or hardshell jacket. 

But at the same time, stretch-woven jackets excel as mid-layers for cold weather applications. You should wear them together with a waterproof jacket for enhanced insulation and wind defense. 


A stretch-woven softshell jacket is ideal for activities conducted under fair weather. Since they are breathable, they are useful in activities where you need to sweat a lot. Some stretch-woven softshell jackets have fleece lining, which can provide additional warmth. They aren't designed for exhausting activities, but you can always wear them on casual journeys. 

Don't go for a fleece-lined, stretch-woven softshell jacket if you don't need additional insulation. Even the unlined ones can already give you sufficient comfort, as long as you aren't dealing with low temperatures.

In fact, most people who buy stretch-woven softshell jackets do so for recreational purposes. So unless you're planning to spend hours outdoors, stick to a regular softshell jacket instead. 

If you want something that's versatile enough to handle both cold kinds of weather, then opt for a hardshell jacket. It has greater insulating properties compared to other types of jackets. This makes it perfect for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding.


The fit of a softshell jacket depends largely on its intended purpose. For example, if you plan to cycle through the city streets, you'll probably prefer a baggy one. Whereas, if you intend to hike through rugged terrain, you'd rather look for a fitted version. In general, however, tightly fitted jackets can provide more warmth and insulation. Meanwhile, loose ones will give you more freedom in your movements.

Features To Consider

  • Hood - A hooded jacket provides added protection from the sun and rain. Some models even come equipped with adjustable straps that allow you to tighten them around your neck.
  • Pockets - Pockets are another important feature to consider. Most manufacturers include two inside pockets: one large pocket for storing small items and the other smaller pocket for holding keys and money. Other features may include chest pockets, handwarmer pockets, and zippered pockets.
  • Lining - Lining refers to the material used to make the inner layer of the jacket. Usually made out of nylon, polyester, cotton, wool, or microfiber, this layer helps keep you warm by trapping heat.

In Summary

In a nutshell, the best softshell jackets are great for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, camping, and fishing. They provide additional comfort and warmth, especially if the temperatures are low. 

But since they lack water resistance, you shouldn't rely solely on these jackets when facing rainy days. Instead, choose a waterproof jacket over a stretch-woven one.

On the contrary, hardshell jackets offer better insulation than their counterparts. And while they might not be suitable for all kinds of activities, they are still worth considering.

That's it for now. If you have other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

Other readings you may enjoy
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram