We're still a month away from spring solstice, but for many of us, right now is the most brutally cold time of year. Which might be making you re-evaluate your winter wardrobe and thinking of stocking up on more durable jackets to keep you warm for the rest of the season (and better prepared for next year). And if you're looking for something ultra versatile, a soft shell jacket is a great piece of outerwear to have on hand year-round, since it's warm, breathable, and protective without being too heavy. And it's great for layering. Soft shell jacket curious? Up ahead is everything you ever wanted to know about soft shell jackets and our best picks.
Are soft shell jackets worth it?
As anyone who owns a soft shell jacket will tell you, they are almost always worth it—even if it was a splurge purchase. Especially if you’re someone who enjoys being active and on the go, you will find yourself grabbing your soft shell jacket for just about any activity. As the name suggests, these jackets do not have a hard exterior, but are rather comfortable, flexible in their movement, ultra breathable, yet still durable in most types of weather. They’re most often made to be protective even in wind and rain. This makes them incredibly versatile and a handy piece of clothing to have in your wardrobe.
Is hardshell or soft shell better?
The opposite of a soft shell jacket is what’s known as a hard shell jacket. While this might sound like a suit of armor, hardshell jackets are not quite “hard,” but rather they offer more protection from rain, snow and heavy wind. They’re more ideal than soft shell jackets for those who are participating in more intense physical activities, from hiking and scaling to camping and long-distance running.
Do soft shell jackets keep you warm?
Soft shell jackets are not known for their warmth, since most are made from ultra-breathable materials that allow an individual’s temperature to fluctuate according to their needs. That being said, there are soft shell jackets that are made using materials that are warming, such as fleece or wool. If you’re looking to stay warm while wearing a soft shell jacket, you could also add on layers, as a soft shell jacket usually has extra room that can accommodate bulkier clothing underneath.
Should I size up in a soft shell jacket?
Especially if you intend to wear your soft shell jacket with multiple layers underneath, it’s a good idea to size up on your soft shell jacket. Doing so allows you to optimize your use to extend in all four seasons—even winter. It also makes your soft shell jacket more useful in a wider range of circumstances, such as skiing or hiking.
What do you wear under a soft shell jacket?
If you’re wearing your soft shell jacket during warmer months, you can simply wear a regular shirt underneath, utilizing the jacket only to protect you from precipitation or light wind. If you’re wearing your soft shell jacket during the winter, however, you might want to wear a fleece underneath to keep you extra warm.
The best women's soft shell jackets
Sizes available: XS-3X
If sleek is your style, you can’t go wrong with an Ariat soft shell jacket, which is designed for performance, durability, and style. The best part is in the fit—no matter your size or shape, this jacket will fit you really well, and it’ll feel fantastic. It has a fleece backing—so it’s ideal for colder weather—and zippered hand pockets for you to store personal items, from your phone to your keys. According to the stellar reviews, this jacket will become a staple in your wardrobe, ideal for any season and circumstance.
Sizes available: XS-XXL
Columbia is known for its quality jackets, so it’s no surprise that the outdoor brand’s Kruser Ridge Softshell jacket makes our list. Made from 100 percent polyester, this active zip-up is designed to withstand nearly any weather—its outside is both rain and wind resistant and it has an inside that’s built for ultra comfort. It’s nice and soft and has convenient zippered hand pockets on both sides along with a drawcord hem that allows you to adjust the fit according to your preference.
Available sizes: XS-2XL
Add some vintage flair to your outdoor wardrobe with this 80s-inspired shell jacket from the Outdoor Afro x REI collab. For starters, it’s cute as hell, with its stylish color-blocking, cinched waist, and Outdoor Afro emblem. It’s also loaded with tech specs that’ll keep you dry and warm in the elements with features like an adjustable hood, zippered pockets, and elasticized cuffs. True to Outdoor Afro’s ethos, it’s designed to fit a wider range of body types as a reminder that everyone belongs outside.
Sizes available: XS-3XL
If you prefer outdoor jackets that allow you to customize the fit, this is a great option from The Northface. It has a hem cinch-cord As with most soft shell jackets, this one is both rain and wind resistant while still remaining light as a feather on your shoulders. It doesn’t weigh you down the way some outdoor jackets do, yet it features an advanced WindWall protection that’s coated with a Durable Water-Repellent (DWR) Finish. It runs true to size, but if you plan on bulking up in layers, consider sizing up.
Sizes available: XS-XXL
Weighing in at just under 14 ounces, this soft shell jacket is known for its lightweighted-ness, affordability and premium quality. It’s built to stand up to rain and wind and won’t weigh you down the way that some soft shell jackets will. It’s made from 46 percent recycled material, so it’s sustainable, and is breathable without being too form-fitting, so you can easily layer clothing underneath this jacket to allow it to accommodate you in warm or colder temperatures.
Sizes available: XS-XL
This U.K.-based company churns out some impressive outdoor gear, and their Kinetic Waterproof softshell jacket is no exception. It’s ultra lightweight, weighing in at just 11.8 ounces and is built for performance—reviewers note that it’s ideal for a wide range of activities from cross-country skiing to mountaineering. It has a nice stretch to it without being too loose and is highly breathable, so it’s great for exercise or activities where you might be sweating. It also features chest pockets for easy storage and an adjustable cuff to keep warmth inside.
Sizes available: XS-XXL
Best known for its waterproof hypershell with a waterpillar of 20.000 mm (a measurement of its degree of waterproof-ness), this outdoor jacket is designed to withstand all the elements, making it ideal for everything from hiking to cross-country skiing. It’s breathable, featuring two zippers on either side that you can open to increase ventilation. It also comes in five fun colors, including dark olive and sangria, which you don’t usually see in a soft shell jacket.
Sizes available: XS-XL
If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, chances are you know this brand well. They make exceptional outdoor gear that stands up to just about any weather or circumstance. Their ROM hoody is ideal for colder temperatures, thanks to its GORE-TEX® fabric that’s not only long-lasting, but super comfortable in any climate. GORE-TEX® stands up to gusty winds and rain downpours all while keeping you comfortable and cool on warmer days as well. The hood is adjustable and the zippered chest and hand pockets are convenient for storage.
Sizes available: XS-4XL
This jacket is how style meets convenience (and functionality). It’s longer than most soft shell jackets, which is fashionable and provides more coverage during the colder months (cold butts, no more!). It comes in a variety of colors, including dark heather grey, red wine, dark brown and mint green, is features a removable hood to allow you to customize the look further. It’s both windproof and breathable, so you can wear it in the summer months to help protect you from light rain or wind and also rely on it on colder days, thanks to its microfleece lining that will keep you nice and warm. The zippered pockets feature reflective elements to help increase your visibility when walking or running outdoors.
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