What is a softshell jacket?

A softshell is a versatile jacket that is suitable for many outdoor activities, but what exactly is a softshell jacket?

A soft shell jacket is a made from a woven material in contrast to the stiffer material of hard shell (or waterproof) jackets. Unlike conventional jackets a softshell jacket does not have a lining but instead is made by bonding two layers of fabric together.

They are designed to bridge the gap between a fleece, which offers less water resistance and protection from the wind, and a waterproof jacket which is less stretchy.

There are two types of softshell jacket; 2 layer and 3 layer. A 2 layer soft shell jacket has a water repellent coating whilst in a 3 layer softshell a waterproof membrane is bonded between the two layers of fabric. Neither softshell jackets are 100% waterproof as they do not have taped seams to stop water entering in at the stitched areas.

2 layer softshell jackets are more breathable than membrane softshells and are popular for active pursuits such as running or cycling. 3 layer softshells may be slightly heavier than 2 layer options and are more suited to outdoor activities where you might need more protection from the elements.

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