Understanding Softshells

photo credit: Gideon HadenIf you’ve ever spent any time browsing or researching outdoor jackets for camping, hiking, or backpacking, you’ve probably come across the term “softshell”. Softshell jackets and pants are ideal for outdoor activities, but what exactly is a softshell, and why would you want a softshell?

What is a softshell jacket?

Softshell jackets – or soft shell jackets – blend the protection and durability of a traditional hardshell rain jacket with the comfort and mobility of a softer textile. The same goes for softshell pants

Softshell jackets and pants are technical outdoor apparel that excel in aerobic outdoor activities where you need warmth and protection from the elements, but you also need good range of motion and breathability.

Think of your old rain jacket. It’s probably made from a pretty stiff fabric, it makes a lot of noise when you move around in it, and it traps in heat and sweat when you wear it hiking. This is a traditional hardshell or hard shell jacket.

Softshells offer a similar level of protection as a hardshell, but they are much more comfortable. Here are a few benefits of softshells.

Protection from wind and water

Until recently, softshells offered less protection from the elements than hardshells. They were great if you needed a bit of moisture and wind resistance, but you needed a hardshell for proper weatherproofness.

Many of the softshells you can buy today are windproof and waterproof, however. Taped seams and windproof panels make them every bit as protective as your old school rain jacket.

Still, not all softshells are wind or waterproof, so make sure you know what you’re getting.

Abrasion resistance

Softshell jackets and pants are made to hold up through hikes and climbs, and in many cases are even more durable than your hardshell. If you’re hard on gear, or you know you need a jacket or pair of pants that will last, invest in softshells.


Since softshells are intended for aerobic activities, most incorporate a bit of stretch for improved mobility. This is an especially great feature for hikers and rock climbers.


Your old rain jacket keeps rain out, but it also keeps sweat in. Hardshells offer little in the way of breathability. Softshells, however, are very breathable and help prevent sweat build up during activity.


Hardshells are meant for rainy or windy days. If it’s not rainy or windy, you probably won’t want to wear your hardshell. You might not even want to wear your hardshell on some rainy or windy days (the higher the temperature, the less inclined you’ll be to wear your rain jacket).

Softshells, on the other hand, suit a range of temperatures, weather conditions, and activities. They’re super versatile, and great for lots of different occasions.

Soft shell jacket sand pants will help you get outdoors to hike, climb, camp, and explore in less than ideal weather. Visit Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters in Fayetteville, Arkansas to check out our entire selection of outdoor apparel, including softshells.

One Comment

  1. […] Softshells also offer some wind resistance, and most hard shells are virtually windproof. […]

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