Hardshell versus Softshell

hardshell-jacket-by-lomostreamUnderstanding shell jackets can help you decide which type of jacket to purchase for your needs and which kind to take on a trip with you.

There are two types of shells, hardshells and softshells. A hardshell is that outdoor jacket that’s waterproof and has a hood and plenty of specialized features. Softshells, on the other hand, are more supple and aren’t typically marketed as waterproof—though they can be.

True hardshells are multi-layered, often with 2, 2.5, or 3 layers. If you’re wondering what a half layer is, let us explain a bit. A two layer coat has the exterior fabric that’s coated in protective and waterproof coatings to keep the weather out and keep you comfortable. The inside layer can be a moisture wicking layer or a lining of some sort. 2.5 layer hardshells are similar but have another coating on the inside to ensure you don’t break the hardshell with your skin or clothing. Hardshells with three layers have a separate layer that does each job—protection from the outside, protection from the inside, and breathability. Keep in mind that most rain jackets that are one layer don’t qualify as hardshells because they’re not multilayered.

Softshells, on the other hand, are more flexible, comfortable fabric. They’re soft and plush feeling and are often more comfortable to wear. They can be sometimes coated to be waterproof but because of outdoor gear standards they can’t always be marketed as “waterproof.” They’re more breatheable then hardshells because they often have fewer layers — but that also makes them susceptible to wind so they’re not the best for windy conditions.

Hardshells are perfect for multi-day trips where you’ll be exposed to the elements or there might be precipitation. Campers and hikers alike can benefit from hardshells. Softshells are better for folks who are looking for something for everyday use in town and the occasional trip to the woods or for situations when a hardshell isn’t the best option. Hardshells, for instance, don’t do well in cold temperatures and make loud noises and softshells are often better for winter trips.

We have different hardshells and softshells in stock so be sure to stop by and check out the options.

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