It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; if you’re heading outdoors a softshell is about the most versatile type of jacket you’ll find for variable weather. Flexible, weather-resistant, breathable and adaptable, choose the right jacket and you’re covered for ninety percent of your time outside.
They’re never going to replace waterproofs, but a good softshell should be part of everyone’s outdoor wardrobe because there’s just no touching them for versatility. That said, there’s a huge variety of women’s softshell jackets available now and each caters for its own range of outdoor sports, activity levels, fit and weather conditions. So which will be best for you?
The first thing to consider is the weather in which you’ll be wearing it and how much protection you want – would a bit of airflow through the fabric aid moisture management when you’re moving fast? Or do you want a jacket that’s one step away from a hardshell for all but the wettest weather? Bear in mind that the general trend is for breathability to decrease with increased protection, so if you’re going to be working hard much of the time, avoid a windproof membrane or make sure there are plenty of venting options. If you’re going to be stationary or stop-starting though, a membrane like Gore Windstopper or Polartec WindBloc could be right up your street, eliminating the windchill factor entirely.
A membrane also adds significantly to water resistance, which is one of the bigger variables between softshell fabrics. Lightweight softshell jackets are usually only suitable for light drizzle on their own and even then you’ll need to be heading for cover to avoid getting wet. The heavier fabrics however often have a durable water repellent or DWR finish which makes water bead up rather than soaking in, giving you more time before you feel wet. In addition, the fabrics themselves have greater resistance to water, keeping you generally drier.
As for fit, you could opt for anything from a close athletic cut to a roomy mountain fit, the first being ideal for high intensity activity and the latter for layering up underneath. In between you’ll find active fit to keep you free for movement, alpine fit to maintain coverage when your arms are over your head a lot, and relaxed fit for if you’re planning to wear it every day. Bear in mind variation between manufacturers and even between styles too – there’s a massive choice of shapes available. All of these will keep you free to move and offer great protection, so if in doubt, choose the jacket that fits your shape best.
Some softshell jackets, usually at the lighter end of the range, also offer a degree of stretch that works with the fit to make you even freer. This can be built into the softshell fabric or added with panels of stretch fabric in a hybrid design. Either way, stretch is a must if you’re after full freedom or extra comfort.
The range of women’s softshells available is excellent nowadays, so there really is something for everyone who wants a wider comfort zone than a fleece and waterproof combo can provide. But if you’re having trouble narrowing down your options, we can help you find the ideal jacket for your needs, just call the number above. For flexibility and comfort in almost all conditions, your best bet is a softshell to keep you in the zone all day.