For the perfect balance of weather resistance, breathability and comfort, we’ve broken down the top softshells of the year
For high-output activities, it’s hard to beat softshell jackets. Their breathable and stretchy fabrics provide excellent performance and a truly comfortable fit, and their durable shells can withstand breezes and precipitation as long as you’re not out in a storm. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a versatile shell for every outdoor activity. Below we’ve detailed our favorite softshells for the 2022 season, from casual jackets for everyday use to performance pieces for backcountry skiing and ice climbing. For more background information, see our softshell jacket comparison chart and buying advice below our picks.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoodie
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi hoodie is a great value. This softshell jacket is lightweight enough for biking, climbing and hiking, but still durable enough to provide protection and abrasion resistance from the terrain and environment. With a helmet-compatible hood and a wide cut, this jacket also allows for layering underneath, something many other lightweight options don’t allow.
While not the most weatherproof, the Ferrosi offers excellent 3-season protection from rain and wind, making it ideal for backpacking, alpine climbing and mountain biking. This is a staple in the softshell category and is one of the best values you’ll find.
MAMMUT ULTIMATE VII SO Hooded Jacket
Tested for optimal breathability, comfort, and versatility
The Mammut Ultimate VII SO Hooded Jacket is the perfect combination of comfort, breathability and weather resistance in the best overall softshell jacket. This 4-way stretch jacket is a good balance of all the features we look for in a softshell: weather resistance, breathability, comfort, durability, features, and sustainability.
Other jackets in our review may have been lighter, more weatherproof or more affordable – but none of these were as balanced as the Ultimate VII. We tested this jacket on high-altitude morning runs in the Rockies, afternoon hikes in the high Sierra, and even on several fall desert expeditions. It stood up to the wind on exposed ridgelines and was so breathable and comfortable that we barely needed to take the layer off.
Patagonia R1 Techface
The R1 Techface is ethical, made primarily from recycled materials, and is more than just a pretty face. The double-sided woven fabric is breathable, highly elastic and has a DWR finish that keeps most moisture and wind out. The interior features a grid design with raised squares of material secured to body heat air pockets between them, which makes this jacket much warmer than it looks at first glance.
Dynamic stretch makes it a great performer on cliffs and hills, as you can move freely while wearing it. There is no hood on the model we tested, but there is a high collar and a nice zippered garage to prevent sore skin or whisker barriers. There are two insert pockets – both with zippers and mesh on the back to reduce weight – designed to be compatible with backpacks and hiking straps. The cuffs are cut tight to keep the cold wind out, and the bottom hem of the coat can be tightened with adjusters.
Rab Borealis Jacket
If you want to prioritize breathability, stretch and mobility over weather protection, then we can’t think of a better choice than Rab’s Borealis jacket. Despite the DWR coating, this jacket isn’t the best in terms of rain or other weather protection. But what it lacks in that category, it has room for breathability and mobility thanks to its two-way stretch construction.
We tested this jacket on hikes, runs, bike rides and backyard picnics near the Southern California coast. It was perfect for those arid and temperate conditions. It quickly became our go-to jacket when we were out for an evening mountain bike race or a trip to the brewery. We love the drawcord that helps with the fit, the hood, and the ability to tuck into the left breast pocket for quick and easy storage.
Black Diamond Alpine Start
The Black Diamond Alpine Start was originally designed for climbers. It is a handy soft shell that fits in its own pocket and can then be clipped to a harness. It finds a much more important use than just as a backup hiking jacket and with its built-in weather resistance is perfect for protecting you from strong winds and light rain.
It stows away very small and fits perfectly in the outer pocket of your pack, so you can quickly remove it if a sudden gust of wind or rain catches you off guard. It’s made of durable and stretchy Schoeller fabric.
The fabric is treated with nanosphere technology to repel water and dust. It’s not waterproof by any means, but it will protect you from light rain. This jacket is long enough to protect you from the wind, and the sleeves are made a little loose to allow your arms to move.
The Black Diamond Alpine Start Softshell Jacket has only one pocket. It’s roomy enough to store any valuables you might want to carry with you, but it’s best to have some insert pockets as well.
The Alpine Start is a great lightweight softshell jacket for long hikes, but that’s about it. It’s also handy if you’re a hiker.