Soft Shell

A soft shell is a jacket or pant, usually constructed of polyester, that has a durable, wind- and water-resistant outer face, and a warm, fleecy lining.  The idea behind a soft shell is that it is more versatile than a hard shell or fleece by themselves, and it reduces bulk by basically combining the best features of a hard shell and a fleece into one jacket: water resistance, breathability, and warmth.  Note that the vast majority of soft shells are *not* waterproof; they will not keep you dry in a downpour.  Many soft shells don’t even have hoods.  However, strong DWRs and seamless shoulders will keep the wearer dry for a long time.  The rules are starting to change, though.  In recent years, companies have progressed to the point where they’ve started to produce fully waterproof soft shells.  Two notable fabrics are Conduit Softshell, made by Mountain Hardwear, and Gore-Tex Softshell, produced by multiple companies.  These jackets usually feature fully taped seams, whether exterior or interior, and are both warmer and more breathable than traditional hardshells, and consequently, are substantially more expensive than comparable fleeces or hardshells.

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