Hardshell or Softshell Jackets? Helpful Tips To Help You Choose

If you are a camper or an adventure enthusiast, one of the most critical pieces of gear to carry with you is a jacket. If you have the right jacket, you will not worry during chilly winter days or any other cold weather since your jacket will keep you dry and warm.

Now, the challenges come in if you are unsure of the type of jacket you are looking for? Is it a softshell jacket or a hardshell jacket? Do both of them serve the same purpose or not?

Well, deciding between the two types of jackets can be a daunting task since both of them provide numerous benefits such as comfort and protection. 

Therefore, you can only make the right choice if you understand their difference and the kind of adventure that you are about to undertake.

To understand each of them better, we shall look at their differences and similarities so that we know what we can expect from each type.

Hardshell and Softshell Jackets

What is a Hardshell Jacket?

Hardshell jackets are designed to keep you comfortable and dry in rough weather conditions. They have the benefit of being windproof, waterproof, insulated, and durable no matter the climate.

Most of the time hardshell jackets will have durable fabrics and come with Gore-Tex protection against the elements. They also come with hoods and can be worn year-round even though they perform better in the rain or snow.

What is a Softshell Jacket?

Softshell jackets are built to be flexible, lightweight, and breathable. They perform the best in nicer weather, although they can be worn in light rain or wind.

The outside fabric is usually a material like polyester or nylon, since they’re lightweight, soft, and allow for the jacket to be more flexible when worn.

Differences Between Softshell and Hardshell Jackets

Below are the main differences between the two types of jackets.

Flexibility

Softshell jackets are flexible enough because they are made of woven fabric with a double layer attached and made of polyester. The external fabric of a performance softshell can stretch both horizontally and vertically for a wide range of motion.

They offer comfort while moving around since the inner layer of the jackets is light and soft, thus not adding bulk to the jacket. They are perfect for dry and mild temperatures as they are not formed for excessive warmth or rain.

Hardshell jackets are called ‘hard’ since they are not as flexible as their softshell counterparts since they are designed with a waterproof shell that isn’t very stretchy. The materials used to make hardshell jackets are more rigid.

Therefore, hardshell jackets are not suitable for outdoor activities such as climbing and downhill juggling since they do not offer a considerable amount of stretch that helps in a more dynamic stretch.

Breathability

A jacket should have the ability to let water vapors out to ensure the wearer is dry all day. A popular attribute among softshells is their breathability.

These types of jackets can control body temperature and stop overheating. They also keep moisture away, thus offering dry and moisture-free jackets.

Hardshell jackets are designed with stiff fabrics, typically PU or PTFE, giving exceptional protection against rain and snow. Although hardshell jackets have a breathable attribute, their breathability capability is relatively minimal.

In fact, if you put on a hardshell jacket without the correct venting during exertion, it may absorb too much moisture thus end up becoming soggy from the inside.

Waterproofness

Softshell jackets lack a taped seam, thus lacking the waterproof attribute. Although they can protect you from rain or snow, water may penetrate and soak through the fabric if you encounter heavy rain or snow.

On the other hand, hardshell jackets generally offer outstanding waterproof performance, especially those fitted with a layer like GORE-TEX or Event. Unlike its softshell counterpart, which lacks a taped seam, hardshell jackets have a taped seam that helps prevent water penetration into the fabric.

Therefore, if you are undertaking an outdoor activity where you may experience a considerable amount of precipitation, then a hardshell jacket will perfectly suit your purpose.

Weight

Are you looking for a light jacket for your outdoor activities such as jogging? Well, a softshell jacket may not be the right gear for you.

Typical softshell jackets have a thick construction, and their stretchy, abrasion-resistant fabrics make them weigh more than their hardshell counterparts. Therefore, due to their heavy construction, they are generally bulky and not packable.

Hardshell jackets are lighter, especially if they don’t come with extra insulating layers, thus making them travel-friendly. With a hardshell jacket, you can pack it into small sizes since it is lighter, thus taking very little space in your luggage.

Similarities Between Softshell Jackets and Hardshell Jackets

Below are some similarities between softshell jackets and hardshell jackets:

Protection

Both hardshell and softshell jackets offer protection depending on the activity being undertaken. For instance, softshell jackets can be used as an insulting membrane when skiing or dressing for cold, snowy weather.

Also, hardshell offers protection from rain and cold weather when you go for a day hike or a camping trip.

Comfort

Both jackets offer comfort when used for their intended purpose. For example, a softshell jacket is a style created to provide optimal mobility and comfort, especially during high-energy activities.

On the other hand, hardshell jackets will offer you maximum comfort, especially hiking, camping, or backpacking in the rain and snowy areas. This is because it is waterproof and will offer the durability you require for such kind of weather, thus offering maximum comfort.

Final Thoughts – Softshell vs. Hardshell Jackets

Both jackets are perfect wear when used for the right purpose. Since these two jackets don’t serve the same purpose, each should be worn depending on the purpose it is supposed to achieve.

For instance, if there is a chance of rain or you are planning to go to cold and snowy areas, a hardshell jacket will be ideal for you.

If you are planning an activity in a cool, dry weather destination, a softshell jacket is excellent for such purposes.

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