View Full Version : Definitions please

02-21-2006, 07:59 AM
OK, so I'm reading all this stuff about softshell, fleece and all these new and weird fabrics. I'm still catching up on Gortex and then you throw all of this stuff at me. So, lets start simple. What is a softshell? And is there a hardshell? What is it designed for? What are it's benefits and drawbacks? And why do you guys keep coming up with new ways for me to spend my not so hard earned money?

Ed T
02-21-2006, 08:17 AM

Softshell is typically very wind resitant, has excellent breathability and is water resistant. It may or may not also insulate. Some softhells would include the Schoeler fabrics, Windstopper fleece, Windpro, and even the simple wind shells like the Marmot Driclime.

Hardshell on the other hand will be waterproof. It may or may not be breathable or insulative as well. Most garments made with Gore-Tex would be a hardshell unless it's somthing in their XCR or next to skin product line.

I find Softhell to be excellent in early fall to early spring conditions (in Montana ). For heavy rain you still need a hardshell. The main reason for Softshell is greater comfort due to increased breathability.

Best resource to learn would be to read the descriptions of various garments form REI or Mountain Gear. They will be labled as softshell or hardshell.

Ed T

02-21-2006, 09:00 AM
Outside magazine online has a bunch of articles about this. Basically a softshell has a sort of rubbery outside (well mine does) that is fairly waterproof and windproof and it has some insulation on the inside (well mine does). It supposedly is not has waterproof as a gore tex raincoat (hardshell) but mine has not let any waterthrough yet.

I think some of the "civilian" softshells are supposed to look less "Ski slopey" so you can wear them around town, unlike some ski jackets that make you look like one of the Superfriends.

A softshell is supposed to be good for "most" conditions (ie not a blizzard or hurricane) while being more convenient and casual looking than a gore tex jacket with a liner or fleece underlayer.

02-21-2006, 09:09 AM
i've posted this link before to andy's very informative site - his others articles are also good reading. this one is his take on the soft shell concept:

Dan M
02-21-2006, 09:40 AM
+1 on the MM linked article. He has a great one on gloves/cold hands too.

And you probably want to read "The Best Softshell"

02-21-2006, 03:47 PM
Great resources as usual, gentlemen, thank you.