If you’ve got fall or spring travels in the works, you’ll love swapping out your ordinary lightweight rain jacket for one of the best softshell jackets for men.
Whenever I’m travelling to a cooler destination, I always pack a trusty softshell jacket. Soft & stretchy, these hybrid jackets combine the comfort & warmth of a fleece jacket with better protection against rough weather. They’re also insanely comfortable to wear & do a great job of keeping you warm when windy wet weather rolls in your way.
Not sure what to look for? Boost up your travel gear arsenal with this guide to the best men’s softshell jackets for 2020…
Table of Contents
- The best men’s softshell jackets 2020: Top 12 reviews
- Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody
- Patagonia Galvanized
- Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody
- Arc’teryx Gamma MX Jacket
- Patagonia Adze Hoody
- The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket
- Arc’teryx Tenquille Hoody
- Columbia Ascender Jacket
- Outdoor Research Ascendant
- Mountain Hardwear Fairing Jacket
- Marmot Gravity Jacket
- Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell
- How to choose the perfect men’s softshell jacket: A quick buyers’ guide
- Final recommendations
The best men’s softshell jackets 2020: Top 12 reviews
Unless your travels only take you warm destinations, you’ll know: rain jackets aren’t always enough. While you can dress up in bulky layers and generate a sizeable pool of sweat in the process, sometimes simply tossing on a softshell jacket will do the trick.
Softshell jackets were an immediate hit when they were introduced. Athletes and other active travellers loved the comfort, warmth, and, more importantly, moisture-wicking abilities of these new kids on the block.
And newer softshell jacket designs are even better.
The best softshells for men feature state-of-the-art fabrics & materials that take breathability to the next level while offering better wind-resistant and water-repellency (though not complete waterproofing) that’s slowly blurring the lines between these & full-on men’s rain jackets.
In a rush? Here’s a quick comparsion table…
Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody
Weight: 15.7 oz / 445 g
Fabric: 56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane
Top Uses: Active travel, climbing, hiking
Like it’s heavier MX brother, the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody is a stylish softshell that’s as sleek & sexy in the city as on the hiking trails. For many travellers, the LT incarnation is an even better fit for their travel style thanks to its lighter weight, better packability, and lower price poinbt.
In a bid to shed those precious few grams, the Gamma LT strips a couple features from the MX. There’s a light backer on the stretch-woven softshell fabric for comfort, but, unlike the Gamma MX, lacks a heavier insulation and adjustable wrist cuffs for those chillier spring & fall days. For sportier types this could be a blessing as it allows you to fully customize your layer configuration.
As with many newer models, the face fabric on the Arc’teryx Gamma LT is breathable and wind-resistant. It’s also billed as weather-resistant, but doesn’t perform in wetter conditions quite as well as the Arc’teryx Gamma MX or Patagonia Galvanized.
- Sleek casual design
- Lightweight materials
- No adjustable cuff
- Lacks insulated backing
Weight: 18.6 oz / 527 g
Fabric: 88% polyester / 12% spandex
Top Uses: Hiking, climbing, skiing
Perhaps the most unique jacket among our recommendations, the Patagonia Galvanized fuses the blissful comfort and stretch of a cozy softshell with the weather-protection of a hardshell for a hybrid design that’s top of its class.
The 3-layer stretch-woven shell, spun from Patagonia’s own H2No® polyester/spandex blend, delights travellers, alpinists, and hikers alike with a DWR finish that stands up to the worst elements that spring & fall throws at you.
Thanks to this innovative design, the Patagonia Galvanized in, undoubtedly, a league of its own among softshells for its weatherproofing. Of course, that leaves it with a handful of small drawbacks.
While the Galvanized is surprisingly breathable for the level of protection it offers, it isn’t quite as breezy as a true regular softshell because of the waterproof membrane. Fortunately, Patagonia’s added pit zips to help alleviate the problem and throw a little “manual” breathability into the mix.
The other major sticking point is the jacket’s price. Carving out its own space in the niche, the Patagonia Galvanized, rightfully, charges more for the privilege of delivering the best of two worlds. If you’ve got room in your budget though, this is a top-of-class performer that could well become one of the most versatile pieces of travel gear in your arsenal.
- Hybrid design offer best-in-class weather-protection
- Excellent comfort and mobility
- Not as breathable as a regular softshell
- Premium price point
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody
Weight: 13.9 oz / 393 g
Fabric: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
Top Uses: Active travel, biking, hiking
An all-around performer in spring & fall, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody has sat atop its fair share of best softshell jacket round-ups since its inception. Where this jacket really shines is in both its mobility & value, carving itself out as one of the lightest softshells on the market.
Outdoor Research has fitted the Ferrosi with a nylon and spandex shell that’s designed for quick movement. The more vulnerable areas of the jacket, namely the shoulders and arms, are reinforced with a 120-denier Cordura fabric to resist abrasions.
Despite its lighter weight & feel, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody is a solid performer in the elements. It’s both wind- and water-resistant to carry you through quick spring and autumn weather twists without compromising your travel plans. And even with its weather-protecting prowess, it’s breathable enough to avoid feeling clammy when you kick the adrenaline up a notch.
With its lightweight construction though, I wouldn’t expect the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody to push too far into the late-autumn or be a go-to for early spring in cooler, more northern climes.
- Great mobility & breathability for active travellers
- One of the lightest softshell jackets out there
- Superb value
- Minimal insulation for the coolest spring & fall days
Arc’teryx Gamma MX Jacket
Weight: 1 lb 1.1 oz / 485 g
Fabric: 85% nylon, 15% elastane
Top Uses: Active travel, climbing, hiking
A top performer among men’s softshell jackets, the Arc’teryx Gamma MX has long been a favourite among alpinists and those who can’t sit still. The strength of this jacket hinges on its extreme breathability & mobility, making it a superb choice for active travellers interested in heart-pumping hikes or other active endeavours.
At the heart of the Arc’teryx Gamma MX is the company’s own Fortius 2.0 fabric, a proprietary blend of polyester, nylon, and elastane; it’s stretchy & insanely comfortable, and along with the articulated design, helps you move around quickly without worry.
The breathability of the Fortius 2.0 is second-to-none, allowing vapours to escape when you’ve worked up a good sweat to help you avoid feeling clammy. There’s a certain amount of water-resistance here, too, at least enough to endure a light shower or a sprinkling of slow. The Fortius 2.0 fabric is also abrasion resistant, giving it a huge thumbs-up among hardcore backwoods explorers.
Even with its reputation for confronting wild conditions head on, the streamlined look of the Gamma MX is simple rather than bombastic. This softshell jacket feels as at home (and looks as good) in a city as it does on alpine trails.
Despite all its pluses, let’s look at the big elephant in the room: the price. Arc’teryx is well known for keeping their jackets at a premium point, but it’s for good reason. The quality of workmanship & warranties puts this Vancouver-based company’s products in a league of its own among the best outerwear for travellers.
- Superb breathability
- Excellent mobility & comfort
- Premium price point
Patagonia Adze Hoody
Weight: 26 oz / 737 g
Fabric: 90% polyester, 10% spandex
Top Uses: Active travel
Whether you’re hunting down autumn leaves in Kyoto or careering down European hiking trails in spring, the Patagonia Adze Hoody could be your best travel companion. Built for active travellers facing cool, windy conditions, this top-notch men’s softshell jacket defeats the elements & keeps you warm without leaving you feeling sticky.
The two-layer stretch-woven fabric on the Patagonia Adze Hoody repels wind with the best of ’em, sheltering you from the cold as you fire up and down the trails thanks to its polyester and spandex shell. There’s even a durable water repellant (DWR) coating that’ll shed off light rain and snow.
For comfort though, what you’ll love most is the cozy bonded fleece lining. Not only does it keep this softshell jacket warm, it helps to wick moisture away from the skin to leave you feeling dry even when you’re cranking up your heart rate on an autumn hike. Add to that handwarmer pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, hook-and-loop cuff closures, and an adjustable drawcord hem, and you’ll see how versatile the Patagonia Adze Hoody is to keep the cool weather sealed out.
With its high-quality build, the Adze Hoody comes with one strike against it: a lofty price point. If you’re on a budget, this softshell jacket probably isn’t the one for you. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to pay, you’ll get a jacket that’ll last with style through many-a journey.
- Great breathability
- Warm & comfortable fleece lining
- Excellent wind protection
- Premium price point
The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket
Weight: 23.9 oz / 680 g
Fabric: 96% polyester, 4% elastane
Top Uses: Casual travel, backpacking
As my own first foray into softshell jackets, I have a soft spot (no pun intended!) for the sleek & minimalist The North Face Apex Bionic 2. Among the best choices for casual travellers, this jacket is the perfect companion for attacking urban wind tunnels or hiking trails with gusto.
At the core of the Apex Bionic 2 jacket is its famous WindWall® fabric, a blend of polyester and elastane that works wonder against the wind. The light fleece liner is exceptionally comfortable agains the skin and provides an added layer of warmth. When paired up with a hoody, this softshell can be remarkably warm.
Although The North Face Apex Bionic 2 is a great choice for most, active travellers may want to set their sights elsewhere. While the elastane in the face fabric is stretchy and allows for less restrictive movement, the jacket itself isn’t designed with a extensive mobility in mind. A sportier model with a fully articulated design like the Arc’teryx Gamma MX or Arc’teryx Gamma LT would be a better choice here.
- Warm & comfortable windproof design
- Brilliant casual style
- Less mobility than some other models
- No adjustable hem or sleeve cuffs
Arc’teryx Tenquille Hoody
Weight: 10.2 oz / 290 g
Fabric: 100% polyester
Top Uses: Hiking, active travel
Built with the intrepid hiker in mind, the Arc’teryx Tenquille Hoody is (literally) a breath of fresh air. At a scant 10.2 ounces, it’s the lightest pick among our top softshells and among the most breathable, too.
Despite its featherlight materials, this hoody is a beast when it comes to performance—at a price tag that’s trimmer than the company’s other premium products. The durable water repellent coating (DWR) on the double-woven Kauss™ polyester shell sheds moisture surprisingly well while still allowing sweat vapours to escape through more air-permeable areas underneath the armpits. There’s also a lightweight textured backer added for comfort.
Although the Arc’teryx Tenquille Hoody is ounce-for-ounce one of the best choices here, it’s stripped away a handful features in a bid to keep off the weight. Features that are staples in most high-end softshell jackets, such as an adjustable hood and drawstring wrist cuffs, are noticeably absent. But if weight and packability are most important for you, this one’s gonna be hard to beat.
- Ultralight construction
- Good weather-protection for a softshell
- No adjustable hood or cuffs
Columbia Ascender Jacket
Weight: 20 oz / 567 g
Fabric: 100% polyester
Top Uses: Casual travel, everyday wear
There’s hardly an outdoors outfitter that’s more of a household name than Columbia. And with their top-selling softshell jacket for men, the Columbia Ascender, it’s not difficult to see why travellers return to them time and time again.
At its budget price point, nothing even comes close to the Columbia Ascender in terms of value. The 100% polyester face fabric, while not the stretchiest of these top softshell jackets, battles harsh winds with the best of them to help keep you warm underneath. The water-resistance is quite good, too, pearling off light rain with little fuss.
For active travellers though, the Columbia Ascender might not quite be what you’re looking for. This softshell jacket isn’t as breathable as other sportier models, and is more well suited for casual than active wear.
- Spectacular value
- Warm & comfortable with excellent wind-proofing
- Not breathable enough for high-octane activity
Outdoor Research Ascendant
Weight: 13 oz / 369 g
Fabric: 100% nylon (shell), 100% polyester (insulation)
Top Uses: Skiing, mountaineering, hiking, climbing
If you’re looking for a warm softshell for a mid-layer, there’s hardly a better choice than the Outdoor Research Ascendant. Built for comfort and breathability when the mercury drops and you still want to kick it into high gear, this performance shell features a lightweight stretch woven nylon ripstop face fabric backed by a Polartec Alpha fleece.
Weighing in at just 13 ounces, the Outdoor Research Ascendant swoops in as one the featheriest softshells in our list (only the Arc’teryx Tenquille is lighter). For its weight, it’s surprisingly warm, holding up to cool conditions without feeling icky when you decide to take the action up a notch.
Despite the claims, the Ascendant’s water-resistance and wind-proofing doesn’t quite compete with other top performers here. In any case, it shines most as a mid-layer and will keep you as cozy as any jacket on this list, all without the higher price points of competitors like Arc’teryx or Patagonia.
- Warm & comfortable
- Ultralight construction
- Works better as a mid-layer than outer shell
Mountain Hardwear Fairing Jacket
Weight: 1 lb 5 oz / 595 g
Fabric: 88% polyester, 12% elastane
Top Uses: Casual travel, backpacking
Whether you’re strolling streets or hiking trails, the Mountain Hardwear Fairing could become one of favourite new pieces of travel gear. This softshell jacket features the company’s own proprietary AirShield™ technology, a powerful windproofing solution that has no problem standing up to the chillest spring & fall wind bursts.
The comfort of the Mountain Hardwear Fairing continues on the inside where a soft tricot backer provides an added layer of warmth to the jacket and bestows a velvety touch on the skin. This comes at the expense of breathability, however, showing, along with its lack of an articulated design, that this jacket’s far more suited for cooler temperatures than active pursuits in mild to warm weather.
And this is precisely where the Fairing shines. As an everyday softshell jacket, it’s hard to beat this one. It’s perfect for cooler days out on the town with a style that’s subdued enough to wear in even in a casual business setting.
- Superb windproofing
- Warm & comfortable fit
- Not as breathable as other softshell jackets
- Not suitable for active pursuits
Marmot Gravity Jacket
Weight: 1 lbs 8.2 oz / 686.1 g
Fabric: 85% nylon, 15% elastane
Top Uses: Casual travel, everyday wear
To many travellers, the simple style of the Marmot Gravity is everything you’d hope for. Marmot’s got a habit of testing out (and, frustratingly enough, discontinuing) new products & styles frequently, and the fact that this softshell jacket design has stood the test of time should be a testament to its popularity and effectiveness.
The Gravity is given its powers by the Marmot M1 fabric, a blend of nylon & elastane that’s stretchy, breathable and comfortable like any softshell jacket worth its salt should be. For those cool blustery days, it’s also windproof and water-resistant, even if, like most softshells, it’s not remarkably so.
Despite its sweet spot in the everyday use category, the Marmot Gravity isn’t fantastic in the coolest of temperatures. Recent design updates to this coat have reduced the insulation in the liner meaning that you’ll need to complement this dude with a warm underlayer during the cooler days of spring or fall to stay toasty.
- Simple understated design
- Good windproofing & breathability
- Not overly suitable for chilly temperatures
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell
Weight: 1 lb 3 oz / 540 g
Fabric: 63% nylon, 26% polyester, 11% elastane
Top Uses: Skiing, climbing
If the company and model name didn’t give it away, the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol targets skiers and alpinists as good as any pick on our list. The four-way stretch fabric and underarm gussets ensure a superb range motion for carving up the pistes. The helmet-compatible hood and dual harness-compatible hand pockets jolt this softshell even further ahead for slope-seekers.
The jacket features a DWR finish, and although it’s not the top performer in terms of weather protection, it’s far from the worst, providing decent coverage against light snowfalls and drizzle. Where the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol shines most is in drier conditions when the adrenaline’s pumping and you require a comfortable shell that blocks cool winds to keep you warm while remaining breathable. The lack of an insulated liner also implies that this jacket is most suitable as an outer layer when the temperatures start to dip.
- Comfortable four-way stretch
- Excellent windproofing & breathability
- No insulated liner
How to choose the perfect men’s softshell jacket: A quick buyers’ guide
Got active pursuits on the docket for this spring or fall? No doubt, rain jackets and hardshells have their place in every serious traveller’s gear arsenal. But if you want to experience outdoor comfort to the max, there’s hardly a better choice than donning a softshell jacket!
Why buy a softshell jacket
Softshells fulfill a need that other jacket types skim over. Like a fleece, a good softshell is the perfect companion for when temperatures start to plummet from warm & mild to cool. Unlike fleece jackets, however, the layered construction adds a higher level of breathability to the mix.
Besides enjoying better breathability, softshell jackets are superb for mobility. They’re an excellent choice for outdoor activities like hiking, walking, and even skiing (as an outerlayer on a milder winter day).
The softshell showdown: How does it compare?
Before you decide on which of these stellar picks to buy, you really need to ask yourself: Is a softshell exactly what I need?
Of the most popular modern jacket styles for travellers & adventurers, softshells are perhaps the last understood. Even with new materials adding new features, sometimes they won’t fit the bill.
Here are some of the questions to ask yourself:
- Need top-notch weather protection? Hardshells and rain jackets outperform softshells in wind protection and waterproofing.
- Looking for comfort in colder weather? Insulated jackets or down jackets work better in sub-zero temperatures than softshell or fleece.
- Craving breathability, durability & mobility? Softshells tend to be more comfortable, more robust and more breathable than hardshells or rain jackets. They are, however, heavier and less packable.
- Need wind-resistance & warmth in cooler weather? Although they aren’t as warm, softshell jackets are better at resisting wind than fleece.
Even if you’ve discovered that a softshell doesn’t quite check all the boxes, these jackets are an excellent compliment to other outerwear. When unable to use them as outer layer in inclement weather, many travellers will relegate their softshells to the midlayer, pairing it with a lightweight rain jacket to get a solid combination of warmth and excellent weatherproofing.
Likewise, in cooler dry weather, you can use your softshell as an outer layer, stacking it with a sweater or fleece jacket for an extra dash of warmth while holding onto the jacket’s windproofing capabilities.
To those of us who’ve always bought our favourite outerwear on a whim, you might be surprised to find out that today’s most-popular products are anything but normal or simple. The top jacket manufacturers are always innovating their offerings with new materials.
Every year, softshell materials become lighter, more breathable while becoming more weather-resistant.
Unfortunately, it can make choosing your next piece of outerwear all that much more difficult!
Let’s simplify it and stick to the basics, shall we?
Fabric & Materials
The biggest difference between softshell jackets and their counterparts is the type of materials used on the face fabric and inner layers. The most common materials for the face fabrics include:
Each fabric blend offers a different look and feel, but the one thing that most have in common is their comfort, durability, and stretchability.
Weather-resistance & breathability
More and more often these days, the top softshells now also feature at least some limited weather resistance thanks to an applied durable weather resistant (DWR) coating. Although they won’t completely protect you in a rainstorm, getting stranded in a slight drizzle isn’t likely to cause much concern.
Just keep in mind that these DWR coatings wear out over time. The effectiveness of your softshell in wet weather tends to decline over time (see the image below for an example of an older DWR coating that doesn’t quite do the trick anymore).
Besides the DWR coatings, some softshells also include, like many raincoats, a lightweight membrane that adds further weather-protection, especially against wind. This, of course, comes at the expense of breathability.
While checking out your options, you may also notice that newer models feature strategically placed panels that offer better weather-resistance in the areas most vulnerable to wet weather. This design allows the breathability and mobility to remain high.
One of the biggest advantages of a softshell over a hardshell or rain jacket is how well it can stand up to wear. Many feature stretch-woven fabrics, designed to add extra strength, mobility, and weather protection. The downside is that these materials are heavier and harder to pack for travellers. (Minimalist travellers, in particular, may not dig the extra space and weight these take up.)
One of the biggest advantages of a softshell jacket is its warmth and comfort in cooler conditions. Certain models feature insulated fleece backers behind the face fabric for a dash of extra warmth and comfort.
Like weather-resistance, insulated fleece liners tend to decrease breathability and may not be the right choice for those whose pursuits are more active.
Choosing the right fit no doubt comes down to how you’re planning to use the jacket.
For activities like biking, hiking or trail running, a slimmer and more aerodynamic fit is most suitable.
If you’re planning, on the other hand, to use the jacket as an outer layer during colder winter days, you may want to move a size up to accommodate thicker mid-layers.
Other considerations for ensuring the proper fit include looking for jackets with adjustable hems and wrist cuffs. If your adventures include skiing, cycling or climbing, you’ll also want to check that the softshell’s hood is helmet-compatible.
- Need an all-around softshell jacket? There’s hardly a better choice than the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody featuring a high-quality build & stylish design that suitable for sporty and casual travellers alike.
- Looking for a comfortable high-performance jacket? The Arc’teryx Gamma MX is the top softshell for active travellers thanks to its superb breathability, abrasion-resistant face fabric, and athletic fit & style.
- Need top-rated weather protection? No jacket on this list protects better than the Patagonia Galvanized, a unique hybrid that combines the comfort of a softshell with the weatherproofing prowess of a hardshell.
- Want the best value among these softshell jackets? Nothing competes with the Columbia Ascender in the under $100 price range with its sophisticated style, warm & comfortable fit, and excellent wind resistance.