Got fall or spring travels in the works? Swap out your ordinary lightweight rain jacket for one of the best softshell jackets for men.
For travel to cooler destinations, a trusty softshell jacket is always a good idea. Soft & stretchy, these hybrid jackets combine the comfort & warmth of a fleece jacket with better weather protection. Softshells are also insanely comfortable to wear. They do a fine job of keeping you warm when windy wet weather rolls in your way.
Not sure how to choose the perfect softshell jacket? Boost up your travel gear arsenal with this guide to the best men’s softshell jackets for 2021…
Table of Contents
- The best men’s softshell jackets 2021: 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 2021: Top 12 reviews
Unless your travels only take you warm destinations, you’ll know: rain jackets aren’t always enough. Sure, you can dress up in bulky layers. (And generate a sizeable pool of sweat in the process.) But, sometimes, simply tossing on a softshell jacket will do the trick.
Softshell jackets were an immediate hit when they were introduced. Athletes and active travellers loved the comfort & warmth of these new kids on the block. Most important, though, were the jackets’ moisture-wicking abilities and breathability. They propelled cool weather outerwear to a new level.
And newer softshell jacket designs are even better.
The best softshells for men feature state-of-the-art fabrics & materials. They take breathability to the next level while offering better wind-resistant and water-repellency. (Though not complete waterproofing. Yet!) Slowly, there’s been a blurring of lines between softshells & 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 its heavier MX brother, the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody is a stylish softshell. The jacket is as sleek & sexy in the city as on the hiking trails, a rare combo.
For many travellers, the LT incarnation of the Gamma is an even better fit for their travel style. It offers a lighter weight, better packability, and a lower price point.
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, the LT lacks a heavier insulation. It’s also missing adjustable wrist cuffs for chillier spring & fall days. For sportier types this could be a blessing. It’ll allow you to fully customize your layer configuration.
As with many newer models, the face fabric on the Arc’teryx Gamma LT is breathable & wind-resistant. It’s also billed as weather-resistant. Take note though: It 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
The Patagonia Galvanized is, perhaps, the most unique jacket among our recommendations. It fuses the blissful comfort and stretch of a cozy softshell with the weather-protection of a hardshell. The unique hybrid design sits at the top of its class.
The 3-layer stretch-woven shell is spun from Patagonia’s own H2No® polyester/spandex blend. It delights travellers, alpinists, and hikers alike with its robust DWR finish. Unlike other softshells, the shell will stand up to the worst elements that spring & fall throws at you.
Thanks to this innovative design, the Patagonia Galvanized is in a league of its own among softshells for its weatherproofing. Of course, that leaves it with a handful of small drawbacks.
The Galvanized is surprisingly breathable for the level of protection it offers. But, because of the waterproof membrane, it isn’t quite as breezy as a true regular softshell. Fortunately, Patagonia’s added pit zips to help with the problem, throwing a little “manual” breathability into the mix.
The other major sticking point is the jacket’s price. Carving its own space in the niche, the Patagonia Galvanized, rightfully, charges more for delivering the best of two worlds.
If you’ve got room in your budget though, this is a top-of-class performer. It 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
Since its release, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody has sat atop many best softshell jacket round-ups. The jacket’s an all-around performer in spring & fall, shining in its mobility & value. It’s carved itself out as one of the lightest softshells on the market.
Outdoor Research has fitted the Ferrosi with a nylon and spandex shell. It’s designed for active travellers needing quick movement. They’ve also reinforced the shoulders and arms with a 120-denier Cordura fabric. It helps the most vulnerable areas of the jacket resist abrasion and damage.
Despite its lighter weight & feel, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody is a solid performer in the elements. It’s both wind- and water-resistant. It’ll carry you through spring & autumn weather twists without compromising your travel plans.
Even with its weather-protecting prowess, the jacket remains breathable. It’ll help you to avoid feeling clammy when you kick the adrenaline up a notch.
The lightweight construction comes at a cost though. Don’t expect the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody to push too far into colder seasons. For a go-to jacket for late autumn or early spring in cooler northern climes, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
- 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 is a favourite for alpinists. (And, really,anyone who can’t sit still.)
The strength of this jacket hinges on its extreme breathability & mobility. It’s 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. This proprietary blend of polyester, nylon, and elastane is stretchy & insanely comfortable. With the jacket’s articulated design, it helps you move around quickly without worry.
The breathability of the Fortius 2.0 is second-to-none. It’s adept at 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. It’s at least enough to endure a light shower or a sprinkling of slow. The Fortius 2.0 fabric is also abrasion resistant. This should give it a huge thumbs-up among hardcore backwoods explorers.
Even with its reputation for confronting wild conditions head on, the Gamma MX offers a streamlined look. It’s simple rather than bombastic. This softshell jacket feels as at home (and looks as good) in a city as on alpine trails.
Despite all its pluses, let’s look at the 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 Vancouver-based company prides themselves on the quality of their workmanship & warranties. It puts their products in a league of their 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
Meet you new favourite travel companion: the Patagonia Adze Hoody . Whether you’re hunting down autumn leaves in Kyoto or careering down European hiking trails in spring, this jacket pulls rank.
This top-notch men’s softshell jacket is built for active travellers facing cool windy conditions. It’ll help you defeat 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. It shelters 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. It leaves you feeling dry even when you’re cranking up your heart rate on an autumn hike.
The Patagonia Adze Hoody is also adept at keeping the cool weather sealed out. When the mercury dips, it’s got a set of hardwarmer pockets to keep your hands toasty. The hook-and-loop cuff closures and adjustable drawcord hem furthers its prowess.
For climbers and skiers, the softshell also adds in a helmet-compatible hood. Combined with its warmth & wind-resistance, it’s a winning combo for alpine activities.
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 shell it out, you’ll get a stylish jacket that’ll last 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 travel companion. It’s equally adept at attacking urban wind tunnels or hiking trails with gusto.
At the core of the Apex Bionic 2 jacket is its famous WindWall® fabric. This blend of polyester and elastane works wonders against the wind. The light fleece liner is exceptionally comfortable against the skin. It also provides an added layer of warmth. When paired with a hoody, this softshell is remarkably warm.
Although The North Face Apex Bionic 2 is a great choice for most, active travellers may want to set their sights elsewhere. Yes, the elastane in the face fabric is stretchy. It also allows for less restrictive movement. As a whole though, the jacket isn’t designed with a extensive mobility in mind. Instead, opt for a sportier model with a fully articulated design. The Arc’teryx Gamma MX or Arc’teryx Gamma LT are better choices 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 a breath of fresh air. Literally. 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. It’s even got a price tag that’s trimmer than the company’s other premium products.
The double-woven Kauss™ polyester shell features a durable water repellent coating (DWR). This shell sheds moisture surprisingly well. Even so, it still allows 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 not perfect for all wearers. In a bid to keep off the weight, the jacket has stripped away a handful features. Several staple features in most high-end softshell jackets are noticeably absent. For an adjustable hood and drawstring wrist cuffs, for example, you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if weight and packability are most important for you, the Tenquille Hoody is 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 hard to see why travellers return 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 isn’t the not the stretchiest of these top softshell jackets. Nonethless, it 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. It’s also 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
Looking for a warm softshell for a mid-layer? There’s hardly a better choice than the Outdoor Research Ascendant.
When the mercury drops and you still want to kick it into high gear, this jacket’s got your back. It’s built for comfort and breathability. The performance shell is spun from a lightweight stretch-woven nylon. It features a ripstop face fabric backed by a Polartec Alpha fleece.
Weighing in at 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. It’ll hold up to cool conditions without feeling icky when you decide to take the action up a notch.
Despite its claims, the Ascendant’s water-resistance and wind-proofing isn’t its best feature. It doesn’t quite compete with other top performers in these categories.
In any case, this softshell shines most as a mid-layer. It’ll keep you as cozy as any jacket on this list in most conditions 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 strolling along streets or hiking trails, the Mountain Hardwear Fairing is a stand out jacket. (And, no, we wouldn’t blame you if it becomes an instant travel gear favourite.)
This softshell jacket features the company’s own AirShield™ technology, a powerful windproofing solution. The shell has no problem standing up to the chillest spring & fall wind bursts.
The comfort of the Mountain Hardwear Fairing continues on the inside. It’s fitted with a soft tricot backer that provides an added layer of warmth to the jacket. It also bestows a velvety touch on the skin.
The extra warmth comes at the expense of breathability, however. The jacket also lacks an articulated design. In tandem, you’ll find the Fairing far better 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 it. It’s perfect for cooler days out on the town. It also offer a style that’s subdued enough to wear in anywhere—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 discontinuing—new products & styles frequently. The fact 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. It’s stretchy, breathable and comfortable. (Like any softshell jacket worth its salt should be.)
For those cool blustery days, the Marmot Gravity is also windproof and water-resistant. Like most softshells though, it’s not remarkably so.
Despite its sweet spot for everyday use, the Marmot Gravity isn’t fantastic in the coolest temperatures. Recent design updates to this coat have reduced the insulation in the liner. To stay toasty during the cooler days of spring or fall, you’ll need to complement this dude with a warm underlayer.
- 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 Patroll targets skiers and alpinists. And this softshell does it as well as any in our recommendations.
The jacket shines with four-way stretch fabric and underarm gussets. Put together, they ensure a superb range motion for carving up the pistes. There’s also a helmet-compatible hood and dual harness-compatible hand pockets. They jolt this softshell even further ahead for slope-seekers.
The jacket’s shell features a DWR finish. And although it’s not the top performer for weather protection, it’s far from the worst. It’ll provide decent enough coverage against light snowfalls and drizzle.
Where the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol shines is in drier and milder conditions when the adrenaline’s pumping. The comfortable shell blocks cool winds and keeps you warm while remaining breathable.
The lack of an insulated liner, however, implies that this jacket is most suitable as an outer layer. When the temperatures start to dip, you’ll want to pair it with a warm mid-layer.
- 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 a softshell doesn’t quite check all the boxes, these jackets are an excellent compliment to other outerwear. In inclement weather, many travellers relegate their softshells to the midlayer. You can easily pair it with a lightweight rain jacket on the outer later. It gives a solid combination of warmth and excellent weatherproofing.
Likewise, in cooler dry weather, you can use your softshell as an outer layer. Stack it with a sweater or fleece jacket for an extra dash of warmth. You’ll still benefit from the jacket’s windproofing capabilities.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably bought most of your 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. One thing most have in common is their comfort, durability, and stretchability.
Weather-resistance & breathability
More often than not, the top softshells now feature limited weather resistance. This is 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 won’t 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. It adds further weather-protection, especially against wind. This, of course, comes at the expense of breathability.
While scanning your options, you may also notice that newer models feature strategically placed panels. These panels 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. They’re placed behind the face fabric for a dash of extra warmth and comfort.
Like weather-resistance, insulated fleece liners tend to decrease breathability. It 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.
Planning 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.
To ensure a proper fit, you’ll want to look for jackets with adjustable hems and wrist cuffs. For skiing, cycling or climbing adventures, verify that your 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. It features a high-quality build & stylish design that’s 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. It shines with superb breathability, an abrasion-resistant face fabric, and athletic fit & style.
- Need top-rated weather protection? No jacket on this list protects better than the Patagonia Galvanized. It’s a unique hybrid, combining 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. It’s got a sophisticated style, warm & comfortable fit, and excellent wind resistance.