Outdoor Fabric Guide 5: Soft Shells
Posted by Neil | April 15, 2011
It’s a jungle out there…a maze of technical specifications and terms that seem to be understood only by those with insider knowledge of the outdoor clothing market.
Here, in the fifth part of our Gear-Zone information guide, we concentrate on Soft Shells.
Fabric Guide: Soft Shells
Soft Shell is a name given to what seems like a small army of garments, with a bewildering list of different qualities.
To complicate matters even further, there’s an array of shelled microfleeces which also come under the soft shell umbrella.
Soft shells are constructed with soft and warm fabrics, designed for reduced layering and improved freedom of movement in colder conditions, and are geared towards aerobic outdoor sports and activities.
Soft shells are basically based on breathability rather than total waterproofness, being weather-resistant rather than water-proof.
If you’re prone to high perspiration during your chosen sport, the more breathable the better. If you ‘run cold,’ then a more protective, less breathable soft shell would probably be more suitable – still effective at dispersing sweat but significantly more protective against the elements.
More wind-resistant than a traditional fleece, and by far the best controller of condensation, the Soft Shell is pleasant to wear, and is generally warmer than a lot of waterproofs, which normally don’t have the same insulating qualities.
Waterproof it doesn’t claim to be – but the Soft Shell has its own place in the market, whether it’s a lightweight windshirt, windproof fleece with water-repellency, or a soft, insulated jacket.
There is a huge choice of Soft Shell garments available, from all the leading brands including Rab, Berghaus, Mammut and The North Face.