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Soft Shell or Hard Shell Jackets?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Which do you prefer, and why?

I am in the market for a new jacket and am curious if I really need a more traditional waterproof hardshell or if one of the newer soft shells would suffice. Or perhaps one of the new hybrids is the way to go. Now, I realize a lot of it depends on the conditions, but based on averages (i.e. avg temp, precip, wind, etc.) which type jacket do you go with/prefer? Maybe you prefer both. I am just curious what others are using and why they made that choice. Thanks.
post #2 of 15
I skied about 25 days last year and I wore a softshell for at least 21 of them. A good soft shell will have a fairly athletic style fit - not much, if any baginess - and you simply need to layer up underneath with thinner, high quality layers. If I end up skiing a lot more days per year (soon I will be), I would have a waterproof hardshell to fall back on for the really nasty days. Overall, I really enjoy the comfort and warmth of a softshell jacket.
post #3 of 15
After subjecting myself to blizzard conditions at Copper today in my Patagonia soft shell (White Smoke model - really a hybrid though) I would have to say that as long as the soft shell has the ability to shed fresh snow then it would be fine in everything except rain (or warm wet snow). The White Smoke did OK shedding snow, but I sure wish I had looked at the weather a little harder and brought my hard shell instead.

If you're the type that will ski in whatever Mother Nature dishes out AND you don't want to have to think about what jacket you're grabbing then definitely get a hard shell.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodler
If you're the type that will ski in whatever Mother Nature dishes out AND you don't want to have to think about what jacket you're grabbing then definitely get a hard shell.
I'll second that.
post #5 of 15
i've been wearing my Arc Teryx Javelin softshell in just about every condition imagineable the last 4 years. It has been great. Rarely have I thought I needed a hardshell.
However, i rarely get cold.
post #6 of 15
I've got a very basic Karbon softshell - no hood, very simple basic jacket - and I like it, nice insulation, pretty waterproof for the type (obviously not going to compete with a proper hardshell, but still good), but I find that the biggest issue is that it's very wind permeable. Do those of you with softshells as a primary jacket find this to be an issue, or do you think it's just because mine is a very basic one?

I bought it since it seemed to be a great choice for mild and spring conditions, and to mix and match with a hardshell (combine the two for those really cold days, and easy to take one of them off as needed in variable weather).
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by CanuckInstructor
I've got a very basic Karbon softshell - no hood, very simple basic jacket - and I like it, nice insulation, pretty waterproof for the type (obviously not going to compete with a proper hardshell, but still good), but I find that the biggest issue is that it's very wind permeable. Do those of you with softshells as a primary jacket find this to be an issue, or do you think it's just because mine is a very basic one?
I would have to say that your soft shell is letting you down for wind protection. I agree that this is a key characteristic of a good soft shell and both my Patagonia White Smoke and my Obermeyer Alpha are completely wind resistant.
post #8 of 15
i have a mountain hardware alcehmy and it is really nice. It is completly stops wind... and it is waterproof. I havent really taken it out on a cold day so that would be my only question... It is a really good soft shell jacket
post #9 of 15
I have both a soft shell (ArcTeryx Gamma MX) and a hard shell (TNF Steep Tech). I've found that that the softshell does not offer the weather protection I need when temps fall below 30, regardless of any precip.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ski_steep
I have both a soft shell (ArcTeryx Gamma MX) and a hard shell (TNF Steep Tech). I've found that that the softshell does not offer the weather protection I need when temps fall below 30, regardless of any precip.
30??? Dude, that's t-shirt weather!
post #11 of 15
I have a Marmot Sharp Point and love it. Very warm for such a light weight jacket and bomber.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by powderhound24
I have a Marmot Sharp Point and love it. Very warm for such a light weight jacket and bomber.
I can second the Sharp Point. Warm, windproof & weatherproof. But for very cold temps, not as good because you can't add anything thick (fleece) underneath. It is pretty form fitting. I suspect this is true for most softshells I have seen.

I use my softshell for warmer days (25-40 degrees) when I will be sweating. It breathes better than my hardshell.

I use the hardshell for full winter conditions.
post #13 of 15
So the gamma mx is too thin to be used for inbounds skiing? I'm tempted by a lot of these soft shells but skiing in the northeast makes me worried. Has anyone used the Cloudveil Zero-G? It seems to be one of the most insulated softshells around.
post #14 of 15
I love my Mountain Equipment Coop www.mec.ca softshell. I have a lightweight and heavier model. Either jacket covers 90% of my ski days (15-20 year). I still have my 4 yera old ski jacket, but wear my soft shell all the time. I use my ski jacket with layering when really cold (-10 c or colder).
post #15 of 15
I got my first softshell jacket this year, intending to wear it in clear/dry weather. Well, my first day on the hill Friday was 28F and sunny, but snow guns were running the whole time making it like skiing in blizzard conditions. I was a little nervous about my softshell after getting iced down after each run past the snow guns, but the jacket did great. Definitely waterproof! Normally I would wear my longer pullover shell in such conditions but didn't bring it along this time....

One warning about softshells -- the sizing is all over the place. Many softshells are sized small, to function as a tight-fitting outer layer over minimal inner layers. Unfortunately, I do not feel these are practical for skiing (at least for me). In fact, some were so tight I couldn't comfortable get my arms in (and I have pretty skinny arms). Out of the 6 or so softshells I looked at, all but one required a bump up in size for me. I normally wear XL jackets, but went to XXL for my softshell. So definitely try it on before you buy!

Craig
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