The Best Soft Shell Jacket in Australia [2019]


Author: Gaby Pilson - Professional Mountain Guide

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Softshell jackets are the unsung hero of the outdoor gear world - they keep you warm in the cold, protected from the wind, and dry in light rain all while staying breathable and comfortable during high-octane activities. Although it might seem like no one jacket could possibly do all of these tasks, softshell jackets have proven themselves time and time again to be one of the best layers for outdoor enthusiasts.

Since softshell jackets are made from so many different materials and in so many different styles, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you. Coming up, we have the ultimate guide to the best softshell jacket.

After the summary table below we have tips on what to look out for when choosing your jacket, followed by reviews of the best models available today.


iMAGE
PRODUCT
OUR #1 RATED
OUR #1 RATED

SALOMON RANGER

  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Active fit and adjustable features
  • Lightweight


KUHL IMPAKT

  • Water and wind resistant
  • Insulated with grid fleece for breathability


MARMOT GRAVITY

  • Very warm
  • Great wind and water resistance


THE NORTH FACE APEX RISOR

  • Stylish
  • Nearly waterproof
  • Very warm


VIGILANTE REVELSTOKE

  • Very warm
  • Highly waterproof
  • Comfortable and stretchy

How to choose the Best softshell jacket

When purchasing a softshell jacket, there are a few key things you’ll need to look for. Keep an eye out for these critical criteria:

Breathability

Many outdoor enthusiasts prefer softshells over hardshells for high-output activities because they are more breathable than jackets with a waterproof liner. Not all softshells are created equal, though, and some are more breathable than others.

Some softshells are even made with more breathable fabrics around the torso and more water resistant fabrics around the shoulders, arms, and hood, to help with breathability.

Water-resistance

The main difference between a softshell and a hardshell jacket is that softshells are water-resistant while hardshells are waterproof. This means that while a softshell will keep you dry in mist or light rain, it’s not meant for a deluge or downpour. While there are some truly waterproof softshells, these are few and far between - and very expensive.

Generally speaking, you’ll want a softshell with some semblance of water-resistance and a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outside.

Insulation

Although many softshells come with a thin layer of fleece insulation, some have none at all. As you can imagine, softshells with fleece insulation, no matter how thin, will be warmer than their non-insulated counterparts and better for colder temperatures. But, insulation decreases breathability, increases bulk and weight, and makes the jacket less suitable to warm-weather use and high-octane activities.


softshell jacket reviews

#1 Salomon Ranger review

TOP PICK

BUY AT WILD EARTH

​Salomon is known for producing gear for endurance athletes and the Ranger is no exception. A purpose-built technical softshell, the Ranger is designed to keep you protected from the elements when you’re covering some serious distance and elevation.

Packed with fantastic features like, water and wind resistance, an adjustable hood, and even a UPF 50 fabric, there’s not much that can stop you in the Salomon Ranger. Plus, the Ranger breathes well and has an active fit, so it’s ready to accompany you on your next adventure into the mountains.

Pros
  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Active fit and adjustable features
  • Lightweight                                                                     
cons
  • Not warm enough for casual hikes in colder temperatures

#2 ​​Kuhl Impakt jacket

BUY AT amazon

The Kuhl Impakt is a softshell jacket that looks just as good on the trail as it does in town. Made with a comfy 4-way stretch fabric with grid fleece on the underarm and side panels, the Impakt is designed to keep you warm while also allowing you to charge up the trail.

Plus, the jacket is water and wind resistant to help keep you dry in foul weather. That being said, the Kuhl Impakt is fairly heavy for a softshell jacket, is insulated, and doesn’t come with a hood, so it might not be best for overly aerobic activities in the alpine, though it excels on moderate day hikes and short backpacking trips.

Pros
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Insulated with grid fleece for breathability
cons
  • No hood
  • Too heavy for high-output activity         

#3 Marmot Gravity jacket

BUY AT WILD EARTH

The Marmot Gravity is a durable and practical softshell layer for outdoor adventure. It is insulated with a light fleece liner and boasts some serious water-resistant and wind-resistant power, which is great when the weather turns sour.

However, the Gravity prioritises warmth and protection from the elements over breathability, so it’s probably best used as a warm layer for less strenuous hikes than as a wind buffer on your next trail run. But, the Gravity is stylish enough for use in town, too, so if you’re a weekend warrior, this jacket might be the one for you.

Pros
  • Very warm
  • Great wind and water resistance               
cons
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Not breathable enough for serious excursions
  • No hood

#4 The North Face Apex Risor review

BUY AT WILD EARTH

​The North Face is a brand that blends style and functionality, which is exactly what you get with the Apex Risor. This softshell jacket is made with WindWall fabric, which is almost completely waterproof and is 100% windproof.

This jacket is warm enough to keep you happy in windy and wet conditions at higher elevations, but also stylish enough for wearing around town.

Pros
  • Stylish
  • Nearly waterproof
  • Very warm                                                 
cons
  • Expensive
  • No hood
  • Too warm and heavy for endurance activities

#5 Vigilante Revelstoke review

BUY AT WILD EARTH

​The Vigilante Revelstoke is a classy-looking softshell jacket with some high-end features. Built out of a highly water-resistant fabric that’s fleece lined, it’s ready to keep you warm in the rain.

Plus, it’s got a large assortment of pockets that can hold goggles, smartphones, and gloves. The hood on the Vigilante is detachable, too, so it fits in well in town. That being said, it’s pretty warm and heavy, so it’s not great for hiking trips. Rather, the Vigilante is probably best used as a jacket for resort skiing or for use around town on cold days.

Pros
  • Very warm
  • Highly waterproof
  • Comfortable and stretchy                         
cons
  • Very heavy
  • Bulky
  • Not great for backpacking or lightweight trips

verdict

If you can only choose one softshell jacket, our choice is the Salomon Ranger. Built for aerobic activity, the Ranger is water and wind resistant, breathable, and is made with a lightweight a UPF 50 fabric. Plus, it is easily layered with other jackets when the weather changes and you need a bit of extra warmth.

At the end of the day, however, it’s important to find a softshell fabric that meets your needs and suits your lifestyle. Happy trails!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.