/ Softshell Suggestions?
Ive been climbing for 6 months and want to keep going outside over winter. I wear a cheapo softshell a lot but need a new one, mainly windproof and some water resistance. Budget is an issue due to family etc so I dont want to spend more than £125 which I know is far from top of the range, but I wondered if anyone had any advice or experience in this area?
Ive looked at things like the Marmut Up Track http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/marmot-up-track-jacket-p212646 and Patagonia Adze jacket.
Any suggestions/experience would be greatly appreciated.Or if you are selling one shout!
One man's softshell is another man's anything! No two people on UKC will give the same opinion on softshells, as the term is so loose that it covers everything from windshirts to glorified fleeces to lightweight synthetic jackets to Buffalo to anything else, some people insist a softshell must have a hood, others disagree!
Fair play and point!
Id like a hood and hoping the ones I was looking at would help. Im after a fleecey lined thing with windproofing. Decent weather protection but not a waxy full waterproof....
Any experience/suggestions as a I say....! If not its go to Hathersage then pick one online!
But a few things to consider
My all time favourite, perhaps too much for your budget:
High spec Black Diamond half price at £125:
Very good, with hood, 33% off:
Very cheap with hood, surprisingly good:
Dirt cheap without hood:
If it's a fleecey lined thing with windproof you seek, why not wear a fleece and a light windshirt?
Have a look at the Rab Exodus. A non membrane hooded softshell with plenty of features you get on much higher end jackets and you'll find it for much cheapness online. i've had one for a while along with a fair few offerings from Arcteyx, Haglofs, ME, MH and others. The only one i have yet to find a proper fault with (and haven't got rid of), especially considering price, is the Rab.
As Nick says though, its very subjective!
Outside have got some good deals in their sale at the moment.
Still wear a softshell ski suite I got from either Aldi or Lidil about 7yrs ago. On a winter skills course a couple of years ago, lots of rolling about in wet snow, reckon I stayed more comfortable than folks wearing £100s worth of kit. But if you want a label go for Paramo.
What's your cheapo? I seriously rate the Aldi ones - black and red ones which are £25-30. I got one half price at £15 about 4 years ago, the zip has just started giving me grief so I bought another jacket. I can probably sort the zip on the first one. It's served me well in Scottish and Lake District winter (in the latter case, just that over a merino base layer and fleece, for walk-in, climb, and summit white-out, whilst more hardcore partners were throwing on £100s of layers at the top. Also good for biking.
What is that you need a new one for?
Aren't the aldi ones membrane based if so no offence but it's not even going to be a good very breathable membrane. I'd avoid that if so. You can easily tell by trying to push breath through the fabric. The tab exodus is good - it's durable highly breathable and sheds water pretty well too! I can't personally see much advantage over a hard shell using membrane based soft shells.
i believe you are right, but I've found the breathability to be quite good. Admittedly I've no experience of higher-end stuff against which to make a comparison, but I like to think that I don't kid myself that stuff does the job when it doesn't. My main issue with Aldi ones (sold as ski jackets TBF) is that they are a bit bulky.
I would avoid anything with a membrane like the plague - not waterproof and not breathable either, worst of both worlds. (Maybe they've got better, my experiences are a few years ago)
Non-membrane, somewhat stretchy, mostly windproof softshell materials otoh are great. More comfortable and breathe better than pertex windshirts, although a bit heavier.
The one I have for winter is a Patagonia Ascensionist, no longer made but I guess they probably still do something similar. And for multipitch rock routes I just bought a hoodless Black Diamond jacket made with Schöller material - haven't used it much yet but first impressions are positive - good cut, robust, decent level of protection without being too hot to climb in.
Both of these are more towards the stiffer, anorak-style end of the scale rather than wind resistant fleeeces.
Hello there! I've recently bought a Lowe Alpine Caldera from Gooutdoors for £53 reduced from about £90. I've worn it out several times already and it is pretty bang on. Excellent wind proofness and good shower resistance although I wouldn't trust it totally in a downpour but then again it is a softshell. It stretches/moves with my body well when climbing, has high pockets that are accessable with a harness on and the hood is comfortably large. I hope it lasts as long as many of my other Lowe Alpine clothes I have.
Have a read of this if you havent already:
My recommendation would be a Rab Vapour Rise Alpine and a Rab Exodus. The Vapour rise should be worn as close to the skin as possible and due to the magic of micro pile, keeps you feeling dry even when your not; it's an ideal stand alone for walk ins, summer routes etc. Get one with the hood or you'll end up putting your shell on too soon.
When it's too wet / windy for just the VR, throw the exodus on over the top. The Exodus is a cheap, stretchy, rugged, non-membrane soft shell with excellent features. I think the non-membrane part is crucial if you’re going for a true soft shell system as it lets you breath.
Winter climbing i'll wear a fleece layer between my VR and Exodus for extra warmth and a belay jacket over the top.
(As much as it sounds like I do, i defaintely don't work for Rab... Marmot's Dri-clime stuff is very similar to VR and there are lots of non-membrane soft shells out there from other companies.)
I found the standard VR jacket and VR guide far too warm, the Alpine is just right.
I'll second the Alpine VR jacket. I've had mine for about two years and it is by far the best single item of outdoor clothing I own. My only regret is that I got it in an extra large as I envisaged I'd wear it as an outer layer over things; whereas in reality I only ever wear it over a base layer.
If you're interested, I've got a Patagonia Northwall softshell that I'm selling. It's almost unused - I wore it one day for a plod around a lake in dry conditions. Colour black, size Large. It's a bit big for me. I like it so much, I went and bought the Medium. £100 including including tracked delivery.
There are more details and reviews here:
If you're anywhere near Cheshire, you're welcome to pop round and try it on. Oh, and only £90 if you choose to collect.
Rab Neo? Half price at 135 from needle at the mo
Will try and find the article with all the science, but "breathable" stuff doesn't really work below about 17C. The fabric is designed to allow water vapour (very small micro droplets suspended in air) to pass through but not let full size droplets pass through. At about 17C (that's from memory but does seem a bit high) the water vapour condenses on the inside of the jacket forming normal sized water droplets: which can't pass through the material. Suppose what I should have said is that breathable gear doesn't work in Scotland, but if you need a waterproof in temperatures of >17C they'll be fine. But that's shirtsleeves weather in Scotland.
yea, think it was featured on one of the outdoor sites like this, "Walk Highlands" or the like. Though maybe Paramo site touting their solution, though I would say that their stuff works really well in typical Scottish winter conditions, cold wet and windy. Can't remember all the details but think they had both lab and field based test results.
I'm not entirely convinced by the science on this, as I'd imagine the microclimate generated within a jacket would push the temperature higher than the 17 C mentioned quite easily.
I could be slightly more convinced that at warmer temperatures the air outside the jacket could become sufficiently humid as to prevent vapour crossing the membrane. ("Breathable" membranes are at their most efficient in cold, dry condition)
Thanks for the offer Tony but I am the same size as you and would need the medium I think...but thanks again
Some really useful responses there guys, thanks.
I am at work now but will check some of the offers you have suggested at home later and bear in mind the membrane/not debate. Plus Ill look at the clothes in ALDI when I'm there (its not as good as LIDL mind!) as even if its not great a £25 jacket cant hurt as another option!
Hyphin-that article on the science of jackets sounds interesting, do post a lick if you find it please.
Aldo-that's a really useful link, cheers! I like RAB jackets but its the only brand I have an irrational dislike of, living in Sheffield they are SO cool and ever present, the contrary side of me wants to avoid them, but Ill definitely try that on and see...
My ancient Rab VR is wearing out, and I was considering getting another.
How big is the difference between the VR jacket and the Alpine? Is the fabric different, or are the changes restricted to things like the hood design?
Coldest: VR Alpine > VR > VR Guide : Warmest
I run quite hot but genrally can keep the VR alpine on all day, on it's own or under something. When I first got into hillwalking I had a VR guide, found it way too hot for most things and not windproof enough as a proper shell.
They don't seem to differ much through features though, they all have a solid hood and pockets.
You have to keep an eye on when Aldi actually have those things in! Only once or twice a year really :-(
Yes, at the price even if it isn't up to scratch for your outdoors "adventures", at least you have a secondary one for dog walking or whatever and can save your expensive one for "best" :-)
Thanks. I think i will probably go for the standard one again then, as it suits me pretty well.
Montane Sabretooth is great and can be got for under £120. It Polartec Powershield which is a membrane fabric, but it's perforated, so is actually very breathable. I have the Montane Hyena, which is basically the same jacket but without a hood. It's prefect over a base layer in about 3/4 of the weather I go out in, so would probably be fine over a heavier winter baselayer when on the move in winter.
I have the Adze and love it. Though its my first soft-shell I don't have anything to compare it to. Is water resistant, but will start to get a bit moist after being out in heavy rain. Primarily used for paragliding where wind-proof is of mowt importance, and it has kept me protected for hours on end in spring-autumn alpine conditions with 30-50km/h continuous winds. Very warm, and works with just a t-shirt underneath down to about 5 degrees (if you are active).
What're you wanting it for? Scottish Winter, the Alps, rock climbing, bit of everything? I live in a Mountain Equipment Ultratherm. Not the coolest (according to my wife) but such a versitile jacket. Winter runs, cragging, ski touring, on the harness in the summer as a back up. Not used it for Scottish winter but would be good on nice days and on the walk in. Would be my top of choice for alpine summer too.
I've accumulated several soft shells over the years.
Buffalo windshirt: Excellent but you can run a little hot in them and they are bulky.
Mammut Schoeller fabric jacket: Very good but a little on the heavy side.
Rab VR pull-on: OK for cool weather rock climbing but it lets in water if you brush against ice and bulges out a little at the front.
Marmot Dri clime jacket: Superb and the one I use the most. No hood though.
Arcteryx Gamma Hoody: Expensive but very light, a superb cut and the perfect ratio of windproofness and water resistance. This is my first choice for winter.
Marmot Dri Clime ether is hard to beat for £65. Persoanlly I'd say stay away from anything weighing more than about 350g unless you're heading to Alaska
It's a slippery slope...
In reply to thread:
Being a sad, gear-obsessed nutbag, I have a whole wardrobe of softshells, dating back to an ME Aquafleece (I'm not going to give a count...), as well as simple wind-resistant shells. They range from Aldi & Peter Storm to Patagonia and Cloudveil (no Arc' because it doesn't fit me, and even I baulk at their prices).
As others have said, the biggest difficulty is in identifying what you mean (want) by 'softshell':
0. simple windshirt (e.g. Pertex Classic, Microlight, Quantum, etc)
1. stretch nylon (or mix) (e.g. Schoeller Dynamic)
2. stretch dual-weave (e.g. Schoeller Dryskin)
3. shelled micropile (e.g. DriClime, Rab VR)
4. 'perforated membrane' (e.g. PowerShield)
5. insulated 'perforated membrane'
6. insulated laminated membrane (often used on cheap softshells, e.g. the likes of Aldi and cheap skiwear, but can also be expensive like Schoeller WB-400 or 'classic' Gore Windstopper)
7. full waterproof membrane fabric with fluffy inner scrim (e.g. Gore 'Windstopper SoftShell').
The latter isn't softshell; it's just Malibu Stacey with a different hat...
My current favourite for general use is a Patagonia ReadyMix (long obsolete), being a simple, uninsulated, wind- and water-resistant hooded shell (type 1) with pockets in sensible places. The fabric is nice and smooth, with a dense, wind-resistant weave.
But I also like the shelled micropiles (type 3), and even insulated things like the MixMaster (type 5: great for skiing).
The Rab Exodus mentioned above uses a fabric that looks very, very similar to that used by Decathlon for their Simond mountaineering pants (which is a Good Thing, if you want a robust type 2 softshell).
Talking of Decathlon, the last softshell I bought was this strange offering (on a good discount):
a bit like a shelled micropile in concept, only the pile is bonded in hexagonal clusters. It has non-piled areas, and is a slim fit with long arms and thumb loops. The pockets would be better if mounted higher up. I'm not entirely convinced by it, as it's less wind resistant than I like, but that may be a bonus, depending on your preferences. No adjustment on the hood.
One other suggestion might be the Montane Alpine Stretch (type 2), currently discounted in a number of places; a bit like the ReadyMix, but less wind resistant.
I have vr top from before all the variations came out. I wear next to skin biking in winter. Top bit of kit. VR lightweight looks like a good option for spring / autumn biking.
Problem with Rab's VR stuff in my experience is the durability of the pertex equilibrium. Wonderfully comfortable to wear so pity about that.
Montane Sabretooth is a great jacket but too warm for year round use, so one of Montane's lighter variants may be a better choice.
If you're after one with a hood, definitely stick with Montane or Rab
Quite. I've tried most of the above over the years.
Pile & Pertex - Buffalo etc. Fantastic protection for really heinous conditions, too hot & heavy most of the time. I haven't worn mine for years and can't really think of a situation where it would be my first choice nowadays.
Modern lightweight shelled fleece: Rab Vapour Rise, Marmot Dri-Clime etc. Lots of people really rate these, personally I'm not a fan. Too warm for high activity levels, not warm enough for real insulation.
Pertex windshirts: tremendous weather protection for minimal weight. Totally useful. Not that robust for climbing, easy to exceed the breathability limit when sweating hard uphill.
Stretch woven non-membrane. Schöller etc. Patagonia Ascensionist, Black Diamond BDV. The stuff soft shell trousers are mostly made of, but less used in jackets for some reason. I really rate it. Heavier than pertex but more robust & more breathable. Great for winter walking, multi-pitch rock climbing in cooler conditions.
Windproof membrane fleeces. Poor breathability but not waterproof either. Not even as warm as a decent normal fleece. I can't see what purpose these serve for any serious outdoor activity. Possibly ok for around town.
You won't find the science to back up that claim. Breathable materials work best in cold dry climates.
Anyway membrane stretchy soft shell simply will not breathe as well as the same without a membrane. I find I even get condensation build up on pertex. Stretchy soft shell doesn't do this and allows me to remain dry throughout he day. Cheap membranes are unlikely to breathe as well as event IMO! The purpose of softshell IMO is to provide quite a lot of wind resistance, some shower resistance, be quick drying and to breathe much better than conventional waterproofs - that's my take in it anyways!
I have a marmot driclimb with a hood and it is brilliant.
Rab stuff never fits me. Too long in the arms (am 5'9)
I also really like my gamma mx hoody. More protection but slower drying and heavier than driclimb.
Both are brilliant jackets and I wouldn't really look any further than them (at least I don't think you would find better options)
I take your point about membrane soft shell for skiing. I was finding my Rab Exodus a bit cold at -20 last winter skiing (due to the wind being able to penetrate it slightly)
Ah, well the 'perforated membrane' that is PowerShield is always a questionable topic; is it really an engineered, perforated membrane like the Windbloc ACT membrane, or is it just a by-product of the layer of glue?
Whatever, it illustrates that air permeability is, like all things, a compromise. Sometimes it's nice to let a little more air pass, to pull out the fug. Sometimes you want a little less air to pass, in order to retain the warmth. The classic problem of balancing clothing properties to activity and conditions. A Pertex shell or gilet is a good adjunct to things like the Exodus in the conditions you describe; small and lightweight, and can be slipped over the top to cut the wind, or put under to protect the core.
As it happens, I used my ReadyMix over a fleece on my last skiing trip, as the MixMaster was a little too permeable. The RM fabric is more wind resistant than the MM, and more than Schoeller Dynamic or Dry skin, but then I find both of those quite permeable compared to fabrics that are copies of them.
d'oh! I forgot PP in my list. Think of it as a heavyweight shelled micropile...
Which brings us to Paramo, which is a variant of shelled micropile, with the pile facing away from the body, and DWR'd to provide the water resistance to make it 'functionally waterproof'. Uncomfortable worn next to the skin (no nice pile to keep you dry).
decathlon do a non laminate stretchy one for something like 30 quid if they don't have their simond stuff in store they can get it.
If you want a proper weatherproof softshell then the Montane Extreme Jacket is the way to go. I've used it for everything from winter grit to skiing in the French Alps. Very tough as well due to the Pertex 6 outer, and waterproof enough to keep you dry in a decent rainstorm.
I used to own the montane extreme smock - hated it always too hot or too cold (the later mostly after standing still a while and letting the sweat from moving evaporate) and found it very bulky for the warmth it provided. I much prefer stretchy soft shell, and generally don't like too much insulation on a soft shell jacket as I find it's far more versatile to add and remove layers as I desire.
Montane Alpine Stretch is excellent value in this category. 2 handwarmer pockets and two vast napoleon pockets for gloves etc when ice climbing. Someone mentioned Ran Exodus earlier. Also great value if you're after something a little warmer.
Brilliant jacket and great value. Am tempted to pick up a second one even though my first is just a couple of months old.
Manufacturers have a habit of 'improving' designs from year to year and inexplicably dropping great products from production. Time to get them while they are cheap!
I agree with that principle. Base layer to wick sweat, middle layer for insulation and outer layer for windproofing and some limited waterproofness. I don't expect much insulation from either base layers or outer layers. If it's really cold however I sometimes wear a powerstretch base layer which is very warm.
Cough cough... Brynje mesh... cough
The first rule of Brynje mesh base layers is that you do not talk about Brynje mesh base layers.
Sorry, ignore last post, I meant to write Briney mash...
I recommend the Rab Exodus, comfortable for walking and climbing in winter, summer climbing on windy days too. Good ventilation with big pit zips. Quite water resistant and it's windproof in winds of 125mph as I found out!!!
All good suggestions but after last winter I'm back to the opinion that new style stretch waterproofs are the way ahead for winter climbing.
Of course if your just going rock climbing and your just worried about the weather then a soft shell and a back up waterproof are the way ahead. Preferably as cheap as you can get but still functional like the DriClimb stuff. A bit of stretch is also good, you don't want to feel like your in a suit of armour at all.
Apologies if that's already been stated but I've not read the whole thread.
Haven't been able to find the article again, but in searching for it began to think the emphasis was more on soft shell v's waterproof breathable hard shell.
Would explain Dan_S's point about body heat/micro climate, hard shells not having that insulating quality.
No doubt cheaper materials will not be as breathable, but even if slightly damp inside the main thing is keeping warm.
Would still stick by my cheapo stuff though, having been out in some stinking weather and still been comfortable. No doubt really high spec £100's a pop gear would make a difference if exposed to really severe conditions for a prolonged period, but doubt it would make a difference for what I do.
(Haven't done full on winter multi-pitch where you can be freezing on a belay for lengthy periods, has been used walking, ski touring)
Having said that also love my "pre-loved" Paramo Velez, old model not light weight "adventure" one, again soft shell. If cash really is an issue, there is always here and ebay. The latter can be a great source of good kit that folk have bought and used for one day "charity" walks.
Anyway OP, hope you find something warm and comfy that leaves enough petrol money to get out
As a softshell? Bit low on the wind resistance perhaps? Shiver shiver.
I think you've got it the wrong way around, breathables don't work well in warm temperatures because the warmth inside pushes water vapour through the membrane and hence out of the jacket.
Try needle sports for rab stretch neo £135 odd colour but half retail price
But not really a softshell. It's more a breathable hardshell. Good price, horrid colour.
I wonder why these go so cheap so often. I've heard rumours of durability concerns, so that might be it, but I got mine last summer from Snow & Rock half price and it's been fine so far.
(I see what you mean about the colour. Mine is a perfectly acceptable light blue, reminiscent of early Goretex for those old enough to remember)
Look, lets make it simpler. The OP wanted to know whats recommended. There's so much info on here that there are only two softshells in existence not recommended.
What wouldn't you recommend?
My latest generation Goretex pro ME Tupilak jacket tears every other time it touches rock. They are all less durable than one would like...
BTW £125 for a fleecy? I spend almost all my working days outside building walls or hedging. I do use fleeces, none of which cost more than £30 and the're normally cast offs from my outdoor kit or cheaply bought in none climbing shops, or in one case found on our beach after a heavy shower.
The warmest is a fleece of a local make bought in a local shop for £30. Why is it the warmest? Its close fitting. Its thick enough to suit my needs in terms of warmth.
The most expensive soft shell won't necessarily be 'the best' in terms of warmth if it doesn't fit your body shape well. So go try some on and by the one that fits best.
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