/ Recommendations for a softshell for Scotland/ Lakes/ Wales?
I'm currently looking at Rab Vapour Rise Guide, Outdoor Research Alibi and Montane Sabretooth.
It would be used as an outer layer (unless in heavy rain) in the lakes/ wales, and underneath my hardshell (unless there was NO chance of snow/ rain/ little wind) for Scottish Winter.
Alibi jacket gets a good write up, i'd look at that.
I have the Sabretooth....it's a decent jacket but breathability isn't great when working hard. Also it's cut quite sort so I find it rides up quite a lot which can be a pain.
What I do like about it is the hood, that it keeps wind out well and will shrug off a shower ok (but if it soaks through you'll be wet all day).
I've used a VR Guide for the last couple of winters and really like it but I think it would be too warm (and bulky) for cragging outside of very cold weather.
It is true that it isn't that wind proof - the trade-off for better breathability - but I've used it over a base layer and an R1 in some really foul Cairngorm weather (wind on the point of being blown over and hailing) and been fine. I screwed up badly one day and got soaked to the skin on the walk in (should have taken a light waterproof just in case) but I was still warm enough and by the time we'd finished the climb, I was dry. I think the (thin) pile-pertex combination is the best choice to sometimes combine with a hard shell but retain decent breathability.
An important thing though, I'd suggest, is fit. The VR Guide fits me well, with good freedom of movement but something else might be a better fit for you.
I find it perfect for walking in on winter days, but not quite weather proof enough for the climbing, so I chuck a hardshell over it before getting on routes.
In summer, I find it's plenty good enough for keeping out the wind etc. Yeah, it's a bit too warm for it in June/July/August but in this country you can never be too careful...
My only gripe is that it's not very packable. Having said that, I don't think many softshells are.
"I use a VR trail jacket (which, I'm pretty sure is what the guide superseded)"
No, the Guide is a warmer, more substantial jacket with a looser cut, thicker insulation (a gridded fleece, like Patagonia R1) in the body and hood, reinforced shoulders and elbows and a fixed, helmet compatible hood.
I've just had a look on the Rab website and the Trail (I've got one too for the warmer months) seems to have been replaced by the "Vapour Rise Jacket" (as a heavier duty option) and "Vapour Rise Lite Alpine" (as a lighter weight version). Interestingly, both with fixed helmet-compatible hoods rather than the rather poor 'hide in the collar' design of the last Trail Jacket.
Just about anything marketed as a 'softshell' these days feels uncomfortably clammy to me in the UK - they aren't that breathable under an outer layer and not easy to control the heat (IMO of course). My old nylon faced fleece is windproof enough most of the time and is still very breathable even under a waterproof. Equivalent to (but not as versatile) as a fleece and pertex combo mentioned above.
Fixed helmet compatible hood is a marked improvement - the hood on the trail jacket is pretty poor. In fact the guide sounds pretty sweet! Might try and pick one up on the cheap...
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