I don’t know about you, but I truly love to go jacket shopping. I know that sounds weird, believe me, my friends have roasted me for my leather jackets as long as I’ve known them. But there’s just something about finding a cozy warm jacket that fills me with a special kind of happiness. And with every new jacket comes the opportunity to find a brand new style that I can work with. And if I find a jacket that matches my favorite outfit, I just won’t know what to do with myself. I just enjoy the feeling of slipping on a brand new jacket and feeling the warmth and the liner. To my mind and heart, it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. And the best jacket that makes me feel this way is a soft shell jacket. I’ve had so many soft shell jackets throughout the years that I feel like I’m an expert on them. I decided to jot down everything I knew to help you and anyone else in the world find a wonderful soft shell jacket like the ones I have enjoyed before. So keep on reading and skimming if you are interested in a shell jacket for skiing for men and women.

What Is a Soft Shell Ski Jacket?

I love living in the 21st century. Many people romanticize living in different periods across all the time, but I’m glad I live here. There’s no time in history that I would want to live in if I could go back in time. Sure, I would want to visit certain decades and see what was going on, but then I will want to go right back home. The world before was filled with serfdom and barbarians attacking and low-quality clothing that I have to pay a whole month’s paycheck for. And let’s not forget that vaccines are a recent invention; a very recent invention. So when a disease rolls around and it will roll around, the death toll will be half of my family and my friends. Yes sir, please leave me in the 21st century.

Another great thing of the 21st century is great technology is available for skiers and snowboarders. One hundred years ago, half of the equipment that I use on the slopes did not exist. So I wouldn’t be able to put on any helmets or use a ski boot warmer. I wouldn’t have the ability to reach out and communicate with people across long distances with my winter sports walkie-talkie. And there would be no established ranger system to prepare the slopes for the thousands of skiers that travel to the area. And if I get injured, forget it! No one will know where in the park I am, and there would be no way to find me.

Also, pretty much all of the new materials and technologies that create soft shell skiing jackets would not exist as well. But what is a soft shell skiing jacket?

It is a type of jacket that has become popular in the last decade or two. It is an alternative to the hard shell jackets that were protective and warm and yet rough and unelastic. Softshell jackets have been around for quite a while, so you have seen them every time you walk into a winter sports store, and you may have already tried one on. Since softshell jackets are made of different materials, they are available in wonderful new colors, and those colors are not just nature-based colors. Softshell jackets are also great for warmer temperatures because most of them have a lining. All a person needs to do if they get too hot is remove the inner lining and tuck it away in the softshell jacket pocket.

You may think that soft shell jackets are not resistant to water or are very durable because the materials that make them up are. But they wouldn’t be recommended for winter sports if they couldn’t protect against rain or moisture and couldn’t handle stressful environments. Soft shell jackets are just softer than hard shell jackets. They come with all the same benefits and features as a hard-shell jacket. Plus, since the material is both breathable and soft, many skiers, snowboarders, and other people who participate in winter activities like to add a soft shell jacket with even more protection and warmth. 

What Is The Difference Between A Soft Shell And A Hard Shell Jacket?

Obviously, because of their names, the difference between a hard shell jacket and a soft shell jacket is made with softer materials. Soft shell jackets are more pliable and conform to the wearer’s body. 

So, I have been talking about how soft shell jackets are an improvement over hard shell jackets because they’re more moveable and breathable. That does not mean you can wear soft shell jacket in every single situation and environment that you would use a hard shell jacket. Both types of jackets have an ideal environment to wear them in and have benefits and features that different people need. 

Hard-shell jackets, despite their name, are not made of hard materials. Many are made of a plastic-like material. One example of a hard shell jacket that is not meant for skiing is a rain jacket. Hard shell jackets, like rain jackets, are 100% waterproof because their main purpose is to keep the rain from soaking through the outer layer and reaching your clothing. Most hard shell jackets have a hood.  

Another way a hard-shell jacket is different from a soft shell jacket is the noise that they make. Yes, that’s right, hard shell jackets make noise. Since these jackets are made from plastic-like material, usually when a person is walking singing their arm against their side, the jacket will make a zipping noise from the material rubbing together. Since softshell jackets are made from softer materials, they do not make a noise.

Another major reason to choose a soft shell jacket over a hard shell jacket is that soft shell jacket can be used in more settings. Hard shell jackets are usually made just for cold weather and downpours. But a softshell jacket, especially one made with the liner, can go to many other places. You can even wear a softshell jacket during the summer when you walk in the cold buildings. 

Why Choose A Soft Shell Jacket?

Hardshell jackets have always been a great way to protect yourself from freezing temperatures and rain and snow. But they aren’t the most comfortable either jacket to move in. Those who engage in skiing and snowboarding, especially people who are shorter or physically smaller, may have trouble finding a good hard shell jacket that fits them properly. 

If you have ever had trouble finding a great hard shell jacket that matches your clothes and your style, then you might be interested in a soft shell. One reason to put yourself in a soft shell jacket is that there are far more creative and inventive designs for shell jackets. If you want to decide to browse online for a soft shell jacket, you’ll notice that it is far easier to find a color and style that matches your wardrobe than it is to find a hard shell jacket that can do the same. It may be because soft shell jackets are in right now, so companies and brands are trying to find the best-selling designs to draw in even more customers.

When Should I Use A Hard Shell Jacket Or A Soft Shell Jacket?

Each jacket has environments and situations where they perform best in. If you choose a jacket with the wrong environment, you could end up uncomfortable or soaked in the rain. There are times when you should use a hard shell jacket, and other times when you will need a soft shell jacket.

Soft shell jackets

This type of jacket should be used when there are very low chances of rain And the snowfall for the day is light. Soft shell jackets are only water-resistant. They are not completely waterproof. So if a skier is wearing a soft shell jacket and they are caught in a heavy snowfall or rainstorm, the jacket will not be able to protect them from the cold. If you are the type of active skier who moves a lot every and performs numerous tricks, then a soft shell jacket will be best for you. Hard shell jackets are often uncomfortable if you need to move your body in different directions.

Hard shell jackets

Rough environments and extreme weather are the best environments to wear a hard-shell jacket. Strong downpours and heavy snowfall won’t be a problem because hard shell jackets are waterproof. Shell jackets are an important piece of clothing if you are on a camping and skiing vacation for more than a few days. Camping by itself can be stressful to clothing and equipment, and when you add skiing into the mix, you definitely need clothing that is both reliable and durable. If the area you are skiing around is experiencing intense winds, this jacket style will protect you and your clothes and hair.

As I said before, a hard shell and soft shell jacket can be paired together. The soft-shell will go over your underclothing, and the hard shell jacket will go over the soft shell jacket. By pairing these two jackets together, you’ll have more warmth retention, And your outer jacket will keep you completely safe from the rain. Most people just purchase one type of jacket to save money because purchasing both would break their wallet. But there are many soft shell/hard shell jacket combinations on Amazon, so if you are interested in both of these jackets for your next skiing trip, then you should take a look.

Features To Look For

I have written all about soft shell jackets, hard shell jackets, and the different environments that each jacket should be used in. This instruction guide is about shopping for a soft shell jacket, and we should get started. If you’ve gotten this far, then you’re probably interested in purchasing a soft shell jacket for your next big skiing trip. But before you start bouncing around different sites and stores, here are some important features that you should look for in a jacket.

Durability

No matter what type of clothing or equipment you have, skiers need items that they can depend on, and that will rip and break at the first sign of stress. While you are skiing, the material that makes up your soft shell jacket should be able to resist ripping if you brush against some branches or if you take a hard fall onto some rocks. Also, the seams of your jacket Are one of the places that are first to rip apart. So, if your jacket has reinforced material sewn onto the seams, that would improve its durability.

Flexibility

Depending on the material that a soft shell jacket is made from, some jackets may be more flexible than others. Soft shell jackets are known for their flexibility, while hard shell jackets are known for their rigidity. But that doesn’t mean that all soft shell jackets move the same way. Wool moves and stretches in different ways compared to nylon or cotton, sometimes these materials are Blended together, so that jacket will move differently. If you are shopping at a brick and mortar store, try on a jacket that you’re interested in and move your body in various and outlandish ways. This will help you know if the jacket will keep you warm while allowing you to move however you wish.

Water- resistance

In the text above, I explained that soft shell ski jackets are not completely waterproof. Instead, they are water-resistant and are only meant for like brains and light snowfall. But the water-resistant fabric is still a usable material for when you are skiing. And soft shell jackets are also good to wear in strong fog. If you wear a soft shell jacket underneath a hard-shell jacket, you have twice the layers of protection. This extra protection is good in case your hard-shell jacket rips and allows moisture and snow inside of it. The soft shell jacket can protect the skier from the cold.

High neck collar

Most soft shell jackets do not have a hood. That is because the material that make up soft shell jackets are not good materials to make a hood out of. So instead of a hood, many of these jackets have very high collars. The colors are designed to protect the skin around your neck and prevent the wind from affecting you. High neck colors are not rigid. They are made of the same fabric as the rest of the jacket, but you won’t be able to fold them down or move them.

Water-resistant pockets

Nothing will ruin your day more than unzipping your pocket and sticking your hand into a puddle of water. Now, since soft shell jackets are made out of water-resistant material, your pocket may end up soaked if there is heavy rain. But when it comes to light rain, all of the items inside your pocket should remain completely dry. A well-made pair of pockets inside your soft shell jacket should be large. Some jackets have one large pocket running across the jacket’s hem, so you have even more room to put your essential items.

Breathability

No matter the freezing temperatures outside, no one is comfortable inside a stuffy jacket. Wearing a jacket that retains too much heat and does not filter out old air is going to leave you sweaty and uncomfortable. A breathable jacket doesn’t keep too much body heat underneath it. It allows your body heat to filter out slowly. Also, many skiers wear the same clothes for several ski sessions before they actually wash them again. This usually happens most to the outer layers of clothing that do not come into contact with their skin. Breathable fabric doesn’t retain odors as well as other types of fabric, so the person who is skiing won’t smell like a big stinky sweaty mess after one or two days on the slopes.

Quick Drying

Any type of clothes that are water-resistant me get a little bit, especially if there is more rain or snow then they were designed for. So, water-resistant clothes should also be quick drying. Any moisture that resides in the fabric should not be retained.

Thumbhole cuffs

Thumbhole cuffs may sound odd, but they’re actually quite helpful. Have you ever experienced your long sleeve t-shirt sleeves rolling up to your armpits every time you try to put on a jacket? I know you have experienced it, and so have I. But with thumbhole cuffs, you can pull your long sleeves through the holes and hold them tight as you place your jacket on. Your sleeves will not roll back up. It seems like such a minute detail, but good designs are added to make the wearer’s life easier.

The Best Soft Shell Ski Jackets

Hey! This is the section that you have all been waiting for. The best soft shell jacket to purchase. Here are some of the best men and women’s softshell ski jackets for you to consider taking on your next ski trip. And remember that they are not just for skiing. If you’re going somewhere that is colder than usual, just throw it on and head outdoors. You won’t regret purchasing any of these jackets. 

Men’s Soft shell Jacket

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded

If you are heated person who gets hot easily and needs to wear clothes that breathe and release excess heat, then you will like this jacket. Created by Outdoor Research, this jacket is made to move with you and your body so you won’t ever feel like you are restrained in your own clothes. The material in this jacket is very durable and can handle any kind of rough environment. There are many reviews on this jackets page that say this jacket is not prone to tearing or ripping, and the seams do not pull apart easily. The style of the soft shell jacket is simplistic, and it only comes in one solid color. It does not weigh much, so you add it to your ski bag and forget it is there because it is so light. Though this jacket comes with a high price tag, it does regularly go on sale at several outdoors and sports outlets.

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody

This Gamma soft shell jacket is a bit on the heavy side, but that is because it is meant to be a durable, heavy-duty jacket. Skiers who practice off-piste and alpine skiing will find this jacket to be quite useful. Underneath the jacket, there is a lot of room, so the wearer can add extra layers to keep warm. The hem stops along the wearer’s hips, so they can raise their arms, and their sides will not show. This jacket is available in four different natural colors, and it comes in six different sizes – from extra small all the way to extra extra large.

The North Face Apex Risor Jacket – Men’s

The North Face Apex Risor Jacket - Men’s

This jacket is equipped with four different pockets and each of those pockets comes with a waterproof pocket so rain or water will not seep through the cracks. It also has a high color that reaches up to the chin, so your neck is not exposed at all. If you drip your face into the collar, you can cover your lips. It is completely windproof, so the fabric will not allow the wind to penetrate through and lower the temperature within the jacket. The Apex Risor comes in six sizes – small to extra extra extra large. 

Arc’teryx Kyanite LT Hoodie

Arc’teryx Kyanite LT Hoodie

This is the cheapest shoft shell ski jacket on this list, but that does not mean it is cheaply made. It is designed to be wildly comfortable for the wearer, that’s why the top of the zipper has a chin guard, so you do not have your chin or neck on the zipper. Its special merrow stitching prevents this jacket from being bulky even though it’s made with fleece. It only comes with two small pockets that also have zippers, so if you’re looking for a jacket with multiple large pockets, this is not the jacket for you. However, it is quite light, as it only weighs 10 ounces. This LT hoody comes in five different colors and five different sizes – from small to extra extra large.

Women’s Soft shell jackets

REI Co-op Hyperaxis Fleece Jacket 2.0

Created for the type of person who just can’t sit still, this jacket is a multi-sport jacket. The material is fleece, and it is a power stretch material, so this jacket can move and stretch as much as your body needs it to. The hem reaches all the way down to the hips. This jacket is not very heavy, as it is categorized as a lightweight jacket. For those people who care about the environment, you’ll be happy to know that the materials that go into this jacket are environmentally friendly. When you put this jacket on while you are wearing long sleeves underneath, you can slide your hand into the thumbhole cuffs, so your sleeves do not roll up. This Woman’s hyperaxis fleece jacket comes in six different colors and five different sizes – from extra small to extra large.

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

With over 11 different beautiful colors to choose from, you will definitely find a color that matches your current skiing outfit. The Patagonia better sweater jacket has a high color that you can dip your chin and mouth into if you get too cold. It comes with four different pockets; two at the bottom of the front of your jacket and one on each sleeve. The pockets at the bottom of this jacket also double as hand warmers in case you need to take off your gloves and keep them off for a bit. This jacket may be one of the lightest jackets on this list as it weighs less than a pound. Made from recycled material, it is also colored with environmentally friendly dye, and it is also fair trade certified. This jacket comes in six different sizes for – from extra small to extra extra large.

Conclusion

There are so many different soft shell jackets out there that it is quite hard for a person to choose just one. So if you practice multiple types of skiing, it may be best to purchase one for each skiing style. Be sure to care for your jacket well as proper care means will last for a long time. And, there are some ski jacket soft shell that you can spray waterproof spray on without ruining the fabric. If you are at a winter sports store, ask if the jacket you’re buying can handle waterproof spray. If it can, grab a can before you hit the register.


Harry Sowers

Harry has been skiing and snowboarding since he was a boy growing up outside of Denver Colorado. He is most passionate about skiing and when he was in college a UC Boulder he even participated in the olympic trials for the USA Olympic Downhill Ski team.