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What is the difference between softshell and hardshell jackets?

DATE: May 30th, 2023
With the continuous increase of people's enthusiasm and demand for outdoor activities, more and more people begin to pay attention to how to choose a suitable coat. When choosing an outdoor jacket, many people get confused by the two different types of jackets, soft shell jackets and hard shell jackets. Although both types of jackets can be used for outdoor sports, they are quite different in terms of material, function and purpose of use. Below, we’ll take a closer look at both jackets to better understand the differences between them.


Softshell jackets are usually made of fabric materials that have good stretch and breathability, making them ideal for physical activities such as rock climbing, mountaineering, hiking, etc. The main materials of soft shell jackets include polyester, nylon and spandex. These materials provide some protection from wind and rain while still maintaining comfort and breathability.

In contrast, hardshell jackets are often made of high-tech materials such as Gore-Tex, eVent, and NeoShell, which have completely different properties. Hardshell jackets are stiffer, heavier materials that keep moisture and wind out primarily through a breathable membrane. This breathable membrane also helps sweat escape to keep the inside of the garment dry. The materials used in hardshell jackets are more durable and can withstand harsher conditions than softshell jackets.


Both hardshell and softshell jackets have their own advantages and disadvantages. Softshell jackets are usually designed as a mid layer, they don't provide complete protection from rain and wind, but are suitable for many outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, cycling, etc. Softshell jackets are extremely stretchy and breathable for comfort and freedom of movement. In addition, the softshell jacket is also a lightweight jacket that is easy to carry.

Conversely, hardshell jackets offer higher protection against rain and wind, making them more suitable for use in severe outdoor conditions. Hardshell jackets are made of more durable materials and can withstand more intense wind and rain than softshell jackets. They are also more precisely designed to block the effects of severe weather, such as violent winds, snowfall or heavy rain.

Purpose of usage

Softshell jackets serve a different purpose than hardshell jackets. The softshell jacket is a versatile jacket suitable for a variety of outdoor activities. For example, if you're doing rock climbing or hiking but need some protection from wind and water, a softshell jacket is a great option. In addition, softshell jackets are also suitable for the warmer months, providing protection from stronger UV rays.

A hardshell jacket is perfect for inclement weather. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors in rain or snow, a hardshell jacket is the way to go. The hardshell jacket is also suitable for high altitude mountaineering or extremely cold climates.

There are various factors that you need to take into consideration when choosing the right jacket for your outings. Softshell and hardshell jackets differ in material, function, and purpose. A softshell jacket is a great option if you plan to do activities like rock climbing or hiking. But if you need to protect yourself from harsh weather conditions, you should opt for a more suitable hardshell jacket.

Choosing the right outdoor jacket requires consideration of the desired level of protection, comfort, breathability, and durability. No matter which type of jacket you choose, you should make sure they fit your needs and provide adequate protection and comfort.