Softshells 101

Soft Shell E1550709292100

What is a softshell? Why would you use one?

One of the most common questions we get from new climbers regarding clothing is “what’s a softshell, and why do I need one?”

Softshells are an invaluable piece of any mountaineering clothing system. They consist of a range of fabrics characterized by breathability, stretch, and weather resistance. The easiest way to think of a softshell is as a hybrid of a hardshell waterproof piece and a breathable insulating midlayer. While a softshell sheds wind, snow, and some rain (like hardshells), it is also air-permeable, so allows excess heat to escape while you’re working hard (like midlayers). This combination of characteristics makes softshells perfect for many of the conditions we find in a mountaineering context.

For example: it is blustery and snowing lightly, but you are walking uphill on a rope team – while a hardshell will not provide enough breathability, quickly becoming clammy while you are exercising, a midlayer alone will not provide adequate wind and weather protection to keep you dry. Either option leaves you wet, chilled, and uncomfortable. A softshell, on the other hand, will allow you to ventilate excess heat and moisture produced while exercising, while simultaneously shedding wind and precipitation, keeping you dry and, ultimately, comfortable.

Softshells come in several styles and weights, from paper-thin ultra-breathable pieces designed for moving fast and providing very light levels of weather protection to burly winter-weight models with super durable face fabric and fleece backing for extra warmth that fend off all but the wettest weather. For most people, a midweight softshell with little to no fleece backing allows for the most versatility in layering while providing a good level of weather protection in most conditions.

Shop Men’s Softshells here

Shop Women’s Softshells here

ALPINE ASCENTS BLOG

  • What’s in Your Snack Bag? Backcountry Ski Edition

    Alpine Ascents guide and woman about the Ouray Ice Park, Brooke Warren, is a backcountry snack maestro.  Known for creating a delicious symphony of flavors and textures, Brooke is on top of the nosh game.  If you are about to embark on a day of backcountry skiing or questing up waterfall ice and need a […]

  • 2022 Tahoma (Rainier) Webinar

    If your 2022 summer plans include climbing the mighty Tahoma, check out the webinar we hosted on March 29. Our Director of Operations, Jonathon Spitzer, walked us through pre-trip logistics and everything you need to know before arriving at your 2PM gear check. Senior guide, Lyra Pierotti, outlined the climbing route and the flow of […]

  • Mountain Kitchen Confidential: Cooking on Alaska Range Courses and Beyond

    By Aili Farquhar As the bright sun pops over the shoulder of Mt. Hunter’s North Buttress the steam of our boiling breakfast water curls up into the frosty blue Alaska morning. Soon, the drone of bright DeHavilland Beavers and Otters bringing climbers into and out of the Alaska Range will fill the sky. For now, […]

Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
© Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved. Alpine Ascents International