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

  • Guide Skills: Mentorship in Guiding

    By Trevor Husted  As part of our Guide Skills Development Series, this next post focuses on the importance of mentorship in guiding and where to find it.  Look into the origins of the word mentor and you will find links to Greek Mythology, more specifically Homer’s poem “The Odyssey.” In this epic, Odysseus goes off […]

  • Find your people. Find your community.

    by Liane Lau Arriving to the Alpine Ascents Seattle Office at 0630 for gear check – made me question my life choices. To be an effective mountaineer, you should be a combination of a marathon runner, a weight-lifter, and a climber. I am none of those things. I don’t even particularly like those things. The […]

  • Plants of Washington and their Native Roots

    By Kate Keith-Simms Plants provide invaluable insight not only to the spaces they inhabit, but also to those who live upon the land. Since time immemorial, Native American communities have foraged, hunted, and thrived on the resources the land offers. This is a short pick of a few plants of Washington used by specific Native […]

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