the perfect soft shell...?

hoping theres an awesome one I dont know about!

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22/04/2013 at 01:49

Ok so im looking for a soft shell that:

-is non-membrane, breathes well and is quick drying

-is highly wind resistent

-is water resistent enough to deal with snow and maybe light rain (although breathability and drying are more important than waterproofing)

-has useful pockets - ideally 2 mesh lined napoleon ones and maybe handwarmers too (montane sabretooth has the right idea!)

-is cut on the longer side. why are soft shells always so short?!?

-has a hood that will fit over a snowboard helmet (ive tried a few "helmet compatible" hoods that dont)

-in an imaginary wonderful world, has a snow skirt! do any soft shells have them?

uses will be mainly winter mountaineering and snowboarding.

currently i have a litespeed windshirt that is awesome - quick drying, breathable, windproof but is a little flappy on the way down, and falls short on the pocket options. hence why a more "jacket-like" softshell could be better? also it has a tendency to bunch up around my waist (along with my other "climbing cut" jackets) so i think a longer fit could be good. considering how little time many outdoors users spend in a harness i find it odd how popular the "alpine cut" is!

currently the best looking options ive seen are the montane sabretooth (although whats the drying time like with powershield pro? getting into membrane territory...?) and alpine stretch. although all their jackets are cut annoyingly short. also tried the mountain equipment orbital awhile ago and the cut was horrible!

so hoping ive missed something! dont mind about brand names or if its a ski company or a climbing company. have come to realise these days its all a fashion statement wherever you look (except maybe buffallo!) but do still trust the climbing/walking side of things more for publishing weights and materials better and having less silly websites!



22/04/2013 at 09:35

Only SS I've seen with a snow-skirt is a Haglofs one, but that's a Windstopper one so fails your membrane test.

I've never actually had a jacket with a snow skirt, but in practice I find that a combination of salopettes and some sort of waist belt (on a bum-bag or rucksack depending whether I'm skiing or climbing) keeps sufficient out that I've never really missed one.

Why are SS so short?  Because that's what Marketing has decided we want...   But having said that I find it the case that you don't need the extra length so much if you're in salopettes, which I will be if I'm doing winter moutaineering or mountain skiing.

But finding a decent pair of SS salopettes at the moment is a bit of a game.  I'm not aware of any (mine are MEC ones we picked up in Canada, they don't seem to do them any more).


22/04/2013 at 10:36

Have a look at the Marmot range which is pretty comprehensive.

My marmot temp jacket has two (raised) hand warmer pockets and one chest pocket, decent hood (though unfortunately not large enough to go over a helmet), is quite long in the body (comes down to the crotch) and has a very breathable wind resistant outer (around 15 CFM).

They have an awful lot of jackets in their range so would be surprised if you didn't find one that suited.

22/04/2013 at 10:56

whilst waiting for a mate in Go Outdoors the other day, I tried on both the Montane sabretooth and the Alpine stretch.

The sizing difference was shocking.  I could barely get into the size large Sabretooth so needed the Extra large to get a fit, but even that was too short for me.  The Alpine stretch size large was ample and much longer in the body.

If the Montane Krypton was sized like like the latter garment(haven't seen one in the flesh), I'd suggest having a look at that - same outerfabric as the litespeed but beefed up in wear areas, and better hood and good breathable lining...

22/04/2013 at 19:31

Are you bothered about the softshell being in stretch fabric - you don't mention it specifically?

If not, then have you considered Rab Vapour Rise? It meets a lot of your criteria. It's not quite as windproof as some since the outer fabric is Pertex Equilibrium, but it's definitely non-membrane, highly breathable and quick-drying, and has a couple of useful napoleon pockets.

Two of us on my recent ski tour were using the VR Lite Alpine jacket. We didn't get falling snow but it coped just fine with plenty of snow contact!

The Lite Alpine has a hood. It's not billed as helmet compatible. I just tried it and it wouldn't really go over my ski helmet, but it would go under it pretty comfortably, with or without the helmet ear-pieces (a bit better without).

If you wanted something a bit heavier duty for the mountaineering aspects then there's also an "original" VR jacket and a VR Guide jacket in more winterised mode, so one of those might fit the bill.

23/04/2013 at 11:20

The Rab Exodus is not far from what you want here. Bit short cut, though.

23/04/2013 at 13:20

Adding to Matt's VR list I've got a Tour Lite (I think that's the name).  It was designed for ski touring and has a small sleve pocket for a lift pass, pit zips and napoleon pockets and a hood which I think is helmet compatible.  Not long though, just over the bum with a bottom draw cord.

Another less common option would be the PHD Taiga Fleece

I have a very similar old ME ultrafleece jacket.  I think it's really the same thing resurrected from his ME days.  It's longer, than most, has a hood and no membrane and is very hardwearing. 

23/04/2013 at 17:37

Rab Neoshell is the Dugs Danglies,however it may be a little short for your taste

think there newer myriad neoshell may be longer,

marmot stretch man is a cracking jkt very capable, light,stretchy quick drying

pretty breathable,

Rab Vr Alpine lite jkt is pretty good wont take a soaking but does its job nicely


23/04/2013 at 18:29

Short softshells might still be a hangover from their origin in ice climbing.  That and the general trend towards shorter jackets.

Apart from the length and snow skirt, it sounds like you want a Patagonia ReadyMix.  Or Ascensionist.  Shame they stopped making them a few years ago, and their current softshells are all somewhat heavier fabric.

Snowboard helmets seem to be bigger than climbing helmets, which probably explains why many 'helmet compatible hoods' won't fit a snowboard helmet.

23/04/2013 at 20:48

peter clinch - i never felt the need for a powder skirt until i went to canada and exeperienced real powder! im off to NZ this summer and will probably spend lots of time falling in snow! the skirts the least important part of my requirements though, especially if i could find something longer cut.

for softshell salopettes ive got patagucci backcountry guide pants (pre powershield ones) and i cant really fault them.


mole - interesting with the alpine stretch, will have to try one on! i dont know why its marketed as a "summer jacket"? i find even in winter the best bet option is the lightest, most breathable outerlayer.

i actually already have the krypton jacket and im not a big fan, basically suffers from the problems of the windshirt but with the added disadvantage of having a fleece attached to it so less versatile.

sorry i didnt put in the OP yes i am after stretch woven rather than pile/pertex so im afraid the other suggestions are out.


23/04/2013 at 21:04

I agree with Fatwalker. Marmot's range of softshells is pretty immense. From what you have stated their M3 range looks to be a good match. I own the tempo which has proved to be fairly useful. Weight is near enough 500g and has a fairly long length with some good stretch in it aswell. It's not particularly water resistant, will keep off a light shower but nothing intensive although works best in snowy conditions. Also consider some of the windstopper garments from Marmot aswell. I know you don't want a membrane but them have membrane on the front and back but have a breathable fabric under your arms, where you need it really. They also do some polartec powershield garments aswell. 

24/04/2013 at 11:34

It's the Tempo hoody that I own.

Being tall, one of my gripes is the length of jackets nowadays but I was pleasantly surprised at the length of the Tempo. It was only £65 in Cotswold which also added to its appeal.

Edited: 24/04/2013 at 11:35
24/04/2013 at 13:59

the tempo does look pretty nice. shame about the lack of dual chest pockets though. how big does the hood go? any chance of fitting it over a snowboard helmet?

24/04/2013 at 20:26

The hood is quite roomy on my head and if I loosen the adjuster it will flop down to cover my nose.

I just tried over my old Petzl climbing helmet and it easily goes over ignore my comments in the post above. I forgot that I had cinched the hood down quite a bit.

It doesn't have a proper stiffened peak but that shouldn't matter over a helmet.

The fit is on the large size so get a size down from a normal Montane or Haglofs. The fabric is very stretchy as well. 

25/04/2013 at 01:23
I am very impressed with the Rab Alpine pullover, depending on the temps I can layer as little or much as I want under it, I also do the same with a Patagonia Houdini.
26/04/2013 at 00:59

well the montane gear was still looking like it had the most of my requirements (i REALLY like having dual chest pockets, probably should have stressed that more earlier!)

got to try on the sabretooth and the alpine stretch today. as stated above the sabretooth is practically a crop top so its out on fit alone. shame as otherwise seemed pretty good. the alpine stretch was better but still too short in small and did the usual "folding in" on itself when in a snowboarding stance. so i tried a medium and it actually wasnt too baggy. a little long on the arms but acceptable and im sure it'll make me look RAD whilst sipping beers with my HOMEYS

didnt get to try out the helmet hood as didnt have a helmet with me but my bigger concern is that i was looking at air permeability figures and the alpine stretch seems to rank kinda low on windproofness (compared with say a windshirt). anyone have any real world experience of it? i kinda want something id be happy sitting on a chairlift in, without the wind blowing through me.

otherwise are there any others that spring to mind that have the double chest pockets? marmot kingpin looks like it could be good but still not sure if i want power shield. can anyone chime in on powershield vs the more windproof end of regular stretch woven in terms of drying times and breathability?

27/04/2013 at 22:11

Power shield unfortunately varies all over the place in terms air permeability. They can control it

Norrona Falketind flex 1 does seem to have most of everything desired, including actually quite a respectable body length. And a somewhat terrifying price tag. The main fabric on that is relatively air permeable.

(I could feel some entertainingly 'playful' coastal winds through it a bit this past week. Viscous mind and it's what you want when you're moving. Static on a chair lift I'm not sure.).

A few soft shells with snow skirts will likely turn up again when winter next rolls around.

28/04/2013 at 02:19

Hmm that does look interesting Martin! Id previously discounted it after seeing Windstopper in the description but on closer inspection it appears to be partly stretch woven and part windstopper? how quickly does it dry, compared with say, pertex or similar weight stretch woven fabric? Still for that price i'd almost be worth looking a Neoshell.

Im actually leaning more towards pertex/windshirts again as it seems stretch woven is  never going to be as windproof AND quick drying. will maybe try some VR stuff in the hopes it doesnt feel like the montane krypton - that feeling of 2 different fabrics that slide around off eachother I just cant agree with

Otherwise I was looking at the Paramo Fuera Ascent, which could be interesting (oh dear this is how it starts! I'll be a full convert soon!). Shame the pockets are in the most stupid place you could put a pocket other than on the back! (seriously, why?!? is there any reason?) but at least there are 2 symmetrical pockets. so will see if i can fit a "soft" water bottle in one and gloves in the other and it might be ok. Seems it will offer more windproofing than stretch woven with quicker drying times than membrane windproofs and a wee bit more weight and longer cut than the litespeed for more comfortable boarding. If not im wondering if the litespeed might not still be superior to anything else until someone releases what I actually want - rab maybe cutting close but i fear will always suffer from a silly cut. Maybe sometime soon snowboarding will stop being such a trend and then it will only be dedicated companies making clothing for practicality rather than fashion. or at least I can dream...

28/04/2013 at 07:37

maybe try some VR stuff in the hopes it doesnt feel like the montane krypton - that feeling of 2 different fabrics that slide around off eachother I just cant agree with


youll find VR is just the same 2 layer affect. Just that the Pertex equilibrium outers are less windproof and more breathable than the pertex microlight on the krypton. ( equilibrium 'bobbles' easily too IME)


28/04/2013 at 08:25

The Falk is only windstopper in the hood, very upper arms and a little bit at the bottom. The rest is a pretty thin, air permeable soft shell. Large areas of the front torso double thickness due to the pockets.

ME have the orbital/javelin.

Stretch wovens always thicker than pertex etc so slower drying due to some pesky laws of physics If the same weight and both having a decent DWR then probably the same.

Talking of Paramo's wind shirts you could get Cioch to do you a custom one. They've got Paramo's thicker wind shirt fabric. Pockets, body length etc as desired. Not sure if they do snow skirts

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