Softshells will provide some warmth and protection against the wind. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Softshells will provide some warmth and protection against the wind. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

It could be argued a softshell jacket is a solution looking for a problem.

But we find them very useful in those marginal conditions where you might encounter a shower and it’s cool but not cold enough to consider insulated garments. And not wet enough for a full hardshell waterproof.

In Britain, that describes quite a large part of the year.

We like the versatility of a good softshell jacket: it provides a reasonable amount of warmth and will repel a light shower, but has enough breathability to prevent things getting too clammy inside the garment.

We put seven jackets to the test in a variety of conditions to see how they performed in blocking the wind, keeping us warm, transferring perspiration outwards and for general comfort.

They ranged from fully featured garments to lightweight tops more suited to runners and fast movers, so it’s important to match the jacket to your requirements on the hill.

Berghaus Ghlas Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Ghlas Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Berghaus Ghlas Jacket
Price: £100
Colour: black
Weight: 482g
Material: shell, 86 per cent polyester, 14 per cent elastane; lining, 100 per cent polyester; panels, 90 per cent polyester, 10 per cent elastane
Country of manufacture: Indonesia
Size: S-XXL;
Recommended wash: 30C non-bio
Women’s version: no

The Ghlas jacket is a nicely styled slightly stretchy softshell with even stretchier panels in the sides of the jacket and under the arms.

This helps the Berghaus jacket hug the body well. The fabric blocked the wind well and provided a medium amount of warmth.

The main zip is backed by a baffle which also helped keep breezes at bay. The sleeves have tabs with hook-and-loop fastening.

The jacket has two zipped handwarmer pockets with mesh lining, and there’s a small zipped chest pocket, big enough to fit a smartphone or compass. Inside the jacket are two mesh pockets, which will accommodate drinks bottles.

The inside of the Ghlas is lined with microfleece which gives it a snug feel on cooler days. Breathability was good, and any moisture that built up while tackling more strenuous sections of our routes dissipated fairly quickly.

The shell of the jacket has some water repellency, and kept out some spring showers.

The neck is quite high and provides good draughtproofing in this area. When things warm up, the collar can be turned down.

The hem of the jacket has drawstrings to cinch it in to help keep updraughts out.

Quality of the Berghaus jacket was good, and the styling makes it a versatile garment, at home on the street as well as the hill. The Ghlas is a good all-rounder we found performed well in differing conditions.

Windblocking 26/30
Breathability 14/20
Warmth 14/20
Comfort 8/10
Quality 8/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 77/100

CMP Man Jacket Zip Hood. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

CMP Man Jacket Zip Hood. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

CMP Man Jacket Zip Hood
Price: £76.95
Colour: green
Weight: 694g
Material: shell, 96 per cent polyester, 4 per cent elastane; lining, 100 per cent polyester
Country of manufacture: not stated
Size: men’s S-XXXL; women’s XXS-XXXL
Recommended wash: 30C
Women’s version: yes

Italian brand CMP is not one for snappy titles for its garments, and this softshell is simply called the Man Jacket Zip Hood, with an item code of 3A01787N.

As its name implies, the hood is detachable via a zip in its lower central area, with hook-and-loop strips securing the edge flaps under small sleeves at the collar.

The material is slightly stretchy and uses the brand’s Clima Protect laminate which CMP says provides water resistance up to 7,000mm hydrostatic head, enough to protect against showers.

The main zip is backed by a baffle to keep out draughts and there are twin zipped handwarmer pockets along with a single, smaller zipped chest pocket. All of these are mesh lined.

The CMP jacket’s hem has drawcord adjustment to help keep out draughts, and the interior of the garment is lined with microfleece, helping to give it a nice cosy feel.

The sleeve cuffs don’t have any adjustment, but have black microfleece extension, which help provide a little warmth and some wind.

The hood of the jacket detaches by unzipping it and then disengaging the two hook-and-loop strips either side of the collar. We managed to remove the hood while wearing the jacket but reattaching it involved taking the coat off.

The hood itself is lined with the same microfleece material as the main body of the jacket and is adjustable via twin drawcords at the front and a halo-type volume adjuster at the back, which was set quite high. The hood is a little on the small side and left quite a bit of the face uncovered.

Without the hood attached, the jacket’s collar gave good protection against the wind, fitting snugly round the neck.

In use, the jacket was comfortable to use. Warmth was very good and windblocking was best in the test.

Styling of the CMP softshell was clean, and its quality was good. It was the heaviest in the test but offered good value for money.

Windblocking 27/30
Breathability 12/20
Warmth 16/20
Comfort 7/10
Quality 7/10
Value for money 8/10
Total score: 77/100

Craghoppers Baird. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Baird. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Craghoppers Baird
Price: £60.00
Colour: black
Weight: 528g
Material: 96 per cent polyester, 4 per cent elastane
Country of manufacture: Bangladesh
Size: S-XXL
Recommended wash: 30C
Women’s version: no

The Baird has a simple, clean design, with its main zip backed by a baffle to keep out the wind.

The material has a slight stretch, and the Baird has two zipped handwarmer pockets. There is also a medium-sized zipped chest pocket.

There are two large inside pockets, big enough to take a map or drinks bottle.

The lining is microfleece, which provides some extra warmth. The hem doesn’t have any adjustment, and neither do the sleeves, but the cuffs are elasticated. The WindShield fabric also has water-repellency treatment to protect from showers.

The collar sits high enough round the neck to keep out the wind and it also has a reflective stripe around it.

The Craghoppers jacket was quite comfortable in use, allowing free movement. Its windproofing was good and warmth was in the mid-range.

The Baird is a straightforward softshell jacket at a good price.

Windblocking 23/30
Breathability 14/20
Warmth 13/20
Comfort 7/10
Quality 7/10
Value for money 8/10
Total score: 72/100

Didriksons Birk USX Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Didriksons Birk USX Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Didriksons Birk USX Jacket
Price: £100.00
Colour: black
Weight: 538g
Material: shell, polyester; lining, polyester
Country of manufacture: Vietnam
Size: S-XXXL
Recommended wash: 40C
Women’s version: no

The Birk, from Swedish brand Didriksons, shows clean Scandinavian design, with some nice detail touches and good quality.
The softshell fabric is slightly stretchy and comfortable in use, allowing good movement.

The main zip has a baffle backing it, to keep out draughts, and the jacket has twin, zipped handwarmer pockets. There’s a small, zipped chest pocket concealed behind a flap, with vertical Didriksons lettering detail.

There’s extra thickness in the fabric across the shoulder area and the Birk’s lining is soft stretch material. The hem has no adjustment, and neither do the sleeve cuffs.

There are grey contrast stripes at the shoulder seams and down the back of the collar and shoulder area. The left upper sleeve has a rubberised print logo.

The jacket’s collar is high enough to keep the neck warm and fits snugly when the jacket is fully zipped up.

Windblocking was good and warmth was quite good too. The fabric has a little water repellency.

Quality was good.

Windblocking 24/30
Breathability 15/20
Warmth 14/20
Comfort 7/10
Quality 7/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 74/100

Keela Hydron Softshell. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Keela Hydron Softshell. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Keela Hydron Softshell
Price: £149.95
Colour: grey
Weight: 632g
Material: 80 per cent polyester; 15 per cent polyurethane; 5 per cent spandex
Country of manufacture: not stated
Size: XS-XXL
Recommended wash: 30C
Women’s version: no
The Hydron is one of the most technical jackets in the test, with lots of features to keep you comfortable on the hill.

Keela has picked up the design baton too, and the Hydron is a good looking garment.

The shell is slightly stretchy and has a good amount of water resistance. The jacket is fully featured, with a helmet-compatible hood, articulated sleeves and zipped side vents.

The lining of the Hydron is a matrix pattern of small rectangles. This helped deliver good breathability in what is a fairly warm jacket.

Windblocking was good, and the Keela jacket kept out a few showers encountered during testing.

The main zip is backed by a storm baffle which kept out the weather. The hood has a halo volume adjuster at the back and tethered shockcords at the front with spring toggles. The hood is lined with the same matrix pattern and worked well in a head wind. It also turns well with the head when cinched in. It has a wired peak and there’s a hook-and-loop fastening tab to keep the hood in place when it’s rolled up when not in use.

The sleeves are articulated at the elbow and have hook-and-loop fastening tabs at the cuffs.

The jacket has two zipped handwarmer pockets and two medium-sized zipped chest pockets. The Hydron has a dropped back and the hem has shockcord adjustment with spring toggles. The jacket also has two side vents, which helped cooling air circulate while we were on more strenuous stretches.

All the zips’ pullers have natty yellow plastic tabs which helped operation while wearing gloves.

The jacket has a fairly active cut, which kept it snug to the body, but allowed movement when reaching up for holds.

The Hydron has all the features you need for your journeys into the hills. It worked well in showery weather though, as with all these softshells, persistent rain will soak through eventually. It has well-thought-out touches and its design makes it suitable for those strolls to the shops or pub as well as expeditions into the great outdoors.

Windblocking 26/30
Breathability 15/20
Warmth 15/20
Comfort 8/10
Quality 7/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 78/100

Mammut Runbold Trail SO Hooded Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mammut Runbold Trail SO Hooded Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mammut Runbold Trail SO Hooded Jacket
Price: £129.00
Colour: blue
Weight: 454g
Material: 89 per cent polyamide; 11 per cent elastane. Lining polyamide
Country of manufacture: Bangladesh
Size: men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL
Recommended wash: 30C, inside out
Women’s version: yes

This stretchy, lightweight jacket from Mammut will appeal to fast movers.

As the name implies, the Runbold Trail is aimed principally at users such as trailrunners who need protection against the wind and showers while on the hills.

There’s no membrane but the fabric has a durable water-resistant treatment to help shed a little light rain.

Despite its lightweight and pared-down design, the Runbold Trail has all the necessary features to keep you comfortable. The main zip is backed by a stormflap to stop draughts, and the hood works well, despite not having an actual volume adjuster.

There’s an elasticated strip at the back of the head area, and two shockcords with hidden spring-buttons adjust the hood and its soft peak at the front, keeping it in place in headwinds, though the peak does come a little low on the forehead. The hood can be rolled up and secured by a little hook on the back of the jacket that attaches to the hanging loop.

The jacket has two zipped handwarmer pockets and there’s a medium-sized, zipped chest pocket. The sleeves have hook-and-loop adjusters at the cuffs and the jacket’s hem also has adjustment via shockcords with hidden spring-buttons.

The lining is just the inner face of the main fabric, which is very stretchy. The design keeps things to a minimum to ensure the best breathability and light weight.

In use, the Runbold Trail is comfortable, hugging the body well, with the fabric not hindering movement. Windblocking was still good, despite the lightweight construction, and breathability was good too.

Warmth is less than with some of the thicker jackets, but that’s probably desirable for runners and those hoofing up the hills quickly.

Quality is good and the Mammut jacket is PFC-free.

Windblocking 23/30
Breathability 16/20
Warmth 13/20
Comfort 8/10
Quality 8/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 75/100

Rab Borealis Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Rab Borealis Jacket. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Rab Borealis Jacket
Price: £75
Colour: blue
Weight: 298g
Material: 85 per cent polyamide, 15 per cent elastane
Country of manufacture: China
Size: men’s S-XXL; women’s 8-16
Recommended wash: 30C
Women’s version: yes

The Borealis is a minimalist design, with its simple construction keeping its weight below 300g, the lightest in the test.

Its construction uses very stretchy Matrix fabric, with no lining – just the inner face of the material.

It has durable water-resistant treatment to help shed a shower, but no membrane. The main zip has no baffle behind it, but this didn’t prove a problem during testing. There was an annoying tendency, however, for the zip puller to snag on the inside fabric of its housing at the very top of the garment quite often, which left the top 2cm or so unfastened.

The hood is another simple design, with no adjustment, but an elasticated binding round its front edge. Although the hood stayed up in a headwind, it did come a little low on the face. It’s designed to be worn under a hood rather than over one.

The sleeves have elasticated cuffs and the jacket’s hem has shockcord adjustment at its rear, with friction toggles to keep it cinched.

There are no handwarmer pockets, but two good-sized zipped chest pockets, with mesh lining. The chest and back logos are reflective.

In use, the Borealis was comfortable in use, apart from the zip niggle. Its stretchiness means it doesn’t impede movement and for climbers, having the pockets above the harness area is a plus point.

Windblocking was good, despite its lightweight, and breathability was good too. Warmth was reasonable for such a lightly constructed jacket. It also offers factor 50 protection against UV.

The Rab softshell is ideal for those who are looking for a lightweight jacket offering good windblocking. Rab pitches it at climbers but it’s also a useful garment for walkers who want a softshell that’s not going to take up too much room in the pack and that allows good breathability when moving at a pace.

Windblocking 23/30
Breathability 16/20
Warmth 12/20
Comfort 7/10
Quality 7/10
Value for money 8/10
Total score: 73/100

The Keela Hydron Softshell came out tops in our test, thanks to its comprehensive features providing maximum comfort, though it was also tops for price.

The Berghaus Ghlas and the CMP Man Jacket Zip Hood were a close second. The Berghaus is nicely designed and worked well in a variety of conditions. The CMP jacket was warmest and was also competitively priced.

For those on a tight budget, Craghoppers’ Baird looks good and gives adequate protection.

Those who like to move fast and light on the hill will want to consider the Mammut and Rab jackets, both of which had very good breathability and packed down small.

  • All the samples in the test were supplied to grough by the brands.

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