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How Useful is Softshell? Do You Use It?
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

How Useful is Softshell? Do You Use It? on 08/11/2013 14:49:17 MDT Print View

I leave in 5 days for a 2-month bike trip. I start in Vermont, and then head north to Canada, and then west to the Canadian Rockies and maybe Vancouver, if I can beat the heavy snow.


I am debating on bringing my Brooks-Range Itso Softshell jacket with me... I just can't really nail down the logistics of why I should have it. I have room on the bike for it, but I like saving weight.

Expected temperatures will be very warm until about mid-september, then I expect it to get cold quick.

Here's what I'm bringing so far:

Ibex Lightweight Wool LS Crew
Ibex Heavyweight Wool LS Zip-Neck

Insulating Layer:
Arcteryx Atom SV

Arcteryx Squamish

Marmot Super Cell Paclite

My only insulation, really, is the arcteryx jacket, and that's more for camp and sleeping- I likely will never bike in it. So I really don't have a "fleece" or active layer for cold weather. In theory, the two wool shirts and windshirt were my plan for biking in 32ยบ weather. Is a softshell a good addition to this toolbox as a cold weather active layer, you think?

Thanks for feedback!


Edited by mdilthey on 08/11/2013 15:03:29 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 08/11/2013 15:01:49 MDT Print View

It seems like the LS wool shirt and the Arc' squamish need to be used instead.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 08/11/2013 15:41:44 MDT Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 09/08/2013 18:02:28 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: re on 08/11/2013 15:48:10 MDT Print View

Given the wool shirt and wind shirt (which is a bit more air permeable than many wind shirts) I don't see a big use for the soft shell. I think soft shells are useful when you want a bit more abrasion / weather resistance than you would get from a wild shirt, and maybe a bit more air permeability, none of which sound like a driving requirement.

I have been comfortable biking in 32F with patagonia cap 4 which I think would be warmer than your heavy wool, maybe the same are both wool worn together + windshirt provided I also had a hat and gloves. But I run a bit warm. I know people who run really cold who would be wearing the Atom while biking in 32F and might even be cold.


Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Question mostly answered! on 08/11/2013 15:50:54 MDT Print View

I run warm, except my hands and feet, but I've got the other stuff figured out. It looks like the consensus here is that the softshell is extra weight. Glad I asked!

I thought about it for a minute as a quick throw-on layer for eating meals and stuff, but I've got an off-bike shirt with me for this trip (such luxury!) which is a polyester/wool flannel. That'll do for supermarket runs.

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
softshell on 08/11/2013 15:58:15 MDT Print View

Given your other layers, and our weather, I'd ditch the softshell for an unfaced fuzzy fleece. More flexibility, breathes better, dries faster, weighs less. You might want insulation on the move (especially if you hit one of those delightful ice pellet/sleet/gale-of-wind combos in November), but you don't need it to have any kind of 'surface' when you have the Squamish and the rainjacket. I rely heavily on a no-name mid-weight fuzzy-both-sides zip-front hoody, ten months of the year.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Fleece on 08/11/2013 16:00:57 MDT Print View

A fuzzy fleece is something I should probably own, but I was dating this girl...

Anyways, I'll buy it in October if I need it. I am kind of edging towards the minimum with winter stuff, with the knowledge that I can always buy the stuff during the trip if I need it and recoup losses on Gear Swap when I get back.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
softshell on 08/11/2013 16:26:59 MDT Print View

a soft shell is really meant for high abrasion activities, like others have said ... basically it was made by climber for climbers

for all purposes and intents you can consider it as a windshirt+very light fleece in one

some softshells of the non-membrane type may even be more "breathable" than many windshirts ... you do however pay a price in terms of the water resistance vs membrane softshells

one thing no one has mentioned is that in intense high aerobic continuous activities you can easily sweat out your softshell ... since theres more material than a windshirt, your softshell can end up soaked for a while ... while a windshirt can be sweated out ... usually a thin nylon one dries very quickly

if you think of how most people climb in the stop and go belay fashion ... and climbing on a pitch on longer multipitch/alpine pitches have a lot of resting ... youll see why this makes sense


Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
re Fleece on 08/11/2013 16:31:27 MDT Print View

I should have noted that I wear lighter base layers than your wool, year-round, hence the love for fuzz.

And -- because it's Canadian weather, and you never know -- don't forget you might have to dress for heat! Last November 21st I recorded a temp of 24 Celsius in the shade, in an onshore wind, on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. Got a bit warm climbing a 700m hill in full sun wearing a dark long-sleeved top. :)

Edited by Islandized on 08/11/2013 16:33:53 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Weather is Crazy on 08/11/2013 18:57:49 MDT Print View

Yeah, one thing I learned about prepping for this trip- I have no idea what the weather will be doing!

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Ferrosi Hoody on 08/11/2013 20:55:05 MDT Print View

I use my Outdoor Research Ferossi Hoody as a super breathable sleeping base layer, wind jacket, and anti bug shield.

Soft shells usually don't fit into a lightweight backpacking gear list but to me a lightweight version is to useful to leave behind.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
light fleece on 08/11/2013 21:36:36 MDT Print View

Personally, I'd add a a "microweight" or 100wt. cheap fleece to your list instead of the softshell. It'll be really nice both as an active layer over the wool on cold mornings and at night for sleeping.

Richard Fischel
i'd drop the softshell and add a helmet compatible fleece hoodie. on 08/12/2013 13:29:51 MDT Print View

adds a lot of versitility when paired with a windshirt. bontrager makes a really nice hoodie or you can alway go with a pata r1 or nw alpine black spider hoodie. my go-to cool/cold weather combination is a power stretch hoodie and windshirt.

alan genser
(alan) - F

Locale: NE
cycling layers on 08/13/2013 21:46:33 MDT Print View

the layer i probably put the most miles cycling in freezing temps was the first ibex climawool softshell, loved it, but i was commuting. probably too heavy for a tour. the heavyweight wool & squamish will probably serve you nicely. unless you were planning on keeping the heavyweight wool top dry & sleeping in it..then bring the softshell.

when you're cycling, you're in civilization much more, it's nice to have something non-stinky to change into.

a fleece vest could be a nice addition, when cycling, as long as my core & extremities are warm, & no skin is exposed, i'm generally fine no matter how cold it is.