Snowshoeing was originally a necessity among communities that live in far-flung areas. Since then, it has evolved into a winter activity that almost everyone can enjoy. It is a great way to explore places while keeping active.
Just like any physical activity, snowshoeing requires appropriate gear and clothing such as shell trousers, snowshoes, and more. And, one of the essentials is outerwear. Snowshoeing can be done in almost any type of cold conditions. As such, it is often complicated when shopping for the right shell jacket.
Is it best to wear a hardshell jacket? Or are softshells better options?
Luckily, we have compared some of the most popular snowshoeing jackets on the market. We have divided the options to show you the best hardshell and softshell outerwear. Also, do not miss our buying guide that will help you choose the best jacket while shopping.
Best Jackets for Snowshoeing
A hardshell jacket will protect you from all sorts of conditions during your winter adventures. If you enjoy a variety of activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, and others, then hardshells should be included in your winter gear.
Here are some of our favorite hardshell jackets for snowshoeing:
|Arc'teryx Alpha FL Jacket||Gore-Tex with N40p-X face fabric||11.8 oz (334.5 grams).||4.5||$$$||Shop at Amazon|
|Marmot Knife Edge Jacket||Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5L 100% Polyeste||12.4 oz. (351.5 grams)||4.5||$$||Shop at Amazon|
|Outdoor Research Hemispheres||3L Gore-Tex with C-Knit and 2L Gore-Tex with Stretch||1 lb. 4 oz. (567 grams)||4||$$$$||Shop at Amazon|
|Mammut Nordwand Advanced||3-layer 100% nylon Gore-Tex Pro||16.0 oz. (453.6 grams)||4||$$$$||Shop at Amazon|
|Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket||AscentShell 3L and 100% nylon 20D stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 12D backer||11.2 oz. (317.5 grams)||4||$$||Shop at Amazon|
Softshell jackets provide a balance of comfort, mobility, and breathability. While they are not as good as hardshells when it comes to weather protection, they can protect your layers from the cold weather.
Here are our top picks for softshell jackets for snowshoeing:
|Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody||17 oz. (481.9 grams)||4.5||$$$||Shop at Amazon|
|Outdoor Research San Juan||19 oz. (538.6 grams)||4||$$||Shop at Amazon|
|The North Face Apex Risor||23.3 oz. (660 grams)||4||$$||Shop at Amazon|
Best Hardshell Jackets for Snowshoeing
The Arc’teryx Alpha FL Jacket is solid winter wear that can take you anywhere beyond snowshoeing. It is arguably one of the best-constructed jackets on the market. As such, it is a great investment whether you are a novice or seasoned winter adventurer.
The “Alpha” in its name refers to the alpine, which means it can protect you on pretty much most winter activities such as snowshoeing, climbing, and skiing. It includes a helmet-compatible hood if you ever need to wear head protection. It is made of Gore-Tex Pro, which is a waterproof-breathable fabric.
The overall style of the jacket makes it excellent for mobility, especially when you are on your snowshoes. Its fit, especially in the shoulders, chest, and arms, provide maximum comfort when active. However, its front hem is relatively short, which usually untucks when you raise your arms.
The Marmot Knife Edge Jacket is another light hardshell jacket that manages to include useful features. It includes pit zips, which are typically absent in lightweight jackets. That means you are less likely to overheat, especially when hiking on a challenging trail.
Its 2.5 layer construction made of Gore-Tex Paclite creates a waterproof-breathable membrane. So, when it gets a bit wet during your adventure, you do not have to worry about getting soaked.
The Knife Edge’s construction is a balance between baggy and athletic. The cut is suitable during very active moments. Furthermore, its fabric provides a bit of stretchiness as well. The overall cut does not feel too baggy, either.
When it comes to choosing a jacket that pairs well with your snowshoes in terms of performance and protection, the Outdoor Research Hemispheres is an excellent option. It balances weather-proofing and mobility without any major drawbacks in features. It also comes with great ventilation that allows your body to effectively regulate temperature.
The jacket is made of 3-layer Gore-Tex which repels moisture and precipitation well. On top of that, Outdoor Research added 2-layer Gore-Tex with Stretch Technology in strategic places such as under the arms, back of the shoulders, and along with the hood. This provides great room for movement during intense hikes.
Breathability is limited when the jacket is fully zipped which is suitable during freezing weather. However, it includes TorsoFlo Vents along the hem to the armpit. These allow significant airflow which is convenient when you feel warm.
If you are a fan of getting on your snowshoes and going on winter adventures, even in the roughest conditions, consider the Mammut Nordwand Advanced. It provides ultimate weather protection using three layers of Gore-Tex Pro, along with 70-denier nylon fabric. The jacket also comes with durable water repellent (DWR) that remains waterproof even after regular use.
Its overall design and fit were developed with comfort and protection in mind. Sleeves are long and stay in place even when you raise your arms. The front hem is also sufficiently low and stays tucked into a harness.
While the Gore-Tex Pro is crinkly and noisy, it does not impede the overall mobility. It is also a versatile jacket that can be used with different base layers. It also includes pit zips and three pockets.
The Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket is a great gear for a hiker that values breathability and mobility above all else. It is also the lightest hardshell in the market, which is perfect for solo adventurers. The AscentShell is a breathable and stretchy fabric that allows comfort even when you are moving.
Its overall fit allows for additional layers without getting too tight. Additionally, it does not feel baggy when used with one base layer. The fabric is supple and quiet, in contrast to some other hard shells.
However, the AscentShell is not as waterproof as Gore-Tex Pro that other jackets use. While it comes with DWR coating, it seems to wear off quickly, especially if you regularly use the Interstellar on your adventures. It suits a person who loves to be on their snowshoes in relatively dry snow.
Best Softshell Jackets for Snowshoeing
Similar to its hardshell sibling, the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody is also an excellent jacket for snowshoeing. It is a stylish and versatile jacket that will provide great breathability, necessary if you are getting active in the snow. Additionally, it provides decent weather protection for a softshell.
It is made of Wee Burly fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) layer. It beads water off, which is more than enough during light precipitation. While it is permeable, it holds up quite well in cold gusty conditions. However, it is not as wind resistant as thicker jackets as it is unlined.
The jacket was designed with mobility in mind. That is why it balances a well-fitting style without getting too tight. You can add a few more layers without the entire jacket looking too baggy.
If you are a person who loves snowshoeing in harsher conditions, then you will appreciate the Outdoor Research San Juan. It is made of double-weave polyester that allows light rain and snow to easily slide off. It also comes with a hood that fits even when you have a helmet on.
While the jacket’s overall cut and style skew towards boxy, it does not feel baggy at all. It fits well while allowing an additional base layer or mid-layer. The design also allows you to move freely.
Its excellent weather protection sacrifices a bit of breathability. The brushed interior traps moisture compared to lighter jackets. However, it is great during frozen conditions when you keep a steady hiking pace as it prevents the cold air from seeping in.
The North Face Apex Risor is designed to keep you warm in windy conditions and cold temperatures. It is made from WindWall fabric with fleece lining to ensure that you are protected from freezing gusts. The durable exterior is water-resistant, which means you are protected during wet adventures in the snow.
It has a loose fit that does not feel baggy. Furthermore, the cut and style of the jacket allow movement even when you are wearing a backpack. Its cuffs are semi-elastic, which holds well and prevents the sleeves from riding up when you raise your arms.
While it repels water, it is not as waterproof as other jackets on this list. However, you can add a nice base layer if you are expecting a downpour.
Look For These When Buying a Jacket for Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing requires clothing that allows you to freely move while ensuring that you are protected from the cold temperatures. Additionally, it should be breathable enough to allow you to sweat without overheating your body.
Aside from your mid-layers and base layers, a durable jacket is necessary to survive freezing weather.
That is why shopping for the best jackets for snowshoeing can be daunting sometimes. Don’t worry, though. Below are some of our tips for choosing the right piece of clothing for your next adventure.
Hardshell Jacket vs. Softshell Jacket
The comparison between hardshell jackets and softshell jackets has been constant since the popularity of the latter.
Softshell jackets are relatively new. Some of its early versions are made of fleece lining with a weather-resistant outer layer. However, innovations in fabric technology and treatment produced some of the best softshells recently.
As such, they become a viable competitor to hardshells when it comes to protection against rough conditions. However, softshell jackets are usually designed to provide maximum comfort, breathability, and mobility. That is why some products sacrifice some of their weather protection qualities.
On the other hand, hardshells have windproof and waterproof outer layers, which is great when hiking on your snowshoes in rough conditions. They are also made of lighter materials, which means most solo hikers are likely to have them in their packs.
However, they are not as stretchy or as comfortable as softshells. Due to the water-resistant exterior, some breathability is compromised as well.
Recent jacket designs combine the qualities of hardshells and softshells. These hybrid options are usually great all-rounders. But they are also slightly more expensive.
So, which one should you buy?
If you are a regular winter adventurer, there’s no reason that you should not have both. It is especially necessary when you are expecting mixed weather conditions.
If you are keen on choosing only one, then knowing your activities and the location’s temperature should guide your choice. Tougher trails where you expect to be very active may need softshells as you would sweat a lot. On the other hand, windy and freezing weather may require a hardshell to keep you warm.
Jackets vary in thickness and warmth. You have a wide range of options, from hardshells with insulation to softshells with Merino wool linings.
For versatility, you can always choose a lighter hardshell that can be worn in wet conditions. Then, you can throw in a decent mid layer or base layer during freezing weather.
Meanwhile, if you are expecting a lot of activities, then softshells are your best bet. Their breathable fabric ensures that your body temperature is stable even when you are active. Additionally, most are insulated, so you do not have to worry about the cold weather.
Water and Wind Resistance
Hardshells are still the top choice when it comes to total water and wind resistance. If you expect prolonged exposure to rain and wet snow, a decent hardshell jacket is needed, so you do not get soaked. Additionally, it prevents moisture build-up on the exterior that prevents the fabric from getting completely wet.
On the other hand, many softshells come with durable water repellent (DWR) coating. That means they can handle light showers or wind gusts with no problem. You can also consider hybrid options if you are expecting mixed conditions.
Snowshoeing can be an intense aerobic activity, especially when you are on a challenging trail. As such, it is a popular choice among hikers who want to regulate their body heat. It allows them to sweat and release moisture through the fabric, which prevents them from getting soaked.
However, also consider the overall weather and permeability of the jacket. Too much airflow will compromise your temperature. It is especially easy to freeze when it is windy, and you do not have the weather protection that a hardshell can provide.
Because you are moving a lot when snowshoeing, it is logical that you choose softshell jackets with stretchable fabric. Their extra give provides comfort even in demanding activities.
While hardshells do not have the same quality, some jackets have styles and cuts that allow mobility. A balance between fit and construction may provide enough room for movement without looking too baggy. Because they do not have stretch, extra fabric along the hem, shoulders, and armpits are needed to be comfortable.
Snowshoeing is an amazing winter activity that can be done even by novice hikers. It can also serve as a great social event where adventurers of all ages can gather. As such, you need to have the right gears to fully enjoy it.
If you are looking for an all-around jacket, then Arc’teryx Alpha FL Jacket is a great pick. Its Gore-Tex fabric provides total protection from the elements. Additionally, its construction allows you to move freely during your hikes and accommodate a mid .
For ultimate comfort, consider Arc’teryx Gamma LT Hoody. It balances breathability and weather protection resulting in a versatile softshell. If you are not expecting very harsh conditions, then this jacket is an excellent choice.
Whether you are a casual hiker or hardcore winter adventurer, knowing your needs and the weather condition will guide you in choosing the best jacket for snowshoeing. Consider which characteristics you value the most, and you should find clothing that best fits your needs.