What can you wear that will keep you dry, block wind, provide warmth, and allow you plenty of flexibility? The answer? Soft Shells. The latest craze in outerwear that promises to answer the problems that skiers, snowshoers, runners and other winter or otherwise cold weather sports enthusiasts have complained about since winter sporting was invented.
Traditionally, an outer shell is made of tough nylon that has a waterproof membrane laminated to it to add many of the qualities desired by winter athletes. However, the nylon restricted flexibility and the waterproof membrane caused excessive sweating and a lack of water vapor release from the garment.
So what is a Soft Shell? Well, most Soft Shells are a mixture of fabric technologies. The core of the fabric is typically a soft, warm, wind resistant polyester fleece that retains body heat well, yet has exceptional breathability. The manufacturer then coates the fleece with DWR© (Durable Water Restistant). DWR makes the garment very water resistant and the garment can endure multiple washings and still retain its water resistancy. Finally, many manufacturers will also laminate a WindStopper© membrane to the fabric to eliminate the penetration of wind through the garment. Windstopper© completely blocks wind, yet it still allows the garment to breathe.
Soft Shells are great for most any winter sport, especially high endurance sports. The only thing to worry about is the fact that that they are not completely waterproof. If you are going to be exposed to wet conditions for an extended period of time, water will start to soak through you soft shell.