View Full Version : I got a Soft Shell Jacket

11-16-2010, 00:41
I recently received my new jacket, the North Face Apex jacket.Let me just say up front that I did not get it with intentions of using as part of a layering system while backpacking, but I am also not throwing the idea out either. My main reasons for getting it are for casual wear around town and home, and then while on day hikes for sure.

IMO, a soft shell is a fine idea for a jacket in the Southeast where we don't really get very cold temperatures and usually receive rain showers. So far I have been happy with it.

I have written a little more about my initial impression of the jacket and posted it on my blog if anyone is interested.


11-16-2010, 00:56
Great jacket for how you are planning on using it.

11-16-2010, 01:07
That's what I was thinking. :) Thanks.

11-16-2010, 03:27
I think North Face products are overpriced IMO.
What do you think?


11-16-2010, 04:04
Ok, stupid question about the price. I see you use your dividend, which softens the cost depending on your dividend, cool.
Obviously, you wouldnt have bought it otherwise.
Then again, with REI, you can always return it.

I will be going to Nashville area for Christmas and I told my other half that I plan to spend at least half a day in REI trying on clothing and fondling gear. So when I return home, I will have a better idea of what to order down the road. I already have a list of things that I want to specifically target.

Oh yeah, nice review.


11-16-2010, 08:44
The original application of the Schoeller fabric (Inventor of a soft shell fabric) was for mountaineering activities - I think it got started in Switzerland in the early to mid-eighties. The fabric was expensive. I remember mostly ski pants (at least my downhill pants were) were made of this stuff though the 80's and 90's, but it was expensive.

It caught in jackets in the early 90's in the states. most started using it for climbing. It is not bulky which means you can see your next hold or look down between you and the wall. It is very abrasion resistant so you can scrape along nubbed rockfaces as you climb without damaging it. It holds up extremely well to light rain and incredibly well to snow and the outer is smooth so you can quickly layer over it with a down sweater while off belay. My first winter climb in a softshell jacket wasn't until 2001 or 2002 pretty cool. Until then it was a lightweight fleece or long john top with a windbreaker over it. At summit and rest it was always a heavier fleece and then goretex. With the Softshell, all I needed was a down sweater to go over at breaks and I was fine. no longer needed to carry a GTX jacket (I still did though).

Anyways, I am glad you like your new jacket. They are seeing use way beyond the original intent. As for TNF pricing, You've got a jacket with a lot of innovative design, a fit that is unbelievable, top quality fabrics and an incredible warranty. Some do not see value in that. Many others do.
If you are planning to use the jacket as it was intended, then it is not overpriced. If you are looking for something to wear at the mall, well.... then I see your point.:D

11-16-2010, 10:22
A softshell is essentially a new version of quality wool garments: Highly breathable, water and abrasion resistant, form fitting, warm while moving,
(In fact, many very high end softshells (http://www.ibexwear.com/shop/product/1718/5323/mens-tuck-jacket) are made with wool) etc

As Toolshed stated, they were (are) mainly used for Alpine activities.

I started wearing one when started alpine climbing this past year. My lined windshirt would have been torn to shreds.

I plan on using one for backcountry skiing this coming winter. I wore a wool sweater previously for the reasons listed above. The new softshell is less bulky, more abrasion resistant, more form fitting and even more weather resistant while (hopefully) still being as breathable.

As for TNF: Many of their products are overpriced mall fashion. Their core products are still bomber.

Not sure how a softshell would work for backpacking..but give it a while and let us know! :)

11-16-2010, 10:45
I have had that jacket for a few years. I have slid down hill sides, climbed rock walls, wrapped it around my pack to force my way through prickers and done all kinds of pretty mean stuff to it. After a washing it still looks pretty new. No rips, no seams pulling apart, no stains. That jacket is a beast. It is definitely not a warm jacket, so I always bring a puffy layer. If you are looking for a jacket to abuse then you got the right one. Have fun

11-16-2010, 19:01
as for softshell in general, i used a 30% off outlet coupon at REI to get an arc'teryx softshell for 105$ ... i couldn';t be more impressed with it for a 'general purpose' jacket, my go to coat for day hiking, etc.

that said, it's not as waterproof as i thought it would be ( i have the gamma AR in gore tex and that thing lets nothing in)... i've had it soak through a few times on me in steady but not torrential rain.

11-16-2010, 21:00
fun fact: the north face's apex bionic jacket is their new number 1 selling jacket, taking over for the denali.

softshells are NOT taped at the seams, so that's why they are not considered water-PROOF, just water-RESISTANT. if it's raining long enough, you WILL notice leakage.

11-16-2010, 22:37
softshells are NOT taped at the seams, so that's why they are not considered water-PROOF, just water-RESISTANT. if it's raining long enough, you WILL notice leakage.

Nor were they meant to..light precip and fluffy snow is where they work well.

Every piece of gear has pluses and minuses. :)

11-16-2010, 23:03
SMSP, As far as the price is concerned, I think it is fair. Of all the other NF items I own, I must say that I have been satisfied with them. That includes sleeping bags and other jackets / clothing items. I have had my eye on this jacket for a few years now, just never could justify buying it, at least when I had the cash in hand, and finally I did. There were other soft shells out there I wouldn't have minded having, but in the end I went with what I wanted. This is not the least expensive soft shell, but on the other hand it is by no means the most expensive.

Toolshed & Mags, wow, thanks for the background. I was not aware of any of this information. As far as use, I must not tell a lie (:)) I did in fact buy this jacket for casual wear around home and town (and that will include the mall when my wife makes me go). However, I am looking forward to bringing it with me on day hikes, and maybe even some small over night trips. As far as bringing on an extensive backpacking trip, I am not so sure about that yet. I will have to see how it goes, but at the moment I really love my layering system for the cold weather cause it works (and once I get my Montbell UL Down Inner jacket to take place of my heavier synthetic liner which is actually from a NF Triclimate jacket, I will like it even better). So, it may not make it on true backpacking trips. However, for the Southeast it seemed to be the perfect option. Our temperatures usually hang out in the 20's. Sometimes it drops and sometimes it goes up. Also, we tend to get frequent rain showers. With the ability to layer clothing underneath, and the ability of the jacket to block wind should do great at keeping me warm in these temperatures. And of course, during the "Hey I didn't know it was going to rain" days, well the jacket will do great for those too. This jacket really does seem to fit the bill for me.

nox2825, glad to hear the good words. I do agree with you, on its own, it is not a warm jacket. But once I layer a long sleeve with an undershirt, it is good and toasty.

kyhiker610, I felt it was safe to assume that. I have seen a few people wearing them over the past few years. Probably why it stuck with me so much. And as far as the water resistance, I agree with Mags. The jackets are not designed to be water proof, but they will resist water up to a point, as they are intended to do.

Anyway, when I woke up this morning we were having a good little shower outside and I thought I would get to see how much water the jacket could take but by the time I left for work it had stopped. Oh well. Still enjoying it.

Thanks for all the comments and replies. Also, thanks to everyone that checked out my site.

01-05-2011, 19:24
i just bought this jacket yesterday at ems. the list price was 129$ but i was able to talk the clerk into giving me a 25$ gear bucks card to help off set the cost of the jacket. she also gave me another gear bucks card just for being such a nice customer. so i basically got fifty bucks off the price if you add in the 2nd gear bucks card.

i used this jacket today on a 10 mile hike around the woods and ponds in the area. the jacket performed as i expected. the temps were in the 30* range with wind blowing a steady 10mph. for a baselayer i had a tight wicking shirt, my 2nd layer was a midweight tecwick shirt and my main layer was the apex bionic softshell jacket. i walked at a fairly quick pace to try and get my temp up enough so that i was on the verge of sweating. the jacket was highly breathable compared to using a traditional wind/rain jacket. had a slight chill[comfortable] the whole time unless i was in direct sunlight. as i was crossing the ponds the wind was alot stronger than in the woods and the jacket didnt even flinch at the wind. after using this jacket for the 1st time i am hooked. i am going to experiment with different layering applications so i can get a better feel on this jackets versatility...peace

01-09-2011, 21:47
I'm the type of guy who believes you get what you pay for most of the time so i normally stray away from target/walmart brands of clothing for athleticwear ...but today waiting for the wife to exit the dressing room area the men's clothes are right next to it ... looking at the clearance stuff i seen a c9 champion soft shell hoodie for 50% off ... after checking it out, i deemed it would be a nice layer over my down jacket and under my main rain shell .... checking it out today with just a wicking short sleeve, the soft shell and my hard shell over it .... i was nice and relaxed warm while walkin a 5 mile loop around my area .... i'd imagine with the down i'll be all but toasty down too the single digits in camp ... and its replacing my fleece. Cheap and works, wish more gear was that way.