soft shellOur friends at backcountry.com recently wrote a piece on the benefits of soft-shell fabrics.  With the recent addition of a fleece, hard shell, and soft shell coat to our line, we thought this would be a great opportunity to clarify the differences and best uses for soft shell, hard shell, and fleece fabrics.

What is soft shell?

Soft shell is a newer technology associated with high-end human outerwear; often used in ski, snowboard, and other winter weather outerwear.  Soft shell fabric provides the same weather protection as hard-faced fabrics such as Gore-Tex, but is more flexible, breathable and comfortable.

Our Cloud Chaser™ jacket is an example of soft shell fabric.  The fabric used on this coat is slightly stretchy, flexible, and fits close to the body to hold in core body heat.  It acts as body armor to provide breathable, full-body protection against wind, rain, cold, and snow.

What is hard shell?

Hard shell fabrics have a stiffer hand, and are often coated with a laminate to keep out wind, rain, and snow.  These fabrics work at preventing moisture from penetrating the surface, providing superior water resistance and durability.  The downside is these fabrics are bulkier and less flexible, providing a less superior fit and comfort than soft shells.

Our K9 Overcoat™ works similar to a hard shell.  The durable recycled polyester upper repels rain and snow.  It acts as a top layer to shield the dog from the cold and wet elements in a looser, less-customized (but more adjustable) fit.

What is polar fleece?

Polar fleece is a synthetic wool fabric that mimics the properties of standard fleece, with a lighter weight, softer hand, and extreme breathability.  Fleece is generally the softest and most comfortable fabric for outerwear, and provides superior warmth.  Disadvantages to fleece include the lack of resistance against rain, water, wind, and snow, though new technologies are allowing these fabrics to become more weather-resistant.

Our Climate Changer™ is an example of a polar fleece.  The recycled fleece is stretchy and comfortable, and provides superior warmth in cold, but clear, conditions.