UOG Top pick – we’ve singled out Outdoor Research’s Enchainment Softshelll Jacket as one of our top recommendations because it has performed so exceptionally well across three mixed weather days in Scotland, see full review.
I would describe the Enchainment Softshell jacket as a mid weight softshell – that is, the fabric is quite thick offering a good level of protection from the elements while offering a great level of breathability and comfort. That’s the point of a softshell versus a hardshell, its more comfortable and doesn’t get clammy on the inside like hardshells at the end of a long day wearing them.
I selected the Enchainment for a Scottish trip in April which promised, and delivered, some challenging weather conditions over three days. The first day was an ascent of Ben Nevis, initially we had good conditions but further up it started snowing, as we ascended the weather got progressively worse until it was a true white-out a few hundred feet from the top – you couldn’t see anything – not even the ground you were about to walk on.
Eventually we reached the line of large cairns that lead to the top, although standing at one we couldn’t see the next, sometimes it was trial and error – the snow was thick but we closed in on the summit – meeting a guide with two clients we finally reached the summit cairn and the shelter. We crawled in and had some lunch but after half an hour were cooling down too quickly.
We had planned to go on but it was clearly out of the question given the weather and we decided to return the way we’d come up – it was still white out conditions so the descent was a bit tortuous – beyond the cairns it cleared up a bit but we couldn’t see the path because what had been relatively free of snow was now white. We made our way on a bearing, going up to our thighs in deep drifts at times.
Eventually the path appeared and we made much better time although harried by squally snow showers, deciding not to camp we made it back to the B&B in Fort William.
And the jacket? I’d worn it all day from start to finish, my hardshell never made it out of the pack, I was warm dry and comfortable with just the faintest of dampness as, in the last hour, the weather had finally seeped through where my rucksack straps pressed down on my shoulders. When on the move I had remained warm though in the summit shelter I cooled very quickly – but I think that was beyond this jackets remit.
It had taken four hours to get to the top and five and a half to get down again, the performance of the jacket was amazing. I wore it again over the next few days – with nothing as severe as day 1 we nevertheless endured squally snow showers and at the end of the last day a prolonged downpour. Again the water seeped through at the shoulders very slightly, but I was shouldering about 27lbs in my pack and the severity of the rain was definitely hardshell territory.
Feature wise the hood has good adjustment and has a short peak, essential if the jacket is to be used in poor conditions. Stretch panels in key places make movement easy and keep you vented, and the Velcro adjustable cuffs kept the snow out.