Epiphanys are in short supply these days - but I found one - only yesterday. I've flirted with softshell and had a really good winter experience wearing a fleece lined RAB Baltoro Guide - but I never got 'into them' - apart from in the strictly literal sense.
I met my pal for a winter walk in the Lakes yesterday. As the forecast was for dry weather until long after we would have gone home I put on my Rab Scimitar Jacket and trousers - carried my hardshell backups and set off.
After a short while the snow came, started slowly but getting heavier - nevertheless we decided to continue up and over Crinkle Crags, stopped for lunch, and walked some more before reaching the pub around six hours after we'd set off.
I can honestly say I was amazed by the performance of these two garments - my hardshell backups stayed in my pack and yet I was perfectly dry and perfectly comfortable all day - with no internal claminess to deal with sweat simply passed through the fabric.
Underneath I had a Montane Bionic baselayer, and on top of this a Montane Fireball Smock - with gloves and a fleecy Buff I maintained a comfortable termperature.
I particularly liked the hood - cinching it aroiund my scalp it moved as it was supposed to move - as you did. The ubiquitous Mountain Cap stayed in my pack as I seemed warm enough with the hood clasped firmly to my scalp. A normal beanie would have provided warmth if I had needed it.
When stopped for lunch my legs started to get cold - but as soon as we resumed our trek they warmed up again. There was some gusty wind which when sustained cooled my leg on that side - if it had been stronger and more sustained my hard shell pants may well have got an airing.
The epiphany came as we sat down to a pint of Jennings in the pub - I took the Scimitar jacket off to find that the inside was absolutely bone dry (apart for some wet near the cuffs and around the neck where I had been careless enough to let the snow in) - and I was bone dry inside it - in contrast my pals hardshell was decidedly damp due to condensation build up which instantly reminded me of how I usually feel after a day like we'd had.
And it had been a pretty wet day - my rucksack was soggy as hell - I think I've previously underestimated the wet weather protection afforded by softshell - the argument is always why wear a softshell because you have to carry a hardshell as well? The answer is that its a lot more comfortable in most conditions - and I think it just might be worth it.
If there was a chance of sustained rain day after day I'd hesitate to take one backpacking because I'd worry about getting it dry overnight - and they do tend to be heavier than hardshells - but I'm already looking forward to wearing this combo again, such is the level of excitement in my life.