A little bit back, we gave you a quick roundup of some options from Jack Wolfskin (you can see that here). Temps are starting to change here in Chicagoland, so thinking about some different layers for heading out on trails (or even grocery store runs) is something we’re doing. Following on from that roundup, we had samples come in for two of the items – the Jack Wolfskin Tech T and Go Hike Softshell.
We’ll start with the Jack Wolfskin Tech T ($24.95), as that’s the first item I actually started trying out. Why? Well, it was still warm out here when they came in, and I’m using a variety of wicking shirts when I head out for a jog. While this shirt is made of 100% polyester (done in a jersey knit), it is absolutely the softest shirt that I’ve had come in for working out in. The softer the fabric, the less distraction in your efforts, in my experience.
While I was out on the trail, I did find the Jack Wolfskin Tech T wicking my sweat away just fine, which also helps you keep more comfortable, and helps with the general cooling you experience. In terms of the antibacterial tech they’ve got in the fibers – to help eliminate odors – that I did not test nearly as hard. Once I’m done with the jog, the shirt goes in the wash, but ostensibly, if you’re spending all day in the shirt, you shouldn’t be carrying around the scent of your exertions.
Outdoor activities is all about layering, though, and the Jack Wolfskin Tech T is just the first – or base – layer that you’re going with. On a cooler, or damper, morning, you may want something over the top. That’s where the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell ($119.95) comes in. As with the shirt, it has a very pleasantly soft interior, while the exterior – while soft – is more like what we expect from a 100% polyester softshell (and yes, you get a bit of a swishing sound as you move your arms, but it’s quieter than some other jackets).
Now, it is worth noting that the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell is just that – a shell. It’s not insulated, per se, other than the insulating factor you get by having another layer on. So, no, this won’t be your cold fall layer, but it’s more something that you might layer something warmer under (if you’re not being active) or just throw on over a t-shirt if you’re going to be working up a sweat.
Being that sort of middle-weight layer (thicker than a nylon raincoat, thinner than a fleece) puts it in a good spot for the sort of variable temperatures that fall (and spring) can bring. The DWR coating that they put on it help as well, as that will help keep you dry if you get yourself caught in a small rain shower. To test that, I just hit the jacket with the hose. In the photo above (on the left) you c an see the water beading up. Give the jacket a quick shake, and you have the photo on the right. Sure, a few damp spots, but otherwise the majority of the water shook right off. So, no, you’re not going to stand out for an hour in a torrent and stay dry, but for moving in and out of rain showers, you’ll stay nice and dry.
To that end, the built-in hood of the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell also helps. Given the fact that I’ve got a larger head, most standard hoods don’t seem to come far enough forward on my forehead to actually keep water out effectively (even if there is a drawstring). Here, I really felt the hood came forward far enough to keep rain out of my face, while closing up around the edges (and at the chin) to keep water from getting into the jacket. In other words, it did just what you want a hood to do for keeping the rain out (or keeping some heat in).
Now, some of the fit of the hood – and the entirety of the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell – is due to the stretch that’s in the fabric. This allows you to have a slightly closer-fitting coat while not feeling restricted. Additionally, if you are being more active, that keeps you from having excess fabric binding up on your arms and torso. Finally, that little bit of stretch also means you’ve got more flexibility in fitting another layer underneath, say a sweatshirt or fleece layer if you want a little more warmth.
On the exterior of the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell, you’ve got two external pockets that close with zippers. Handy for keeping your hands warm, and for stashing your keys and phone (without worrying about them falling out) while you zip about your day. On the inside of the jacket, you do also have some internal pockets. Those are a natural result of the exterior pockets being joined to the shell, and give you another quick-drop spot to toss something as you head out. Just no zipper or snaps there, so not as secure of a pocket.
Speaking of zippers – it’s worth noting that the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell has it’s zipper pull on the opposite of what you’re used to. For us North Americans, that puts us in mind of it being a women’s jacket, rather than a men’s (I triple-checked the packing list). I asked about that, and there’s a very simple reason for it. German brands traditionally have the pull on the left for men’s jackets and the right for women’s (opposite to the North American approach). So, rather than being a specific design decision, it’s just a nod to the brand’s German roots. For us, that just means re-learning a little bit of muscle memory.
All in all, I think the Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell answers the question of what jacket to bring when you’re looking at slightly cooler and potentially damp weather. It’s lighter weight and breathability means you won’t get swamped in your own sweat, and the full zipper and hood allow you to adjust to how much protection from the elements you’re needing. Paired with a breathable base layer like the Tech T (or one of their long sleeved options), you’ll be ready to go for a more active day, or even something a bit more laid back, if that’s what the day calls for. jackwolfskin.com
Tech Specs from Jack Wolfskin
- Weight: 424 g (size M)
- STORMLOCK SOFTSHELL JERSEY 3L: windproof, water repellent, stretchy and very breathable softshell fabric
- Soft lining with DWR finish
- Fixed hood
- 2 hand pockets
- Weight: 102 g (size M)
- JERSEY PLAIN Q.M.C. S.FRESH: light, soft, jersey knit fabric with stay-fresh properties and active moisture management