In the softshell jacket category, the Arc’teryx Atom LT is considered a triumph. It’s highly regarded for its versatile performance across a wide range of activities and conditions. So we asked ourselves, “Are there other great softshells on the market?” In this article, we explore some lesser known softshell alternatives that offer the same exceptional performance.
We’ve narrowed it down to three softshells that fared remarkably well across three categories: build, performance, and price. On the roster today, we’ve got:
Arc’teryx Atom LT
Brand Name | Product Type
Arc’teryx launched the Atom LT in 2010. It was designed as an all-purpose insulated jacket, meaning it was equally suited to an autumn day of bouldering as it was to a brisk stroll to the café. And that’s exactly what made it so popular—it was a dependable, do-anything, go-anywhere wardrobe staple.
Of course, because of its versatility, the Atom LT also had a reputation for being a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none kind of jacket. Yes, it’s lightweight (13.2 oz/374g), wind-resistant, water-repellent, and insulated—just not completely. And, for its $319.00 price tag, this can leave a lot of potential buyers on the fence.
For an in-depth discussion of the Atom LT, read our full-length review. Otherwise, let’s check out the three best softshells alternatives.
BLACKYAK Bargur LT Jacket
Despite being a relative newcomer to the outdoor gear scene, BLACKYAK have made their mark—particularly in Europe. Since their 2016 debut, the brand has already received 26 ISPO awards for the design, function, and innovation of their products.
One of those products is the Bargur LT jacket. Designed as a do-anything, go-anywhere softshell, the Bargur LT offers lightweight insulation across a variety of conditions and activities.
The Bargur LT is constructed using a mix of two fabrics. In high-friction areas, you’ll find a durable, 30D Cordura ripstop; in high-flex areas, the jacket features a more dynamic Cordura Stretch. On the back, a perforated rear panel offers excellent localized ventilation.
As for its insulation, the Bargur LT is insulated with 90g (grams of insulation per square metre) of synthetic Polartec Alpha Direct. This insulating technology is renowned for its ability to regulate core temperature across changing conditions. All told, the Bargur LT weighs in at a reasonable 13 oz (360g).
Other features include:
- Internal chest pocket
- Comfort cuffs, waist, and hood with soft elastic lining
- Reflective strips
BLACKYAK’s mission is to create intelligent gear. Instead of designing garments uniform in construction and insulation, they develop products that balance warmth, breathability, and flexibility. That means more insulation in the front, more breathability in the back, and more flexibility in the pits.
The Bargur LT exemplifies this philosophy by providing the perfect amount of warmth across a range of temperatures, allowing your core temperature to remain stable.
Black Diamond First Light Hybrid Hoody
As it would seem with every respectable outdoor gear company, Black Diamond began their existence catering to skiers and climbers. Over time, their product lines grew to encompass the entire domain of outdoor sports—from hiking to biking to running and more.
But even across these disparate activities, Black Diamond sought to create one jacket to rule them all: the First Light Hybrid Hoody. As a versatile softshell, the First Light maintains its dignity whether worn on the slopes, on the crag, or on the trail.
The first thing that stands out about the First Light Hybrid Hoody is the blended merino construction along the side and rear panels. Merino is known for its odour-resistant, thermal, and moisture-wicking properties, making it ideal for dealing with sweaty backs.
On the front of the jacket, we’ve got a Schoeller stretch nylon that’s soft and lightweight. A porous NanoSphere coating improves breathability, while a micro-DWR coating keeps water out. The internal fabric is a breathable, woven mesh.
Its Primaloft Silver Active 60 insulation is perfectly aligned with the jacket’s triple-B philosophy: breathability, breathability, breathability. Silver Active is designed to be thermally-efficient throughout high-aerobic activities.
Other features include:
- External chest pocket
- Underarm gussets and stretch cuffs
- bluesign approved
Though designed as a midlayer, the First Light Hybrid Hoody can be worn as a softshell on milder days. Similar to BLACKYAK’s Bargur LT, the First Light does an excellent job of delivering the right amount of insulation, breathability, and flexibility throughout your upper body by leveraging various fabrics.
Of all the softshells in this article the First Light is the heaviest, weighing in at 18.3 oz (518g). Nevertheless, the chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack making it highly packable.
The bottom line is this: the First Light Hybrid Hoody is an fantastically breathable jacket that’ll keep you just as comfortable trudging up a steep hill as waltzing your way back down.
Norrøna Falketind Thermo60 Hood
Norrøna has been a household name in Europe for nearly 100 years. It’s an outdoor gear brand synonymous with quality and durability. Even today, many of their garments are manufactured at their Norwegian headquarters. Yet, despite their stellar reputation, they’ve only recently begun to pick up steam in North America.
Nevertheless, it’s become increasingly known that the Falketind Thermo60 Hood is a serious contender among softshells like the Atom LT. The Thermo60 is considered Norrøna’s best shoulder-season jacket: It’s warm, weather-resistant, lightweight, packable, and versatile. Plus, it’s made entirely of recycled materials.
The Falketind Thermo60 Hood is built to tackle the elements head-on. The face fabric is a durable, 20D nylon that features a ripstop backing. Meanwhile, a DWR coating is applied to protect against rain.
Inside, the unquilted Pinecco insulation offers exceptional loft with its three-layer construction. Because Pinecco is a synthetic insulation, it also boasts better moisture-wicking properties than down, while managing to keep you warm even when wet. For all that, the Thermo60 remains highly compressible and weighs just short of 11oz (310g).
Other features include:
- Asymmetric cuffs with Velcro adjustment
- Drawstring adjustments on both the waist and hood
- Internal chest pocket
Dynamic and functional, the Falketind Thermo60 Hood is a must-have in every adventurer’s wardrobe. It’s the perfect shell in shoulder-season weather and during light rains. In lower temperatures, it can be used as a midlayer beneath a proper winter jacket.
The handwarmer pockets are located higher up than what you’ll find on the Atom LT; this makes for easy access while wearing a hip belt or climbing harness. At night, reflective graphics keep you safe and visible.
Overall, this is a versatile jacket that’ll last you a lifetime and bear witness to your many adventures. And, because Norrøna stands behind each of their products, you can take advantage of their free repair program if the need ever arises.
As with all great things, competition stimulates innovation. Though the Atom LT remains one of the most versatile softshells on the market, we’ve discovered some equally great options. Here are the highlights:
- For a newcomer brand, BLACKYAK’s Bargur LT jacket is a great entry into the softshell category. Their future-forward design philosophy guarantees comfort.
- Black Diamond’s First Light Hybrid Hoody has the lowest retail cost and is perfect for merino wool lovers, though it does weigh slightly more than the other softshells.
- Norrøna’s Falketind Thermo60 Hood is priced the same price as the Atom LT. But, for those feeling a little more eco-conscious, remember that the Falketind is made of entirely recycled materials.
When deciding which versatile softshell is right for you, a good subjective metric is how it fits; each brand designs their products with different proportions in mind and this will affect the look and feel of the jacket when worn. With that said, know that whichever softshell you choose as your go-anywhere, do-anything jacket—you won’t be disappointed!