Like turtles, we humans are not blessed with shells for our protection. However, with our ingenuity we have developed shells for protection from the elements. These man-made shells or shell fabrics are the outer layer of warm clothing; Main-body-template---Wrapgenerally the outer layer of an insulated jacket. The shells come in two forms: soft shell and hard shell. While treading through a difficult terrain under the evil eye of inclement weather, you do not want to be stuck with the wrong shell. Gaining the ability of choosing the right shell may take years of experience in the wild or an advice from an expert.

With my lust for seeking adventure, I have gone through various good and bad experiences on my hikes. I have learned a thing or two about how to prepare correctly for an outing with the right clothes and most importantly, the right shell. Shell selection is solely based on the fabric’s ability to offer waterproofing and breathability. Hard shell and soft shells have their own characteristic which will become clearer from my dissection of these fabrics below:

Hard Shell

Completely waterproof, hard-shell is perfect for a backpacking adventure. This shell is actually a layer of plastic with a membrane that allows your body to breathe. It serves as an impermeable layer which prevents liquid water from coming in but allows vapor water from your body to get out. Though the hard shells have some breathability, they are not ideal when the weather relents. On a clear weather day when you are working hard, these hard shells may become unpleasantly damp and sticky to touch. If you are going out on an adventure that will take a long time, I advise that you pack up with both hard and soft shells. This will allow you to switch between the level of protection when the weather changes.

Soft Shell

Soft shells do not have an impermeable layer like their harder counterparts. However, they provide a certain level of water resistance. Where they win in comparison with harder shells, is in their ability to allow better venting out of sweat. With better clearing out of sweat from the body, you remain dry and comfortable. This makes soft shell a great choice while performing high-fitness activities like running.

Choosing the right shell for Snowshoeing and Skiing

For skiing and snowshoeing in freezing weather on elevated zones, you should opt for a soft shell jacket. While treading through difficult terrain on a backcountry skiing adventure, you are likely to sweat a lot. Soft shell will allow easy passage to the accumulated sweat, which will prevent freezing of sweat on your body. As frozen sweat can result in extreme cold and lead to hypothermia, these soft shells can be a life savior on such adventures.

If you are going for a skiing session, under heavy snowfall, at a resort near you, I recommend that you go for harder shells. As you will spend a lot of time in a chairlift for getting to the elevated zones, harder shells will do a great job in protecting you from excessive snow while you are stationary.

Final Advice

If you are still finding making a decision difficult, I have a simple rule for you to follow. Whenever you feel like you will be stuck in the snow for an extended period of time, you should go for harder shells. If you will only be going out for a short duration of time and want to feel comfy while performing high-fitness activities, you should opt for softer shell.