I have always been a great fan of ‘proper’ soft shell garments - lightly insulated clothing that is windproof, showerproof (when properly washed!) and highly breathable i.e. without any membranes that always slow down breathability. They first appeared with Patagonia’s Zephyr jacket, one of my best buys 30 years ago, so I was very keen to try Arc’teryx’s latest lightweight insulated jacket, the Proton FL Hoody.
Firstly, the fit is ‘trim’ which is great for action sports like climbing. I liked the snugness as it felt very easy and un-fussy to wear, especially when it starts to rain properly and you have to put on your outer shell over it. The tightly woven outer nylon fabric is wind-proof and fairly shower resistant when new and afterwards when treated with Nikwax TX Direct. It comes thankfully with 2 side pockets and 2 external chest pockets so is eminently practical to use.
Most blokes suffer from getting too hot when ‘active’ and this garment is designed with that in mind. Its impressive breathability helps regulate your body temperature whilst keeping the wind out, thus allowing the very lightweight Octa Loft insulation to do its work. You still sweat but as the breathability is great you don’t get super damp. The outer shell, being nylon, protects and doesn’t absorb water or lock you up when you put your main waterproof layer on.
I now use Proton FL Hoody as my main outdoor/outer garment (unless it’s actually summer!) as it gives me dependable comfort and enough warmth, but I always carry a light shell in case of real weather. In proper cold conditions I use a synthetic filled gilet over it to enhance core warmth. The hood provides extra protection from the wind when needed but it is doesn't have any lining for extra warmth.
I have always been aggravated by how ‘soft shell’ was used to describe so many so-called breathable fleeces and membraned insulated products. Often all they do is make you feel sweaty! Real ‘soft shell’ allows you to be reliably comfortable as it uses fabrics that enhance evaporation whilst keeping the wind out. The Proton FL Hoody might technically be an insulated jacket, but I'd call it a top-notch soft shell all the same!