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Why softshell pants?

We spoke to Stefan Taft, Marketing Manager at Maier Sports, about the range of uses for softshell pants. What sets them apart, what they are best suited for, what advantages and disadvantages they offer. Our expert recommends softshell pants, especially for the cooler and cold seasons, for everything from demanding winter trekking to moderate excursions into nature, and they are also popular in urban areas. Find out why in the following interview.

Stefan Taft
By Stefan Taft

What different types of softshell pants are there for hiking and trekking fans?

There are quite a few. But generally, the softshell pants on the market today can be divided into two categories: with and without a membrane. At Maier Sports, we have both in our range. We will, however, concentrate here on the softshell pants with our windproof stormprotec-technology, which has good water repellency but is not waterproof.  Our softshell pants with stormprotec are specially designed for use in cooler conditions, which is why we place great value on the material's high heat retention. At the same time, it can quickly wick moisture away from the skin to the outside. With our environmentally friendly PFC-free impregnation, water drops and snowflakes roll off the softshell pants, and they can easily withstand a rain shower or snow flurry.

What materials are used to make softshell pants?

It varies widely. We use, for example, a very robust and abrasion-resistant polyamide material for the outside of our technical trekking and touring pants TECH PANTS with an elastane additive that ensures the necessary elasticity of these resilient outdoor pants. The inside, however, is made from a soft, cuddly, peach skin polyester fabric that is very comfortable and helps insulate air. In between, we insert our windproof and very breathable stormprotec membrane.

We don't use polyamide but a softer polyester functional material in our PERLIT and LAPILLI softshell pants. This wicks moisture out well, and they are designed for light winter hikes, short walks in the snow, and urban use. The fabric has a soft and warming fleece structure on the inside, and the outside is smooth. Thanks to a special weaving technique, these softshell pants are also stretchy, which helps achieve a great fit and allows plenty of freedom of movement. Our stormprotec membrane makes these pants windproof and water-repellent. At the same time, the PFC-free impregnation repels water

What are the decisive advantages or disadvantages of softshell pants?

Softshell pants are light, breathable, stretchy, and offer high heat retention. This means it's never too warm nor too cold and very comfortable to wear. The elastic material also enables a very close fit, which benefits the function of the pants and allows for slim silhouettes with a fashionable, sporty look. Short drying times are another argument in favour of softshell pants. Another important factor is that this type of outdoor pants is suitable for a wide range of weather and temperature conditions. The respective equipment plays a decisive role, especially with regard to the specific areas of use.

However, softshell pants are not the perfect solution. They cannot achieve full marks for every criterion. For example, these pants do not offer 360-degree weather protection, as they are not 100% waterproof, which means that hardshell pants are the better choice in heavy and prolonged rain. And if you are planning a tour with an overnight stay in a cabin or tent, it would be challenging to get soaked clothing dry again. If you’re planning particularly strenuous tours, you would be better off with double-weave trekking or touring pants, as they are even more breathable. Choosing the right functional pants can offer an even more flexible alternative even in very cold conditions.

Softshell pants for man

What are the main differences between hardshell and softshell pants?

The key difference is impermeability. Fully sealed hardshell pants are 100% waterproof. This means you'll stay dry even in terrible weather. However, you have to accept a reduction in comfort, as hardshell pants cannot compete with softshell pants in terms of moisture-wicking. This is because of the use of the membrane and the sealing of the seams. Hardshell pants are also usually somewhat stiffer and "noisier" than softshell pants. The latter being more elastic and supple. Softshell pants are water-repellent and can withstand a drizzle, a little shower, or even a short downpour. But if you're out in pouring rain - and for an extended period of time – then the softshell pants will get soaked over time, which can become quite uncomfortable. Our Maier Sports softshell pants are equal with the hardshell pants in terms of windproofness, as we use our stormprotec technology with both pairs of pants. This helps protect you from the dreaded wind chill effect.

What should I look for when buying softshell pants?

Apart from all the technical features, the most important factor should be: do they fit? Your body and your lifestyle. Because if it doesn't fit properly, it won't function properly. First of all, the pants should be tailored to your primary purpose. It is also important that they suit your style. And choosing the right size is critical. Make sure your softshell pants allow you to bend your knees without any problems and that nothing pinches or squeezes. Does the waistband fit, does it hug the body nicely? Is the length of the pants ok? Tall people should not accept "high-water pants".

And vice versa, people who have a more muscular build or shorter legs should not accept pants that may fit at the waist but the legs that are far too long. The elastic material is an advantage. It helps with the fit and freedom of movement. The same is true for pre-shaped, i.e., "slightly bent" knees that support your activity. To ensure that your pants fit as perfectly as possible, we at Maier Sports offer our pants in 61 different sizes. In addition, other waistband solutions can be individually adjusted because we believe that everyone that wants to be active outdoors should have pants tailored to their body shape. Another factor is whether the pants feel good. Soft, snug-fitting softshell pants with a nice touch are a dream come true. The pants should also be "quiet", i.e., they should not rustle or make noise when you move. It goes without saying that quality and workmanship are also essential aspects when choosing a product. At Maier Sports, we rely on abrasion-resistant, durable fabrics and the expertise of our employees. Accordingly, we provide a 5-year guarantee on materials and workmanship. In the event of a complaint, we have a sewing room where we repair any defects and with a quick turn-around.

Softshell pants for women

Softshell pants are functional outdoor pants, but are they fashionable?

Softshell pants are a great example of how functional trekking and hiking pants can make quite a statement. Not only in the mountains or the countryside but also when walking in the park or strolling through town. The elastic material allows for body-hugging designs that ensure a slim silhouette. This also makes them very comfortable to wear, as these pants move with you and not against you. We offer individual models in different colours, so you have an attractive selection to make our softshells very versatile. Not to mention, the side zipped pockets are practical to store small items safely.

How do you wash and care for softshell pants?

You can wash our softshell pants in the washing machine as usual. Please follow the washing instructions on the care label and pay attention to the temperature. We recommend using a special sports detergent. You should never use fabric softener, as the active ingredients restrict the fabric's breathability. After a few washes, you should reproof your softshell pants - using a PFC-free impregnation detergent that you can buy in sports shops. If you want to delay this procedure a little, you can put your pants in the dryer at the lowest temperature after washing, as the heat reactivates the impregnation effect. Alternatively, we offer a special care and impregnation service for our pants. We work together with the experts from MeyerundKuhl; they have specialised themselves in laundering and impregnating textiles.