Lightweight, breathable softshell jackets come in a variety of forms. When softshells were introduced, they were stretchy, for sure, but still needed some kinks to be worked out. Now, in 2021, the diverse types of materials offered in softshell jackets creates an opportunity for each jacket to find a home. With that, I bring you to the Jack Wolfskin Hydro III Softshell Jacket and it’s time to share how it has fared over the past 6 months of testing.
Jack Wolfskin Hydro III Jacket Features:
- Features Nanuk Dynamic Terry fabric with Super DWR
- Includes 2 hand pockets
- Fixed hood
- Dual-sided drawstring hem
- Colors: Dark Cobalt, Dark Lacquer Red (tested), Grape Leaf and Storm Grey
- Weight: 420 grams (medium, actual)
- MSRP: $129.95
A decent softshell with some quirks
Founded in Germany over 40 years ago, the Jack Wolfskin brand has been a staple in Europe, but only recently made a serious entry into the North American market. With a flagship store and regional headquarters just up the road in Park City, the Wolfskin brand is starting to catch on, albeit slowly.
Let’s talk about the Jack Wolfskin Hydro III Jacket a little. The fabric is called Nanuk Dynamic Terry and features a smooth face with a brushed backside to aid in moisture management and comfort. Most of the jacket uses a single layer of the material, but the center band of the hood and sleeve cuffs double up the fabric to make it easier to put the jacket and hood on and take it back off. Even my sometimes stubbly head, a few days after a shave, works well with the hood. Although, I will say that the hood does blow around in the wind due to it’s generous size. That said, it’s better to be just a little large than too small.
European sizing tends to be all over the place these days. In the past, it was simply a matter of sizing up one size for us on this side of the pond. Why that was the case is beyond me. Now, European sizing isn’t what it used to be. At 5’11” and 170 lbs, I opted for the size medium. When it came, I was surprised by how boxy the fit was. A European medium (at least in my mind) should be an athletic cut, but this one is loose in the sleeves and body. No, it’s not oversized, it’s loose. With that extra room and stretch, you can wear stuff underneath it, like the Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest, without worry. That combination was pretty good on a recent morning trail run because the loose fabric provided room for the vest and stretched to accommodate the dual flasks.
Now, loose isn’t usually a positive attribute in my book. So, I’ll just say that I did wish for a little more streamlined fit. The body is decidedly boxy, as are the sleeves. But, while it’s loose everywhere, the sleeves remain way too short. Reaching outward or upward and you’ll quickly find that it should have sleeves that are at least an inch longer. As a mid-layer, it should have a more streamlined fit. The lightweight fabric does breathe well and feels comfortable next-to-skin. However, it does feel a little droopy when saturated at the end of a five-mile trail run.
I’m a little perplexed by the water-resistant “Super DWR” that the fabric is supposed to have because this jacket has little-to-no water resistance in all my tests. Light rain does initially bead up, but not for long. Heavy rain soaks right in and saturates the fabric. Either my jacket skipped DWR day or this treatment is not so super.
Another quirk with the Hydro III is the size of the front pocket opening. Monkey trap is what I’ve come to call it because it’s just large enough for your hand to go in and retrieve items, but it’s not big enough for you and your item (phone, wallet, etc.) to get back out of the pocket opening. In addition, the hem adjustment toggle and loops sit right at the opening of my pants pockets and I have found my thumb or finger to snatch the loop when trying to put my hands in my pants pocket.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 170 lbs. and wore the size medium, which fit loose, but the sleeves were a touch short.
- Lightweight fabric
- Breathes well and is a good option for cold, but dry trail running
- Extra length hem is nice for added coverage
- Double fabric on hood and cuffs makes for easier on/off
- Fabric stretches with your movement
- Staves off body odors really well
- Cut is decidedly boxy
- Hand pockets act like monkey traps
- Not seeing much DWR
- Sleeve length is too short
- Very little wind protection
The Bottom Line: Jack Wolfskin Hydro III Jacket
The Hydro III Jacket is a bit of a mixed bag for me. If you’re keen on a loose fit, it may suit your tastes. But, as a mid-layer, I wished for a little more streamlined fit. The fabric is comfortable, but does get droopy when saturated. And, that DWR was non-existent on my jacket. Still, I have found it to be a willing partner for cold-weather trail running as it moves well, doesn’t hold body odors and maintains just enough warmth.
Buy Now: Available from Jack Wolfskin