A liner jacket will come from the manufacturer with either a separate lining jacket or a vest. The components of the liner will vary depending on the brand name or make of the jacket. Some will have a fleece liner, some will be a track-style jacket and some will even have insulation in the compartments for warmth. Some liner jackets will have a zipper that attaches the liner to the shell.
Being able to remove the inner liner is a really nice option because it allows the jacket to become an all season coat. In warmer weather, like either in late fall or early spring, wearing just the shell will keep you warm enough but won’t cause you to overheat. On the colder days adding the liner will boost the insulation value of the jacket. This can be done with other jackets too simply by adding a sweatshirt or some kind of insulation underneath, but would require a secondary purchase.
A soft shell jacket is basically a super sweatshirt. The surface of these sweat shirts are water proof, and on some it is even water resistant. Though soft shell jackets are quite thin they are incredibly warm. Because of their thickness-to-warmth ratio soft shell jackets make really good insulators underneath a shell jacket.
A soft shell jacket is not going to have the crinkle that a nylon shell would. They are a lot more flexible, supple and lighter weight. Soft shell jackets are ideal for riders that are in warmer regions and aren’t going to have as much precipitation in the spring. Some soft shell jackets will even come with their own built in gloves.
Every brand name is going to have their own bells and whistles on their jackets, but there are some features that are pretty universal. One of the most common features are pit zips. Pit zips will allow heat to escape from the arm pits, which is the hottest area of the body. Riding sideways on a snowboard allows for cross-flow ventilation through the vents. Pit zips make for easy climate control by simply opening or closing them as needed. Some jackets will have ventilation through the chest and in the back, which will also allow for cross-flow venting.
Almost all jackets are going to have a powder skirt. A powder skirt is separate waistband that buttons in the front to keep powder, snow and other elements from coming up into the jacket from below. The secondary seal for your waist is the hem. The hem will sometimes have draw cords that you can pull to cinch the hem tight around your waist. The cords are usually at the bottom of the jacket by the zippers or they will be inside the pockets.
Some jackets will have audio and goggle pockets. They are usually located in the chest area either on the inside or will be a zipper pocket just behind the main zipper of the jacket. Over the years the pockets have become more technical. Jackets are now made with specific pockets for iPods with headphone wiring going up to the top. There can also be a pocket for an extra pair of goggles or lenses for when the light changes. In some newer and more expensive jackets there will be built in audio systems. These will have a control panel on the sleeve and some might even have headphones built in to the hood.
Like it was mentioned before come jackets have insulation in the compartments for warmth. This means that fleece will line different targeted areas throughout the jacket. Fleece will be placed at the mouth area around the zipper to reduce abrasion. It can also be placed in the front hand-warmer pockets so your hands will stay better protected from the wind. Fleece can also be placed in different areas in the liner of the coat for warmth like the lumbar area or chest.
In recent years the fashion of jackets has moved away from the traditional nylon shell to something that will have a more street wear look. Some jackets will have a look like a laminated jean or something with different textures like twill, Oxfords and some other kinds of materials. They may look like they are not waterproof but in most cases these jackets have a waterproof membrane behind them and this will also allow for breathablity.
To get the most waterproof and breathability in a jacket the traditional laminated nylon shell is going to be the best. Gore-tex pieces are advancing and are getting really close to the quality of a traditional shell and will have a little extra style.