Everyone who enjoys spending time in the outdoors should own a hardshell jacket. Whether you love hiking, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, or skiing, a good hardshell jacket will give you peace of mind and save you from a very wet and cold ride home.
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Hard Shell Jackets
When the weather turns quickly and catches you out, it’s the piece of gear that’ll keep you warm and dry no matter what the elements throw at you. They’re made to be durable, waterproof, breathable, and windproof. There are literally hundreds of hardshell jackets to choose from and finding a good one can be quite a challenge.
In this review, we take you through some of the best hardshell jackets on the market today. From lightweight models to rain jackets that keep you warm in the iciest conditions, you’ll find what you’re looking for right here.
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Best Budget Hardshell
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Best For Being Active
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Toughest Hard Shell Jacket
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If you find yourself being active in adverse weather but your current hardshell makes you overheat, let us introduce you to the Westcomb Apoc hardshell jacket.
It is one of the top breathable jackets due to the use of Polartec’s NeoShell waterproof breathable laminate. It’s more air-permeable than your run-of-the-mill Gore-tex and keeps you from sweating while taking on physical tasks in rough weather. The fabric is also quiet, durable, and comfortable.
The rain jacket comes with a hood for added protection and warmth. It’s waterproof, windproof, and the watertight zippers are of great quality and also feature an aqua guard to make sure no water seeps in.
The jacket comes with pit zips to ensure you really don’t overheat plus a few good storage options. There are two large zipper pockets on the side and one internal media pocket to keep your valuables safe and dry.
The only drawback is that it doesn’t have the best fit, quite often a little bulky and oversized.
If you live amongst the snowy mountains or spend your winters skiing, then you know how important a good hard shell is. The Mammut Nordwand Advanced hardshell jacket is made for super cold climates.
It has been designed to be exceptionally waterproof with a rating of 28,000mm. This is very impressive and no matter how much snow, hail, or rain falls on you, you’re going to stay dry.
It’s made of 3 layer Gore-Tex Pro with a face fabric of 100% nylon. This keeps you dry, warm and it’s still breathable so you won’t overheat while skiing your way down the slopes. All this layering makes it sound heavy but it weighs just under 1lb and is easy to pack and store.
Mammut also ensured that the jacket doesn’t restrict movement. There have added enough fabric in the right areas to stop parts bulking up or pinching, especially around the armpits and the shoulders.
The collar is high and combined with the hood gives you great protection. The back also extends quite far to give your legs some extra warmth. There are two deep chest pockets for valuables or anything you might want to access quickly.
This is an incredible rain jacket that really comes into its own in the harshest of conditions. It is an investment, and one worth making if you spend a lot of time say ice climbing or in the snow.
If you are looking for a hardshell jacket that does everything then look no further than the Arc’teryx Beta AR. It’s tough enough to handle the most extreme weather while being mobile and breathable enough to enjoy using while hiking, camping, climbing, and more.
The reason this is so great at everything is the thoughtful shell design. A soft 40D Gore-tex has been used around the body to ensure comfort. A tough 80D Gore-Tex has been used on parts that take the most wear and tear to ensure durability and handle heavy weather.
The Arc’teryx Beta jacket comes with a tall collar for increased protection and a great hood that locks into position. It has a great fit and is perfect for allowing movement and layering. There are two deep chest pockets plus pit zips under the arms for breathability.
The jacket is a little expensive but it’s worth every penny. If you’re looking for ultimate quality and versatility, this is the jacket. We also think this is perhaps the best hardshell jacket for hiking.
See our full review of the Arc’teryx Beta AR.
The Black Diamond Sharp End is one of the more affordable hardshell jackets in the review and does a great job of competing with the more expensive ones out there.
It’s built to live a life in the mountains and protect you from all those frosty elements. The jacket is made from a triple layer of GORE-TEX Pro membrane to give you great breathability while being active but also keep you warm while resting.
The outer layer is made from 40D nylon, a mini-ripstop backer for durability, and is covered with an excellent durable water repellent coating and fully sealed seams. This jacket will keep you warm, dry, and stop you from overheating while riding down the mountain. What more can you ask for?
It comes with large practical pockets for your valuables, climbing harnesses, clips, and hooks. The hood is also large enough to cover a ski helmet. It’s a pretty lightweight jacket as hard shells go and fold down to a pretty reasonable pack size.
This is a great value hard shell that will keep you going in serious weather.
The Arc’teryx Zeta AR is made to be explored in. It’s ready for anything you might want to throw at it, from summiting and technical climbs to walking through snowy mountain passes.
The jacket is made from a 70D shell and Gore-Tex. The 70D shell makes it very tough and durable, ensuring it lasts a long time while the combination of the two gives you great weather protection and breathability. Strong winds, rain, snow, ice, this jacket has got your back.
It’s surprisingly light at 15oz considering how well built it is. It folds up small and you’ll barely notice it when you throw it in your backpack. There are also a lot of handy features that come with it.
The back is longer to give you some extra protection from the cold, there are pit zips for ventilation, two large hand pockets, and a soft C-Knit backer. There is one drawback, the hood is a bit small and won’t fit over a helmet, but if you don’t use a helmet that often, it’s a winner.
Overall, it’s an awesome hardshell jacket for every occasion but a little expensive.
The Mountain Equipment Lhotse is a great choice if you’re looking for a solid all-round hardshell jacket. It’s ideal for winter activities such as mountain trekking, skiing, and pretty much anything that involves some heavy or cold weather.
It’s built from triple layer GORE-TEX Pro 40D fabric which has been reinforced with 3-Layer GORE-TEX Pro 80D fabric in specific areas that tend to wear more. This makes this jacket very durable and it’ll last season after season.
The build doesn’t just make it durable, it’s also weatherproof. It’ll handle heavy winds, snowfall, torrential rain, and anything else the elements feel like throwing at it. It fits great and is cut long to give you more protection and make it harness compatible.
The hood is extra large so that it can fit over a ski helmet. It comes with three pockets on the front plus pit zips under the arms to keep you cool when you need it.
The only downside is that it’s a little heavier than others but only by a few ounces. It’ll roll up pretty small and fit neatly in your backpack.
It’s a great hardshell jacket that’ll keep you warm and dry no matter the weather but it’s a little expensive.
The RAB Muztag GTX is a great all round hardshell jacket especially if breathability is a key ingredient you’re looking for. RAB has used some great ideas to enhance breathability and this is how they did it.
The jacket is made from 40D GORE-TEX Pro waterproof technology to ensure it’s durable and weatherproof. You can throw any kind of weather at this jacket and you’ll still be smug, dry, and warm while wrapped up inside it.
Instead of using the 40D GORE-TEX everywhere, RAB added 30D GORE-TEX active panels in areas like under the arms to give the jacket better breathability and so you don’t overheat while on your outdoor adventures.
The hood is helmet-compatible and can be adjusted in three ways. It has a wired laminated peak and wind collar to protect your face and a roll-down hood tab. There’s also a fleece lining on the chin guard and on the back of the neck to keep your face warm while trekking through harsh conditions.
The outer layer jacket has a good fit, it is quite long for extra protection and comes with two deep front pockets for valuables and gear you need quick access to. It’s a great jacket, just a bit heavier than others in the same price bracket.
If you love being active in the cold and want a hardshell jacket that is lightweight and breathable but still gives you the weather protection you need, the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 is a good fit.
The jacket weighs just 13.5oz making it one of the lightest in the review. It’s very packable and portable. The reason for the little weight is the waterproof fabric used to make it. Rather than being made from a high D Gore-Tex, Mountain Hardwear went with Gore-Tex Active 30D for the entire jacket.
The lower D count does make it a little less durable but the use of Gore-Tex active is what makes this Mountain Hardware jacket so breathable and ideal for high tempo activities amongst the elements. The sacrifice for the breathability that you won’t get as much protection in extreme weather conditions.
The jacket fits nicely while still providing a nice range of motion. So when you’re reaching for that hold or buzzing around a bend, the jacket won’t get in the way. There are plenty of storage options with two deep hand pockets and one zippered chest pocket plus a helmet-compatible hood.
This completely waterproof jacket is a little less expensive than most and is a great choice for active outdoorsmen, but as we’ve said, it won’t give you as much extreme weather protection as some others.
If you are looking for the toughest hardshell jacket in the game, then look no further. The Arc’teryx Alpha SV (serious weather protection) hard shell is made to be the hardest one around.
It’s made from 100D Gore-Tex pro which is pretty much bombproof as fabrics go. Not only is it durable as hell but if you’re planning on spending some time in an ice blizzard, this is the jacket you’d want to do it in. It’ll handle the most extreme weather better than any other jacket in the review.
The 100D fabric does make it a little heavier than others but for what you’re getting, it’s to be expected. The jacket comes with pit zips under the arms for breathability, interior and exterior pockets plus excellent zippers. There aren’t any handwarmer pockets though, so be sure to bring some winter gloves.
The adjustable hood is also helmet-compatible and with its extreme durability, you’ll never be disappointed when skiing around the backcountry or climbing up an icy gorge. The jacket also comes with adjustable cuffs, which are great for ensuring no wind gets in.
There is one drawback, the waterproof jacket does cost a lot of money by most standards. But if you want the burliest jacket around, this is it.
The Outdoor Research Interstellar is an excellent option if you want a hard shell that’s super light while still being excellent in extreme weather. It has a lot of the assets of a softshell with the weather protection of a hard shell.
It’s been made using three layers of AscentShell with a 20D mechanical stretch ripstop face and a 100% polyester 12D backer. This combination gives you great comfort, mobility, and incredible weather resistance. It’ll handle torrential rain, snow, high winds, and more.
It comes with a helmet-compatible hood that’s wire-brimmed to give you some extra protection. The zippers are YKK AquaGuard to keep water out and make sure they always work when you need them. In addition to this, there’s a front storm flap, chest pocket, hand pockets, adjustable cuffs, a carabiner loop, and a key clip.
At 11.8oz, the waterproof jacket is super light and stuffs into the left-hand pocket for easy packing and portability. The only downside is the material is a bit thin and more delicate than the other in the review.
Overall, a great lightweight option at a great price too.
If you’re looking for a hardshell jacket specifically made for women, Patagonia’s Triolet jacket is one of the best options. It is made with 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric and features a face made entirely from recycled polyester, for the absolute best performance in harsh weather conditions.
This jacket also features welded and watertight two-way pit zips that allow you to control just how hot it is underneath the jacket. The pit zips allow for excellent ventilation, and they pretty much guarantee that you won’t sweat too much or get too hot while you’re wearing the Patagonia jacket. And if you do, just undo the zips and let some cool air inside.
The Patagonia Triolet jacket is great for very cold weather as well. When the pit zips are fully zipped up, the jacket can easily seal in the heat with tapered hook-and-loop wrist closure and an adjustable drawcord hem.
In addition to that, this women’s jacket features a concealed RECCO reflector for extra safety when exploring the snowy mountains. In terms of storage, the Patagonia jacket boasts two Napoleon chest pockets, two handwarmer pockets, and a deep interior pocket.
The Napoleon pockets have watertight zippers, while the hand-warming pockets are high enough that they won’t interfere with a fanny pack or a backpack waist belt.
The Columbia Ampli-Dry shell jacket is another excellent option for adventurous ladies. This jacket is lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and incredibly warm, and all of that for an affordable price that won’t break the bank.
The Columbia jacket is made from 4-way stretch nylon fabric that isn’t restrictive and moves along with your body. It’s lined with Omni-Tech fabric, which consists of tiny dots that reflect heat. This is what makes the jacket very warm, and suitable for harsh and cold conditions.
In case you start to get a little too hot in this wonderful jacket, you can always use the pit zips to regulate the internal temperature. The hem and the cuffs are both adjustable so that the heat is sealed in, but the underarm zips make it easy to let some cool air inside the jacket.
The material of this jacket is entirely waterproof, and even the zipper is coated for excellent water resistance. As for the pockets, the Columbia jacket boasts zippered chest and hand pockets, so you can carry all your necessities on your body.
Overall, it’s one of the best options for women on a tighter budget, especially if you don’t want to make any compromises when it comes to quality and performance.
Helly Hansen is a popular brand of outdoor gear, and their winter jackets are top quality. This is a ski shell jacket made from 100% Polypropylene, a lightweight and extremely durable material. The jacket is very breathable, waterproof, and non-restrictive, which makes it the ideal option for skiers.
It’s not insulated, so it won’t do much in terms of keeping you warm on the slopes, at least not without a cozy layer underneath. The jacket has insulation only in the dedicated smartphone pocket, which is supposed to protect your phone’s battery from damage in cold weather.
This Helly Hansen ski jacket features pit zips for improved breathability, a ski-helmet-compatible hood, as well as an articulated cut that allows for maximum freedom of movement. It’s also equipped with a RECCO transponder, which can give you some peace of mind when skiing in harsh conditions.
In addition to all that, it’s worth mentioning that the Elevation Infinity ski jacket boasts a variety of zippered and open pockets. It’s got external pockets, hand-warming pockets, internal pockets, and even zippered pockets on your arms, so you can keep all your must-have items easily accessible while you’re discovering the slopes.
Hardshell jackets are your go-to layer when the elements throw everything they’ve got at you. They’re durable, great in weather, breathable, and are made for 4-season use, but they don’t come cheap. they are made to last and owning one is a must if you spend time in the outdoors.
The type of breathable fabric used in a hardshell jacket makes a difference when it comes to handling weather and waterproofing. You’ll notice that most of the rain jackets in the review use Gore-Tex fabric in some shape or form. Gore-Tex is in essence a waterproof and breathable membrane. So, no water in, but sweat can still get out.
Gore-Tex Pro is the best of what gore-tex has to offer with superior durability, breathability, and weatherproofing, but it does make things a bit more expensive. Gore-tex Active is made to be breathable but is not as hardy as the Pro, and is ideal for being active in the outdoors.
There are a few jackets in the review that use Neoshell and AscentShell. These are still great fabrics that will give you good protection and comfort while keeping the price down and are close to being as good as Gore-Tex.
The best way to tell how durable a jacket is is by looking at the denier (D) count of the fabric it’s made of. The higher the D number, the thicker the fabric, the more durable it’s going to be. Higher D counts usually make a jacket heavier and less breathable but better against heavy weather. Low D counts are great for breathability and light packing but won’t be as durable.
The hardshell jackets in the review do vary in weight but not too much that’ll they’ll weigh you down, we’re only talking a few ounces here. Plus, we are always willing to carry a few extra pounds for some extra weather protection. That being said, if you’re into light gear then the 11.8 oz Outdoor Research Interstellar is our lightest jacket in the review that still gives great weather resistance.
A good fit is key for your hard shell’s mobility and for the ability to add layers underneath it. A baggy jacket will tend to restrict movement and they make noise in the wind. You want a trim fit that has enough space for layers underneath.
Here are our top choices from the review.
The best all-rounder hardshell is the Arc’teryx Beta AR. This jacket does everything well. From extreme weather protection to breathability and comfort during active pursuits, it has you covered.
The best hardshell jacket for those who are active is the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2. This jacket has been designed with breathability as the key component. If you love to run up snowy trails, ski hard, and generally move a lot in the outdoors, this is the jacket that’ll stop you from overheating.
The best of the best is the Arc’teryx Alpha SV. This jacket has been made with the highest quality fabric and to the highest specifications. It’s the best in terms of durability and weather protection. If you want the toughest jacket out there, this is it.
If you’re on a budget the RAB Muztag GTX is a great choice. This is one of the least expensive jackets in the review but it still holds its own in terms of quality and weather protection.