Hardshell jackets are an essential equipment for outdoor activities fans, the versatility of it can bring great convenience to outdoor activities. There are variety of hardshell jackets in the market, do you know how to choose the best hardshell jackets, and how to tell the most suitable materials and brands?
Let’s try to figure out the characteristic of the hardshell jackets before you make the decision.
- Hardshell, keep your body away from the risk of hurt, when you cross the jungle and climbing the rock.
- Weather resistance (e.g. Rain, snow, wind) and breathable.
In summary, hardshell jackets are best for protecting you from rains, wind, snow and bad weather.
Hardshell Jackets Material: Fabric
The most famous fabrics is GORE-TEX from the W.L. Gore Corporation (the dominant player in this field). This is a classic 3 layer fabric, which consists of an outer layer or “face fabric”, a “membrane” that’s bonded to it and a very lightweight backing fabric is attached to the interior.
“Membrane” is the most important layer, and most commonly made of expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) or Polyurethane (PU), which is Waterproof, Windproof and Breathable.
Types of GORE-TEX®
- GORE-TEX® is a versatile fabric that can be used for anything from climbing to everyday, around-town wear.
- GORE-TEX® Active is meant for highly aerobic activities like cross-country skiing, alpine climbing or other stop-and-go activities. It is lightweight and incredibly breathable.
- GORE-TEX® Pro is engineered to be rugged, durable and ideal for extended use in extreme conditions. It is three-layer construction with maximum protection.
Besides GORE, eVent is another popular fabric, which is producted by BHA Altair. They have developed Direct Venting™ technology. It’s a ‘dry system’ that allows eVent fabrics to be fully waterproof and fully breathable – keeping you dry and comfortable in the widest range of temperatures and conditions. They also have three types, corresponds to Waterproof, Windproof, Protective.
In addition to these specialized fabric companies, most Hardshell Jackets companies have their own fabric, most of them are coating or membrane fabric, and membrane is much better than coating. e.g.
- Patagonia’s H2No
- Marmot’s PreCip (coating) and MemBrain (membrane)
- Mountain Hardwear’s EPIC (coating) and eVent (membrane)
- Columbia’s Omni-Tech
- The North Face’s HyVent (coating) and DryVent
GORE-TEX and eVent are best choice if you don’t have preference. GORE-TEX have three types GORE-TEX®, GORE-TEX® Active and GORE-TEX® Pro, which is enough for different levels of people, and you should take priority over membrane.
Hardshell Jackets Buying Guide by Brands
- Tier 1: Arc’teryx
- Tier 2: Mammut, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia, Westcomb, Haglöfs, Outdoor Research（OR）, Black Diamond, The North Face
- Tier 3: KAILAS, Jack Wolfskin, Columbia, VAUDE, Deuter, Fjällräven
After understanding these basic knowledge of this waterproof jackets, here are our selection for the best hardshell jackets in 2018.
Best Hardshell Jackets
1. Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket
Apparel Naming Scheme
- SV: SEVERE WEATHER
- AR: ALL AROUND
- MX: MIXED WEATHER
- LT: LIGHT WEIGHT
- SL: SUPER LIGHT
- SK: SKI TOURING SPECIFIC
- FL: FAST & LIGHT
- Alpha: Climbing and alpinism focused pieces: harness compatible length and waistline; chest pockets accessible while wearing a pack or harness; maximum articulation for overhead motions; helmet compatible hoods; drop hem; highest possible durability-to-weight ratio; emphasis on lightweight materials.
- Beta: All around mountain use garments: moderate length; hand pockets; interior pockets; moderate articulation; room for layers; helmet compatible hoods; drop hem
- Theta: All around mountain use garments: longest length; chest pockets; interior pockets; moderate – expedition articulation and room for layers; helmet compatible hoods; drop hem
More details, Arcteryx Naming Scheme
The Arc'teryx Alpha FL is my choice award as the best overall hardshell jacket, which is light weight, supreme weather protection, a perfect fit, and fantastic mobility for climbing or skiing. The price is not cheap, but it's affordable.
Arc'teryx has updated the Alpha FL recently, with a handful of changes, aiming to improve this already excellent product. The zippers were updated to reduce stitching and seams and increase water resistance, along with incorporating Arc'teryx's relatively new RS Zipper design. The cord locks on the hem and hood are now Cohaesive cordlocks, which are lower profile and easier to release with gloves on. Also, the diagonal chest pocket is now vertically aligned, and there's a new internal security pocket as well. With the lighter weight, it is our favorite hardshell jacket.
2. Marmot Men's PreCip Jacket
If you are finding a rain Jacket, and your budget is limited, then Marmot is a good choice.
PreCip VS Minimilist? Minimilist with industry leading Goretex Paclite material. This will last you for years and years and is the kind of material outdoor enthusiasts drool over. Light, waterproof, breathable and durable. For PreCip which combines a nylon waterproof layer with Marmot's own NanoPro breathable material. The benefit of this option is that it is light weight.
Why Percip? The prerequisite is you are looking for a daily rain Jacket. The PreCip is more comfortable than Minimilist, and price is also affordable too. In most situations, it has a great combination of features, weight, waterproofness and price.
3. Outdoor Research Men's Axiom Jacket
- 100% Nylon
- Fully Seam Taped
- Waterproof; Movement-Mirroring Stretch
- Breathable; Fully Seam Taped
4. Patagonia Women's PowSlayer Jacket
- 3-layer nylon ripstop GORE-TEX® PRO fabric
- Fully Taped Seams + DWR finish
- Helmet-compatible, 2-way-adjustable fixed hood
- Pit zips quickly release heat
- Concealed RECCO® reflector
5. Marmot Nano AS Jacket
- 100% Seam Taped
- Angel-Wing Movement
- Asymmetric Cuffs with Velcro Adjustment
- Gore-Tex Active Product 100% Polyester Plain Weave
- Helmet Compatible Hood with Moldable Brim
If budget is not a problem buy Arc’teryx, otherwise Marmot is not a bad option, however, most people may not need harshell jackets, my personal recommendation is softshell jackets. If you don’t know the differences between softshell and hardshell jacket, please check out our best softshell jacket article.