SNOW SPORTS

Best Hardshell Jacket: Keeping Warm in the Coldest Times

Best Hardshell Jacket
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Winter is upon us, and for a lot of us that cannot handle cold weather this can be a really rough time. Even more so if you are planning on taking any type of hiking, camping, or skiing expedition during winter.

If you plan on going out to brave the elements in order to have a good time, then you will need to have the gore tex or the best shell jacket to keep you dry and warm when you are enjoying yourself.

When it comes to winter outdoors activities, there is nothing more important that making sure that you have the best cold weather gear and clothing possible. The hardshell jacket is your first line of defense against the elements that will be battering you during your adventures, and you definitely do not want to cut corners!

When spending a significant amount of money on an important part of your survival, you want to make sure that you have the best information out there, and do not worry we will take care of you!

Today we will go over eight of the best hardshell jackets on the market today and what the ideal use and for the jackets. We will also go over the details of a hardshell jacket, and how to choose the best jackets out there.

What Is it?

Hardshell jackets are the first line of defense for anyone who is finding themselves in the middle of a winter wonderland or a nightmarish blizzard. One thing you should keep in mind is that hardshell jackets are not cheap, they are actually quite expensive and are worth every single penny.

Hardshell Jacket

The closest type of jacket to a hardshell is the rain shell. When they are both brand new out of the box, the waterproofing and is the same, but it is the longevity and quality of a hardshell jacket that makes it stand out from the competition.

While rain shell jackets can be great for the average user, hardshell jackets are ideal for users who are going to be traveling through extreme weather or if you spend extended periods of time in winter weather. Hardshell jackets have significantly more advanced technology in their construction, and will do a significantly better job of circulating moisture out of your jacket.

Hardshell jackets are constructed with higher quality materials, and will have significantly better features and design when compared to rain shell jackets.

Waterproof Features

The biggest feature of a hardshell jacket is the DWR coating otherwise known as Durable Water Resistant Coating. DWR coating causes any moisture that accumulates on the outside of the jacket to bead up and quickly roll off the coating without transferring any moisture to the actual material of the jacket.

Please keep note that the DWR coating is applied to jackets before they are shipped out, but the DWR is in fact a coating and will need to be reapplied eventually in the lifetime of the jacket.

Hardshell Jacket Waterproof Features

When this happens the water will begin to get absorbed into the outer layer of your jacket, but the good news is that the water will not go any deeper as the water proof membrane will keep all water on the outer fabric.

The problem with this is that the breathability of a hardshell jacket is dependent on the outer layer being dry. It is important that you take proper care of the jacket and reapply any DWR coating when it seems to start wearing down. This may make hardshell jackets seem like an unattractive choice for those who don’t have the time and the money to reapply the coating every so often.

How to Store your Jacket

The ideal way to store the best Gore Tex jacket is to gently roll the jacket up into the hood in order to prevent the fabric from unnecessary contamination. In order to do this you should lay the jacket down on a flat and clean surface, fold the arms across the chest, fold in the sides of the torso, and then gently roll the jacket towards the hood.

Store your Jacket

Taking the proper care of a hardshell jacket can keep the DWR coating on for a significantly longer amount of time and will save you money! Not only does this protect your jacket, but it makes it much easier to store so that you can maximize the space in your closet, luggage, or backpack.

Special Features

Hardshell jackets generally come in two distinct styles, either single layer designs or triple layer designs. Single layer hardshell jackets are great for all-purpose wear, and will give you high protection in rain and light weather without over heating you, whereas triple layers will provide the best protection from all the elements and cold.

When you are choosing a hardshell jacket, take into account what the temperatures will be like when you are traveling. If you expect to only be in temperatures of 50 degrees or more, then a single layer will definitely get the job done, but if you plan on camping in freezing temperatures and below, a tri-layer is needed.

We have included various styles of hardshell jackets on this list, and will provide you with a good selection of jackets to choose from!

Hardshell Jacket features

Tri-layer jackets include three distinct layers that each accomplish a goal in the prevention of moisture:

  • Internal: The internal layer is designed to reduce friction against your other layers of clothing which provides a higher level of comfort and freedom. This layer will also protect the waterproof layer from being damaged by any internal layers.
  • Waterproof Membrane: The waterproof membrane is designed to allow for maximum breathability while also keeping any moisture that may be getting through from getting to your inner layers.
  • Outer Shell: The outer shell is the same for the single layer and tri-layer styles of hardshell jackets. This layer is typically made with either nylon or polyester and this layer is the main way of keeping all outside moisture away from you.

While there are different materials that are used for various hardshell jackets, it is more important to try on the various jackets and find the material that fits you the most comfortably. There are a few important things to consider when trying on your hardshell jacket.

  • Ventilation: When you try on your hardshell jacket, you want to make sure that you do not overheat. No matter what climate you are living in you want to make sure that the jacket is extremely breathable and will still allow for optimal heat retention.
    This is because the body still sweats when you’re warm, even when it’s freezing outside, and if all that moisture is trapped inside your jacket with you, it will eventually cool down and cause you to feel colder than you really are.
  • Fit: It is incredibly important to take into consideration exactly how the jacket fits on you. If you plan on wearing extra layers underneath your hardshell jacket regularly, then you want to make sure you can fit more layers without inhibiting your flexibility and freedom of movement.
    Also take into consideration how short the jacket is on you, as you want to make sure that the jacket properly covers up your entire torso to insure that all moisture is kept out.
    Or if you are looking for a better climbing jacket, then you need to make sure that the fit is not too long to get in the way of the climbing harnesses and gear you will need.

Now that we have gone over a few of the more distinct features and what you need to look for, we will discuss some of the best products on the market and what they offer for you.

Top Products of 2017

Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket

Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Number of Layers: Tri-Layer

Special Features: Nylon, Helmet Compatible Storm Hood, Improved Breathability, Water Tight Zipper with Back Up Flap, Helmet Compatible

Description: The Arcteryx Alpha is one of the top hardshell jackets on the market, and has been continuously reviewed as one of the best jackets year after year. When it comes to jackets designed for mountainous travel, the Arcteryx Alpha is one of the best choices on the market.

Arcteryx has a lower waistline when compared to other hardshell jackets, which allows climbers to properly attach any harnesses or pack while making mountain treks. The larger storm hood also allows for climbers to easily wear a helmet underneath the hood.

Because of these features we highly recommend this jacket to any climber or mountaineering enthusiast that is looking for a new hardshell jacket.

Westcomb Shift LT Hoodie Jacket

Westcomb Shift LT Hoodie Jacket

Weight: 1 pound

Number of Layers: Single Layer

Speical Features: Nylon / Polyester / Polyurehtane Blend, Adjustable Hood / Waist,  Helmet Compatible

Description: When it comes to minimalist jackets, there is no better hardshell jacket than the Westcomb Shift LT. The Westcomb uses the Polartec NeoShell fabric in the design and is one of the most lightweight hardshell jackets on the market.

The  fabric also gives an extremely high amount of stretch, allowing for maximum flexibility and movement no matter the activity.

While being extremely lightweight and minimal the Westcomb still provides high-quality waterproofing and extremely breathable protection. The hood and neck of the Westcomb is lined with high quality velour that provides extra comfort to the wearer.

If you are an extremely active outdoor skier, backpacker, or are just looking for a high quality lightweight jacket, this is the hardshell jacket for you.

Outdoor Research Men’s Axiom Jacket

Outdoor Research Men's Axiom Jacket

Weight: 1.7 pounds

Number of Layers: Single Layer

Special Features: Water Resistant Zipper, Fully Taped Seam, Drawcord, Helmet Compatible, Two Zippered Pockets, Gore-Tex Active Fabric

Description: The Outdoor Research Men’s Axiom Jacket Is one of the most slim fit hardshell jacket son the market today. While extremely lightweight and slim fitting, the Axiom still features of a myriad of features including draw cords, adjustable articulated sleeves, and a helmet compatible hood.

The Gore-Tex Active fabric provides an extremely lightweight version that breathes extremely well and still retains the waterproofness that Gore-Tex is known for.

If you are a slim gentleman looking for an all-purpose hardshell jacket that can be worn in all types of cold weather, then this is the perfect hardshell jacket for you. One warning on this jacket: due to its slim fitting nature, do not plan to wear extra layers with the Axiom.

Patagonia Refugitive Jacket

Patagonia Refugitive Jacket

Weight: 1.1 pounds

Number of Layers: Tri-Layer

Special Features: Gore-Tex Pro, Full Seamed, Helmet Compatible,

Description: The Patagonia Refugitive incorporates the highly sought after Gore-Tex Pro fabric that allows for maximum breathability and comfort to the wearer.

The Refugitive offers an extreme plethora of features, including a cohesive cord lock system, elastic strap for snow pants, interior non-sipped stash pocket, and a large hood that will fit any skiing helmet.

Due to the lightweight and high amount of features present in the Refugitive jacket, it is recommended for any outdoorsmen that is looking for a high quality skiing, mountaineering, or all-purpose hardshell jacket.

Arcteryx Women’s Beta AR Jacket

Arcteryx Women's Beta AR Jacket

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Number of Layers: Tri-Layer

Special Features: Gore-Tex Pro, Watertight Zippers, Helmet Compatible, Two Hand Warming Pockets

Description: The Arcteryx Women’s Beta is one of the best women’s hardshell jackets on the market today and includes a massive amount of features that make this jacket one of the best all-purpose high quality hardshell jackets on the market.

The Arcetryx is ideal for outdoorswomen who are looking for a jacket that can be used for day ski trips as well as week long expeditions in the heart of mountainous regions. The high quality and breathability of the Arcteryx makes this jacket one of the absolute best on the market today.

Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket

Weight: 1 pound

Number of Layers: Tri-Layer

Special Features: Nylon, Articulated Sleeves and Elbows, Two Hand Pockets, Hook and Loop Cuffs, Lifetime Manufacturer Warranty

Description:  The Mountain Hardware Torsun Jacket is one of the best hardshell jackets on the market for women who love skiing or snowboarding today. The Torsun provides some of the best flexibility amongst women’s jackets, and provides extreme breathability in all conditions.

Due to the high flexibility and lightweight nature of the jacket, this is an ideal jacket for skiers, snowboarders or mountaineers alike. It’s also roomy enough, allowing you to layer as much as necessary so that you can stay warm.

Patagonia Women Piolet Jacket

Patagonia Women Piolet Jacket

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Number of Layers: Dual-Layer

Special Features: Gore-Tex, Shaped Cuffs, Microfleece Interior, Helmet Compatible, Wicking Mesh Liner

Description: The Patagonia Piolet is a rare Dual-Layer style hardshell jacket that features an interior microfleece that has a wicking mesh layer. This mesh layer provides added moisture removal and helps to circulate out any moisture generated from body heat.

Due to the added microfleece layer, this is one of the most comfortable hardshell jacket on the market for women today. The Patagonia Piloet is ideal for women looking for an all-purpose jacket that can be used in everyday use.

The Piolet is a bit on the heavier side of jackets, so it is not ideal for longer excursion, but will be the perfect jacket for the woman looking for an everyday wear jacket during cold weather or short day trips.

Norrona Trollveggen Warm2 Jacket

Norrona Trollveggen Warm2 Jacket

Weight: 1.18 pounds

Number of Layers: Single Layer

Special Features: Full Zip, Polyester Fleece, PolarTec Thermal Pro, Two Hand Pockets,

Description:  The Norrona Trollveggen Warm2 Jacket is a mid-layer fleece that was designed to be worn underneath the outer hardshell jacket. The Trollveggen is one of the most comfortable and warmest mid-layer fleece options on the market.

While not a traditional hardshell, this jacket is perfect for the outdoorswomen who is looking for a mid-layer jacket that can provide an extra level of warmth. If you are looking to go on a longer expedition into colder climate, the Trollveggen will be the perfect and warmest solution you will find.

Conclusion

For a cold weather sporting enthusiast, there isn’t a more important piece of equipment than a high quality hardshell jacket.

Buying a high quality hardshell jacket may seem like a lot of money, but the fact of the matter is that with a proper hardshell jacket, you will find yourself in an ideal situation to make it through any weather winter can throw at you. It’s an investment that will last you a lifetime.

Bring your Hardshell Jacket

We know that there are more hardshell jackets on the market than anyone can keep track of, but if you take some of the features we have highlighted you can find the perfect hardshell jacket for you.

If there are any hardshell jackets that we missed in this article, please let us know! We love to hear from our readers, so leave a comment and let us know what you think!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Beatris Bronson

    This Arcteryx jacket is perfect for inclement weather. I use it mostly for winter hiking and it always keeps me warm & dry. It is a little fussy, but once you figure it out it is easy and comfortable to wear. This is a quality jacket, and worth every penny.

  • Daniel Carraway

    If you’re referring to the Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket, yes, it is a very fine hardshell jacket. It is quite pricey, but so are most of these products. The most important feature however, is that they can keep you warm, yet they are breathable, as well. The Gore-Tex Pro shell is commendable and the water-tight zipper increases weather protection.

  • Richard Taylor

    Whilst the Arcteryx Alpha is great for layering, be sure to get the right size otherwise the ability to layer will be non-existent. In my experience, you should go for a size larger than you would normally wear if you plan on wearing anything underneath. Often been caught in the rain in this jacket but I’ve never got wet – it’s perfectly waterproofed. Only downsize for me is the lack of hand pockets, though I understand that this is a lightweight jacket and so pockets would go against this.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Top of the line jacket and looks great too. This fast and light jacket is the thing to wear when you need to attach a harness since it has a lower waistline. The GORE-TEX Pro Shell is remarkable – highly recommended indeed!

  • Tom Payne

    Mountain Hardware Torsun Jacket is perfect in my opinion. I am glad you included it on your list. What I like most about it is that it is lightweight, which is one of the top considerations that I look for in a jacket. But don’t be deceive because even if it is not heavy to wear, it is durable and reliable.

    • Daniel Carraway

      Apart from the lightweight nature of the jacket, it is also highly visible and super waterproof. Great choice, Tom.

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