Best Hardshell Jackets

Hardshell Jackets - Reviews & Guides For 2023

Our Top Hardshell Jackets

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Hardshell Jackets buying guide

Are you looking for an ally to protect you from the extreme weather? Don't worry. Hardshell jackets are here to the rescue.

The jackets are exceptionally breathable and light in weight. They offer adequate protection against the weather elements and do not hinder your movement. You can smoothly carry on with your activities and keep your body warm and comfortable.

While deciding the best jacket, you have to deem about certain aspects. You have to look into the size, fit, material, weather protection, and other additional properties.

With tons of models present in the market, you cannot blindly invest your money in any product. Also, searching for all the details is not a piece of cake.

A comprehensive buying guide presents all the information at a single stop where you can quickly analyze all the pointers. With easy access, you can quickly funnel down the best jacket for your trip.

So, starting with a quick introduction, let us dive into this immense pool of information.

What do you mean by Hardshell Jackets?

If you are trying to find a perfect definition of the hardshell jacket, you will be discontented because there are no universal definitions.

However, you will get to see some standard features that can give you an overall idea of these non-insulated jackets.

Usually, these jackets have a 3-layer construction, which makes them waterproof as well as breathable. Also, they are renowned for their durability and windproofing features.

Therefore, you can easily consider a hardshell jacket for alpine climbing, backcountry and downhill skiing, 4-season hiking, mountaineering, and more.

Types of Hardshell Jackets

  1. Alpine

Alpine shells can be considered the best hardshell because of their high-grade features, which are not commonly found in other categories.

These jackets are specifically designed for extreme weather conditions, so they are the costliest hardshell available in the market.

There are different varieties of alpine jackets, and all of them are heavy and durable.

So, these jackets can be the right choice for high mountain conditions. They are capable enough to deal with the harshest elements.

  1. All-around

All-around jackets are lighter and less durable than the alpine jackets, but they are perfect for backcountry uses.

The all-around design is something between the alpine shells and minimalist shells. So, they work compatible with different conditions and provide a fair amount of comfort to the users.

They have better than the minimalist designs in terms of durability and functionality. Moreover, these jackets are constructed with multiple pockets that will be very useful in difficult situations.

As the name suggests, all-around jackets have more versatility, so you can use them for several purposes like hiking, ski mountaineering, etc.

  1. Minimalist

If you are in search of some lightweight hardshell, minimalist will be the name for you. It is the lightest among all types of hardshell, and they do not come with a lot of features.

You will not find hand pockets or pit zips in the minimalist hardshell, which is why they have a minimum weight and compact packed size.

These jackets do not offer more weather protection and durability, but if the jacket's heavier weight is an issue for you, it will be better to choose minimalist jackets.

Generally, people are more likely to wear these jackets for lighter activities such as climbing and backpacking.

Hardshell vs. Rain Jackets and Softshell

In general, three main options are available for the outer layers, including hardshell, rain jackets, and softshell. All these types have their own positive and negative sides, so it will be helpful to know then in detail before choosing one.

Rain jackets are mostly preferred for their excellent wind and water protection qualities. Although they do not have more durability and breathability than hardshell jackets, they are less expensive. Their price range varies between $80 and $200.

Moreover, rain jackets are lightweight and come with better compressibility, so you can pack them in a smaller size.

They are appropriate for daily uses when you are on a summer backpacking trip. You can also choose them for emergency shells in poor weather conditions.

However, hardshell should be your top priority when going for alpine or hiking in the winter.

On the other hand, the face fabrics used in softshell make them different from a hardshell jacket. The type of material and the feel vary a lot between softshell and hardshell.

A hardshell jacket is more rigid, where the softshell jacket is stretchy, flexible, and has a soft feel. But when it comes to weather protection, hardshell are far better even than a waterproof softshell.

As softshell jackets are not breathable and entirely resistant to water instead of waterproof, they will be ideal for milder activities like backpacking and easy climbing.

But if you are out in a vulnerable weather condition, you must go for a hardshell jacket.

Things to deem about while selecting appropriate Hardshell Jackets


You should check the fit of your hardshell jacket with more priority before making a purchase. A hardshell, which is relatively trim, can be very useful to use because it is less restrictive.

When you are putting on some other clothes under the hard shell, it should fit properly. Also, you should always avoid the boxy fit.

Some jackets are designed with extra fabric that flaps in windy condition and impairs the free movement that you never intended for.

Most of the hardshell are comfortable with mid-layer jackets, but you can also choose not to wear the mid-layer. It will not create much difference in the fit.

The top-quality hardshell jackets also fit almost all body shapes effectively. So, you should choose one accordingly to get the perfect fit.

Material and its thickness

Nylon and polyester are the two materials typically used in constructing the hardshell jackets' exterior. These synthetic materials have their excellence in durability as well as wind and water resistance quality.

Nylon is extremely waterproofing more than polyester. These jackets have three layers, and materials like Gore-Tex, NanoPro, eVent, etc. are commonly used to improve the jackets' waterproofness.

Therefore, the outer layer contains these materials, and it is protected with a DWR coating. It increases the water-repelling capacity of the jackets.

The middle layer is designed with a unique membrane that has one side completely waterproof, but it also has some tiny pores to release the vapor out of your jacket.

The inner layer is used mainly to protect the membrane, and it is made out of a thin polyurethane layer, which maximizes the comfort of the jacket.

The hardshell should have fully waterproof seams. They are essential for connecting fabric and proper protection to prevent water from coming inside the jackets.

Usually, taped or welded seams are found in waterproof clothes, so you should consider it as a crucial feature while buying your jacket. In case you have any problems, you should buy a good seam sealer to efficiently repair the leaks.

On this note, you should also pay attention to the thickness of the materials when you are choosing a jacket. The fabric thickness is measured by Denier that indicates the strength as well.

As the number increases, the thread will become thicker. For example, all-around jackets have a denier range between 30 and 80.

Hardshell having a low denier range are lighter in weight and less durable where higher number shells are suitable for heavy-duty use.

A 20-denier jacket is thin enough for a lightweight backpacking trip. On the contrary, 100-denier jackets are bulkier, and they are also more expensive.

Waterproof Designs

The hardshell jackets are built with waterproof membranes, and their quality matters a lot to determine the type of these jackets.

Gore-Tex is one of the most common laminates used in almost all hardshell. Gore's "Pro" shell is incredibly popular for its unparalleled performance.

This laminate is durable enough for high-mountain weather. Also, it provides maximum breathability and waterproofness, which are missing in any other laminates. Accordingly, it has a higher price tag.

However, Gore's "Active" laminate is more breathable, and it is very appropriate for heavier activities, including hiking, backcountry skiing, etc.

Besides Gore-Tex, several other waterproof membranes are available in the market, such as eVent, NeoShell, AscentShell, H2NO, etc.

The main reason for the popularity of the eVent is its direct venting feature. Moreover, they are stretchy and soft enough to give a feel like a softshell. H2NO has this same quality as well. All these waterproof designs have more or less the same functionality, so you can select any of them according to your preferences.

Size and Weight

Some people are less likely to think about the packed size and weight of the hardshell. But these factors are not something to be overlooked.

Though it depends on how you want to use your hardshell jacket, you should consider weight and size before buying it.

Nevertheless, it will be wise to carry a bit of extra weight for better security when you are in the alpine. For example, a jacket of 17-ounce can be ideal for a short trip.

On the flip side, you should avoid a heavyweight jacket for extended tours. Similarly, if you are out for milder activities, you should go for a trimmed-down hardshell jacket.

Some of the best hardshell is lighter and more compressible so that you are able to pack them in a compact size just like the rain jackets. But they will not be durable enough and weather-resistance because of the thinner material.


The outer layer of a hardshell jacket is not much flexible compared to the rain jackets. In addition, the tough fabric creates crinkly sound during heavy movements such as hiking, skinning, and belaying.

You may consider it a significant downside of the hardshell jackets that they are rigid and noisy. So, you must be a little careful when looking for jackets to get a more comfortable jacket.

If you search thoroughly, you will find some hardshell that do not create much crinkly sound and provide better comfort than others.

There are some membranes such as NeoShell, AscentShell, Gore-Tex's Active, C-Knit baker, etc. which are flexible and quiet.

Otherwise, you can buy a jacket designed with stretchy fabric along with supple linings to have a softshell-like feeling.

Harness and Pockets

Another essential buying factor that you should check adequately when you are about to purchase your hardshell jacket.

Generally, these jackets come up with the hand pockets, which can be found near the torso area. Having these pockets will be extremely useful for holding up a climbing harness or a backpack hip belt.

These pockets are placed in such a way that you can easily access them without even pulling up on your jacket. You also do not need to unclip your belt to open or close the pockets.

Having said that, it will be better to keep in mind that the position of the pocket is not in a natural place where you usually keep your hands resting. Thus, it may feel a little uncomfortable.

But you can adjust this because of the usability of the pockets. Some manufacturers do not include the pockets in their design, which indicates a lack of storage space, and you will lose a place to keep your hands resting.

By contrast, if you are more conscious of the jacket's weight, you can surely opt for these jackets, particularly helping you in backcountry skiing.

Helmet-compatible hoods

You should check a hood that matches well with the helmet when selecting the hardshell jacket for the alpine. A helmet-compatible hood will be a very imperative choice for the hardshell.

A hood comes in handy when you face extreme windy weather. If the wind is blowing strongly, a hood will protect your head in a significant way.

Typically, most hardshell jackets are designed with a good that fits well over the climbing helmet. If you are using the jacket for skiing, you should make sure that the hood is large enough to cover the bulkier ski helmet effectively.

Most of the manufacturers make their jackets with the helmet-compatible hoods. You need to check whether the hood is adjustable and convenient to use. A good should never feel beefy and heavy if you are not using the helmet.

Pit-zips and Breathability

Some people tend to get sweaty very quickly. If you are one of them and you are going for high-output activities, you will definitely need a breathable hardshell.

It is highly recommended to search for a jacket that is manufactured with the pit zips in such cases. Also, the top-quality waterproof breathable fabric can cause overheating in milder temperatures.

Therefore, it is essential to release heat quickly. Pit-zips also help to create ventilation in the chest pockets. It is easy to protect the pockets underneath the arm from snow and rain.

If you do not have issues with the jackets' weight, you should go for some extra ounces along with the bigger packed size. In turn, you will be able to enjoy your trip comfortably.


You will undoubtedly want to invest your money on a durable hardshell jacket, which will last longer without any replacement. So, you must check the strength and durability of the hardshell jacket you are going to buy.

The first thing you should check is the quality of materials used in making the hardshell jackets that make them strong and durable enough to withstand brutal weather conditions.

The outer layer material should be very tough as much as possible. Another essential thing to check is the thickness of the fabric, which is measured by Denier.

With higher Denier, you will have thicker threads, and if the numbers get lower, the thickness reduces accordingly.

More robust fabrics come with extra weight, so you have to compromise the durability when choosing a lighter hardshell.

Moreover, you should maintain the jackets in the right way to expand its durability, and thus you can ensure that the jackets will last longer.


Without checking the mobility of the hardshell jackets, you will not be able to make a good purchase. These jackets are specifically made for outdoor activities, so they will fail to serve their purposes if the jackets are not mobile.

When you wear a hardshell jacket, you should feel less restrictive. The jackets should be convenient enough to use in different conditions never to impede your freedom of movement.

The mobility of the jackets is closely related to the fabric quality and the designs as well. When it comes to choosing nylon, you should remember that this material can feel rigid sometimes, so the jackets may not provide an ample amount of comfort to wear for a long time.

You can have the same problems with the heavier jackets because they are more prone to restrict your moves when you are climbing, hiking or skiing.

Last but not least, you should check your hardshell jacket's fit and length to make sure that there is no extra fabric, and the jacket is not too large, which will create discomfort when you are moving.

Additional Features

Different extra features are added to the hardshell for better functionality, and it varies depending on the manufacturers. You should check these features according to your needs and preference.

  1. Hoods

The hood is one of the essential features that are found on the hardshell. Some hoods are removable where the other models can be rolled up.

Also, the hood should be appropriately tightened to give adequate protection to your head. Choosing a helmet-compatible hood can be a right choice.

  1. Zippers

You will find some hardshell which are designed with pit-zips offering extra ventilation. It helps to reduce overheating.

You need to unzip them and let the air flow freely that will cool your temperature down. Jackets with pit-zips are beneficial for intense outdoor activities or when the temperature increases outside.

  1. Pockets

Pockets should be another crucial consideration for the hardshell, so you should check the number of pockets and their placement to have better accessibility. These pockets should be roomy enough to hold all the essential items and make sure that you can reach them easily.

Typically, most of the jackets have hand pockets. However, some models come with pockets in the chest, on sleeves, or inside.

Sustainability and Use

Hardshell jackets can have versatile uses. All-around jackets can be used for camping, but their uses are not limited to it. You can consider these jackets for hiking, skiing, or day to day use for rain protection.

It means you need to choose the features according to your intended use and personal preferences.

When choosing a jacket for camping, it should be capable of withstanding challenging weather, and additionally, it should have better durability and mobility for ease of use.

Besides, you will want a hardshell jacket which has a helmet-compatible hood and a powder skirt. These features are essential for skiing jackets.

If you are buying the jacket for hiking or climbing, it should be lightweight, and the pockets should have easy accessibility.

How to wash a Hardshell Jacket

It is nothing unusual that your hardshell jacket will accumulate dust and dirt, reducing its effectiveness. You should check the manufacturing guide in advance to know if the jacket is safe for dryers or washers.

You do not have to worry about the DWR coating when washing because it becomes more efficient instead of getting damaged.

It will be better to use any mild detergent and make sure there is no residue left on the jacket, so rinse it thoroughly.

You are suggested to maintain a low, medium heat when washing the hardshell jackets in dryers.

Also, you should take care of the inner layer to improve the function of the fabric membranes. You should check the DWR coating regularly, and if you need, you can re-apply the coating for better durability.

Spray the coating uniformly in your jacket when it is wet. Then you can dry the jacket properly to activate it.


  1. How can I select the best fit for myself?

Typically, you will get adequate protection, maneuverability, and warmth from a standard fit. If you want to add more layers beneath it, then opt for a loose fit, and if you want that, the jacket should not be baggy, then opt for the tighter variant.

  1. Can I sew the jacket in case of any tear?

It would be best if you did not sew the tear as it will cause holes in the fabric. However, if there is no other option left, always put a seam sealer to avoid leaks.

  1. Are the hardshell jackets worth their value?

Yes, they are incredibly light in weight and travel-friendly. These jackets provide good breathability and keep your body warm and comfortable. They protect you from heavy pours and strong winds. So, if you are looking for a comfortable and light jacket, these jackets will cater to your needs.

Final Verdict

Hardshell jackets present a light and effective way to keep your body warm without any hindrance in your movement. All you need is to select the best fit.

Here, in this guide, you will get all the pointers to select an elite product. Go through them and make an informed purchase. / - © Copyright 2020