The Best Hardshell Jackets for 2023|2024

picture of someone outdoor wearing a hardshell jacket while walking on the hill

The primary role of a hardshell jacket is to keep you dry and comfortable in adverse conditions. They are particularly crucial for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, where the combination of high speeds and wet snow can make for a miserable experience without the right gear. But their utility extends beyond the slopes; hikers, climbers, and even everyday commuters find value in having a sturdy, weather-resistant jacket.

In this article, we’ll discuss the best hardshell jackets for the season, whether you’re carving down a mountain on your skis, scaling rocky peaks, or simply braving the elements on a rainy day. For a quick look at the common points and major differences between the featured hardshell jackets, check our comparison table then read our buyer’s guide below the picks, for more information. For a more specialized selection, you may want to read our article on the top Gore-Tex jackets for different outdoor activities. To complete your weather-resistant outfit, don’t miss our guide on the best Gore-Tex shoes, ensuring your feet stay as protected as your upper body.

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall Hardshell Jacket: Norrøna Lofoten  Gore-Tex Pro Jacket (Jump to Review)
Best Budget Hardshell Jacket: Outdoor Research Microgravity (Jump to Review)
Best for Extreme Conditions: Arc’teryx Alpha SV (Jump to Review)
Best Ultralight and Packable Hardshell: Patagonia Storm10 Jacket (Jump to Review)
Other Noteworthy Picks:
Cortazu Mountain Hardshell (Jump to Review)
Arc’teryx Beta AR (Jump to Review)
Mammut Stoney HS Jacket (Jump to Review)
Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket (Jump to Review)
Fjallraven Keb Eco-Shell (Jump to Review)
Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge (Jump to Review)
Rab Kangri GORE-TEX Jacket (Jump to Review)

Best Overall Hardshell Jacket

Norrøna lofoten  Gore-Tex Pro Jacket 2024

norrona lofoten hardshell jacket
Photo: Norrona

This jacket is designed primarily for freeride skiing and snowboarding but is also well-suited for general snow activities and other outdoor pursuits like hiking and climbing.
Crafted from top-tier GORE-TEX® PRO fabric, this jacket sets the standard in long-lasting waterproof capabilities (28,000mm), unparalleled breathability, and complete wind resistance.
The material consists of a 3-layer, 70D GORE-TEX® PRO fabric that features a recycled nylon face. This delivers dependable weather shielding and exceptional breathability, ideal for dynamic movement. It’s also equipped with a microgrid, and solution-dyed liner for added durability.
Key functionalities encompass a one-hand adjustable storm hood, dual-direction underarm and front zippers, a Napoleon-style chest pocket, an internal mesh compartment, and front ventilation lined with mesh. Additional features include an overarm keycard pocket, asymmetrical cuffs with Velcro adjustments, built-in hand-gaiters, a customizable lower hem, and a detachable powder skirt outfitted with gripper elastic and a snap-lock mechanism.
Engineered for optimal mobility, the jacket features a technical fit with articulated arms and an extended back length for added coverage. Originally launched in 2004 and consistently enhanced since.

Recommended Use: All-Around
Price: $799
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 28000mm/ 25000g/m²
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Pro
Material: 3-layer plain weave 70D GORE-TEX® PRO most breathable (RET 6) fabric with a recycled nylon face
Fit: Technical (the second tightest fit); Longer back cut
Length: Hip-length
Warranty: 5 years

What users love:
  • Excellent coverage and protection, especially during harsh weather conditions


  • No hand pockets, fairly heavy but justified by its durability

Norrøna Women’s Lofoten  Gore-Tex Pro Jacket 2024

Best Budget Hardshell Jacket

Outdoor Research Microgravity

outdoor research hardshell jacket budget
Photo: Outdoor Research

Designed to be versatile, it’s well-suited for alpine climbing, backcountry skiing, and any other high-altitude activities. The jacket features a patented AscentShell™ membrane, laminated to a flexible knit backer, ensuring that it is both waterproof and mobile. It comes with fully taped seams for added resistance to wind and water. The jacket is fitted with YKK® Aquaguard® zippers, enhancing its ability to ward off the elements. Additional features like underarm gussets and a Halo hood with Hood Lock™ ensure a tailored fit while allowing for a full range of motion. Notably, the jacket includes a convenient left-hand pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, and a key clip is integrated for added functionality. Designed with the user’s focus in mind, this makes the MicroGravity AscentShell™ Jacket a reliable, high-performance choice for outdoor enthusiasts faced with unpredictable weather conditions.

Recommended Use: backpacking, casual, hiking, sport climbing, trad climbing, trail running
Price: $279
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: mm/ g/m²
Waterproofing: AscentShell™ 3L
AscentShell™ 3L, 100% nylon 20Dx45D mechanical stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 30D knit backer
Fit: Slim Fit
Length: Hip
Warranty: Lifetime

What users love:
  • Exceptional breathability, comfortable experience especially during physical activities


  • In extremely heavy rain or monsoon-like conditions, the jacket may not provide full waterproofing

Women’s MicroGravity AscentShell Jacket

Best for Extreme Conditions

Arc’teryx Alpha SV

arcteryx alpha sv hardshell jacket
Photo: Arcteryx

The Alpha SV Jacket is a stalwart defense against extreme weather, specifically tailored for harsh alpine settings. This high-performance jacket incorporates breathable GORE-TEX PRO with the Most Rugged Technology, delivering exceptional durability. What sets it apart is its face fabric, which is not only durable but also made from 100% recycled materials, contributing to its sustainability. An embedded RECCO® reflector provides an extra layer of safety, making the wearer more searchable in emergencies. The jacket’s StormHood™ is designed to be compatible with helmets and provides comprehensive coverage without limiting visibility. The overall construction of the jacket is designed for mobility, a crucial feature for traversing challenging mountainous terrain. Additional features include a tall collar with a laminated chin guard, various pockets with WaterTight™ zippers, and laminated cuffs with Velcro® adjusters. Ventilation is facilitated through strategically placed pit zippers. The jacket also features a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish and Cohaesive™ hem adjusters to keep it in place under a climbing harness. Meeting bluesign® criteria for sustainability and containing at least 30% recycled content, the Alpha SV is an excellent choice for the environmentally conscious adventurer.

Recommended Use: Expedition/ Rock Climbing / Ice Climbing / Alpine Climbing / Mixed Climbing
Price: $900
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 30000mm/ g/m²
Waterproofing: 3L GORE-TEX PRO
N100D Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PRO with Recycled Face – 100% Nylon with ePTFE Membrane
Fit: Regular
Length: Hip length
Warranty: Practical product lifespan

What users love:
  • Excellent protection against severe bad weather, effectively keeping out wetness and wind; cut a bit more roomy allowing for effective layering


  • Very expensive; can be too heavy for some

Women’s Alpha SV

Best Ultralight and Packable Hardshell

Patagonia Storm10 Jacket

patagonia storm10 hardshell jacket
Photo: Patagonia

When unpredictable mountain weather is on the horizon, the Patagonia Storm10 jacket serves as your reliable safeguard. Constructed with a 3-layer H2No® Performance Standard shell, the jacket offers robust protection against rain and snow. Adding to its eco-friendly credentials is its 100% recycled nylon ripstop face fabric. The jacket features a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish that effectively repels moisture, ensuring you stay dry. Designed for comfort and function, it includes low-profile cuffs with tapered tab hook-and-loop closures and a dual-adjust drawcord hem to seal out the elements. The center-front zipper is not only waterproof but also has an internal storm flap and zipper garage for added comfort when zipped up to the chin. The hood is tailored to accommodate an alpine helmet and can be adjusted with a single-pull drawcord for optimal protection. Storage is thoughtfully designed with an external left-chest pocket and two front pockets, all equipped with watertight zippers and zipper garages. The jacket is also packable, conveniently stuffing into the left chest pocket. An embedded RECCO® reflector enhances your visibility to search-and-rescue teams, providing an extra layer of safety during your mountain adventures.

Recommended Use: Multi-sport
Price: $329
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: mm/ g/m²
Waterproofing: 3-layer H2No® Performance Standard shell
Recycled ripstop nylon
Fit: Slim Fit
Length: Hip length
Warranty: Lifetime

What users love:
  • Extremely light and solid waterproofing capabilities; praised for being breathable and durable enough to withstand rain and snowstorms​


  • No pit zips; No soft chin patch which could affect comfort, especially in colder conditions

Patagonia Women’s Storm10 Jacket

Other Noteworthy Picks

Cortazu Mountain Hardshell

cortazu mountain hardshell jacket
Photo: Cortazu

Crafted for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, Dermizax®EV Mountain Hard Shell brings you the ultimate in protection and comfort. It’s not only waterproof and windproof but also highly breathable, thanks to premium components like Toray’s Japanese Fabric, YKK AquaGuard® Zippers, and RECCO® Technology. Plus, we’ve made sustainability a priority by using 52% recycled fabrics. Unlike traditional retail models that inflate prices, our direct-to-consumer approach lets us offer high quality at a more affordable rate. The jacket’s technical specs are equally impressive, featuring a Dermizax EV®, 3-Layer, DWR-treated fabric that exceeds 25,000mmH2O in waterproof rating and offers breathability above 20,000 g/m2/24 hrs. The fabric’s durability is also reflected in its 70Dx140D weight and the overall product weight of 620g. Convenience and fit are ensured through multiple size-specific center back lengths, and additional practical features like a sunglass and goggle wiper, keycord, and extensive pocket storage. The hood and hem employ easy-to-use Cohaesive™ cords for quick adjustments, which are glove-friendly and securely bonded to the fabric for added durability. All zippers are protected by YKK AquaGuard® Technology, and the jacket’s safety features are boosted with an internal RECCO® Rescue reflector in the collar and taped seams for extra waterproofing. In short, it offers a well-rounded, high-quality, and cost-effective solution for your mountain adventures.

Recommended Use: Designed for skiing and snowboarding
Price: $488
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 25.000mm/ 20.000g/m²
Waterproofing: Dermizax EV®
 3-Layer, DWR-treated, 100% nylon and 50% recycled
Fit: Snug but can accommodate mid-layer
Length: Below hip length
Warranty: 5 years

What users love: The material feels very tough and reliable to touch; complete waterproofing
Drawbacks: On the heavier side, not best for backpacking trips

Cortazu Women’s All-Weather Hardshell

Arc’teryx Beta AR

arcteryx beta ar hardshell
Photo: Amazon

Since its debut in the year 2000, the Arc’teryx Beta AR jacket has proven its versatility on the mountain. It’s a multi-layer compatible shell crafted from waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX® Pro material. The jacket also features a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish as its initial safeguard against moisture. The design incorporates a micro-seam allowance of 1.6 mm to minimize both bulk and weight, and all seams are taped to prevent any leakage. The jacket is tailored with an articulated regular fit and e3D patterning to accommodate layers comfortably and move seamlessly with your body. Anatomic shaping and articulated elbows further enhance the jacket’s fit and mobility. Designed with functionality in mind, it features no-lift gusseted underarms to keep the jacket in place when you move. The helmet-compatible DropHood™ comes with a laminated brim and can be secured using glove-friendly Cohaesive® cord lock adjusters, ensuring full coverage without compromising your field of vision. Comfort is also considered, with a chin guard that has a brushed microsuede inner collar to prevent skin irritation. For storage, the jacket offers two spacious hand pockets and an internal chest pocket with a laminated zipper. The cuffs are designed with die-cut VELCRO® closures that reduce bulk and resist catching or tearing. Additionally, the jacket features WaterTight™ water-resistant external and pit zippers, although it’s advised not to store moisture-sensitive items in the pockets.

Recommended Use: All- around
Price: $600 
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 28000mm/ 25000g/m²
Waterproofing: GORE-TEX Pro 3L
N40p-X 3L GORE-TEX Pro; N80p-X 3L GORE-TEX Pro
Fit: Regular
Length: Hip Length
Warranty: Practical product lifespan

What users love: Solid construction, weather protection, and feature set, making it a reliable choice for outdoor enthusiasts
Drawbacks: High price point; It is noted to be less breathable than some other options in the market

Arcteryx Beta AR Women

Mammut Stoney HS Jacket 

mammut stoney hs jacket
Photo: Mammut

The Stoney Hard Shell Jacket is a comprehensive ski jacket engineered for superior comfort and performance, featuring Mammut’s DRYtechnology™. This technology ensures the jacket is both waterproof and breathable, while its elastic fabric enhances freedom of movement. Designed with a focus on functionality, the jacket features a helmet-compatible, snow-specific hood that’s both detachable and adjustable with a single point, allowing for easy removal even when you’re wearing gloves. Storage is ample with a water-resistant Aquaguard front zipper, a chest pocket, and two side pockets—all featuring water-repellent zippers. Additionally, a convenient wrist pocket is included specifically for your ski pass. The jacket is also equipped with pre-shaped sleeves that come with hook and loop fasteners, wrist gaiters for added comfort, and underarm ventilation secured with a water-resistant two-way zipper. For additional storage, there is a zippered inner pocket and a mesh pocket inside the jacket. In terms of snow protection, it features a zip-off snow skirt equipped with an anti-slip grip and a double-button placket for tailored fitting. This snow skirt can be attached to your pants using snap buttons, and the hem of the jacket is also adjustable. All in all, the Stoney Hard Shell Jacket offers an array of details specifically designed to provide optimal comfort and reliable protection in any weather condition.

Recommended Use: Skiing, Ski Touring
Price: $529
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 20000mm/ 20000g/m²
Waterproofing: Mammut DRYtechnology™ Pro
 100% Polyamide
Fit: Regular
Length: Hip length
Warranty: 2-Year Quality Guarantee

What users love: The comfortable and stretchy feel of the jacket which contributes to a good range of motion; trim fit that sits well on the body
Drawbacks: Short collar as it impacts protection, possibly against wind or rain

Women’s Mammut Stoney HS

Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket

helly hansen odin shell jacket
Photo: Helly Hansen

The ODIN Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket is engineered with groundbreaking LIFA Infinity Pro™ technology, setting new benchmarks in sustainable, high-performance, waterproof, and breathable outerwear. Developed in collaboration with mountain professionals, this jacket is versatile enough for skiing, trekking, and mountaineering. Its three-layer fabric utilizes Helly Hansen’s proprietary LIFA® technology, delivering unparalleled breathability, protection, and durability without the use of chemicals. Drawing on the legacy of our award-winning shell jackets, the ODIN integrates all the functional features you’ve come to appreciate. It boasts HELLY TECH® PROFESSIONAL and RECCO® technology, making it waterproof, windproof, and traceable in emergency situations. For added convenience, it includes mechanical ventilation zippers, and a ski pass pocket, and offers a SKI FREE pass at selected resorts upon purchase. The jacket also features chest and hand pockets secured with YKK® zippers, along with a vertical and horizontal hood adjustment mechanism. Its cuffs and bottom hem are adjustable for a customized fit, and it sports an embroidered Helly Hansen logo. Additional features include an internal mesh pocket, an adjustable powder skirt, and a helmet-compatible hood. Constructed with three layers and finished with PFC-free DWR, this jacket is as eco-friendly as it is effective.

Recommended Use: Back Country/Ski Touring, Freeride, Mountaineering, Off-Piste/Side Country, Resort Skiing, Trekking
Price: $700
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 20000mm/ 20000+ g/m²
Waterproofing: LIFA Infinity Pro™
Shell: 100% Polypropylene – Lining: 100% Polyamide
Fit: Regular (True to size)
Length: Hip Length
Warranty: 2 years

What users love: It has one of the highest ratios of elastane to nylon, making it exceptionally stretchy
Drawbacks: Very expensive

Helly Hansen Women’s Odin Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket

Fjallraven Keb Eco-Shell

fjallraven keb eco shell
Photo: Fjallraven

This highly functional, three-layer shell jacket is constructed from Eco-Shell, a stretchy, recycled polyester fabric that’s both lightweight and durable. Designed for year-round versatility, it offers wind and waterproof protection in varying weather conditions. With a fluorocarbon-free impregnation, the material is environmentally responsible without compromising on performance. The jacket features a snug, three-way adjustable hood that’s spacious enough to accommodate a helmet. It comes with a straightforward two-way Aquaguard front zipper, complemented by an inner protective flap and a press button at the hem for added security.
For ventilation, zippered openings are strategically placed at the sides of the jacket. Engineered for challenging adventures, the jacket provides comfort and freedom of movement, making it ideal for both trekking and ski touring. Its minimalist design allows for maximum mobility while ensuring you’re well-protected even in harsh weather conditions. The hood can be fine-tuned for optimal coverage without obstructing your vision or head movement.
The jacket features easily accessible chest pockets that work seamlessly with climbing harnesses or backpack hip belts, complete with inner mesh pockets to secure small items like a mobile phone. To manage heat, the jacket is equipped with two-way zippers on the sides for quick and easy ventilation. Both the hem and cuffs are adjustable, allowing you to tailor the fit to your needs. Eco-Shell is a sustainable hardshell fabric that’s not only waterproof and breathable but also recyclable. Its production and transportation are carbon offset, further minimizing its environmental impact.
Read in-depth review

Recommended Use: Hiking, Trekking, Ski Touring
Price: $500
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 30000mm/ 26000g/m²
Waterproofing: Eco-Shell 3-layer
100% polyester
Fit: Regular
Length: Hip length
Warranty: 1 year

What users love: The polyester face of the jacket is soft and quiet to wear; has a slightly loose fit and the fabric feels pleasant against the skin the jacket doesn’t feel clammy, even against bare skin
Drawbacks: DWR coating requires regular maintenance; no hand pocket; not good chest pocket position especially when wearing a backpack

Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell W

Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge Gore-Tex

mountain hardwear shell jacket
Photo: Mountain Hardwear

The Boundary Ridge™ jacket is your go-to choice for high-intensity skiing and snowboarding experiences. Engineered with a robust 3-layer GORE-TEX® fabric, it offers top-notch waterproof and breathable protection. Its construction focuses on durability, especially in key areas prone to wear and tear, ensuring you’re well-prepared for any weather. The jacket is filled with purposeful features: a helmet-compatible hood with a three-way adjustable drawcord, underarm zip vents for quick temperature regulation, and multiple pockets including two large zippered chest pockets with internal organization. Additional features include lower hand pockets with zip and hook-and-loop closures, a specialized ski pass pocket on the sleeve, and oversized internal pockets for essentials like gloves and goggles. The jacket also comes with a dual drawcord hem adjustment and an internal powder skirt that can be integrated with your pants. For added safety, it is equipped with an integrated RECCO® avalanche rescue reflector. This jacket is tailored to equip you for adventures beyond the boundary line, whether you’re heli-skiing, taking cat trips, or exploring the countryside.

Recommended Use: Skiing, Snowboarding
Price: $475
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 28000mm/ 20000g/m²
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L
GORE-TEX® 75D 3-Layer Plain Weave with a Brushed Back: 100% Recycled Polyester
Fit: Snow Sports Fit
Length: Hip Length
Warranty: Limited Lifetime

What users love: Efficient ventilation particularly suitable for high-intensity winter adventures
Drawbacks: a bit expensive and heavier compared to other jackets on the same category

Women’s Boundary Ridge Gore-Tex

Rab Kangri GORE-TEX Jacket

rab kangri hardshell jacket
Photo: Rab

Newly updated with an eco-friendly recycled outer fabric, the Kangri GTX Jacket is your reliable companion for a variety of outdoor adventures—be it hillwalking, hiking, trekking, or mountain scrambling. Crafted with a 70D 3-Layer GORE-TEX material, this hardshell is both windproof and breathable, designed to offer steadfast protection against severe weather conditions. For enhanced thermal regulation, especially in challenging landscapes, the jacket is equipped with deep, two-way pit zips. Its elasticated hem and waist draw cord can be quickly adjusted to trap heat when temperatures drop. The jacket features a fully adjustable mountain hood, designed for optimum face coverage without impeding vision or head movement. The hood comes with a laminated wired peak and a fleece-lined chin guard to provide additional comfort and prevent skin irritation. For seamless adjustments in challenging weather, the jacket’s hem and hood can be modified with just one hand. The two-way YKK® AquaGuard® VISLON® front zip is complemented by an internal storm flap for extra protection, while its two spacious hand pockets and an internal zippered pocket offer secure storage for essentials like phones or GPS devices. Anti-snag adjustable cuffs round out the jacket’s functionality by enabling you to seal out cold and wet conditions. With reflective branding on the chest and right sleeve cuff, the Kangri GTX doesn’t compromise on visibility or performance, making it an ideal choice for the all-weather adventurer.

Recommended Use: Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry touring, casual, hiking, ice climbing, mountaineering, ski mountaineering
Price: $425
Waterproof Rating/ Breathability: 28000mm/ RET <9
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L
Knitted polyester/PU membrane; 70D polyester, DWR finish 
Fit: Regular
Length: Hip Length
Warranty: Lifetime

What users love: Great fit and very comfortable to wear all-day
Drawbacks: Restrictive in the armpits

Women’s Kangri Gore-Tex Jacket

Comparison Table

Recommended UsePriceWaterproof Rating/ BreathabilityWaterproofingMaterialFitLengthWarranty
Norrøna Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro 2024All-Around$79928000mm/ 25000g/m²Gore-Tex Pro3-layer plain weave 70D GORE-TEX® PRO fabric with a recycled nylon faceTechnical; Longer back cutHip-length5 years
Outdoor Research MicrogravityBackpacking, casual, hiking, sport climbing, trail running$279AscentShell™ 3LAscentShell™ 3L, 100% nylon 20Dx45D mechanical stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 30D knit backerSlim FitHipLifetime
Arc’teryx Alpha SVExpedition, Rock Climbing, Ice Climbing, Alpine Climbing, Mixed Climbing$90030000mm/ g/m²3L GORE-TEX PRON100D Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PRO with Recycled Face – 100% Nylon with ePTFE MembraneRegularHip lengthPractical product lifespan
Patagonia Storm10 JacketMulti-sport$3293-layer H2No® Performance Standard shellRecycled ripstop nylonSlim FitHip lengthLifetime
Cortazu Mountain HardshellDesigned for skiing and snowboarding$48825.000mm/ 20.000g/m²Dermizax EV®3-Layer, DWR-treated, 100% nylon and 50% recycledSnug but can accommodate mid-layerBelow hip length5 years
Arcteryx Beta AR JacketAll-around$60028000mm/ 25000g/m²GORE-TEX Pro 3LN40p-X 3L GORE-TEX Pro; N80p-X 3L GORE-TEX ProRegularHip LengthPractical product lifespan
Mammut Stoney HS JacketSkiing, Ski Touring$52920000mm/ 20000g/m²Mammut DRYtechnology™ Pro100% PolyamideRegularHip length2-Year Quality Guarantee
Helly Hansen Odin Mountain InfinityBack Country/Ski Touring, Freeride, Mountaineering, Off-Piste/Side Country, Resort Skiing, Trekking$70020000mm/ 20000+ g/m²LIFA Infinity Pro™Shell: 100% Polypropylene – Lining: 100% PolyamideRegular (True to size)Hip LengthTechnical; Longer backcut
Fjallraven Keb Eco-ShellHiking, trekking, and general outdoor use$50030000mm/ 26000g/m²Eco-Shell 3-layerEco-Shell 3-layer: face fabric in recycled polyester, membrane in polyester, outer fabric in fluorocarbon-free impregnationSlimHip length1 year
Mountain Hardwear Boundary RidgeSnowsports$47528000mm/ 20000g/m²3-layer GORE-TEX®Tough yet supple 3-layer GORE-TEX® nylon waterproof/breathable fabricRegular FitHip lengthLimited Lifetime Warranty
Rab Kangri GORE-TEX JacketMountaineering, hiking, trekking$35028000mm/ RET <93-layer GORE-TEX®70D GORE-TEX®Regular FitHip lengthLifetime Warranty

Buyer’s Guide

Introduction to Hardshell Jackets

When it comes to braving the unpredictable outdoor elements, having the right protective gear is paramount. Among the essentials is a hardshell jacket, a piece designed to shield you from harsh weather conditions while providing a comfortable fit. As someone who revels in the serene yet wild nature of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, understanding the importance and categories of hardshell jackets becomes an inevitable part of the outdoor experience. This article delves into what a hardshell jacket is and explores its various categories, guiding you toward making an informed decision for your next outdoor adventure.

What Is a Hardshell Jacket?

A hardshell jacket is a type of outdoor apparel engineered to protect against severe weather conditions. Here’s what sets it apart:

  • Weather Protection: It offers an exceptional shield against rain, wind, and snow, keeping you dry and warm.
  • Breathability: Despite its robust protection, a hardshell jacket is breathable, ensuring you remain comfortable during strenuous activities.
  • Durability: Crafted from high-quality materials, these jackets are built to withstand rough outdoor environments.

Hardshell Categories

They are primarily categorized based on their construction and intended use:

  1. 3-Layer Hardshells:
    • Description: These are the most durable and breathable hardshell jackets, featuring three distinct layers.
    • Best For: Extreme weather conditions and rigorous outdoor activities like mountaineering and backcountry skiing.
  2. 2-Layer Hardshells:
    • Description: Offering a balance of protection and comfort, 2-layer hard shells have a separate lining for enhanced comfort.
    • Best For: Urban wear and light outdoor activities in moderate weather conditions.
  3. 2.5-Layer Hardshells:
    • Description: These jackets are a blend of protection and portability, featuring a protective coating rather than a third layer.
    • Best For: Hiking, biking, and other activities where weight and space are considerations.
  4. Softshell vs Hardshell:
    • Description: Unlike hardshells, softshell jackets are more flexible and less water-resistant but offer excellent breathability.
    • Consideration: Deciding between a softshell and hardshell jacket boils down to the level of protection you need and the nature of your outdoor activities.

Care and Maintenance of Hardshell Jackets

Hardshell jackets are a valuable piece of gear for any outdoor enthusiast. They provide waterproof and breathable protection from the elements, keeping you dry and comfortable in all conditions. However, like any piece of gear, hardshell jackets require regular care and maintenance to keep them performing their best.

Washing Your Hardshell Jacket

Most hardshell jackets can be machine-washed on a gentle cycle with cold water. Be sure to use a mild detergent and avoid fabric softeners, as these can damage the DWR coating. It is also important to close all zippers and Velcro before washing.

Once the jacket is washed, rinse it twice to remove any detergent residue. You can then either line-dry the jacket or tumble-dry it on low heat. If you choose to tumble dry your jacket, be sure to remove it from the dryer as soon as it is finished to prevent wrinkles.

Reapplying DWR

The DWR (durable water repellent) coating on your hardshell jacket is what helps to bead up water and keep you dry. Over time, this coating can wear down, especially if you use your jacket frequently in harsh conditions.

To reapply DWR, you can use a spray-on or wash-in treatment. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. It is also important to reapply DWR after washing your jacket.

Other Maintenance Tips

In addition to washing and reapplying DWR, there are a few other things you can do to keep your hardshell jacket in good condition:

  • Store your jacket in a cool, dry place when you are not using it.
  • Avoid exposing your jacket to direct sunlight, as this can damage the fabric and DWR coating.
  • If your jacket gets dirty, spot-clean it with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
  • Repair any tears or holes in your jacket promptly.

Waterproofing Features

Waterproofing is a critical consideration for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike, particularly in regions prone to harsh weather conditions. A well-waterproofed jacket not only keeps you dry but also ensures comfort and durability over time. This segment explores the various waterproofing features, technologies, and membranes, providing a deeper insight into what keeps you dry when nature decides otherwise.

Waterproofness refers to the ability of a fabric to resist water penetration. It’s gauged in terms of water column height, and a higher rating indicates better waterproof capabilities. Key points include:

  • Measurement: Usually measured in millimeters (mm), indicating the amount of water pressure a fabric can withstand before leaking.
  • Standards: A jacket with a waterproof rating of 10,000mm is often considered satisfactorily waterproof for most conditions.

Waterproofing Technologies

Various technologies contribute to the waterproofing prowess of outdoor apparel. They include:

  • Membranes: Thin layers of waterproof material that prevent water penetration.
  • Seam Sealing: Ensuring that the seams are waterproof to prevent water ingress.
  • Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish: A coating applied to the fabric to repel water.

Waterproof Membranes

These are the heart of waterproofing technology, creating a barrier against water while allowing vapor to escape. Some notable membranes include:

  1. GORE-TEX Pro 2.0:
    • Enhanced durability and waterproofness for extreme conditions.
    • Ideal for high-intensity outdoor activities.
  2. GORE-TEX 3-Layer:
    • Provides robust waterproofing, breathability, and durability.
    • Suitable for a wide range of outdoor pursuits.
  3. GORE-TEX 3-Layer ePE:
    • Environmentally friendly variant with recycled materials.
    • Maintains high waterproofing and breathability standards.
  4. Toray Dermizax EV:
    • Known for superior breathability and waterproofing.
    • Ideal for active pursuits in varied weather conditions.
  5. AscentShell™:
    • AscentShell™ technology is known for its electrospun membranes, which provide a unique balance of breathability, waterproofness, and stretch. It’s an ideal choice for active adventurers seeking comfort and protection in a wide array of weather conditions.
  6. DRYtechnology™ Pro:
    • DRYtechnology™ Pro offers robust waterproofing and windproofing features. Its membrane structure promotes moisture vapor transmission, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable during high-exertion activities in adverse weather conditions.
  7. LIFA Infinity Pro™:
    • LIFA Infinity Pro™ is a groundbreaking waterproof technology that does not rely on traditional DWR treatment. It utilizes a microporous hydrophobic membrane for waterproofness, making it a sustainable choice for eco-conscious outdoor enthusiasts.
  8. Eco-Shell 3-layer:
    • Eco-Shell 3-layer technology provides a harmonious blend of waterproofness, breathability, and environmental responsibility. It’s crafted from recycled and recyclable polyester with a fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment, making it a green choice for outdoor gear without compromising on performance.

Durable Water Repellent Finish (DWR): The DWR finish is a coating applied to the outer fabric to repel water. It’s the first line of defense against moisture and plays a crucial role in maintaining the jacket’s breathability.

  • Application: Regularly reapplying DWR finish enhances the jacket’s longevity and effectiveness.
  • Environmentally Friendly Options: Newer DWR technologies are free from harmful chemicals, aligning with eco-conscious choices.


Breathability in outdoor apparel refers to the ability of the fabric to allow moisture vapor to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable during activities. High breathability is essential as it regulates body temperature, reduces sweat accumulation, and enhances overall comfort.

MVTR and RET Testing:

  1. Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR):
    • Definition: MVTR measures the rate at which moisture vapor passes through a fabric.
    • Measurement: It’s measured in grams of water vapor that pass through a square meter of fabric over 24 hours (g/m^2/24hrs).
    • Higher Value, Better Breathability: A higher MVTR indicates better breathability as more moisture vapor can escape.
  2. Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer (RET):
    • Definition: RET measures the resistance a fabric has to moisture vapor escaping.
    • Measurement: It’s measured on a scale; lower values indicate better breathability.
    • Lower Value, Better Breathability: A lower RET score signifies less resistance to moisture vapor escape, translating to better fabric breathability.

Pit Zips and Breathability

  1. What Are Pit Zips?:
    • Definition: Pit zips are zippers located under the arms of jackets, allowing you to control ventilation.
    • Functionality: By opening the pit zips, you increase ventilation, aiding in sweat evaporation and enhancing breathability.
  2. Benefits of Pit Zips:
    • Increased Ventilation: They allow for quick, manual ventilation, especially during high-exertion activities.
    • Customized Comfort: You can adjust the opening based on your comfort and the weather conditions, providing a personalized approach to managing body temperature.

Material and Construction

The material and construction of outdoor apparel are fundamental factors that determine its performance, durability, and comfort. By delving into the specifics of fabric layers, face fabrics, and fabric thickness, you can better understand the intricacies that contribute to the robustness and effectiveness of your outdoor gear.

Fabric Layers and Face Fabrics:

  1. Fabric Layers:
    • Definition: Fabric layers refer to the construction of a material, often seen in jackets and pants designed for outdoor use.
    • Common Layers:
      • Single Layer: Offers basic protection and is lightweight.
      • Double Layer: Provides additional insulation or moisture-wicking properties.
      • Triple Layer: Incorporates a waterproof membrane between an outer and inner layer, offering robust protection against the elements.
  2. Face Fabrics:
    • Definition: The outermost layer of a fabric, designed to provide the first line of defense against external elements.
    • Functions:
      • Protection: Shields against wind, water, and abrasion.
      • Durability: The choice of face fabric material significantly impacts the durability of the apparel.

Fabric Thickness and Durability (Denier):

  1. Fabric Thickness:
    • Importance: The thickness of the fabric correlates to its durability, insulation, and protection capabilities.
    • Measurement: Often measured in grams per square meter (gsm).
  2. Denier:
    • Definition: Denier (D) is a unit of measurement for the linear mass density of fibers, indicating the durability and thickness of the fabric.
    • Higher Denier, Higher Durability: A higher denier rating indicates a thicker, more durable fabric capable of withstanding rough conditions.
    • Selection: Choosing a higher-denier fabric is advisable for activities that require robust gear, while a lower-denier fabric is suitable for lightweight and less demanding conditions.

Fit and Comfort

The fit and comfort of your outdoor apparel are as crucial as its technical features. A well-fitting jacket with comfort-oriented features can significantly enhance your outdoor experience. This section will guide you through the aspects of fit, alpine-specific features, and the comfort dynamics between rigid and stretchy hardshell jackets.


  1. Importance:
    • A proper fit ensures that the jacket performs as intended, providing adequate protection, mobility, and comfort.
  2. Factors to Consider:
    • Size: Choose a size that allows for layering but doesn’t restrict movement.
    • Cut: Look for a cut that aligns with your activity level, whether it’s a more athletic cut for active pursuits or a roomier cut for casual use.

Alpine-Specific Features

  1. Definition:
    • These are features designed to enhance functionality and comfort in alpine or mountainous environments.
  2. Key Features:
    • Helmet-Compatible Hoods: For protection while wearing a helmet.
    • Harness-Compatible Pockets: Allows access to pockets while wearing a harness.
    • Adjustable Cuffs and Hem: For sealing out cold and moisture.

Comfort: Rigid vs. Stretchy Hardshells

  1. Rigid Hardshells:
    • Protection: Offer superior protection against harsh weather conditions.
    • Durability: Generally more durable and abrasion-resistant.
  2. Stretchy Hardshells:
    • Flexibility: Offer more flexibility and freedom of movement.
    • Comfort: Tend to be more comfortable during active pursuits.
  3. Choosing Between Rigid and Stretchy:
    • Your choice should align with your activity levels and the conditions you’ll be facing. Stretchy hard shell jackets are better for active pursuits, while rigid hardshell jackets are ideal for extreme conditions.

Functional Features

Functional features in outdoor apparel are the unsung heroes that significantly enhance usability, convenience, and protection. Whether you’re venturing into the wilderness or navigating urban jungles, having apparel equipped with functional features can make your journey more comfortable and hassle-free. This section explores some of these functional features that can be game-changers in your outdoor apparel.

Two-Way Front Zips:

  • Functionality: Two-way front zips provide the flexibility of opening the jacket from the top or bottom, allowing for better ventilation and ease of access.
  • Advantages:
    • Ventilation: Helps in regulating body temperature, especially during high-exertion activities.
    • Ease of Access: Useful for accessing inner layers or harnesses without fully unzipping the jacket.

Helmet-Compatible Hoods:

  • Definition: Hoods designed to fit comfortably over helmets without restricting vision or movement.
  • Benefits:
    • Protection: Provides additional protection against weather elements while wearing a helmet.
    • Versatility: Useful for both alpine adventurers and cyclists.

Pit Zips:

  • Definition: Zippers located under the arms to allow manual ventilation.
  • Benefits:
    • Temperature Regulation: Quick and effective way to release heat during vigorous activities.
    • Customizable Ventilation: Allows you to control the level of ventilation based on your comfort and the weather conditions.


  • Utility: Pockets provide storage for essentials, keeping them secure and easily accessible.
  • Types:
    • Handwarmer Pockets: Lined pockets to keep hands warm.
    • Chest Pockets: Convenient for storing small items.
    • Interior Pockets: Safe storage for valuables.

Harness- and Backpack-Friendly Pockets:

  • Definition: Pockets positioned to be accessible even when wearing a harness or backpack.
  • Benefits:
    • Accessibility: Easy access to essentials without removing your gear.
    • Convenience: Great for climbers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who need to access items quickly.

Weight, Packability, and Sustainability

The weight of outdoor apparel impacts mobility and fatigue, crucial in activities like hiking or climbing. Compactness when packed is important for saving space and ease of transport. It’s essential to balance weight, protection, and packed size based on individual needs and outdoor activity.

Comfort is often tied to the weight and packability of the apparel, with lighter and more packable gear usually offering more comfort. However, choosing lightweight and packable gear shouldn’t compromise essential features or durability.

Sustainability in outdoor apparel is growing, with brands using recycled materials and eco-friendly alternatives. Durable gear reduces the need for frequent replacements, minimizing waste. Look for certifications like Bluesign or Fair Trade Certified to ensure environmental and ethical standards.

Comparative Analysis

Hardshells vs. Rain Jackets and Softshells

  • Protection: Hardshells provide superior protection against wind, rain, and snow, whereas rain jackets offer moderate rain protection and softshells provide minimal rain protection.
  • Breathability: Softshells are generally more breathable and flexible, making them ideal for active pursuits. Hardshells and rain jackets offer less breathability but excel in harsh weather protection.
  • Weight and Packability: Rain jackets are often lighter and more packable compared to hardshells, while softshells may vary in weight and packability based on their design and materials.
  • Insulation: Softshells may offer some insulation, hardshells provide little to no insulation but provide a shell for warmth layering, and rain jackets usually provide no insulation.
  • Versatility: Hardshells are the most versatile for diverse weather conditions, whereas rain jackets and softshells are more specialized for wet or cool, dry conditions respectively.


After evaluating various factors like material, waterproofing, breathability, and sustainability among different hardshell jackets, the Norrøna Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Jacket stands out as our top pick. It offers excellent protection, functionality, and sustainability, making it a reliable choice for outdoor adventures. This jacket embodies a well-rounded option for anyone looking to invest in a high-quality hardshell jacket that will endure the challenges of the outdoors while also aligning with eco-friendly standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is softshell or hardshell better?

Softshell and hardshell jackets both have their benefits, so the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs and activities.

Softshell jackets are made from a soft, flexible fabric that is water-resistant and breathable. They are ideal for activities where you need to move freely, such as hiking, biking, and running. Softshells also offer some warmth, making them a good choice for cooler weather.

Hardshell jackets are made from a stiffer fabric with a waterproof membrane. They offer the best protection against rain and snow, but they are also less breathable than softshells. Hardshells are a good choice for activities where you need maximum weather protection, such as backpacking, skiing, and climbing.

How good are shell jackets?

Shell jackets are a versatile and essential piece of outdoor gear. They can be used to protect you from the elements in a variety of conditions, from light rain and snow to heavy downpours and blizzard winds. Shell jackets are also breathable, so you can stay comfortable even when you’re working hard.

Should a shell jacket be loose or tight?

A shell jacket should be loose enough to allow you to move freely, but not so loose that it flaps in the wind. You should be able to wear a base layer and mid-layer underneath your shell jacket without feeling constricted.

Why are hardshell jackets so expensive?

Hardshell jackets are more expensive than softshell jackets because they use more advanced materials and construction methods. The waterproof membrane in a hardshell jacket is what makes it so expensive. This membrane is a thin layer of material that is bonded to the outer fabric of the jacket. It is responsible for preventing water from entering the jacket, while still allowing sweat vapor to escape.

Should I size up for hardshell?

Yes, it is generally recommended to size up for a hardshell jacket. This is because you will likely be wearing layers underneath your hardshell jacket, and you need to have enough room to move freely. You should also be able to fit a helmet under your hardshell jacket if you plan on using it for activities like skiing or snowboarding.

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