As the days get shorter, the nights get longer and the weather turns colder and wetter, there’s only one thing for it.
You need to buy yourself a good hardshell jacket.
Because no self-respecting outdoor enthusiast will ever let the elements stop them from enjoying the great outdoors, a comfortable commute to work or travel adventure in wintry conditions.
And while fleeces and softshells definitely have their place, when the heavens really open they’re not going to cut it.
Remember – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
So, take a look at my review of the best hardshell jackets 2020 and see if you can find your next defense against a downpour.
A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow.
If you’re going to get left out in the rain – make sure you’re well prepared for it.
Note – prices, sizes and colors will vary, so take extra care when ordering your chosen hardshell.
- TOP 17 Best Hardshell Jackets 2020
- Diamond Candy Waterproof Jacket
- Columbia Watertight II Rain Jacket
- Jack Wolfskin Arroyo Jacket
- Camel Crown Ski Jacket 3 in 1
- Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket
- Marmot Minimalist Hardshell Rain Jacket
- Columbia Alpine Action Jacket
- Helly Hansen Crew Rain Jacket
- Jack Wolfskin Sierra Trail 3 in 1 Jacket
- Grundéns Downrigger Gore-Tex 2L Jacket
- Mammut Kento Hardshell Hooded Jacket
- Outdoor Research Foray Jacket
- Burton Gore-Tex Edgecomb 3-in-1 Jacket
- The North Face Apex Flex GTX 2.0 Jacket
- Arc’teryx Alpha FL Winter Jacket
- Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
- Helly Hansen Aegir Ocean Dry Top Jacket
- What to Look for in a Hardshell Jacket – A Buyer’s Guide
TOP 17 Best Hardshell Jackets 2020
Diamond Candy Waterproof Jacket
Review: We begin as ever with a budget offering – this time from Diamond Candy. Don’t let the price point fool you – this is a decent hardshell jacket in its own right.
It’s highly weatherproof, with a waterproofing rating of 3000mm, which is ideal in almost any conditions. The seams are fully sealed, it’s relatively lightweight and breathable, and yet it will still keep you warm with its soft-touch microfleece insert.
The hood is fully detachable and adjustable, with velcro inserts to help keep the wind out and the warmth in. There’s plenty of storage options, too, with two zippered waterproof hand pockets, one zippered chest pocket and one internal pocket for valuables.
For the price, it’s a really good hardshell jacket.
- Packed with practical features.
- Plenty of pockets.
- Choice of colors.
- It’s still on the heavy side.
- Not as reliable as more expensive jackets.
Columbia Watertight II Rain Jacket
Review: Reliable, well made, and suitable for anyone on a budget, Columbia’s apparel has been serving the outdoor enthusiast since 1938.
This is a basic but practical hardshell, an extremely popular product that features the company’s signature Omni-Tech fabric for extra protection and comfort, which is excellent for wicking away moisture from the body while keeping you warm and dry.
There’s an adjustable storm hood and drawcord hem, zippered hand pockets, abrasion-resistant chin guard, and drop tail, all with the ability to pack it down for your convenience – making it an ideal travel rain jacket.
For extra warmth though, you should take a look at these packable down jackets if you’re looking for something that packs the heat and packs down while on the go.
- Great price point.
- Stylish, fitted design.
- Thousands of quality reviews.
- Superb range of colors and designs.
- None to speak of – I can’t fault it.
Jack Wolfskin Arroyo Jacket
Review: German outdoor clothing manufacturer Jack Wolfskin has always made top quality gear and apparel that is also really easy on the eye.
This stylish hardshell bears their classic logo and is a lightweight but water and windproof garment that features Textapore – their signature weather protection technology.
It offers two external hip pockets and one internal pocket for valuables, with a fixed hood that is fully adjustable to your preferred field of vision. It’s constructed from 100% polyamide and is relatively soft and flexible for a jacket classed as a hardshell.
Jack Wolfskin makes some of the best hiking rain jackets around, so follow that link and check out even more options.
- Always stylish and practical.
- Name to trust.
- Great cut and fit.
- Choice of colors.
- For truly top marks, the zipper should have been YKK.
Camel Crown Ski Jacket 3 in 1
Review: While they might not be known as a household name, Camel Crown manufactures some excellent alternatives to the more expensive brands. This 3-in-1 garment is a great example, combining water and windproof ski jacket with a soft and warm inner fleece.
It’s versatile for just about any outdoor activity and features adjustable cuffs and hood, zippered pockets – including a waterproof breast pocket – and YKK Bi-directional zippers and buttons to make it super-convenient for using the shell and inner jacket together.
Wear the hardshell or the fleece on their own, or combine for extra warmth and weather protection. For the price, this certainly gives the big boys a run for their money.
- Loads of features.
- 3-in-1 design.
- Highly versatile.
- Reports of it running long – check the fit before purchase.
Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket
Review: Originating out of California and Colorado, Marmot has gone from strength to strength in the outdoor clothing world, climbing high to become one of the most trusted brands in the field.
The PreCip is built using their NanoPro technology, in order to create a lightweight, breathable, yet highly waterproof hardshell that will keep you dry all day long.
The adjustable hood can be rolled into the collar when not in use, while the jacket features velcro cuffs and drawstring hem for additional comfort and protection at the fully taped seams.
The whole thing can be packed down into one of its own pockets, making it the ideal choice for those hikes when the weather can’t make its mind up.
- Quality make and manufacture.
- Stuffable design.
- Great choice of colors.
- Packable hood.
- Runs on the slim side – take care when ordering the correct size.
Marmot Minimalist Hardshell Rain Jacket
Review: Another entry for Marmot here with this minimalist by name and minimalist by nature hardshell waterproof rain jacket.
It boasts a classic and timeless design that will most certainly never be out of fashion with its clean-cut lines and no-nonsense aesthetic.
What really sets it apart though is the highly desirable GORE-TEX with PACLITE technology which provides outstanding waterproofing, breathability, and packability; while the taped seams ensure true weatherproofing throughout.
It’s extremely lightweight and flexible given the premium materials, with an adjustable hood, raised collar, adjustable sleeves and two zippers under the arms which provide optimal moisture transfer.
Offering excellent protection with little restriction, this could be one of the best hardshell ski jackets on the market.
- Beautifully simple design.
- GORE-TEX technology in a lightweight system.
- Top-quality construction.
- Choice of colors.
- No internal pockets – that could be a deal-breaker.
Columbia Alpine Action Jacket
Review: Columbia’s second entry in our hardshell run-down sees this tough and durable, storm-fighting ski jacket that features their Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining for next-level warmth.
It features a removable storm hood for powder deflection, a snapback powder skirt that is fully adjustable, drawcord waist, interior security pocket, zippered chest and hand pockets, and a media pocket for your devices.
It’s super warm and ideal for a day on the slopes, but if you’re in the market for winter jackets for extreme cold, follow that link and you won’t be disappointed. However, I think I’ve changed my mind and this is the best hardshell ski jacket in my review.
- Very warm and comfortable.
- Quality construction and materials.
- Useful features for skiing/snowboarding.
- Color choice is really boring for a winter sports jacket.
Helly Hansen Crew Rain Jacket
Review: If anyone knows a thing or two about hardshell, weatherproof jackets then it’s surely Norweigan company Helly Hanson, who have been producing apparel for seafarers and mountaineers for over 140 years.
This is a classic-looking marine style jacket that bears their distinctive logo and will keep you bone dry on and off the water. You can rest assured that a little rain isn’t going to slow you down wearing this product.
Made from 100% polyester, its waterproof, windproof and breathable, with fully sealed seams, and finished with a durable water repellency treatment.
It has a fleece lining at the neck for additional warmth and comfort and is fully machine washable.
- Name to trust.
- Quality manufacture.
- Stylish, marine design.
- Striking logo.
- Small choice of colors.
- Pockets are on the shallow side.
Jack Wolfskin Sierra Trail 3 in 1 Jacket
Review: Jack Wolfskin try their hands at the 3-in-1 versatile hardshell with a super-warm Nanuk 200 fleece fabric inner layer and Textapore outer layer.
It’s tough and durable, highly water and windproof, while offering excellent breathability across the board.
The jacket features an adjustable hood, with the inner fleece capable of outstanding heat retention, while the shell is fast drying allowing it to be used for a variety of outdoor activities and pursuits.
Wear the outer layer when it’s wet, the inner layer when it’s cold and dry or both when the weather is all over the place. Having this much versatility in this day and age is a wise move.
- Versatile 3-in-1 design.
- Premium materials.
- Excellent heat retention.
- Reflective strips for visibility.
- Maybe not at stylish as other Jack Wolfskin designs?
Grundéns Downrigger Gore-Tex 2L Jacket
Review: Producing some excellent sport fishing and commercial marine gear and clothing lines, Grundéns offer this GORE-TEX waterproof and breathable hardshell that’s built to take a beating.
Ideally used in boating environments, the Downrigger is still useful for those wet weather trails.
It features a single chest pocket and two internal pockets, an adjustable drop hood, reflective logos for added safety, and adjustable hook and loop cuff closure for comfort and protection at the seams.
It’s an attractive looking jacket that is constructed from tough and durable fabrics for excellent abrasion resistance. If your chosen activity happens to be on the rough side – this could well see you through.
- Rugged build.
- GORE-TEX two-layer technology.
- Name to trust in fishing.
- Excellent weatherproofing.
- No hip pockets – but this could also be a plus point.
- A better choice of colors would have added an extra star.
Mammut Kento Hardshell Hooded Jacket
Review: Swiss mountaineering company Mammut produces some top-quality gear and apparel for the outdoors person.
This Kento hardshell is overflowing with excellent features, while the build quality is truly outstanding. It’s tough and durable, with a waterproof rating of 20,000 mm. Maybe if you throw yourself into the sea you’ll get wet in this.
The DryTech shell will pretty much keep the elements firmly at bay while offering surprising breathability, helped by the two, underarm zippered vents for if you get particularly sweaty on your hike.
The cuffs are specially designed for climbing, too, ensuring good coverage and maneuverability while you’re on the move.
- Tough and durable.
- Highly waterproof design.
- Name to trust.
- Choice of bright colors.
- I struggled to find one – let me know if you do.
Outdoor Research Foray Jacket
Review: The Seattle based company regularly feature in a list of the best outdoor clothing brands, so follow that link and see if you could have guessed the others.
The Foray jacket is another example of OR’s quality work, made from GORE-TEX technology with taped seams. It’s fully water and windproof while being extremely breathable at the same time.
Featuring an adjustable hood, YKK aquaguard zippers, internal front storm flap, TorsoFlo venting which runs from hem-to-bicep, zippered chest and hand pockets and a carabiner loop.
The jacket can be fully stuffed down into the left-hand pocket, and it’s finished with a drawstring hem and elasticated cuffs.
- GORE-TEX technology.
- Excellent breathability.
- Name to trust.
- YKK aquaguard zippers.
- Choice of colors.
- It’s not the most attractive hardshell out there.
Burton Gore-Tex Edgecomb 3-in-1 Jacket
Review: Famous for their snowboarding gear, equipment, and apparel, Burton has been in the outdoor game since 1977. When it comes to the best clothing for weather protection – especially on the slopes – it’s a good bet they know what they’re talking about.
This is a 3-in-1 style hardshell, designed with winter sports in mind, using GORE-TEX technology on the outer shell and seams, with a warm and comfortable 80G 650 fill 90/10 RDS duck down and soft taffeta removable inner lining.
It features zippered handwarmer pockets on the lining and shell, offering a versatile garment that isn’t just limited to a day on the powder.
- Top-quality construction.
- Respected name in winter sports.
- Choice of colors.
- A minor flaw – the color designs could have been better. They’re a bit…meh.
The North Face Apex Flex GTX 2.0 Jacket
Review: This GORE-TEX three-layered jacket from The North Face is another example of their quality and pedigree when it comes to excellent outdoor apparel and gear.
It’s extremely lightweight and breathable, with the feel of a hoodie rather than a stiff hardshell (it’s included here as a hybrid).
Yet it will keep you very dry in most conditions, the three layers of GORE-TEX technology ensuring not a drop gets in but moisture can get out, while the adjustable, built-in hood and hem with cinch stoppers add to your comfort.
Check out these other amazing winter hiking jackets for some more inspiration, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find more complete, practical, and comfortable weather protection than this.
- Premium quality construction.
- One of the best names in the business.
- GORE-TEX 3L.
- Very comfortable.
- Technically not a hardshell.
- Limited colors and designs.
Arc’teryx Alpha FL Winter Jacket
Review: Designed with climbers and mountaineers in mind, the Arc’teryx Alpha FL is one of their most popular and accomplished jackets, versatile enough for any outdoor activity.
It has a beautifully simple design that incorporates three-layer GORE-TEX Pro with narrow GORE seam tapes to really keep the elements at bay.
The Canadian company makes some of the best outdoor jackets money can buy, and this is no exception. The fit has been optimized for form and function, with a watertight front zippered pocket and laminated velcro at the cuffs that doesn’t warp or tear out.
The storm hood is helmet-compatible, but the exceptional freedom of movement and room it provides for lighter layers makes this, for me, the best hardshell jacket for hiking available.
- Outstanding quality.
- Name to trust.
- Well designed features for the outdoors.
- Extremely lightweight.
- Excellent waterproofing.
- Limited choice of colors.
Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
Review: The Beta in the Arc’teryx hardshell line is the stalwart of their portfolio – an outstanding workhorse that is suitable for just about any outdoor activity when the weather isn’t playing ball.
It’s a GORE-TEX Pro construction, designed to be used in a variety of environments for unrestricted movement no matter the pursuit.
Fully waterproof and windproof, it’s also very lightweight and breathable, with taped seams, watertight zippers, a helmet-compatible drop hood and microsuede chin guard for additional comfort when you’re all buttoned up.
Simply put, it’s a beautifully designed jacket packed with practical features that will turn heads and keep you warm, dry and always moving forward.
- Outstanding quality.
- Sleek, fitted design.
- Unbeatable weatherproofing.
- Choice of colors.
- A little bit of crinkle – but you’re going to get that with hardshells, regardless.
- Very expensive.
Helly Hansen Aegir Ocean Dry Top Jacket
Review: As far as weatherproofing goes, this Helly Hansen jacket is on another level. It might be serious overkill for your average hike (and certainly not suitable for climbing) but if you’re looking for the very best materials to keep you warm and pretty much 100% dry – then you’ve come to the right place.
It’s less a jacket and more a breathable smock that is designed for use at sea, built with the company’s own Helly Tech ocean triple composite membrane which will take a monsoon before you get wet.
It features rubber neck and cuff seals for maximum protection in keeping the water out, with a minimalist design that will do exactly what it was intended for. Providing you’ve got a spare thousand bucks that is.
- The best weatherproofing money can buy.
- Exorbitantly expensive.
- Limited use.
What to Look for in a Hardshell Jacket – A Buyer’s Guide
Below you’ll find some food for thought before you choose the right hardshell jacket for you, with an FAQ section just in case we’ve missed anything.
First of all, let’s take a look at the difference between a hard and softshell jacket.
Hardshell Versus Softshell
To put it simply, a hardshell jacket is exactly that – a garment where the outer layer is thicker, more rigid and stiffer than a softshell.
The advantages are better weather protection, they’re usually completely waterproof (or at least offer a high water rating) windproof and breathable.
They’re also much more durable than their softshell counterparts, and far more resistant to wears and tears.
Hardshell jackets are designed for more extreme outdoor activities. You might also want to check out these hiking gaiters if you’re really going to be out in monsoon conditions – help keep your legs dry as well as your torso.
A softshell jacket is more flexible and will usually feature a comfortable inner lining, often made from a fleece type material.
They’re water-resistant but will soak through eventually and offer nowhere near the protection a hardshell will.
However, they’re lighter and less restrictive when it comes to movement. Softshells are more packable, too, easier to fold up and throw in your backpack when required.
Softshells are designed for more lightweight outdoor activities, or as backup weather protection in an emergency.
Check out the video below if you need a further explanation.
Hardshell jackets will usually share one thing in common – they have a “hard” outer shell.
They can be made from a variety of materials such as nylon or polyester.
However, what you really need to look out for though – particularly when it comes to weatherproofing – is if the jacket has GORE-TEX technology incorporated.
Or, something similar specific to a certain manufacturer – a company’s own, GORE-TEX equivalent.
Simply put, there is no better weatherproofing technology available, while offering maximum breathability.
GORE-TEX fabric also has levels of quality.
Two-layer and three-layer GORE-TEX both offer excellent weatherproofing systems, allowing you freedom of movement while wicking away moisture from the body.
But GORE-TEX PRO is the real deal. It can improve your protection from the elements by as much as 35%.
That’s what you want to look out for if you’re really serious about the great outdoors – but you’ll only ever find it in the higher-end hardshells which will cost you a fair bit of coin.
You might notice that some of the jackets above offer a 3-in-1 design.
This means you can wear the outer hardshell on its own when it’s warm and wet. Wear the inner fleece when it’s cold and dry, or both together when it’s cold and wet.
They’re very versatile garments that are useful for most situations and activities – and recommended for people who are likely to travel through multiple climates or weather fronts.
Having the option of switching things up depending on the weather is a real plus point.
But if you’re hiking in winter, be sure to also check out these amazing winter hiking boots – the perfect accompaniment to a good hardshell jacket.
Size and Weight
Hardshells are generally heavier than soft, naturally due to the increased protection in the garment’s construction.
But there are lightweight options out there, along with different cuts and styles that will make a difference to the overall size of the jacket.
You might want the option of layering up inside the hardshell – especially if you’re going to be using it in colder temperatures.
Size and weight selections can often be a little confusing or complicated – so make sure you thoroughly check your measurements before adding to basket.
It would certainly save a lot of headaches and negative reviews if everyone managed to do that.
Most hardshell jackets come with hoods as standard. As hardshells are designed to be waterproof – it would be silly not to include protection for the head.
But still, take into consideration the design of the hood. Is it adjustable and if so, how? Can it be removed completely or stowed away if not required?
I’m a fan of a fixed hood – because I don’t really see the need to faff about rolling it up or unzipping it. If the clouds burst, I know a fixed hood is right where I need it.
Winter sports enthusiasts should look to see if the hood is helmet-compatible, which is ideal for keeping snowboarders and skiers safe and dry at the same time.
And don’t forget protection for your hands, too. Take a look at these excellent gloves for hiking and keep your digits nice and toasty on the trails.
To Pack or Not to Pack?
I’ve included a few jackets in this review that toe the line between hard and softshell.
Some of these jackets are packable and can be folded down into one of their own pockets.
This is extremely useful if you’re wanting to carry your jacket in a rucksack and only use it when the weather takes a turn.
But it’s up to you if you need your hardshell jacket to include this feature or not. This isn’t an option with the heavier duty garments.
Pockets and Zippers
I think the quality of the pockets and zippers can make or break a jacket.
They’re often the first parts to fail in inferior products with shoddy workmanship.
With that in mind, make sure your chosen hardshell as quality zippers. YKK is ideal, just so long as they’re smooth, well made and won’t snag.
How many pockets you need will be a personal preference, but I would recommend internal storage, as well as a waterproof, zippered, external breast pocket.
I get more use out of those two storage options than any others. Again – watertight zippers and seals are preferable.
The best hardshell jackets will have a wicking system that takes moisture away from the body while keeping the wet weather out.
This is pretty much essential when it comes to the manufacture of hardshells. If it doesn’t have this feature, you’re going to be sweating buckets and have a very uncomfortable user experience.
For added ventilation, look for jackets that offer zippered vents. These are usually to be found under the arms.
They can run from the armpit down to the hem in some models, and they’re an excellent way of ensuring you keep extra cool and you have enough ventilation when exerting yourself.
You will notice that there is a vast difference in price between many of these jackets, and what you decide to go for should entirely depend on your budget.
While they all offer excellent weatherproofing, some are clearly better than others – often by a country mile.
The obvious downside to this is that you’ll pay significantly more for the likes of GORE-TEX products, or high-end brand names.
While I always recommend going with the best you can afford, take into consideration what you’ll be using the jacket for and how often you’ll be wearing it.
If you only need it to run to the local store for some milk, might I suggest a poncho instead?
What is GORE-TEX?
A question far better suited to a textile scientist than a travel writer. In a nutshell, GORE-TEX is an amazing material that keeps the wearer warm and dry, while letting moisture out.
It’s used in conjunction with other materials (such as nylon and polyester) to provide the best possible protection against the elements.
For a far more in-depth look into GORE-TEX and its capabilities, watch the short but informative video below.
Should I Choose a Softshell or a Hardshell Jacket?
It depends on what activity you’re going to be using it for. While it’s not as easy as the following summary, it should help point you in the right direction.
If you’re going to be out in extreme conditions, or your activity is going to challenge the garment’s durability in any way, then you should choose a hardshell jacket.
For lightweight activities such as casual hiking, day-to-day wear or watching sports outdoors, opt for a softshell. Softshells are also better suited as a portable, backup rain jacket.
In the end, it comes down to you and personal preference and needs.
How do I Clean a Hardshell Jacket?
Many hardshell jackets have the advantage of being machine washable, so simply through it in and let the appliance do the job.
If this isn’t an option, wipe the garment down with a clean cloth and warm water with a mild detergent.
Never use any harsh cleaning products on any materials.
And always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure your gear enjoys as long a life as possible.
Winter is well on the way and adverse conditions are just around the corner – so don’t be left out in the cold.
It’s a good idea to start shopping for the best hardshell jackets before the heavens open.
Let me know in the comments below which jacket you’re thinking of going for and why.
In the meantime, stay warm and dry out there folks!
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