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A good weatherproof jacket becomes essential as summer and autumn make way into winter and the wetter, colder, windier seasons in the UK. If you’re serious about getting outside as the days draw in and the night gets longer, you’ll have to pay serious attention to what you pack when you head into the wild. A good waterproof jacket is an essential purchase, and in this article we’ll be looking at some of the best that money can buy - hardshells.
What is a hardshell jacket?
A hardshell jacket differs slightly from your standard waterproof overcoat. As the name suggests, they’re stiff, rigid, and offer maximum protection from the elements. Softshells, on the other hand (what you’d normally consider waterproof jackets to be) are less resistant to rain and wind especially, and can often be worn underneath hardshells as an extra layer of protection.
Because of these differences, hardshells are often favoured by people heading out into more extreme conditions, such as snow and ice. They’re often favoured by the likes of mountain rescue and other outdoor professions, and are renowned for being excellent protection but additionally durable, tough and able to sustain intense use.
Here are our suggestions of some of the best hardshell jackets on the market at the moment.
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Built for the toughest environments, Arc’teryx have a huge range of very capable outdoor hardshells, so you can’t go far wrong no matter what you choose from the brand.
However, if you’re looking for their best performing ranges, look for the ‘SV’ label, which denotes ‘severe weather.’ There’s almost nothing you can throw at the Alpha SV that it can’t cope with, and the lightweight protection on offer from this jacket makes it most suited to alpine climbing and minimal backcountry adventures.
The articulated construction and durable feel make it easy to trust the jacket when moving through some of the most rugged mountain terrain in the world.
This hardshell is best suited to colder weather conditions and is optimised for the best possible performance in snowy conditions, whether skiing, snowboarding or hiking.
As a non-insulated jacket, it’s most suited to spring skiing conditions, and has excellent breathability, fully taped seams and 20,000mm hydrostatic rating which means it’s totally waterproof.
A great option if you’re heading into the hills, this is one of the most lightweight jackets we’ve tested, with excellent packability and a GORE-TEX 40 denier fabric providing robust, sturdy and durable resistance for many winters to come.
We found the zipped internal pocket especially useful - this is also waterproof so won’t affect your valuables if the heavens open.
Built around Sprayway’s ‘function first’ ethos, the Reaction jacket has two layers of GORE-TEX with a recycled polyester weave which provides a softness when worn at the same time as durability and ruggedness for longer hikes, scrambles and climbs.
Sprayway’s ‘hill hood’ feature is also a nice touch, keeping rain at bay but also neatly folding down inside the jacket itself. We also like the full size map pocket, too.
As the name suggests, the Munro jacket is perfect for climbing large hills and is waterproof, windproof and breathable in equal measure.
This is a flagship jacket for the brand, at what we think is still quite a reasonable price for the specs, and we especially liked the abrasion resistant 2-layer fabric - the jacket’s a favourite for mountain rescue and those heading out into harsher conditions.
We found it fits a little large, as it’s built for winter conditions and layering underneath, so bear that in mind when purchasing.
Klattermusen pulls no punches when it comes to creating gear that is unashamedly premium - with a quality that is often unmatched across different outdoor ranges.
The Brage 2.0 is our suggestion for a serious hardshell that’s created with backcountry and wild adventures in mind, especially when it comes to off-piste skiing.
The fabric has a durable, almost waxy quality to it and is 3-layers - made from post-consumer recycled polyester it still retains the stretchiness you need for movement across alpine terrain.
Originating in Iceland, 66 North have refined a large range of outdoor gear - the Hornstrandir is their most advanced technical hardshell jacket and although it come at a price, its 3-layer GORE-TEX and stretch panels provides excellent movement and flexibility with hem, cuff and a helmet compatible, adjustable hood.
It’s also impressively wind-resistant, and if the budget allows, this is a great option for adventures into the wilder parts of the world.
This is a great option for more budget conscious buyers, focussing on providing the ultimate in agility and breathability using the brand’s AEP Kinematics fabric solution.
It has all the adjustability you’d come to expect from more expensive hardshells out there on the market, and we especially liked the fact that it features reduced seams, allowing a greater freedom of movement, less abrasion and more flexibility of movement.
The Odin is a great jacket if climbing and mountaineering is your bag. It’s a fully technical hard-shell jacket, currently on offer at nearly half price on the Jottnar website - it also happens to be one of the best hardshells we’ve tested.
Little features make this jacket stand out - it’s made from 3-layer Jöttnar SKJOLDR™ windproof, waterproof and breathable fabric, and is billed as being a ‘winter fortress against the most atrocious conditions.’
Anti-snag hem cords to avoid tangling with gear and an integrated RECCO® Rescue System reflector for improved safety are two features that make this jacket stand out from the crowd.