Hardshell jackets are a step up from a windbreaker, they’re the ultimate form of a rain jacket, and they’re incredibly durable, making them excellent for taking out on the trails.
Hardshell jackets are made from long-lasting materials, they’re designed to keep the elements outside of your jackets, and they’re the lynchpin of a good trip. If you’re often finding yourself out in the wilderness, or you’re thinking of joining some alpine outdoor sports, a good hardshell jacket is going to vastly improve your experience.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
10 Best Hardshell Jackets - Overview
Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for picks 6-10).
- A Durable Men'S Shell Jacket That'S Perfectly Equipped For Backcountry Touring. An Ideal Companion To The Odin Mountain 3L Shell Bib Pants.
Helly-Hansen Odin takes its name from the Norse god himself. Odin fancied himself a traveler, making his way around Norse mythology, spreading his name, and shaping the world into what it is today. This hardshell jacket isn’t going to turn you into a shapeshifting otherworldly being, but it will protect you from the elements comfortably no matter what season it is.
This is a tough jacket, it’s incredibly durable, especially when comparing its price to some of its more pricey competitors. It’s made from Helly Tech’s professional 3-Layer Lightweight fabric. The secret to the comfort and protection this jacket lends to the wearer is right there in the 3-layer fabric.
It’s waterproof and windproof, so you’ll be guarding yourself against the elements pretty proficiently without breaking a sweat. You could be way up in the mountains getting your butt handed to you by high-speed winds, while it’s raining sideways, and this jacket will hold up against that pretty well.
Keeping yourself warm and dry is usually what makes or breaks a good backpacking trek. To get a little more technical, you’re going to be getting a jacket made with a pure 100% polyamide face and back along with a C6 DWR and microporous membrane. This is where all of that breathability comes from without sacrificing the waterproofing you need from a jacket like this.
On a less technical note, this jacket is just a joy to wear. There are ergonomic pockets, angled ever so slightly so you can just slip your hands in without having to finagle your arms just right. That saves you the slight but compounding frustration of reaching into pockets that are just slapped onto a jacket with less attention to detail.
It’s things like this that make it a comfortable and easy-to-wear jacket no matter how long you’re planning to be out on the trail. If it’s for a couple of hours, you’ll be cozy during nature’s temper tantrums, and if you’re long haul backpacking or hitting the backcountry, this jacket will continually find ways to impress you. It’s not like one of those pieces of clothing that wait until you’ve got a long day ahead of you to show you its flaws.
It’s reliable, flexible, and versatile. If you’re looking for a hardshell to throw over yourself when you’re out on the trail, you’re going to love this one right here. Small details like its perfect compatibility with Helly-Hansen’s bib pants, the woven backing, or the removable snow skirt set this jacket apart from its rivals, all without bankrupting you in the process.
Sometimes you’re just looking for something simple, this hooded jacket from Wrestcomb has it all and not one zipper more than you absolutely need. It’s a jacket that does its job well without becoming over-intrusive. It’s designed to slip over your clothes without a single second of protest.
The minimalism of the jacket makes it easy to carry once you’ve cleared your bad weather or when your body temperature has been jacked up enough by the exertion of your trailblazing. The napoleon pocket keeps your belongings right on your chest without ever giving them the opportunity to face the elements themselves or slip away unnoticed.
This is an easy choice, especially if you’re not taking yourself out into any wilderness that’s too harsh. If you just want a jacket that will get you from point A to point B, then this Westcomb hoodie is going to cover all of your bases (as well as your torso). It’ll keep you dry, it’ll be comfortable without being too rigid as a lot of other hardshell jackets, and it’ll be a simple addition to your loadout that won’t require you to clear out a ton of space in your bag.
Don’t let the simple design fool you, though. You’re not getting a cheap piece of plastic that you’re going to have to replace after taking it out on the trail once or twice. This is made of a high-quality blend of nylon, polyester, and polyurethane.
These are going to last you about as long as your outdoor career. It’s the kind of purchase you make exactly once. You’ll be happy with it when the bad weather hits and it’ll be well worth its money by keeping you from making repeat jacket purchases.
- Dry.Q Elite instant on waterproof, breathable, air permeable technology
Remember not to stray too far from the basics. This jacket here is great for folks that don’t want to upend their lives to work around a single jacket in their wardrobe. This one from Torsun is machine washable without destroying the waterproof Dry.Q material.
This proprietary jacket fabric is breathable without letting moisture ruin your trips, which is a massive plus. There’s nothing worse than trekking through a tough trail while being choked out by your own sweat. You want to find a good hardshell jacket that will allow you to stay dry from both angles, and this Dry.Q Elite is some of the best in the game.
The sleeves are also worth mentioning. The cuffs are slightly angled to allow for greater mobility while out on the trail. We’ve all thrown on a jacket with sleeves that block our thumb’s range of motion. Well, no longer will that be an issue if you go with this offering from Torsun.
The hood on this bad boy is just as ergonomically designed at the sleeves. If you’re going to be needing a helmet during your travel, then you’re going to love this hood. It’s spacious enough to give your head and helmet the room you need to wear both comfortably.
This jacket is Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal’s Gear “Gear of the Year” winner, and for good reason. It’s a jacket that will serve you well on the trails. The paneling of this jacket makes it extra comfortable. Some hardshells are pretty rigid in their construction. They sacrifice mobility and comfort for maximum weather protection. The paneling here is much more forgiving without having to give up on waterproofing or protection from wind.
This 100% nylon jacket is totally machine washable, the hood is fully adjustable, and the underarm panels make it so much easier to move around while the jacket is on. This award-winning storm shell is incredible for alpine climbs or making your way through the backcountry. No matter where you’re headed, it’s a great little piece of equipment that will protect you from the whims of mother nature.
This jacket from Columbia is secretly high-tech. It’s stuffed totally full of features that make it feel like you’re wearing more than just a pattern of polyester that’s been sewn together. This jacket is lightweight, totally insulated while making it easy as cake to regulate your temperature, especially if you get caught out in the rain on a warm day.
The jacket itself has a nice and secure inner security pocket as well as the ability to add or detach a powder skirt. This jacket is thermal reflective so once you start contending with the wind and the wet, you’re going to be able to keep yourself warm without having to dig out a new layer of clothes or switching into a new set once the wind and rain have passed by.
The removable storm hood is a great little feature that not everyone is going to use, but its little touches along those lines make this jacket one of the big winners on our list today. It’s a great jacket for people looking for something to toss onto their shoulders on the way out of the door. It’s going to wait a good long while in between outings if you’re not the type that’s able to make it out onto the trails often.
It’s a great package of tech. The warmth and waterproofing it provides will give even the fussiest hikers a great deal of comfort when they’re making their way to their destinations. It stands up to storms, it’s tough and it’ll keep you warm and dry while you’re trying to trailblaze even the worst weather out there.
The thermal reflection and proprietary synthetic insulation make this a jacket great for hikers and winter sportsmen. They include a snap-back powder skirt and removable storm hood so you can customize the jacket for whatever challenge you have ahead of you.
- Proflex stretchy, breathable and waterproof fabric with tough nylon face
This is a stretchy and breathable jacket that keeps water out while letting the perfect amount of air in. It’s a slim-fitting jacket that comes with a spacious, secretive internal zipper pocket and a helmet-compatible hood.
They use some cutting-edge fabrics to make a perfectly breathable and durable jacket that you can be happy with for years to come. It’s the kind of hardshell jacket that combines the soft, flexible nature of softshell jackets and the kind of rugged protection you get with hardshell jackets.
The Black Diamond hardshell is made with the old reliable gore-tex, it’ll keep you warm and dry no matter where you are when the squall hits. They added a microsuede lining to the inside to keep the chill from creeping into your jacket, and the water and windproofing you’re used to getting from gore-tex in all there, making it the perfect fit for anybody looking for something reliable that will leave them feeling comfortable while they’re out on the trails.
It’s a great jacket for camping or backpacking, really anything that has you out in the elements and expending a lot of energy. The gore-tex material makes the jacket just as breathable as a summer t-shirt. You’re not going to be soaking yourself in a sack full of sweat when you throw this jacket on.
The pit zips lend you a little bit more ventilation than just relying on the breathability of the material itself, in case you’re getting caught out in the rain while your heart rate is up and the temperature is trying to put you in a headlock.
- CASSIAR JACKET - A streamlined shell focusing on on-piste descents, the Cassiar Jacket delivers complete weather protection with dynamic performance.
The Cassiar from Arc’teryx is a prominent example of the kind of craftsmanship and high-quality construction that Arc’teryx is always churning out. The Cassiar Jacket is insanely comfortable, it’s warm enough for snowsports, and basically invincible when it comes to rain, wind, and snow. If you’re looking for something that will help you take on some of the most extreme weather conditions then this offering from Arc’teryx is the jacket you’re looking for.
It’s a jacket that’s going to hold up to a year’s worth of abuse from even the most active outdoorsmen. They’re some of the most durable jackets on the market, and they’re going to withstand pretty much anything you can reasonably throw at them. Arc’teryx is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to outdoor gear.
This jacket, in particular, is one of their most streamlined models out there. This hardshell isn’t going to become a bulky mess dragging down your excursions. The gore-tex makes it breathable and reliable, you can take it anywhere you’re ready to go, and it’s going to behave the entire time.
- Helly Tech Professional is built with 3-layer, 100% polyamide 70D X 70D face & 100% polyurethane back
This is the big brother to Helly-Hansen’s Odin. It’s basically everything that jacket does but turned up to eleven. It’s a robust 3-layer jacket made with 100% polyamide on the front end, and the backside is made from 100% polyurethane.
This jacket is like a modern suit of armor. You’ll be dry and warm, you’ll be protected from whatever mother nature throws at you, and you’ll be grabbing a jacket that’s going to last you a long time. The back of this jacket is probably its strongest selling point. It’s a jacket that’s designed with hikers and backpackers in mind. If you’re tired of your jackets getting worn down by your heavy packs, this jacket is here to solve that problem.
It’s a durable material that won’t just be torn apart by your bags and the friction of carrying them over long distances. It’s a fit slim enough to be comfortable and flattering and unintrusive, and it’s spacious enough to easily layer your clothing underneath it without becoming uncomfortable.
- Wind and waterproof three-layer jacket for year round use in varying weather conditions. Made from durable yet lightweight G-1000 Eco-Shell in polyester (partially recycled) with fluorocarbon-free DWR...
This one is a simple one, it’s a great jacket for someone looking for something fashionable and durable, then check out this offering from Fjallraven. It’s an eco-friendly jacket that’s a great addition to any outdoorsman’s loadout. It’s just as water-resistant and wind-resistant as some of the best hardshells out there right now, but it comes with the additional benefit of looking good at the same time.
This jacket is appropriately named. It’s the kind of hardshell jacket Odin would probably want to throw on if he were real and around today. It’s a durable jacket that’s going to last you for a long time, it’d be a great addition for any outdoor loadout, and it would work just as well for an immortal traveling Norse god. This jacket is well designed. The 3-layer fabric they use to build the jacket makes it one of the best jackets out there.
The design makes it a sturdy bastion against the wind and rain. It will keep you dry if you get caught out in the rain, it’ll keep you warm when you’re just trying to make it the last few hours of your trek before you’re able to bed down and bundle up. It does all of this without becoming a horrible portable sauna that you’re wrapping yourself up in. The material is still pretty breathable even though it’s hermetically sealing your body away.
If you’re looking for something reliable, flexible, and versatile that you can pair perfectly with a pair of bib pants, something with a sturdy woven back, and robust features like a snow skirt or perfectly placed pockets this is the jacket you want. It’s a big hit and more, and it won’t cost you a fortune to pick up.
Bonus tip: If you’re confused about the differences between hardshell and softshell jackets, then this video is a godsend.