When the temperatures drop and the wind picks up, there’s really nothing better than one of the best men’s hardshell jackets. These versatile outer layers are equally good on the ski slopes as they are in the alpine, so they’re a bit of a one-stop-shop for waterproof outdoor jackets.
But, with so many different waterproof hardshell jackets available today, how can you ever possibly choose just one for your adventures? Thankfully, we have all of the information you need to find the hardshell rain jacket that’s right for your needs.
Coming up, we’ve put together the ultimate buyer’s guide to mountaineering jackets, complete with reviews of the best men’s hardshell jackets on the market today for your outdoor activities. Let’s get to it!
The Best Hiking Hardshell Jacket for Men
The Arc’teryx Alpha SV is Arc’teryx’s top of the line premier hardshell jacket for the world’s worst conditions. Built with the lightweight, minimalist alpinist in mind, the Alpha SV features an amazingly waterproof N100p-X 3L Gore-Tex Pro fabric for keeping you dry in any terrain. Plus, with watertight zippers and RS sliders, you can be confident in your jacket’s ability to keep you dry.
The Alpha SV features a stylish fit as well as a fully helmet compatible StormHood to keep your head protected in heavy rain. Pit zips and a stretchy, articulated construction allow you to move and ventilate easily in varied conditions. Plus, the Arc’teryx Alpha SV is exceptionally robust, thanks to its world-class construction and materials.
Of course, you’ll pay a pretty penny for all these amazing weatherproofing features, but it just might be worth it.
One of the most affordable hardshell jackets in our review, the Outdoor Research Interstellar provides exceptional performance in a great bang-for-your-buck package. Built using Outdoor Research’s proprietary AcentShell membrane, the Interstellar saves money while still providing quality amounts of weather protection.
Plus, the AcentShell membrane’s polyurethane fibers are surprisingly breathable and stretchy, which means you can keep moving in the mountains without any of that annoying constraining sensation. Highly packable, the Outdoor Research Interstellar is also one of the lightest and most compact hardshell jackets around.
That being said, the Interstellar’s hand pockets are a bit low for our tastes, especially when paired with a climbing harness or hip belt. Plus, while the hood claims to be helmet-compatible, it does restrict motion a bit when used with a climbing helmet. But, if you’re looking for a quality hardshell at an unbeatable value, you might want to consider the Outdoor Research Interstellar!
When it comes to all-around mountain performance, it’s hard to beat the Arc’teryx Beta AR hardshell jacket. Versatile, yet highly skilled at keeping you dry, the Beta AR is one of Arc’teryx’s original top-of-the-line hardshell jackets.
Featuring large, comfortable hand pockets, and a stylish fit, the Beta AR is read to help you get out and explore in the great outdoors. The Beta AR features a Gore-tex Pro waterproof breathable membrane for the best in mountain performance so you can enjoy the mountains without having to worry about getting wet.
Plus, with a helmet-compatible DropHood, you can stay dry, even while climbing. Large pit zippers and a built-in internal collar mean that you can ventilate properly while simultaneously staying waterproof with the Beta AR. What more could you want?
When you head out into the mountains for your latest project, you need a hardshell jacket that’s as technical as your objective. Enter: The Black Diamond Sharp End, designed specifically by and for alpinists.
Lightweight and dexterous to the core, the Black Diamond Sharp End provides ample weather protection, thanks to its waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex Pro membrane. Plus, the Black Diamond Sharp End shell allows you to crush harder routes thanks to a full underarm gusset that provides an ample range of motion for swinging ice tools in tricky terrain.
With Black Diamond’s Cohaesive cord-lock technology, it’s even easy to quickly adjust the Sharp End shell on the fly with just one hand. If that wasn’t good enough, the sharp end has chest pockets, as well as harness-compatible hand and internal pockets, so you never have to struggle to get your phone out for that perfect action shot.
Two-way armpit zip vents and custom-molded cuff tabs round out the Sharp End shell’s list of fantastic features. Oh, and did we mention that the Sharp End shells’ primary fabric is bluesign approved for environmental friendliness? What’s not to love?
Designed specifically for light and fast missions into the mountains, the Arc’teryx Alpha FL is a must-have hardshell for anyone who needs weather protection that won’t weigh them down. Tipping the scales at a paltry 11.1oz, the Alpha FL sheds away excess for a simple, easy to use, and lightweight end product.
Thanks to its durable N40p-X face fabric, the Arc’teryx Alpha FL combines optimal breathability with exceptional waterproofing. Plus, with its Gore-tex Pro waterproof breathable membrane, you can be confident that your Alpha FL hardshell can keep you dry, and well ventilated, regardless of the conditions.
If that wasn’t enough, the Alpha FL has a comfortable fit that’s large enough to fit a number of mid-layers underneath for the ultimate layering system in cold weather. A helmet-compatible StormHood, as well as Cohesive cord locks, make it easier to customize the Alpha FL on the go to best meet your needs.
Best Hiking Hardshell Jackets Buying Guide
Features to Consider When Buying a Hardshell Jacket
We’ve compiled a list of the most important features to look for in your outdoor jackets. Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re shopping around:
Hardshell vs. rain jackets
First things first, let’s discuss the difference between a hardshell jacket and a regular ol’ rain jacket. While these two pieces of gear might seem fairly similar, there are some notable differences between the two jackets that are worth keeping in mind.
For the most part, a rain jacket is a simple layer that can keep you mostly dry in the rain and snow. These jackets are made with 2 or 2.5 layer waterproof breathable membranes, which means they function quite well in nearly all but the harshest of conditions.
On the other hand, hardshell jackets are almost always made with the highest quality materials, such as a three-layer waterproof breathable membrane. These materials provide the utmost in durability (which is a must-have for serious adventurers) as well as an exceptional amount of waterproof and breathable conditions.
Of course, these better materials in a hardshell often come with a much higher price tag than what you might see on a rain jacket. Thus, while rain jackets are more than sufficient for your average adventurer, anyone who partakes high-octane activities, such as mountaineering or backcountry skiing, in foul weather could benefit from a Gore-Tex hardshell jacket.
Hardshell vs. softshell
Hardshell jackets are quite different from the similarly named “softshell” jacket. While a softshell combines some weather resistance with lots of breathability, a hardshell loses some of that breathability in exchange for the highest level of weather protection.
Hardshells achieve this weather protection through a waterproof breathable membrane layer which isn’t found in softshell jackets. Thus, while softshells are great for light rain, when a torrential downpour starts, you’ll be wishing you had a hard shell ski jacket.
The main purpose of a hardshell rain jacket is to keep you dry in the worst weather conditions on Earth. That being said, the vast majority of weather protection in a hardshell rain jacket is provided by the garment’s robust waterproof breathable membrane.
In a hardshell mountaineering jacket, most manufacturers will use a three-layer waterproof breathable membrane, such as Gore-Tex Pro instead of the more common two and two-and-a-half layer alternatives, such as Gore-Tex Active. These more durable membranes provide all of the waterproofing and windproofing capabilities that you need from your hardshell rain jacket.
Plus, certain accessories, such as a helmet-compatible hood, waterproof front zippers, and a powder skirt, can add additional layers of weather protection for when you’re recreating in particularly stormy conditions.
Perhaps the second most important feature of any hardshell mountaineering jacket (after waterproofness, of course) is its ability to ventilate well when you’re moving quickly in the mountains. During periods of heavy rain and serious physical exertion, you’re actually very likely to sweat to the point where the inside of your jacket feels wet.
This is not because your waterproof hard shell ski jacket failed, but because your perspiration is making everything feel damp. Thankfully, the best men’s hardshell jackets will have high-quality waterproof breathable membranes and other features such as pit zips for all-day comfort in the mountains.
When you wear hardshell jackets, you don’t want to feel constrained or like you’re wearing a garbage bag. Unfortunately, many waterproof jackets feel very garbage bag-esque, thanks to their waterproof breathable membrane, so you’ll want to look for models with comfortable liners and plenty of stretch to help you move quickly and easily through varied terrain.
No jacket is complete without some selection of pockets. In a hardshell jacket, pockets allow you to quickly store smaller items in harsh weather without having to open up your backpack and expose all of your gear to the damp conditions.
Most hardshell jackets will have one or two handwarmer pockets, while the best will have these places specifically so that they’re accessible, even when you’re wearing a climbing harness or hip belt. Additionally, the best hardshell jackets for men will usually have a chest pocket or two for storing items you don’t need very often.
Finally, many hardshells will have a couple of interior pockets. These may seem odd to the uninitiated, but interior pockets are incredibly useful for storing your most important personal items, such as your phone or GPS in a place that’s more or less waterproof – unless you sweat through your jacket.
Our advice? Look for a hardshell jacket that has some well-placed hand warmer pockets, one or two chest pockets, and at least one interior pocket. You won’t regret it!
Our Top Pick: The Best Hardshell Jacket for Mountaineering & Hiking
At the end of the day, you’re only going to wear one hardshell when you’re in the mountains, so you’ll want to make sure it’s a good one. Thankfully, we had plenty of great options for the best men’s hardshell jacket to choose from in this review.
But, if we had to select just one of these hardshells to win our top prize in this review, we’d have to go with the Arc’teryx Alpha SV for its unparalleled performance in the mountains. Everything from the Alpha SV’s design to its top of the line materials allows the hardshell to keep you cool and dry, even when crushing up mountains in the world’s worst weather.
Ultimately, it’s about finding the hardshell that’s right for your needs, so we encourage you to assess each jacket to decide how it might work within your current layering systems for your favorite activities. Happy trails!