Whether you’re hiking in the mountains, whale-watching or merely taking a city-break, we’ve rated and reviewed some of the best hard shell waterproof jackets on the market to keep you protected. Essential travel wear for your next trip.
Best Hard Shell Jackets at a Glance
- The North Face Naslund Triclimate – Best Hard Shell Jacket Women’s (F)
- Mammut Convey Jacket – Best Men’s Hard Shell (M)
- Arc’Teryx Alpha FL Jacket – Best Lightweight Hard Shell (M/F)
- Arc’Teryx Beta AR Jacket – Best Winter Hard Shell Jacket (M/F)
- Berghaus Stormcloud – Best Waterproof Jacket Hiking (M/F)
- Rab Latok – Best Waterproof Hard Shell Jacket (M/F)
- Montane Further Faster Neo – Best Neoshell Jacket (M/F)
- Jack Wolfskin Arroyo – Best Backpacking Hard Shell (M/F)
The North Face Naslund Triclimate – Best Women’s Hard Shell Jacket
As the name suggests, The North Face Naslund Triclimate is a really versatile three-in-one jacket. Consisting of two separate layers, which can be worn separately or as a single unit, the Naslund Triclimate allows you to tailor its performance to suit your environment. This is why The North Face Naslund Triclimate is our pick as best women’s hard shell jacket.
The outer jacket is made using The North Face’s breathable, waterproof, DryVent technology and features a fully-adjustable, wired hood and velcro cuffs. We like the chunky main zip, which is both durable and unlikely to jam. It’s kept watertight with a substantial storm flap, as are the two hand pockets.
The North Face do not quote a water column performance for their DryVent technology, but we have found independant figures that rate it at greater than 15,000mm.
The insulated liner jacket is the secret to the Naslund Triclimate’s versatility. It features The North Face’s Heatseeker insulation which reduces heat loss and increases warmth, even in the coldest temperatures.
The elasticated cuffs and hem ensure a snug, draft free fit and the liner also has its own hand pockets, adding to its usefulness as a stand-alone garment. We also approve of the fact it is made from 100% recycled polyester.
Zip the liner into the outer shell and you have a really warm, waterproof jacket ready to take on the elements. A choice of bright blue, or a subtle ‘black heather’ (a fabric-effect print), means you can be as visible or as low-key as you wish.
In summary The North Face Naslund Triclimate is our favourite Women’s Hard Shell Jacket, combining two great layers to give a genuinely versatile three-in-one package which is warm, waterproof and affordable.
North Face Naslund Triclimate: Pros
- Reasonably affordable
- Low-key good looks
North Face Naslund Triclimate: Cons
- Two-part construction is a little bulky to pack
Mammut Convey Jacket – Best Men’s Hard Shell Jacket
The Mammut Convey is our choice of Best Men’s Hard Shell Jacket thanks to its long, tailored fit, exceptional comfort and low noise. This 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Pro hard shell combines simple, effective features with low weight and great packability.
The Gore-Tex Pro materials give the Convey great weather resistance with 28,000mm water column. It’s not just you that stays dry, the two ‘Napoleon’ pockets keep their contents totally dry and their placement is nicely out of the way of backpack straps and waist belts.
The jacket and pockets fasten with spray proof zips, which keep things simple and accessible as well as adding a very masculine pop of red against the charcoal/black finish.
The 3-way adjustable hood offers comfortable, close-fitting protection. It can also be secured with a nifty little hook to prevent it blowing around when not in use.
The Convey has a pair of extra-long pit-zips, useful to get some extra air-flow in changeable conditions, or long uphill slogs.
For us, the fit is what really makes the Convey a stand-out jacket. If, like me, you are tall and gangly, the long cut and pre-shaped arms give great protection for most outdoor activities.
Combine this with simplicity, light weight and the lack of rustle and you have what we believe is the best men’s hard shell jacket.
Although there is currently no women’s version of this jacket, the women’s Convey Tour has many of the same features and performance.
Mammut Convey: Pros
- Tailored fit
- Extremely waterproof
- Simple and lightweight
Mammut Convey: Cons
- Not suitable for extreme Alpine use
Arc’Teryx Alpha FL Jacket – Best Lightweight Hard Shell
The Arc’Teryx Alpha FL Jacket is our choice of the best lightweight hard shell jacket. FL is short for Fast and Light – that pretty much says it all.
Primarily designed as an alpine climbing jacket, the Alpha FL is also a great choice if your trip will involve you carrying your waterproof jacket as much or more than wearing it.
The lightest hard shell in well-respected Arc’Teryx’s line-up, the Alpha FL is a minimalist design and a fly-weight 315g (12 oz). The fact that it’s lightweight does not mean it’s light on performance. The jacket packs 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro construction, fully taped seams and water-resistant zips. Essentially, the Alpha FL will keep you warm and dry.
In line with its minimalist approach, the Alpha FL is cut small and quite short, but some intelligent design features allow it to perform really well. Gusseted underarms prevent lift when reaching, and the well-designed cuffs and hem keep everything in place.
The roomy, helmet compatible hood has external adjusters to ensure a close fit. The rear drop hem also helps to keep your lower back dry for more active uses.
As a minimalist, lightweight jacket there are some compromises. One of these is that the zips are not fully waterproof. Arc’Teryx suggest that you do not keep anything that could be damaged by moisture in the pockets.
Speaking of pockets, the jacket has only one external and one internal pocket, this keeps things light, but is worth considering.
The Alpha FL is available for both men and women in a range of hi-vis, bright and more subtle colours. This hard shell also comes with its own stuff-sack (with an attachment loop).
If you are looking for a compact, lightweight waterproof with great performance and maximum portability, then the Arc’Teryx Alpha FL Jacket is our choice as the best lightweight hard shell jacket.
Arc’Teryx Alpha FL: Pros
- Packs down very small
- Intelligent design
- Supplied with stuff-sack
Arc’Teryx Alpha FL: Cons
- Fewer pockets than heavier jackets
- Zips are water-resistant, not guaranteed waterproof
Arc’Teryx Beta AR Jacket – Best Winter Hard Shell Jacket
The Arc’Teryx range is also where you will find our choice of best winter hard shell jacket. The Arc’Teryx Beta AR (All Round) is exactly that, a great all-rounder and particularly suited to winter use.
The Beta AR is a most versatile waterproof/breathable jacket for mountain environments. A regular fit can accommodate layers and the hood features an internal collar meaning comfort in storms, climbing, skiing or simply enjoying the outdoors.
We like the hip-length cut, long enough to ensure the jacket doesn’t ride up, but short enough to match layers worn underneath.
The Beta AR is a 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro construction with some great design features. The fully externally adjustable hood is helmet compatible, great for skiing or climbing, with a separate collar to keep out drafts.
The two external ‘Napoleon’ pockets are roomy. They’re also ideally located to not interfere with rucksack straps, waistbands or belts. All fastenings are WaterTight, water resistant zips and those on the pockets feature a neat ‘garages’ at the top to further prevent water ingress.
An anatomical 3-D pattern, together with articulated elbows and gusseted underarms means a great fit, even during active pursuits. Speaking of activity, the generously-sized pit-zips give additional ventilation. We also found that the one-handed drawstrings added a nice touch for staying comfortable on the fly.
Reinforced shoulders and elbows give the Beta AR great durability, important when spending this amount of money on a jacket.
Available in a wide range of colours, from bright, visible primaries to more low-key natural shades and in both men’s and women’s versions. The Beta AR has been a mainstay of the Arc’Teryx range since 2000. It’s clearly a popular and successful design and has long been our go-to best hard shell jacket for winter.
Arc’Teryx Beta AR: Pros
- Tried and trusted design for 18 years
- Fit and features
- All-round usage
- Bomb-proof quality
Arc’Teryx Beta AR: Cons
- Relatively expensive
- Internal pocket could be larger, some big phones are a squeeze
- Arc’Teryx do not guarantee the external pockets are 100% waterproof
Berghaus Stormcloud – Best Waterproof Jacket Hiking
Okay, time to get back to basics. The Berghaus Stormcloud is our recommendation for the best waterproof jacket for hiking.
We’ve deliberately picked a no-nonsense, simple jacket for hiking and walking and as such the Stormcloud is also well-suited for wet-weather city breaks too.
If you are thinking of a trip with extreme weather or are planning something more adventurous than a hike, then we would recommend some of the more specialised choices in this article. However, if you’re just after a reliable, affordable waterproof jacket, then the Berghaus Stormcloud is a great option.
Featuring Berghaus’ own Hydroshell breathable, fully waterproof material, this hardshell means you’ll stay dry in everyday challenges (Hydroshell exceeds 10,000mm water column). The simple design features an externally adjustable hood, two external zipped pockets and velcro-adjustable cuffs.
The straightforward cut is our preferred hip-length, with a dropped back ensuring your lower back is protected. We like the simplicity overall. You can be confident that Berghaus have focused on the best performance at this price point, not trying to emulate expensive technical features on a shoestring.
So with this jacket it’s a case of what you see is what you get, an affordable waterproof hard shell that will perform well in adverse conditions.
There are some limitations. The lack of pit-zips, the zips and pockets are not waterproof and the pockets may be a little low for some. We found access to be okay, but they are close to where many people may choose to wear their rucksack’s waist belt.
The Berghaus Stormcloud is our choice as best waterproof jacket for hiking due to its value and simplicity. Available for both men and women in a range of both bright and subdued colours, its low-key design is also great as a go-to waterproof for city breaks.
Berghaus Stormcloud: Pros
- Great value
- Simple design
- Low-key looks also ideal for city use
Berghaus Stormcloud: Cons
- Not suitable for more strenuous activities
- Lack of pit-zips
- Zips are not waterproof
Rab Latok – Best Waterproof Hard Shell Jacket
We’ve chosen the Rab Latok as our best waterproof hard shell jacket due to its ability to allow airflow. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the feeling of walking in our own mini-greenhouse when wearing waterproof jacket. The Rab Latok tackles this issue head-on.
The Latok features the highly breathable, air-permeable eVent membrane, allowing unrivalled comfort. Rab have maximised this feature with huge pit-zips that run from armpit to forearm along with a two-way front zip.
All the zips used on the Latok are YKK AquaGuard water-resistant and the main front zip is backed up with dual storm flaps. The two external pockets feature drain holes, should you get some water inside and internally there is a smaller zipped pocket anda handy mesh pocket for a water bottle.
The wired, helmet-compatible hood has fleece lined collar and chin for comfort and rolls down and is secured with a large velcro flap at the rear. All zips and drawstrings feature glove-friendly loops giving excellent functionality on the fly.
The hip-length cut with dipped tail is long enough to keep you protected. That said, it’s short enough to allow freedom of movement. The two chest pockets are well placed to avoid interfering with rucksack straps and waist belts
The Latok is reasonably heavy at 630g (22.2 oz). If weight is an issue, you could also try the slightly less substantial Latok Alpine. Rab have a well-deserved reputation for making durable, dependable gear
We’ve picked the Rab Latok as our best waterproof hard shell jacket as it is extremely waterproof (eVent is rated at 10,000mm water column), but exceptionally breathable. This super-comfortable jacket is available in both men’s and women’s fits and in bright or subdued colourways.
Rab Latok: Pros
- Amazing breathability and ventilation
- Durable and dependable
- Glove-friendly zips and drawstrings
- Huge pit-zips
Rab Latok: Cons
- Quite heavy
- The more limited range of colours than some jackets
Montane Further Faster Neo – Best NeoShell Jacket
So what exactly is Polartec NeoShell? Quite simply it is by all accounts the most breathable waterproof fabric currently available. It’s also stretchy – great if you want to stay dry and active. The Montane Further Faster Neo is our pick as the best neoshell jacket.
Specifically designed for high exertion activities in wet and windy conditions, the Further Faster is also great for hiking, mountaineering and backpacking. Given its target market, there’s no surprise that the Further Faster is cut small and light, but it still packs some great features.
The three-way adjustable hood is designed to be worn with or without warm headwear and features a wired visor for adjustability.
The pockets are mounted high, in our preferred ‘Napoleon’ position. This is great as it allows easy access when carrying backpacks with waist belts. All fastenings are YKK AquaGuard water resistant zips and the pocket zips feature ‘garages’ to further prevent water ingress.
The Further Faster also features some pretty clever engineering in its tailoring. The articulated arms feature intelligently placed seams to prevent constriction over the elbows and biceps. The arms are also cleverly cut to avoid lift when reaching or using trekking poles.
All drawstrings feature single-handed functionality, allowing quick and easy adjustment when on the move. In keeping with its activity focused design the Faster Faster also has reflective strips on the sleeves and hem.
Polartec NeoShell has a water column of 10,000mm. This is towards the bottom end of the scale for really heavy rain, but is still a highly waterproof material. That stretch and industry-leading air permeability are the real advantages however.
Available for both men and women in black or lime green, the Montane Further Faster Neo is our choice for best NeoShell Jacket.
Montane Further Faster Neo: Pros
- Lightweight at 440g (16 oz)
- Intelligent design and fit
- Perfect for active uses
Does not offer quite as much protection as some full hard shells
Jack Wolfskin Arroyo – Best Backpacking Hard Shell
The Jack Wolfskin Arroyo Jacket is a stylish waterproof jacket that comfortably meets the everyday needs of adventurous people the world over. This essence of simplicity makes it our choice as the best waterproof hard shell for backpacking.
Think versatility. Versatility is one of our favourite words (and for good reason) when it comes to travel gear. Never more so than on a backpacking trip, when you need to be prepared for anything, yet you can’t bring the kitchen sink along.
The Arroyo is not only a great waterproof jacket, but also a reasonably good-looking garment in its own right. Perfect if the weather turns chilly or you are out after sun-down.
Constructed from 2-layer Texapore waterproof and breathable material (the Arroyo uses an extra-soft version apparently) this hard shell achieves a water column of 10,000mm. Not bad at this budget.
Features-wise, you get an easily adjustable hood as well as two external and one internal pocket. The zips although not water-resistant are well protected by storms flaps; in our experience this combination kept us dry all day. Available for both men and women in a wide choice of colours from blacks and greys to brighter shades and even pastels.
The Arroyo is neither exceptionally light or super heavy, weighing in at a reasonable 500g (17.5 oz) and is soft and flexible enough to pack away neatly. The combination of all-day waterproof practicality, simple, stylish looks and a very reasonable price make the Jack Wolfskin Arroyo our choice of best hard shell jacket for backpacking.
Jack Wolfskin Arroyo Jacket: Pros
- Extremely waterproof
- Understated style
- Soft finish
- Affordable price
Jack Wolfskin Arroyo Jacket: Cons
- Simple features
- Lack of pit-zips
- Not so suitable for strenuous activities
Best Hard Shell Jacket: Things to Consider Before You Buy
That obvious question – what will you use it for? We’ve reviewed a number of different hard shells with different activities and uses in mind. If you want an affordable all-rounder for general hiking and to stay dry round town, then you have a very different brief to someone interested in alpine sports or mountaineering.
Waterproofing vs. Breathability
Most waterproof materials are rated using hydrostatic head or water column. There are a variety of different materials out there, generally for all-day resistance to moderate rain you should expect at least 10,000mm water column. For really heavy rain and serious levels of exposure then 20,000mm and above is the safest and most comfortable bet.
Breathability is what stops you feeling like you are in a greenhouse, the more air that can pass through the material, the better its breathability.
Here’s our handy table for the materials used in the jackets we reviewed
|Material||Hydrostatic Head (mm)||Breathability (g/m2/24hr)|
Very much linked to how you will use the jacket, but consider if you need the following:
- One-handed fastenings/adjustments
- Helmet compatibility
- Waterproof pockets
- Rucksack-friendly pocket placement
- Light weight
- Active fit and tailoring
- Pit-zips (underarm zipped ventilation)
Do you really need all the features together with the ultimate combination of waterproofing and breathability? If so then you will need to be prepared to spend a substantial amount of money, we’ve tried to keep things sensible in our choices, but the Arc’Teryx Beta AR is a serious piece of kit and its price reflects this.
If you’re planning a more modest hiking trip or just want to take a reliable waterproof with you on a backpacking adventure, then choose the simpler and much cheaper options.
There we have it, the best hard shell waterproof jackets. We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Enjoy your travels and stay dry!
Read more travel gear guides
Save and share this article