How We Tested Hardshell Jackets

How We Test
By:

Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday

This year marks the fifth straight year that Outdoorgearlab.com has tested hardshell jackets. The information found in this review is not simply one season's worth of testing, but rather a culmination of all of the testing and knowledge that we have gained over the course of five years. We have now tested close to 50 individual jackets, and have been on top of all the changes in design and materials that have taken place over that time. In short, the hardshell jacket review found here is not just comprehensive in its breadth of this year's models, but comprehensive in breadth of the entire hardshell jacket market for the past half a decade.

One form of work in winter ski towns that uses climbing skills  roof shoveling. This allowed us to test these jackets in a work environment as well  which is often quite abrasive. This jacket kept us comfortable all day on a sub-zero day.
One form of work in winter ski towns that uses climbing skills roof shoveling. This allowed us to test these jackets in a work environment as well, which is often quite abrasive. This jacket kept us comfortable all day on a sub-zero day.

While countless people have now contributed to the knowledge base that informs what we have written here, this season was the second in a row that Andy Wellman was the head tester. He was responsible for disseminating products to many volunteer testers, testing the products himself, and in the end collecting the opinions of all the people who wore and used these jackets, then compiling that information into this review. Having continuity in the head tester from year to year ensures that we are able to bring an accurate selection of the best hardshell jackets available, as well as notice changes in particular favorite models and industry trends from year to year. These are just a few of the reasons that we think you will find this the most helpful hardshell jacket review on the internet today.

Any day backcountry skiing is a good day. Hardshell jackets are our preferred piece of outerwear for cold powder days. Here  Andy tests out the Shuksan II.
Any day backcountry skiing is a good day. Hardshell jackets are our preferred piece of outerwear for cold powder days. Here, Andy tests out the Shuksan II.

This year we tested 10 brand new jackets through the heart of winter in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Every one of these jackets was used on many different days, by many different people, and performing all sorts of winter activities. The majority of the testing was centered around the famous mountain paradise of Ouray, Colorado, home to the Ouray Ice Park, where we did most of the ice climbing in the pictures you see in these reviews. We also used these jackets to climb ice near Eureka, Silverton, and Telluride. Our countless days of testing while backcountry skiing mostly took place on Red Mountain Pass or in the Silverton area, while we did our resort skiing at Telluride. We of course did almost everything necessary in our daily lives while wearing these jackets, including work (roof shoveling), shoveling out our own cars and sidewalks, and cruising around town.

The treadmill test  where we compared the jackets head-to-head for breathability. In each jacket we ran in the heated indoors for seven minutes  dripping sweat on the inside  and comparing how well they were able to breath. The good news: they all work!
The treadmill test, where we compared the jackets head-to-head for breathability. In each jacket we ran in the heated indoors for seven minutes, dripping sweat on the inside, and comparing how well they were able to breath. The good news: they all work!

To make sure that we had the best understanding of what models were the most weather protective and were most breathable, we devised head-to-head tests. For weather protection, we conducted the shower test, where we wore each of the jackets in the shower for three minutes. For weight, we weighed each of the jackets fresh out of the box on our own kitchen scale and ignored what the company said they weighed. For breathability, we devised the treadmill test, where we ran on a treadmill while wearing each of the jackets to see what models were the most comfortable and which ones showed signs of not breathing. You can read more about these individual tests in our Hardshell Jackets for Men review. While the head-to-head tests certainly helped add to the descriptive picture we have tried to paint about each of these jackets, the vast majority of knowledge and opinion presented here is derived from our experiences of using them for their intended purposes: outdoor adventuring.

Testing the Refugitive's ability to stand up to the harsh cold and rigors of multi-pitch ice climbing on the second gully above Eureka in the San Juan Mountains.
Testing the Refugitive's ability to stand up to the harsh cold and rigors of multi-pitch ice climbing on the second gully above Eureka in the San Juan Mountains.


Unbiased.