Reviews You Can Rely On

The 4 Best Hardshell Jackets for Women of 2024

We bought and tested hardshell jackets for women from Arc'teryx, Ortovox, Rab, and more to find the best options to keep you dry and protected out in the mountains
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Best Hardshell Jacket Women Review
Credit: Kaylee Walden
By Kaylee Walden, Lyra Pierotti & Amber King  ⋅  Apr 15, 2024

The Best Women's Hardshell Jacket for 2024


Our reviewers have been putting women's hardshell jackets to the test for over a decade. Through this winter, we evaluated nine of the best options on the market. We've kept up with industry trends and mainstays, comparing and contrasting dozens of the top jackets each year. We tested them for months to see which performed best for a range of uses, environments, and conditions. We wore them in below-zero blizzards, full-on downpours, and everything in between. We kept warm and dry in them while doing our favorite cold-weather activities. Much of the testing was centered in the reliably stormy Pacific “Northwet”. (Nope, that's not a typo – it's just the perfect environment to test hardshell jackets.) We also put these jackets through the paces in the San Juan Mountains in snowy southwest Colorado, where large temperature swings demand high-level versatility.

Keep in mind these jackets are intended to be part of a layering system, depending on your activity and the weather. For shoulder-season backpacking trips, these jackets pair perfectly with a top-rated women's fleece jacket and the best women's base layers we've tested. When the weather turns snowy, these hardshells fit perfectly over our favorite women's down jackets for cold and wet activities like skiing or ice climbing. If you need some weather protection without full waterproofing, we've also tested the best women's softshell jackets.

Editor's Note: We edited and expanded our women's hardshell jacket review lineup on April 16, 2024, to add a few new options and update the existing review.

Related: Best Hardshell Jacket for Men

Top 9 Hardshell Jackets - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $600 List
$600.00 at REI
$550.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$799 List$310 List
$216.93 at REI
$450 List
$449.00 at Backcountry
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Great range of motion, lightweight for the durability, great weather protectionExtremely breathable, four-way stretch for superior movementDurable, very weatherproof, light for level of protectionComfortable, durable, breathable, simpleDurable, comfortable, flattering colors and fit
Cons Shorter torso length, some features overdone, boxy fitColors might be too bright for some, not the best in rain, no hand pocketsExpensive, stiffer fabricFewer overall features, less versatileShorter back length limits use in extreme weather
Bottom Line Even if you live in a maritime climate, this effective and supremely waterproof jacket can reliably see you through the wettest and windiest of stormsThis malleable and stretchy jacket with a streamlined fit and colorful style is best for higher output activities and drier climatesOne of the best severe weather shells we've tested, with little penalty to weightThis is a remarkably weatherproof stretchy hardshell that feels more like a softshellThis a versatile, durable hardshell offers a lot for a reasonable price
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Beta AR J... Ortovox Ortler 3L -... Arc'teryx Alpha SV Rab Kinetic Alpine... Patagonia Triolet -...
Weather Protection (30%)
9.0
6.5
10.0
6.0
8.0
Mobility and Fit (20%)
8.5
9.0
6.0
9.0
8.0
Venting and Breathability (20%)
7.0
8.5
7.0
9.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
6.9
7.2
6.0
7.3
5.6
Features and Design (10%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Specs Arc'teryx Beta AR J... Ortovox Ortler 3L -... Arc'teryx Alpha SV Rab Kinetic Alpine... Patagonia Triolet -...
Measured Weight 13.4 oz 12.8 oz 15.5 oz 12.5 oz 16.4 oz
Material N40d 3L Gore-Tex (body)
N80d 3L Gore-Tex Pro (arms)
100% polyamide outer with polyurethane (Toray Dermizax®NX,) membrane with 100% polyester backer and 85% virgin wool + 15% polyamide details N100d 3L Gore-Tex Pro 3L recycled polyester knit face with PU membrane and recycled polyester backer/Proflex 3L 75D 100% recycled polyester Gore-Tex shell with a waterproof/breathable barrier and DWR finish
Pockets 2 handwarmer, 1 internal chest 1 external pocket, 1 upper-arm pocket 2 crossover handwarmer, 1 internal chest, 1 internal drop-in, 1 left bicep pocket 1 internal chest, 2 hand 2 external chest, 2 hand, 1 interior mesh bucket
Pit Zips Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Category Midweight
regular fit
Midweight
slim fit
Heavyweight
regular fit
Lightweight
regular fit
Midweight
regular fit
Drawcords 4 hood, 2 waist 3 hood, 2 waist 4 hood, 2 waist 3 hood, 2 waist 3 hood, 2 waist
Adjustable Cuffs Yes, Velcro Yes, Velcro Yes, Velcro Yes, Velcro Yes, Velcro
Harness and Hip Belt Compatible Yes, high pockets Yes Yes, high pockets Yes, high pockets Yes, high pockets
Two-Way Front Zipper No Yes No Yes No
Length of back, from base of neck to bottom 26 in 27 in 27 in 26 in 26 in
Warranty Policy Practical lifetime warranty - Material or workmanship defects will be replaced or repaired at Arc'teryx's discretion None noted on the website Practical lifetime warranty - Material or workmanship defects will be replaced or repaired at Arc'teryx's discretion Guarantee covers the original owner with proof of purchase, for the usable lifetime of the product Ironclad Guarantee


Best Overall Women's Hardshell Jacket


Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket - Women's


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Protection 9.0
  • Mobility and Fit 8.5
  • Venting and Breathability 7.0
  • Weight 6.9
  • Features and Design 8.0
Materials: Gore-Tex Pro | Category: Midweight
REASONS TO BUY
Abrasion and wear-resistant
Good for severe weather
Very comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Relatively boxy
Not breathable
Expensive

The Arc'teryx Beta AR is a serious hardshell jacket for weathering the harshest of storms. It has been a top-scoring hardshell in this review for years, and its high marks carry through to the mountain environment, too – where it really counts. The unique collar design gives a tight seal against the elements, and the helmet-compatible hood fits nicely around your head, with or without a helmet. There are two different weight fabrics used in this jacket, both 3L Gore-Tex: The arms are a higher denier for added durability in high-wear areas, and the core is made of a slightly lower denier, allowing for more breathability and helping shave weight. We noticed that this pays durability dividends for high-abrasion activities like alpine climbing. Arc'teryx updated their fits globally on women's jackets for the 2024 season, keeping all of the features we know and love but adding a more spacious cut. While this allows for more mobility, it makes the jacket slightly more boxy.

The primary con to all of these pros is the cost. As with any Arc'teryx jacket, the Beta AR is fairly pricey. Given that this one has been a mainstay in their product lineup since the year 2000, we're pretty sure folks are finding it to be worth it. We certainly have. Given its excellent durability and versatility for cold-weather adventures, this is an excellent investment for your adventure wardrobe. If you're interested in another jacket with all the bells and whistles, check out the Mammut Nordwand Pro.

Read more: Arc'teryx Beta AR review

Effectively testing the waterproofing of the Beta AR definitely required full powder snow immersion (wink wink). It continued to impress our testers in all metrics.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Best Bang for the Buck


Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 - Women's


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Protection 6.0
  • Mobility and Fit 9.0
  • Venting and Breathability 9.0
  • Weight 7.3
  • Features and Design 6.0
Materials: Gore-Tex Pro | Category: Lightweight
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable fit
Breathable
Weatherproof for its weight
REASONS TO AVOID
Fewer features
Less versatile

The Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 is a featherweight hardshell jacket that behaves more like a softshell. Though we certainly wouldn't call it budget, when you consider what you get in performance, comfort, sustainability, and longevity, this is a good deal. It's super breathable, yet still manages to seal out blizzards and unexpected cloudbursts, without adding much weight to your pack. We put it to the test in cold conditions and in just-above-freezing ones, where if you don't have a great shell, you'll be cold and wet (and miserable) quickly. The Kinetic Alpine 2.0 held its own through the worst and wettest of storms, and performed well in lab tests considering its relatively light weight.

The Kinetic Alpine 2.0 is made of a malleable and soft fabric with a close-to-body cut and no extra material. As such, it may not fit bulkier warm layers beneath without inhibiting movement. But, since it's designed for higher-output aerobic activities, we didn't necessarily see this as a downfall. It is also relatively simple with minimal extra features to cut down on weight, but it still retains handy technical extras like a two-way zipper and harness-compatible pockets. Despite this, we still found the jacket to be well-designed and consistent with its overall utility. Another stretch option we like is the affordable Mountain Equipment Orbital.

Read more: Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 review

Throughout our day of high-paced activities and a run-in with a storm, the Rab Kinetic Alpine kept us dry.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Best for Backcountry Skiing


Ortovox Ortler 3L - Women's


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Protection 6.5
  • Mobility and Fit 9.0
  • Venting and Breathability 8.5
  • Weight 7.2
  • Features and Design 7.0
Materials: Dermizax NX 4-Way Stretch | Category: Midweight
REASONS TO BUY
Great for high-output activities
Slight stretch and streamlined
Cozy chin guard
REASONS TO AVOID
No hand pockets
Not the best for super wet storms

The Ortovox Ortler 3L moved with us on the uphill and didn't have us overheating before we reached the top. It has a unique and highly comfortable construction and is one of the only jackets among our top picks that isn't made from Gore-Tex. The proprietary material, Dermizax with wool inserts, allows the jacket to have more stretch, better mobility, and more breathable than your typical Gore-Tex hardshell. This, combined with the flattering and streamlined, slightly hourglass fit, makes the Ortler a great choice for activities that demand packability and breathability, like backcountry skiing.

While we loved the Ortler in the relatively dry conditions of southwest Colorado, it wouldn't be our go-to in a maritime climate like the North Cascades or the Coast Range or for stationary weather exposure like when skiing on a ski area and riding chairlifts or hanging out at a wet belay. The bold colorways of the Ortler also may not appeal to those who want to fly under the radar. Though it's not the best for super wet precipitation or rain, as long as the temperatures stay well below freezing and your plan for the day involves going uphill, the Ortler would be a great go-to. For another breathable and weather-resistant option, we love the Arc'teryx Alpha SV.

Read more: Ortovox Ortler 3L review

In cold, dry climates and for days that involve lots of uphill, the Ortler is the perfect hardshell to stash in your pack. Here, the four-way stretch pays dividends navigating some less-than-ideal sastrugi skiing on a long traverse.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Best for Active Wear


Patagonia Triolet - Women's


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Protection 8.0
  • Mobility and Fit 8.0
  • Venting and Breathability 8.0
  • Weight 5.6
  • Features and Design 8.0
Materials: 3-layer Gore-Tex | Category: Midweight
REASONS TO BUY
Durable
Versatile
Comfortable with movement
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than other options
Less coverage for high altitudes or extreme cold

The Patagonia Triolet is a dependable hardshell for a decent price. This jacket is highly durable, constructed from a stiffer Gore-Tex fabric that holds up well over time and to abrasion in rugged and rocky environments. Sometimes stiffer fabric is uncomfortable, but this wasn't the case with the Triolet, which is supple and moves as you do. The design, shape, paneling, and cut all stack up to create a fit that moves easily with you through complex movements. This was a hardshell we found ourselves reaching for quite often. As a bonus, we love the color and that the material is 100 percent recycled, Fair Trade constructed, and perfluorinated-chemical (PFA) free.

The Triolet is cut shorter at the hem than some other options, so for most, it doesn't have comprehensive coverage for expedition use or extreme weather. Nonetheless, it performs reliably across a wide range of other activities, from alpine climbing to resort skiing to cold-weather backcountry skiing. It's not the best for any single activity: A jack of all trades, but master of none, if you will. The Outdoor Research MicroGravity is another, even lower-priced option with decent performance, although we prefer the fit and overall versatility of the Triolet.

Read more: Patagonia Triolet review

The Triolet is one of the most versatile jackets we tested, regardless of destination and activity.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
80
Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket - Women's
Best Overall Women's Hardshell Jacket
$600
Editors' Choice Award
76
Ortovox Ortler 3L - Women's
Best for Backcountry Skiing
$550
Top Pick Award
76
Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket - Women's
$799
75
Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
$310
Best Buy Award
75
Patagonia Triolet - Women's
Best for Active Wear
$450
Top Pick Award
72
Mountain Equipment Orbital - Women's
$320
72
Outdoor Research Archangel - Women's
$699
72
Mammut Nordwand Pro - Women's
$825
63
Outdoor Research MicroGravity - Women's
$279

hardshell jacket womens - hardshells, an essential piece to keep you dry for a range of winter...
Hardshells, an essential piece to keep you dry for a range of winter activities -- especially during heavy snowfall.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

How We Test Hardshell Jackets for Women


For this deep dive into women's hardshell jackets, we began by wading through the industry's leading models and debating the pros and cons of each. From a pool of over 40 jackets, we selected nine that looked the most promising and put them through our rigorous and in-depth testing process. We spent months with the jackets, dragging them along on various mountain adventures from the Pacific Northwest, to the high Rockies, to the wilds of Montana, and around town for good measure. After weighing them, soaking them, zipping every zipper, and moving around in them, we noted which shells were suited better for one purpose and which offered high-level performance across the board. We passed the jackets around to our friends and let them choose which ones they wanted to take out for a day of ice climbing or ski touring. We listened to their feedback on each and took note of which stood out, how they fit different bodies, and how well they worked for different activities.

We graded the resulting performance of these jackets in five rating metrics:
  • Weather Protection (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Mobility and Fit (20% weighting)
  • Venting and Breathability (20% weighting)
  • Weight (20% weighting)
  • Features and Design (10% weighting)

We took these hardshells far and wide to make sure we found the best of the best.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Why Trust GearLab


For this review, our expert panel is comprised of AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide Lyra Pierotti, backcountry ski and expedition guide Kaylee Walden and science teacher and endurance athlete Amber King. Lyra guides mountains worldwide, teaches avalanche courses all winter, and trains athletes as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She calls the Pacific Northwest her home “basecamp.” Kaylee hails from the tiny mountain town of Ophir, Colorado at just under 10,000'. She finds herself nearly in the alpine by simply stepping out her front door and makes a living by searching out the best powder turns and helping others make informed decisions in the backcountry. She particularly enjoys sports that are influenced by gravity–either resisting it or flowing with it. Amber is originally from Canada and ended up in southwest Colorado after completing her B.Sc. and B.Ed. Degrees. When she's not busy training as an endurance athlete, splitboarding, or pack rafting, Amber teaches high school science. For all three of our testers, hardshell jackets are surely a winter wardrobe staple.

Not only do hardshells need to be able to keep you dry from the...
Not only do hardshells need to be able to keep you dry from the elements, they need to be rugged enough to handle tree snags.
The Arc&#039;teryx Beta AR impressed us across all metrics, but...
The Arc'teryx Beta AR impressed us across all metrics, but especially when it came to weather protection.
We put these jackets to the test in real-life scenarios to ensure...
We put these jackets to the test in real-life scenarios to ensure they could keep up with the task at hand.

Analysis and Test Results


The first phase of the review process involves thorough research into each product and the elements that come together to make it great. After learning as much as possible about the details of the fabric technology, we read through all user reviews (good and bad) to learn people's honest thoughts. We polled a broad network of outdoor professionals to see which jackets hold up best over time through use and abuse. Finally, we selected what seemed like the top and most reliable options and ran our selection of jackets through rigorous field tests. To help you select the right hardshell, we tested each jacket and took notes on five mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive metrics: Weather protection, mobility and fit, venting and breathability, weight, and features and design. We also took durability and versatility into account. Read on to learn more about how we assessed each jacket for quality.


Value


We might be a bunch of gearheads here at GearLab, but that doesn't mean we don't care about price. We are critics at heart, and we want to help you spend your hard-earned cash on the right gear. Additionally, we buy all of these products anonymously, at full price, so that factors into our consideration of each jacket. Hardshell jackets in general, are a highly technical piece of outerwear, and as such, are decidedly expensive. Among the most affordable jackets in this test is the Outdoor Research Microgravity, which offers decent versatility and durability with a more palatable price tag. Jackets like the Patagonia Triolet, Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0, or even the Mountain Equipment Orbital also offer a good performance-to-price ratio.

hardshell jacket womens - exploring the alpine in the or microgravity, a jacket with good...
Exploring the alpine in the OR Microgravity, a jacket with good value for all-around mountain pursuits.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Weather Protection


First and foremost, a hardshell jacket must be comprehensively water and weatherproof. This is far and away the most important metric because, ultimately, this layer is often critical for your safety in a quickly changing mountain environment. To fully assess each jacket for its ability to weather any storm, we tested each one in inclement weather (rain or snow, depending on the intended use of each jacket). For good measure, we also stood in the shower while wearing these jackets to see how they'd fare in a true downpour. The standards are high for hardshell fabrics, so we look critically at anything that can compromise the jacket's weatherproof performance. This can include sleeves or torso lengths that are too short or a poorly designed hood.


We also considered how well the jackets sealed out the wind. Wind is the frequent partner of snow and rain and allows us to rate how protective a jacket might feel. Thicker, burlier models typically performed better in weather protection but might subsequently lose points in the breathability metric. There were several levels of hardshell material used in the jackets we reviewed. The most weatherproof was hands-down the Arc'teryx Alpha SV, with its ultra-rugged N100d 3L Gore-Tex Pro fabric. This was the most durable jacket in the review, yet it still managed to be relatively lightweight.

When precipitation hits the exterior of the Ortler 3L, the water beads up and rolls off.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Some jackets were geared toward milder climates, utilizing thinner and more flexible fabrics to save weight or improve breathability. The next level down on the weatherproof spectrum is the Arc'teryx Beta AR with two types of Gore-Tex Pro fabric strategically placed for more durability on the arms and better breathability at the core. The Outdoor Research Archangel also impressed us with its Gore-Tex Pro fabrics. After testing extensively in Pacific Northwest storms and cold inland climates while ice climbing in Montana, we found the Mammut Nordwand Pro provided outstanding weather protection, too. It is an excellent shell for use in cold regions.

hardshell jacket womens - the archangel has pit zips that help dump heat, if needed.
The Archangel has pit zips that help dump heat, if needed.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Mobility and Fit


Hardshell jackets are not generally known for being flexible and supple; that's why we love softshell jackets. Hardshells tend to be stiffer, and they are not always a go-to for ease of movement—they're to keep you dry and alive in bad weather. That said, technology is improving dramatically. Paneling design can significantly improve the mobility of these jackets, and increasingly, stretchy fabrics are emerging that still display impressive waterproof properties. To assess each jacket's mobility, we climbed steep ice, kick turned our way up long skintracks, bootpacked couloirs, scratched up mixed climbs, and hiked in inclement weather, running each jacket through the proverbial wringer.


Most Arc'teryx jackets feel distinctly stiffer; however, the panel designs and gusseted underarms, as well as some raglan sleeve designs, allow these less flexible fabrics to feel surprisingly mobile. We particularly loved the athletic fit and movement in the Arc'teryx Beta AR, which was specifically designed for technical climbing. Arc'teryx has figured out stitching patterns that allow a very natural articulation pattern in their jackets.

hardshell jacket womens - the beta ar has been a mainstay favorite of our testing team for a...
The Beta AR has been a mainstay favorite of our testing team for a variety of activities in a range of climates, with great mobility for dynamic movement.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

The Ortovox Ortler 3L scored high marks in the mobility department, being the only hardshell in this review made with a unique and proprietary waterproof fabric called Dermizax that features four-way stretch and is more breathable than Gore-Tex. This also allows the jacket to feel lightweight when it's on, with no extra material to slow you down. Moreover, with that integrated stretch, we could comfortably climb with the hood up over a helmet without feeling like our movement was restricted.

hardshell jacket womens - the four-way stretch of the ortler is noticeable when keeping the...
The four-way stretch of the Ortler is noticeable when keeping the hood up for long periods of time: You can hardly feel that it's there.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

The Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 is an impressive advance in the use of both breathable and highly malleable fabric in a hardshell. It allows total range of motion and still provides impressive protection from the wettest storms we could find in the Pacific Northwest winter. However, this jacket feels less like a traditional hardshell and more like a stretchy, supple softshell.

hardshell jacket womens - we love the fit of the rab kinetic. it is softer than most...
We love the fit of the Rab Kinetic. It is softer than most hardshells and features a two-way zip.
Credit: Justin Duvenik

Venting and Breathability


It's time for your dawn patrol ski tour with the ladies. There's a classic midwinter inversion, and the temps are frigid when you leave the cars at the trailhead. Light snowfall sets a lovely ambiance. You slowly warm up, picking up the pace as your body adjusts to the early morning workout.


The coffee is kicking in, and there's a glint of sun on the horizon. As you climb up a few hundred feet, you enter warmer air; you've exited the cold sink of air in the valley! Suddenly, you're overheating. You don't want to stop your crew on the climb; you can tell they've all just started to hit their strides. But you also know you don't want to get all sweaty, especially for the ski back down to the cars through that frigid valley air mass. Plus, it's starting to snow even more, so you need to stay dry from the inside and the outside. You may have exceeded the breathability of your hardshell jacket as you entered the warmer, more humid air, but you're not worried — that's what those pit zips are for. You unzip your side vents without skipping a stride, and you're back in lock-step with your best friends. It's so great when things just flow.

When it comes to fabric breathability, we found that 3L Dermizax, a polyester and Merino wool blend fabric, provided the best, with the added bonus of a four-way stretch. Gore-Tex Paclite Plus technology came in a close second place. However, this is only a 2-layer fabric. Gore-Tex Active fabric is close behind Paclite for weight, but it is a 3-layer fabric.

We generally found that the most breathable jackets were also the most versatile, easily switching between skiing, ice climbing, hiking, and even running. We love a simple jacket that breathes without the need for vents, like the Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0. However, you're likely to be working hard in humid environments (if it's raining), and humidity sometimes inhibits the diffusion of water vapor from inside your jacket to the outside. In these cases, pit zips are much more critical for breathability. We looked at the number of vents each jacket had, how big they were, in what direction(s) they zipped/unzipped, and how well they worked in their particular positions.

hardshell jacket womens - the ortler offers pretty exceptional breathability for going uphill...
The Ortler offers pretty exceptional breathability for going uphill, and solid protection for the downhill in drier climates.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

We liked pit zips that opened from either end of the zipper, like on the Patagonia Triolet, the Arc'teryx Beta AR, and the Ortovox Ortler. This design can promote airflow by opening two smaller vent holes at the inner arm and torso or the whole zipper for maximum venting. For even more advanced airflow, the Ortler integrates Dermizax fabric with strategic wool inserts.

We hope this helped you find the best possible hardshell to be your uphill and downhill companion in the mountains!
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Weight


If you're looking for an ultra-durable shell to pack along with you on long, multi-day adventures, it's important that it balances comprehensive weather protection with a low weight penalty. You might sacrifice an ounce or two for extra durability and weather protection; however, technology is increasingly allowing for lighter and lighter fabrics that stand up to the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at you.


The Rab Kinetic Alpine and MicroGravity stole the show with their ultralight builds. We loved them both for skate skiing and for trips with good forecasts where we still wanted a proper shell with us, just in case. The Mountain Equipment Orbital was also another one we reached for when we needed to save weight in the pack.


The most impressive jackets offered a high level of versatility for impressively low weight. We loved the Arc'teryx jackets for their ability to balance mobility and durability in an impressively lightweight package for the full suite of features they offer. This is a category that each consumer must calibrate for their specific uses. The Ortovox Ortler also weighs in at an impressive 12.8 ounces.

hardshell jacket womens - the ortler weighs in at 12.8 ounces, a score for those trying to...
The Ortler weighs in at 12.8 ounces, a score for those trying to save weight.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Features and Design


Sometimes, the little things can make a big difference. When looking at features, we considered many attributes that make a hardshell jacket more versatile, comfortable, and functional. For example, we looked at how big the pull tabs were to adjust hoods and hems. We also looked at the pocket design, their number, depth, and position. Most of the jackets in this review are helmet and harness compatible, but some had specific pocket designs we preferred, like Napoleon chest pockets and internal chest pockets. We scanned each jacket, from hood to hem, to pull out any features that matched or confused the ultimate purpose of the jacket. We awarded simple features on ultralight jackets similar to more extensive and full feature sets on burlier jackets.


The most essential, standout features include, roughly in this order: hood quality, pockets (especially chest), adjustability features, and extras. A hood needs to be big enough to accommodate a helmet but adjustable enough to be comfortable when not wearing one. These are technical hardshell jackets designed to stand up to alpine use, where you will likely be wearing a helmet. We also felt it was essential to have a hood that moved with you when you turned to look side to side or behind you — it's annoying to turn your head and find yourself looking at the inside of your hood instead of your partner climbing up to meet you at the belay.

hardshell jacket womens - the hood of the ortler kept us protected but didn&#039;t impede our...
The hood of the Ortler kept us protected but didn't impede our movement.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Chest pockets are a favorite feature among our reviewers. A decent chest pocket allows ease of access to crucial items like electronics, GPS, or maps, and keeps them dry in a downpour. Two of them side to side? Even better. These dual chest pockets are called Napoleon pockets, like those found on the Patagonia Triolet or Outdoor Research MicroGravity. Internal zippered chest pockets are great but harder to access, so another good alternative is a waterproof zipper on the outside. Another important pocket design aspect is whether you can access the hand pockets when you're wearing a harness, a must for a technical hardshell.

We could get into the accessible Napoleon chest pockets on the OR MicroGravity even when we were otherwise occupied -- and, wearing both a pack and harness. Rock on!
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Adjustability is a significant feature for a weatherproof hardshell jacket. This concept overlaps with the Weather Protection metric but goes a step further: how easy was it to adjust with warm gloves on? And last but not least, we considered how the full set of features matched the best application of each jacket. The Arc'teryx Alpha SV is a protective hardshell with many features, so it matched the utility of the model very well. We also appreciate the Arc'teryx models' superior construction, with elaborate stitching and welded overlays that ensure the shell will last, and their stiffer fabrics hold up much better to friction and abrasion, such as rubbing from backpack straps.

hardshell jacket womens - we took these jackets way into the backcountry of the san juan...
We took these jackets way into the backcountry of the San Juan mountains to make sure they were the real deal.
Credit: Kaylee Walden

Conclusion


It's tough to have it all in a hardshell jacket, and we place high expectations on this versatile layer. It needs to be tough enough to keep out the weather, well-featured enough to accommodate your activity of choice, and breathable enough for you to climb, hike, paddle, ski, etc., at a sustainable pace – all while fitting well and looking good. In this review, we identified several niche models for sport-specific athletes and more generalized shells that will work well for just about every adventure. We hope this review will help you navigate towards the best possible hardshell jacket for you.

Kaylee Walden, Lyra Pierotti & Amber King