Where We Test
After careful product research, we chose a selection of this season's top women's hardshell jackets. Over several months, we put them to the test in the rugged Pacific Northwest coastal mountain ranges and the frigid ranges of Montana. Hiking, ice climbing, running, ski mountaineering, and jaunts around town were just a few of the activities we wore these jackets through. On any active day out, we would load up our packs with all jackets or hand them out to our friends to see how each performs comparatively. After months of testing in the most rugged environments we could find, we feel pretty confident that you'll find a jacket to suit your needs in this review—and if not, we hope you leave with a few good thoughts as you continue your search.
We simply wear each jacket out when the rain starts to pour, snow starts to fall, and the wind starts to blow. When we can't find water, we step into the shower to compare the protection of each fabric. In the Pacific Northwest, we have the blessing of a constant firehose of moisture in the winter, which proved adequate for our waterproof tests. We brought the jackets to the tops of mountains and on ice climbing trips to see how mobile they were and whether or not the wind cut through them. We also note important protective features that we prefer such as well designed hood and or a long torso.
We note which jackets move with the body and which feel stiff and uncomfortable. To test this, we head out on alpine missions, slamming ice axes into waterfalls, traversing glaciated slopes, and climbing rock in questionable conditions. We also compare fabric stretch and overall jacket design.
Breathability & Venting
We take each jacket running on cool fall and winter mornings, on strenuous hikes, and approaches for ice climbs to see which we can leave on, and which we feel the need to rip off after sweating for just a moment. We also note if a jacket has pit zips or other features that allow effective moisture escape.
We take the time to weight each jacket with our at-home scale. We also note which ones are more packable.
We enumerate the features of each jacket and note some of our favorites like big pull tabs that are compatible with gloves and pocket number and design. We also use each and report back on how functional they are in a number of scenarios.
While our testing periods are short, we truly put each through the wringer. We scrape them on rocks while shimmying through rock slots on alpine climbs. We where they while bushwhacking. We wash them several times. After our three month testing period (sometimes we test for many years….) we note any issues with durability and also report on any issues we may not have experienced by researching other online reviews.
Based on the culmination of performance features, we comment on how versatile a jacket can be. Can it only be used for one purpose? Or several?