Comfy, durable, and well-priced for what you get. The hood tightens on the front with these two external pull cords. This is known as the amount of loft, and the more loft a jacket has, the more body heat it traps and the warmer you will be. It was plenty mobile and offered no constrictions as he followed the happy weather uphill into the happy alpine play land on Rogers Pass. The Mirage Parka weighs less than 13 ounces yet packs an impressive 5.
A tiny step down was the Rab Firewall , which also used quiet and stretchy face fabric, was roomy enough to eliminate any constrictions of movement, and fit long and sleek. The hardshell jackets we tested all purport to be waterproof and breathable, so it only makes sense that we examine them for their breathability. While an interested reader can spend days reading about the science of breathability on manufacturers' websites, the sweaty outdoor enthusiast slogging up a mountain might notice that these jackets don't seem very breathable.
In an attempt to accurately test these jackets for breathability, we wore them while riding on a stationary bike in a controlled environment and made notes of the differences we felt from jacket to jacket. While the results of this test could not be considered scientific, we were able to draw a few broad conclusions. First, there is no doubt that these jackets DO breathe, but it is virtually impossible for our testers to definitively state which one breathes the best or the worst.
However , it was apparent to us that jackets that are air permeable performed noticeably better than jackets that used solid state diffusion, such as most Gore-Tex membranes, to breathe. Finally, the most obvious conclusion drawn from the stationary bike test was that to produce the correct atmosphere inside the jacket for breathing to occur, the user is going to feel uncomfortably hot and moist. Due to the laws of physics, a certain amount of heat and moisture must be generated before an efficient transfer of the moisture from the inside to the outside of the jacket will take place.
Our stationary bike test proved what longtime hardshell wearers have long known: So, while breathability is an important characteristic, it is more useful as a backup, meaning if you get wet or sweaty inside your jacket, it's nice that it will work to dry you out.
However, the first option to avoid getting wet and sweaty in the first place is to ventilate. Features that allow one to ventilate include the standard pit zips, as well as mesh lined pockets that can be left open when needing to ventilate, and two-way front zippers that allow you to unzip the front of the jacket from the bottom, which allows for some ventilation while still protecting from the rain.
It seems to us that manufacturers are getting more creative with their use of venting zippers as well. Instead of the typical pit zips which in our opinion may not be in the most ideal place for serious ventilation anyway , the Dynafit Radical uses zippered vents on the back and outside of the shoulders. The Rab Firewall takes this a step further and has zippered vents that run the entire length of the arm, starting just above the wrist. These work very well, although not if it's storming.
Taking it even further, the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker pairs back of the shoulder zippered vents with two gigantic front pockets , mesh lined, that can be opened nearly the full height of the torso, making this the most thoroughly ventilated jacket that we tested. However, the features that a jacket includes and especially how well they function can make the difference between smiling with appreciation every time you wear the jacket or frowning with annoyance every time you have to screw with something that doesn't work.
All the jackets we tested share features like pockets, collars, wrist enclosures, zippers, and drawcords, and so the quality, placement, and how well they function is an important characteristic to consider. We assessed this metric based on the quantity of features because more is always better, right? With its abundance of skiing specific features that also performed just as well as advertised, the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker was the highest scoring jacket.
We also loved the nearly perfect features found on the Patagonia Pluma, although they weren't quite as innovative as those found on the CloudSeeker. Likewise, although not blowing our minds with things we hadn't seen before, the features found on The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX were super reliable and obviously well thought out.
Below is a short description of some pertinent features and how they perform on a hardshell jacket. Pockets come in all shapes and sizes: One thing is for sure; pockets are handy for holding things.
With this in mind, we love pockets that hold stuff in convenient-to-reach places. Our favorites are "Napolean"-style breast pockets that live high on the chest and allow crossover access. We also like interior non-zip stash pockets that store bulky accessories like gloves, a hat, or skins while on the downhill.
We find less use for hip-height hand pockets because they tend to sit underneath a waist belt on a harness or waist strap on a pack. Of the jackets tested, the CloudSeeker had the most pockets, while the lightest jackets tended to have only one chest pocket.
All of the jackets in this review use the same system for wrist enclosures: Velcro or a non-branded alternative. However, they are not all made equal. Some of the Velcro was not very sticky, and some models had Velcro swatches that were too small.
Drawcords are used liberally in all of these jackets to tighten openings around the face and the hemline. The positioning of the pull-tab end of the cord and the quality of the buckles that hold the cord taut make a big difference in performance.
We loved hood drawcords that have the pull tab on the outside of the jacket, rather than the inside, so we didn't have to unzip the jacket to find the tab if we wanted to tighten the hood, we usually wanted the jacket to stay zipped up! Cohaesive buckles, which live inside the fabric of a model and are very easy to release with thick gloves on, were our favorite sort. Quite a few jackets have switched over to this type of buckle, and there are more of them being used than we have found in the past.
Many jackets still use buckles that are very small, making them hard to grip and squeeze to release with gloves. When it's storming, you want your jacket zipped all the way up, and that's when you notice whether the collar is fantastic or not. The good ones ride comfortably high up, just under your nose, but aren't tight and don't restrict movement of your head.
They also feature a soft micro-fleece lining that doesn't chafe. The bad ones do the exact opposite. Then there are the collars that are so rad they make you realize you never paid attention to collars before.
The internal collar that lives inside the hood on the Arc'teryx Beta AR is, without doubt, the most comfortable and protective collar available. Zippers these days are tight — watertight. In our shower testing and use in the field, we didn't encounter a single instance of zippers failing or leaking. We love two-way front zippers, like those found on the Rab Firewall , OR Axiom , Dynafit Radical , and Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker , because they allow easy access to the top of our pants or harness, and also allow for easier venting.
Hardshell jackets are among the most expensive pieces of outdoor clothing one can buy, so it is important that you make the correct choice the first time. With hundreds of options available, that can be tough to do. We have greatly narrowed down the field to assist you, but the first step is for you to decide what you are going to use your hardshell jacket for. After this has been decided, you will be able to understand which factors and grading metrics described in this review are the most important for your particular needs, and can then use this review to narrow down your selection.
Provided you have the clothing to keep you warm and protected, the solitude of winter can be the most rewarding time to spend in the mountains. We hope you enjoy! The Best Men's Hardshell Jackets of Displaying 1 - 5 of 9. Updated February These hardshell jackets are all supremely waterproof and highly breathable, making them the perfect outer layer for winter climbing, backcountry skiing, and adventures where durability is a necessity.
Even before the snow had begun to fly we had purchased 10 brand new hardshell jackets for testing, posting the most up-to-date review by late January. However, we soon learned that Outdoor Research was replacing the award-winning Realm jacket with the freshly released Outdoor Research Interstellar , similar in many ways, but with a few key updates and revisions. After thorough testing, we updated this review in late February to include the Interstellar , which remains our Best Bang for the Buck award winner, and a top choice for aerobic activities.
Read on below to find out more about this and the other award-winning jackets! See all prices 3 found. Updated with four new Cohaesive drawcord buckles. Very affordable for a hardshell.
See all prices 2 found. Perfectly designed to seal you off from the weather. Dakota wearing the Marmot Speed Light while tasting perhaps the most addictive substance on earth -- untracked powder snow, in the Columbia Mountains of BC. For skiing deep powder like we found in the Montana Bowl near Revelstoke on this fine day, you will want a hardshell jacket, and the OR Axiom is an ideal choice.
A solid hardshell will protect you from the precipitation falling from the sky, and from the ground! Perhaps the best attribute of the Summit L5 FuseForm GTC it how completely the hood and collar seal off the face enclosure against all moisture encroachment.
With or without a helmet, we loved hanging out under this perfectly wide a protective hood brim. OK, ok, so we didn't only test these jackets in the backcountry, we also rode a few lifts. But that allowed the Alpha FL to show off its incredibly protective collar and hood, which we happily used to ward off the wind on this frigid day at Revelstoke. Combining lightweight 20D stretch fabric with a Dry. Measuring the weight of the OR Interstellar on our independent scale.
The Interstellar jacket stuffed into its own hand pocket, turned inside out. There is a clip in loop on the upper right corner. While we love how packable this jacket is, it is a loose fit inside the pocket, and could stuff smaller if need be. A look at the fit of all the jackets featured in this year's review.
From left to right: A look at the fit of the sleeves and hem when moving with arms overhead, with a hood on. The size men's medium Pluma fit Dakota ideally he usually wears mediums. It was plenty mobile and offered no constrictions as he followed the happy weather uphill into the happy alpine play land on Rogers Pass. Sizing Your Jacket Over the last few years, the sizing of garments for many companies has changed.
In years past, we could count on ordering a men's size large and having it fit, but now a size large often means a wide fit in the torso. It seems that companies now cater to two different types of people — the slim mountain person who is annoyed by the bagginess of his jacket but probably represents a small market share, and the "average American" who still wants a technical jacket but feels stifled by an athletic fit. For this review, we paid close attention to the companies' sizing charts before placing our orders and were surprised to end up ordering as many mediums as larges.
Luckily for us, we found that designers must read OutdoorGearLab, because, for the most part, our larges weren't excessively baggy, and our mediums had longer sleeves and lower hems. We complained about these problems loudly last year, and while there were a couple of exceptions, it seems we and you!
The stretch material combined with a spacious and non-constricting fit means the Firewall was an optimal choice for activities like ice climbing that require a lot of mobility in an upper-body garment. These giant pockets, found on each side of the chest on the CloudSeeker, also double as huge vents, as you can see the mesh liner inside.
Also visible is the hanging mesh pocket, easily big enough to stuff your skins for a quick transition to the downhill. The Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker is our Top Pick for Backcountry Skiing because it provides awesome coverage from the storm, as we tested in the blowing snow and wind on a ridge in BC, but also has by far the most ventilation options for the uphill.
On a steep, powder covered skin track that goes on for hours, like this one, venting is far more important than breathability, cause you are going to be sweating no matter what! We opened all the vents for this grunt fest, but were still pretty hot and moist inside our Radical jacket.
The Axiom has relatively fewer venting options than most jackets in this review, but makes up for it by using the super-breathable Gore-Tex Active membrane. We put its breathability to the test by breaking trail through fresh snow in the San Juan Mountains, and found that it made an ideal backcountry hardshell. The best design and location for hood draw cords and buckles, shown here on the Patagonia Pluma. The pull cord lives on the outside of the jacket where it is very easy to pull and adjust with the collar zipped up.
The Cohaesive cord lock buckles, highlighted with the grey circle next to the cheek, are optimal due to their low profile and easy release.
A Note About the Color White Jackets come in all different colors, and these change year to year based on fashion. While color is not a feature, per se, it is important to mention concerns we have with jackets that are white. Here is our advice: We have noticed that for the Arc'teryx Alpha FL and Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker are being sold in white options; we have voiced our concerns and asked them to discontinue these colors.
These are technical mountain jackets, designed for use while backcountry skiing and alpine climbing. In the mountains in winter, everything is white: If you are caught in an avalanche or take an injurious fall high on a mountain, your life could depend on your friends and rescue personnel finding you quickly. Wearing bright clothes can greatly stack the deck in your favor; there is a reason that avalanche airbags are bright orange. You may end up digging your own grave by wearing white in the mountains, which is reason enough to consider that bright red, electric blue, or neon yellow color option, even if it isn't your "favorite.
The CloudSeeker has so many pockets! Here is one of the dual internal mesh drop pockets, handy for storing a hat, gloves, snacks, skins, or whatever else you carry with you, but want close at hand, while out in the mountains. Our biggest complaint with this jacket was the seemingly misplaced Velcro tabs on the wrist enclosures.
Although hard to see here, the two pieces of Velcro do not line up, meaning its pretty hard to secure these wrists tightly. The ideal setup for a hem draw cord shown here on the Patagonia Pluma. Recessed Cohaesive cord lock buckles live inside the fabric and are super easy to release with gloves on. The pull tab lives inside the hand pocket, meaning that no loop or tab hangs down below the hem to catch on anything.
The hood tightens on the front with these two external pull cords. Also notice the way the collar is a separate piece of fabric inside the hood.
This was the best collar design in the test, found on the Arc'teryx Beta AR. Wearing a hardshell in the cold wind and intermittent snow, even while breaking trail through a foot of fresh.
Here being teased upward into the alpine on Roger's Pass, BC. Living out powder pillow fantasies on the rocky treed slopes of Roger's Pass was a great way to test the weather protection of these jackets. They did a great job keeping the snow where it belonged, on our faces. Slim fit isn't for everyone. They generally cost the most, look the best Patagonia is a close competitor , and perform well enough for seasoned guides to put them through the wringer on a consistent basis.
With a total weight of The most direct competitor is the Feathered Friends Eos, which has similar specs and quality. An interesting feature on the Cerium LT is the use of down composite mapping: The rest of the jacket is premium down in areas that need maximum heating efficiency: Color selection, and sometimes limited availability. This small company designs and builds down gear for serious outdoorspeople who depend on it, and most of the manufacturing is done in the United States.
Our top down jacket pick from Feathered Friends is the Eos, which packs an impressive 3. The Eos is built for performance and its look and color options aren't quite as appealing for daily wear as the Cerium LT it still looks good but isn't quite as sleek.
And a final consideration is availability: Lightweight and a great feel that is unexpected for the price. REI released its budget Co-op Down Jacket a couple years ago, and it flew off the shelves and was in short supply all winter.
We even wrote a full article about how this is the best cheap down jacket. In addition, this jacket lacks a hem adjustment, which is limiting for dialing in fit. As an added bonus, the Co-op packs down into its left-hand pocket, making it easily stuffable in your backpack or suitcase.
The highest quality build of any down sweater. The Patagonia Down Sweater is the biggest seller on this list and ubiquitous from ski resorts to city streets. Compared to the top two picks above, the Down Sweater is decidedly more casual. The down fill power is a little lower quality, but you get a more sturdy 20Dx30D shell along with less compressibility for backcountry pursuits like backpacking and climbing. It also has a more casual design and fit.
If you need a down jacket for everyday wear and weekend skiing or hiking trips, the Down Sweater is an excellent choice. For the highest levels of performance for the weight, we prefer the Cerium and Eos Incredible warmth for the weight and good feature set.
Ultralight zippers and loose cuffs. Mountain Hardwear led the ultralight charge with the numbers-defying Ghost Whisperer, and it still wows us to this day. You don't have to sacrifice on features either: Some daily usability is lost in making everything so light, but it remains a top choice for minimalist backpackers and climbers.
Shortcomings of the Ghost Whisperer are that the 7Dx10D shell fabric won't stand up well to abuse, and the curious cuff design is somewhat loose around the wrist we appreciate the top-of-hand coverage, but it does allow for more cold air to enter. In addition, the zipper is among the flimsiest of the ultralight jackets we tested and failed to align the teeth on occasion.
These are real sacrifices for casual use, but the Ghost Whisperer is a standard among backcountry enthusiasts looking to shave ounces while staying warm. And for those who want to push the ultralight envelope even further, check out Montbell's Plasma series Super warm, looks good, and a great value.
Lower fill power than many of the premium options. There is a lot to like about the Lightline jacket from Mountain Equipment. First, it has the highest fill weight on this list at Second, it offers excellent protection from the elements with a windproof and water resistant Drilite shell.
Many jackets with a fraction of the down cost quite a bit more. How does the Mountain Equipment Lightline compare to other cold weather jackets on this list? Comfy, durable, and well-priced for what you get. In many ways, the Transcendent is a less expensive version of the Patagonia Down Sweater above. It provides solid warmth with 4. For , Outdoor Research updated the Transcendent with wider baffles, more down the older version had 3. All told, we like the look of the new version, which is more modern and less tired while retaining all the basics that has made the jacket so popular.
Lots of premium down. Heavy for a performance piece and the left-hand zip can take some getting used to. Most importantly, it packs in a ton of down—8. It also has a tough 30D Pertex shell, which has a quality feel and good weather resistance. What are the downsides of the Neutrino Endurance? Second, Americans may have problems with the European-style left-hand zipper, which can take a while to get used to. These issues aside, the Rab is an exceptionally warm and comfortable winter piece.
Large fit and a drop in build quality. As the name implies, this jacket uses premium fill down, which is much more packable and warm for the weight compared to the fill version. The Magma also includes a soft-touch 15D Pertex Quantum shell, adjustable waist hem, and small interior zippered pocket—all features missing on the cheaper REI Co-op model. The Magma impressed us with the high quality down and materials, but falls short in a few key areas.
Performs like a high-end down jacket but with better water resistance. A little heavy; poor cuff design. The Black Diamond Cold Forge breaks from tradition with a hybrid down and synthetic blend, but earns a spot on our list because it delivers what you want in a premium down jacket: The use of synthetics also means the Cold Forge will continue insulating when wet and dry much faster than pure down fill.
At 20 ounces, there are lighter and more packable options that deliver similar levels of warmth. Besides these minor complaints, the Cold Forge is a fantastic down piece, and the unique insulation is a major selling point for those in wet climates. More expensive and no warmer than the cheaper Rab Neutrino Endurance.
You get approximately 8 ounces grams of fill down along with a Pertex Quantum shell for moisture protection. It has some advanced features like a helmet-compatible hood, a two-way main zipper for belaying, and elasticized cuffs that do a good job staying out of your way during physical activity.
But the jacket still looks the part for city wear in the frigid months, making it a nice option for just about any type of winter use. Patagonia also offers a standard Fitz Roy jacket, but we recommend steering clear as it only has 4. Impressive warmth for the weight. Thin 7D shell is too fragile for our tastes. Montbell is at the forefront of lightweight warmth, and you will have a hard time finding down jackets with a better ratio of fill weight to total weight Western Mountaineering and Brooks Range are contenders.
The Mirage Parka weighs less than 13 ounces yet packs an impressive 5. What makes the Mirage Parka undesirable for generalists is the 7D shell, the thinnest on the list. This means that you really have to be careful when wearing the jacket for everything from avoiding snags on protruding twigs to tearing the shell on a climbing harness.
And if you are the careful type who babies their gear, go for it. But there is a sacrifice with this kind of warmth at this low of a weight, and that generally is a shortened lifespan for your jacket. See the Men's Montbell Mirage Parka.
Innovative design and very comfortable feel. Down jackets are known more for warmth than range of motion, but Mountain Hardwear is aiming for a game changer in this regard. The StretchDown line was launched a couple years ago, featuring a flexible polyester shell material with welded seams for comfort that is reminiscent of a synthetic layer.
In our testing, however, it became clear that the jacket is not a backcountry piece. Despite good looks and comfort, we found that the StretchDown falls short of the options above in terms of warmth to weight and packability. Where the StretchDown excels is as an everyday jacket. The knit shell fabric is very tough, and the clean styling wears well around the city even the logo is very understated.
Stylish design and burly shell fabric. Low quality down and expensive. As mentioned above, the Ovik Lite has a decidedly casual build that limits its appeal for backcountry use. Waterproof and very warm. Heavier and bulkier than a typical down jacket, which makes it less versatile.
It features premium fill down, a fully waterproof 2-layer shell a rarity in the down jacket world , and nice touches like pit zips and a two-way front zipper to regulate heat. As with the Magma above, REI does not provide the fill weight here, but the Stormhenge is one of the warmest options on this list. As a result, it lacks in versatility for uses like backpacking or climbing, but the waterproofing and warm build make it viable for everything from cold winter walks to downhill skiing.
High-end look and feel. For commuting, urban use, and après-ski, the Lodge Jacket is a very attractive option. See the Men's Canada Goose Lodge. Can feel drafty in cold conditions and the fit is a bit trim. At less than 7 ounces total, the SL is an ultralight jacket for fair-weather spring, summer, and fall backpacking trips, as well as a midlayer for winter sports.
We recently took the new hoody version on a trekking and bikepacking adventure through Mongolia and came impressed with its packability and build quality. Keep in mind that the Cerium SL does have its limitations. Given the meager 1. A casual piece from Marmot at a reasonable price point. Low fill power and sheds feathers. Marmot is known for outerwear, and rain jackets in particular. With fill down, it does have one of the lowest fill powers on this list competitors like the REI Co-op Down Jacket and Outdoor Research Transcendent use fill down.
Aside from price, the Marmot Tullus is pretty bare bones. But if you can find it on sale, the Tullus is one of the cheaper down jackets available from a top brand. Down Sweaters The down sweater is the most casual category of down jacket.
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