Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pick of the Pack: Hard Shells

The Goal of a Hard Shell? Keep the Outdoors, Out. Designed to be layered over warmer insulating layers like down and fleece the hard shell should shed rain, wind, and snow like a champ while staying light and small and breathable. The most versitile jacket in the pack, the Patagonia Rain Shadow, got my pick for its economy and utility. There are many jackets to fit many needs, and many budgets though.

Hard Shells 1

  1. Cloudveil RPK $320 Designed to be equally at home on the lift, the commute, the trail, and on an ascent.
  2. The North Face Serac $399 Flexiable, Breathable, Light, Invincible, It's everything you're looking for and costs a small fortune as well.
  3. Outdoor Research Paladin $250 Designed to be packable, breathable, lightweight, and durable through season after season of abuse. It's missing nothing, except maybe pockets. The Paladin nearly had my pick but my previous experience with Pertex left me feeling it didn't hold up to sustained epic downpours like eVent and Gore-Tex.

Hard Shells 2

  1. Rab Momentum $289 Top flight weatherproofing, well placed and design utility pockets, a comfortable hood, and flexible design, all under a pound. Many jackets claim to do it all. The Momentum does it.
  2. Triple Aught Spectre $399 Is there such a thing as too many pockets? I'm not sure but with seven (including one double entry pocket in the back) the Spectre is designed to push the limits with its military-inspired design. Even the steep $399 price point seems at home in a military budget.
  3. Arc'Teryx Beta AR $450 There are hard shells, and then there are Arc'Teryx hard shells. The Beta AR is the king of hard shells and at $450 it costs almost as much as my car (yes, I paid $500 for my car, it sucks) perfectly designed for the backcountry adventurer (who also has lots of money).

Hard Shells 3

  1. Patagonia Rain Shadow $179 (MY PICK) At an entry level price the Rain Shadow packs a strong punch for its class. Its both light and small enough to jam into the bottom of a pack on any hike and durable enough for alpine climbing. A perfect match for the outdoor enthusiast looking to take on bigger bolder terrain.
  2. Cloudveil Koven $300 The Koven is a solid value buy for a fully featured alpinist shell. Some breathability concerns but otherwise fully featured and slick looking shell should get you by in any environment. The Women's design looks especially nice.
  3. Marmot PreCip $99 When a sudden spring storm rolls in you'll be glad you packed the Precip which stuffs down to nothing. Its superior breathability makes it ideal for warmer climates. There is a reason why the PreCip is one of the most popular jackets on the market.

Photo Credits: OR Paladin (Backpacking Light), Rab Momentum (, Triple Aught Spectre (, Patagonia Rain Shadow (, Cloudveil RPK (, Marmot Precip (, TNF Serac (Jonathan Griffith,,

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