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How We Tested Hardshell Jackets

By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday
This year marks the sixth straight year that OutdoorGearLab has tested hardshell jackets. The information found in this review is not one season's worth of testing, but rather a culmination of all of the testing and knowledge that we have gained over years. We have now tested over 70 different jackets, and have been on top of all the changes in design and materials that have taken place. 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 decade.

Despite the early season shallowness  the powder was still really good! Here testing the Triolet jacket on a long mountain tour.
Despite the early season shallowness, the powder was still really good! Here testing the Triolet jacket on a long mountain tour.

While many people have now contributed to the knowledge that informs what we have written here, this season was the third in a row that Andy Wellman was the head tester. He was responsible for disseminating products to volunteer testers, testing the products himself, and in the end, collecting the opinions of all the people who had worn and used these jackets, 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, while noticing changes in 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 available.

George Foster testing hardshell jackets in the Ouray Ice Park.
George Foster testing hardshell jackets in the Ouray Ice Park.

This year, we tested 11 new jackets through the heart of winter in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Each jacket was used on many days, by many people, while 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. We also used these jackets to climb ice near Eureka and Silverton. Our 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 did almost everything necessary in our daily lives while wearing these jackets, including work, shoveling out cars and sidewalks, and cruising around town.

Fresh powder tracks down huge alpine runs  this is why we ski!
Fresh powder tracks down huge alpine runs, this is why we ski!

To make sure that we had the best understanding of what models were the most weather protective and 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 venting, we skinned mountains while wearing these hardshells, discovering along the way whether the location and function of zippers and other venting options allowed us to keep cool and dry.

You can read more about these individual tests in our Hardshell Jackets for Men review. While the head-to-head tests helped add to the 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 using them for their intended purposes: outdoor adventuring in the mountains in winter.

Tyler George drops into the wind-blown entrance to a couloir on Red Mountain Pass  chased by Galena the pup. Multiple people confirmed that they loved skiing in the Axiom  our Best Buy Award winner.
Tyler George drops into the wind-blown entrance to a couloir on Red Mountain Pass, chased by Galena the pup. Multiple people confirmed that they loved skiing in the Axiom, our Best Buy Award winner.


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