Is it time for you to refresh some of the outerwear in your wardrobe? Maybe your current rain jacket has seen better days and you’re wondering if it’s time to upgrade to a hardshell jacket?
Before you buy new Fly Low gear or get a new Howler Brothers Jacket, consider this short guide.
What’s the Difference?
First, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the difference is between hardshells and rain jackets, since they are both waterproof and are both used in wet weather.
Rain jackets are outer garments typically with 2 layers, sometimes 2.5, consisting of a breathable membrane and an outer shell.
Hardshell jackets are typically much more robust, with a longer, larger cut and fit. They often feature 3-layer construction with a breathable membrane between a liner and a rugged outer shell that’s either waterproof or treated with a DWR. Hardshell jackets may also offer insulation.
Packability: Rain Jackets
Rain jackets are usually lighter and much more packable than hardshell jackets, with either 2 or 2.5 layers instead of 3.
This makes them more comfortable for wear in light rain and most warmer conditions, and it also makes them easier to carry, too, especially ultralight rain jackets. Some rain jackets will weigh a pound or less, just a few ounces in some cases. Many hardshell jackets weigh a pound or more and are not as easy to roll up and pack away.
If what you need is just a backup to keep in your trunk or pack for inclement conditions, make it a light rain jacket that you can throw over your other layers when the weather turns.
Hardshell jackets, specifically 3-layer hardshells which have a liner that protects the breathable membrane, are usually more permeable than dedicated rain jackets, and therefore more comfortable.
This comes into focus if you are wearing the jacket next to your skin; better breathability prevents stickiness and that unpleasant clammy feeling.
Overall Protection: Hardshells
Hardshell jackets, with multiple layers of protection, offer the best overall protection against the elements, especially if they are insulated and it is not just raining, but cold.
The outer shells of most hardshell jackets are usually thicker and substantially more durable than most rain jackets, and are treated with a DWR.
Moreover, most hardshell jackets are better for more strenuous, demanding activities because of their generally robust construction when compared to rain jackets.
Cost: Rain Jackets (But It Depends)
Cost varies according to features, materials, ratings, and of course, brand, but in general, lighter rain jackets are going to cost less than their more protective, more durable, and often warmer hardshell counterparts.
Not Sure Which Is for You? Get a Hybrid
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both hardshell jackets and rain jackets. Get the one that suits you best according to your intended use.
But if you can’t make a clear decision, consider a hybrid. Some rain jackets are bulkier and heavier, with 3-layer construction, like many hardshells. Just be aware that every feature has its compromises, and these so-called “hybrids” are usually heavier and less packable than dedicated rain jackets, without offering the full protection of some hardshells.
Time for a New Fly Low or Howler Brothers Jacket?
Ready for a new Fly Low or Howler Brothers Jacket? Visit Campman.com. They carry everything you need for climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, camping, and other outdoor sports, including outerwear from the best brands, and they offer competitive prices and expertise. Contact them if you need recommendations!