A hardshell rain jacket provides protection from freezing wind and rain, locking in warmth when the weather turns ugly.
Three- or 2.5-layer
Three-layer jackets have a waterproof membrane sandwiched between a durable face fabric and a lining. They tend to be more expensive, heavier and bulkier. They are also more durable, waterproof and breathable. Jackets with two or 2.5-layers include a face fabric and a waterproof membrane with a protective sheen or print overlay. These jackets are likely to be lighter and more packable. Many fabrics and components used in a jacket’s construction are now recycled.
There will be multiple exterior and interior pockets. The ‘hand warmer’ pockets, used to shelter hands from wind and rain, should be positioned so they can be accessed while wearing a pack or harness. They are usually quite large and it’s useful if one of the pockets can hold a map. A chest pocket with a vertical opening can also provide unhindered access to map, compass or GPS.
The cuff can be tightened to trap warmth and to prevent water trickling in when arms are raised. Ensure the cuff covers your baselayers to prevent rainwater wicking upward.
While all rainwear is ‘breathable’ and will transfer perspiration through the fabric, other ventilation options are used to keep users cool. The most obvious is the front zipper, but there may also be pit zips (underarm openings), side vents and mesh-lined pockets.
Waterproofness, breathability and air permeability
Wet weather jackets are tested for waterproofness and breathability. The results are usually displayed on the product’s sales tag. Air permeability refers to super-breathable garments that allow air to actually move through the fabric. Water-resistance: This is the amount of water pressure (in millimetres) a fabric can withstand before leakage occurs. It’s called the waterhead or hydrostatic head rating. The most common is 20,000mm. Breathability: The amount of water vapour (in grams) that can pass through a square metre of fabric during a 24-hour period. e.g. 20,000g/m2. Air permeability: Only found on recent-model jackets that use fabric constructed in a technique known as nanospinning. These garments are breathable and waterproof.
Many hoods are large enough to accommodate a helmet, which is why they also come with volume adjusting drawcords or Velcro tabs. Ensure the stiffened brim does not limit visibility and that once tightened, the hood moves with your head.
Water-resistant zips are common. Zips may also be protected by an external and/or internal storm flap. Zip sliders tuck into a ‘garage’ to prevent rain from entering through the top of the zip.
Long thigh-length designs are heavier and less packable than waist-length jackets, but they provide better protection and a ‘tail’ to sit on. Waist-length jackets may add stretchy fabrics in key areas to prevent the hem from lifting.
Rab Kangri GTX $899.95
This is a robust mountain hiking shell made with a 70D three-layer Gore-Tex fabric with recycled outer fabric and a waterhead rating of 28,000mm. It features two-way pit zips, an elasticated hem and drawcord waist, YKK zippered hand pockets, a centre zip with stormflap, and an adjustable hood with wired and laminated peak. 524g (m), 468g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Marmot Men’s Mitre Peak $699
A jack-of-all-trades jacket using Gore-Tex Active 3-layer fabric with ripstop nylon across the shoulders and hood for extra durability. Features include heat-releasing pit zips, 100% seam taping, attached helmet-compatible hood, pack pockets with water-resistant zippers, two-way water-resistant front zipper and a drawcord hem. 350g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Montane Phase XT $660
This is a climbing and mountaineering jacket with a hydrostatic head of 28,000mm. It has a helmet-compatible hood with ‘quick release’ adjustment and stiffened peak. There are YKK Aquaguard zips throughout, a full-length two-way front zip with storm flap, two zippered map-sized hand pockets, pit zips, adjustable hem and articulated arms. 500g (m), 440g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Earth Sea Sky Hydrophobia $649
This three-layer jacket has extra ‘keep your shorts dry’ length and an oversized adjustable hood with wired peak. It has five pockets, is fully seam sealed, has a waist drawcord, a double storm flap and is gusseted for easy movement. Made in NZ. 750g. www.eathseasky.co.nz
The North Face Dryzzle FutureLight $500
This is a three-layer jacket using air permeable FutureLight fabric, which has a nanospun construction technique. The jacket is seam-sealed and has three zip-secure pockets, an adjustable hood, reverse-coil, full-length front zip, hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs and an internal stow bag. 433g (m), 387g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot Minimalist Pro $499
This jacket uses Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric which is light, durable, and packs down small. It features heat-dumping pit zips, 100% seam taping, large pack pockets under the welt for extra weather protection, adjustable hood, water-resistant zipper and drawcord hem. 380g (m), 343g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Rab Arc Eco $469.95
A jacket for the environmentally conscious made from 100% recycled three-layer Pertex Shield Revolve fabric. It has a 20,000mm waterhead rating, adjustable hood with wired and laminated peak, fleece lined chin guard, YKK AquaGuard zips on the chest pocket, pit zips and main zipper, and a drawcord hem. 428g (m), 375g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Kathmandu Amphi $399.98
This two-layer jacket has a partially bio-based membrane that incorporates plant-based renewable materials, and the main ngx 2 fabric is bluesign-approved. It is fully seam sealed, has a storm flap with chin guard, YKK Aquaguard zip, adjustable hood and cuffs, hand pockets and an inside chest pocket. 520g (m), 500g (w). www.kathmandu.co.nz
Montane Spirit $370
This is a fully seam-taped jacket using 78D Gore-Tex Paclite fabric with a hydrostatic head rating of 28,000mm. It has a fully adjustable hood with stiffened peak, YKK Aquaguard zips throughout, a full-length two-way front zip with internal storm flap, adjustable hem and two zippered map-sized hand pockets. 365g (m), 320g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Outdoor Research Helium $299.99
A packable and ultralight 2.5-layer jacket with greater tear resistance than previous Helium models due to its Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric. It features an adjustable hood, YKK AquaGuard zips, zip chest pocket (which the jacket stuffs into) and elastic drawcord hem and cuffs. 179g (m), 159g (w). www.bivouac.co.nz
Marmot PreCip Eco Pro $299
This newest PreCip jacket has a PFC-free DWR coating and Marmot MemBrain 20k/20k lamination rated to 20,000mm. It’s 100% seam taped, has pit zips, attached adjustable hood, large pack pockets under the welt for extra weather protection and a storm-flap-protected front zipper. 407g (m), 370g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell $269.99
A jacket for the worst downpours using BD.dry, a waterproof, breathable, windproof and durable high-stretch fabric with a DWR finish. It features DWR-sealed pit zip vents, two zippered hand pockets, a waterproof centre front zipper, underarm gussets and an adjustable helmet-compatible hood. It packs into its pocket. 282g (m), 270g (w). www.southernapproach.co.nz
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L $249.99
This is a three-layer jacket using durable, recycled H2No Performance Standard face fabric for waterproof/breathable and long-lasting performance. It is fully PFC-free, Fair Trade Certified sewn and features an adjustable hood, microfleece-lined neck, centre front zip with external storm flap, handwarmer pockets and venting pit zips. 394g (m), 354g (w). www.patagonia.co.nz
The North Face Women’s Antora $220
A waterproof, breathable and windproof two-layer shell made with DryVent 100% recycled fabrics. Features include secure-zip pockets, adjustable cord lock hood, storm flap with a hook-and-loop closure covering the front zip, drop-tail hem with drawcord adjustability, and elastic-bound cuffs. 346g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket $199.95
The Precip Eco has been a Marmot staple for 20 years and is made from PFC-free Marmot NanoPro recycled nylon fabric with a long-lasting microporous coating. It has a stowable hood, adjustable hem, pit zips for ventilation, and stuffs into its own pocket. 305g (m), 255g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Pants $199.99
Using BD.dry, a durable and high-stretch waterproof, breathable and windproof fabric with DWR finish for reliable storm protection. Features include a gusseted seat, articulated knees, 1/3-length zippers on each leg and snap-adjust hems. An elastic waist with internal drawcord provides a customised fit. Pants pack into the rear pocket. 217g (m), 215g (w). www.southernapproach.co.nz