There’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad gear. And in the age of industrial manufacturing and waterproof fabrics, there’s no good excuse for bad gear. Modern hardshell jackets are designed to provide a first layer of defense between you and the elements, whether “the elements” are an alpine whiteout or an afternoon thunderstorm. They’re the crown jewel of any outdoor kit: they’ll keep you warm, they’ll keep you dry, and most of them weigh less than a pair of blue jeans.
This one’s for the weight weenies, the folks who trim their toothbrushes and pack one pair of underwear on a weeklong adventure. Patagonia’s M10 jacket packs three layers of the company’s proprietary H2No fabric into just 8.1 ounces (about twice the weight of your phone). The jacket’s waistband, cuffs and hood are adjustable enough to accommodate myriad layering systems, and the jacket is waterproof and durable enough to handle anything you or mother nature throw at it.
Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Jacket
Helly Hansen gear is for serious users. Before products like the Odin Mountain Jacket hit the shelves, they’re tested by Vail Resort ski patrollers and Mountain Madness guides. The Odin jacket is built from three-ply waterproof material and equipped with a detachable soft-shell snow skirt, waterproof pockets and a helmet-compatible hood that can be adjusted with one hand.
Mountain Hardwear Quasar
Pullover jackets aren’t the norm. Most hardshells feature a full-length zipper, which allows for more ventilation and makes them easier to put on or take off. But the Quasar is cut from Mountain Hardwear’s Dry Q, a proprietary fabric famous for its breathability; at 9.2 ounces, the Quasar is designed to be worn and forgotten about, not fiddled with. While it doesn’t have a helmet-compatible hood and won’t hold up against ice axes, it’s hard to beat for alpine ski ascents or cross-country touring.
The folks at at Rab know ice climbers. The company designs gear almost exclusively for use on water and alpine ice, and the Latok is their premiere shell. Everything about it — from the reinforced waterproof zippers to the snug, flexible fit — is designed for swinging picks into the blue stuff. The Latok’s chest-level “Napoleon” pockets can be reached with a climbing harness on. It’s not light (about 26 ounces), but when you’re dealing with sharp ice tools and falling ice, it’s better to bring the durable goods.
La Sportiva Storm Fighter GTX
Skiers are simple creatures: we want to go downhill fast, no matter what the weather looks like. The Storm Fighter GTX is a fittingly simple creation. With just one chest pocket, the bombproof 11-ounce jacket doesn’t have room for much gear, but it will keep you warm and dry in just about anything.