Hard Shell Summer Gear Guide

If you don't know by now The Paddle Junkie team is based in Minnesota which means inclement weather almost every day. From 70 and sunny to 55 and rainy in a matter of no time, which means trying to be prepared every time we leave. Being prepared for anything Minnesota can throw at you means carrying a back pack with extra clothing, but not any more. Having a proper shell is a necessity when it comes to doing anything outside and we are here to point you in the right direction. Almost every major brand has a shell and there are a few minute differences between them and knowing which one suites your brand of outdoor activity best makes a world of difference. Different weights, materials and the cornucopia of technologies make choosing the right shell more difficult.

Helly Hansen - Odin Minimalist Jacket - MSRP: $220 - Buy It Now

Helly has been making top of the line outdoor gear for over a century and this is no different. An extremely packable and lightweight jacket, this is perfect for stuffing in a pocket or in the bottom of your pack to pull out in any situation. Built with  Helly Tech Professional, the 2.5 ply fabric is perfect for any outdoor situation. Fully adjustable hood, bottom hem adjustment and elongated cuffs round out the myriad of  technologies stuffed into this small package. Waterproof, breathable and built to layer underneath this jacket is so light you can't afford not to bring it along.

Craghoppers - Oliver Pro Series Jacket - MSRP: $150 - Buy It Now

I have a badass blue and orange Craghoppers Oliver Pro.  It’s designed with stretch fabric, and an AQUADRY membrane to keep me dry.  I’ve used this thing walking down the street to the nearest pub on a rainy day, which is the least this jacket can do for someone.  More importantly, I recently wore it during a downpour of a wonderful rain/sleet mixture in Northern Minnesota.  Not only did it keep me dry, but it helped keep the steady 20MPH winds at bay.  As I strapped my pack to come off the lake, I was wishing this jacket had pockets that were more accessible by my waist (they sit a little high in the structure of the jacket.)  However, that’s when I found out the pockets are perfectly designed to function while you have a pack on your pack stabilized with your waist strap.  It’s mind blowing when you’re getting tired, ready to go in and find warmth, just to realize you don’t need to take your pack off to put your gloves on.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, buy the jacket and use it once with a pack… you’ll get it soon enough.

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Adidas Outdoor - 2-Layer Gore-Tex Wandertag Jacket - MSRP: $199 - Buy It Now

Usually when you think of Adidas you think of basketball or running but they have definitely stepped up their game in the outdoor world. Built to withstand almost any condition, this waterproof and breathable jacket keeps you nice and toasty with the addition of the Gore-Text lining. Zippered side pockets, which double as vents, make a nice addition when you're looking to stuff your hands into something to keep them out of the wind. I prefer my hood up but it has the ability to tuck the hood into the hem of the neck for a little more room. Not sure about you but it doesn't seem to bother me when my hood is flopping around behind me.

Works a lot better with the pocket zipped...
Patagonia - M10 Jacket - MSRP: $399

The lightest H2NO Performance Standard waterproof and breathable 3 layer hard shell Patagonia has ever built, and it shows. One of the favorite pieces in the series this shell is perfect for any weather. This jacket is extremely light yet surprisingly "heavy" at the same time. Built specifically for the rock climbers and mountaineers this jacket can withstand anything you can throw at it. The outer layer repels enough water to not get saturated which keeps the breathable membrane doing it's job. Exceptionally breathable when it gets hot yet able to retain your temperature in the cold rain. This jacket may not pack down to the size of some of the other jackets but a few extra ounces never hurt.

Arc'teryx - Zeta LT Womens Jacket - MSRP: $399 - Buy It Now

This is not your typical rain shell, this can go from the office to the outdoors without missing a beat. This jacket is more fitted than some of the other shells out there but that's one of the features I really enjoy is it's not so loose it looks like you are wearing a crinkly garbage bag. It's form flattering for all women. I would recommend going up a size if you want to use this coat as a layering piece. It's so lightweight it can be worn during any outdoor activity whether you are biking, running or hiking. There is nothing holding you back in this shell. One of the many highlights of this item is it's ability to pack down, while only weighing 10.5 oz. Perfect for any adventures, Midwest or outwest you have planned this summer. It does more than just look nice and pack up easy, it regulates your body temperature and resists the wind through the limited number of seams and PU coating. 

Fjallraven - High Coast Hybrid Womens Jacket - MSRP: $200 - Buy It Now

They say April showers bring May flowers, and I’ve been rocking my Fjallraven Women’s High Coast Hybrid shell through the April showers and will continue to rock it until the snow flies. This shell’s organic cotton make up makes it the perfect shell to keep you dry & comfortable whether it's a cool morning or a rainy afternoon. It keeps you protected from the elements without causing you to overheat, thanks to their installment of excellent ventilation to keep you comfortable through all your adventures. My favorite feature is the larger hood that is provided on this jacket. You throw it on and don't have to worry about it covering half your head. The best part is the hood is always with you but you can choose to rock the hood or fold it up and tuck into the collar of the coat. This lightweight, durable shell is the perfect addition to any outdoor enthusiast's coat closet. Also available in mens.

Mountain Hardwear - Supercharger Shell Jacket - MSRP: $225 - Buy It Now

Mountain Hardwear makes some killer gear, from basic camping to full blown assents they have everything. This isn't your typical lightweight shell, the Supercharger is barely there. The Dry Q® 2.5 layer 15D material makes for an extremely lightweight ( 6.1 oz.) waterproof breathable shell. This is another shell you can't afford to not bring with you. The jacket weighs nothing and can pack down to the size of your hand. Throw this jacket into the bottom of your pack and pull it out at the first signs o inclement weather. Built a little bigger it's a perfect shell to layer with. Pair this with a nice midlayer and your set for almost anything. Fully functioning hood fits a helmet for the more extreme mountain climbers. Built with a fully waterproof zipper your bound to shed water like it's your job.

Bergans of Norway - Eidfjord Jacket - MSRP: $339.00 - Buy It Now

For anyone who has never heard of Bergans of Norway, you are missing out. They have been creating top of the line clothing for over 100 years. The Eidfjord is a little thicker then all the other shells we received but this thing is bomber! The 3-layer Dermizax® with plant-based Ecodear® Polyester makes this jacket waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Laden with enough pockets to access whether you have a day pack or a full blowing hiking pack on. Each pocket doubles as a vent which allows for the shedding of heat in any situation. Velcro cuffs, articulated elbows and larger then normal fit, makes this jacket the ultimate shell. Quite possibly my favorite jacket ever. The price may scare a few people but this is worth every penny.

Adidas - 2-Layer Wandertag Camo - MSRP: $119.00 - Buy It Now

Adidas has an obvious flare for making gear that is as at home on the street as the trail.  Avoiding the “Skittles” colors while still building gear that does the job is refreshing to say the least.  I put this shell to the test on a 3-day camping trip in some of the most inhospitable conditions of the spring.  72 hours of straight rain and temps in the upper 30’s made life miserable for about 100 6th graders and the dozen or so adults along for the ride.  I, on the other hand, was bone dry.  Opting for their private label “Climaproof” material, Adidas delivers an incredibly effective shell at a price you can hardly believe.  Ringing in at only $119, this is clearly one of the best values in the line-up.

Arc’teryx - Zeta LT Jacket Mens - MSRP: $399.00 - Buy It Now

The Zeta LT is the definition of hard shell protection.  Utilizing Gore’s incredibly advanced N40p-X 3L GORE-TEX® fabric with GORE® C-KNIT™ backer technology, you get epic protection without sacrificing breathability or comfort.  One of the most athletic fits of all the jackets we tested makes the Zeta ideal for even the most active of pursuits.  From climbing to hiking, this jacket kept me dry in any conditions and activities we threw at it.  With Arc’teryx, it’s the little details that set it apart; waterproof zippers, zipper garages, articulated elbows, and a ball cap style hood keep even the most torrential rains at bay.  At $399 it isn’t cheap, but you get a jacket that will last for decades.

Outdoor Research - Men's Realm Jacket - MSRP: $279.00 - Buy It Now

Outdoor Research has been a long time favorite of mine. Thoughtful design is what separates them from the pack.  It’s the little things that make their gear great; pocket locations, an internal pocket that serve as a stuff sack and an integrated carabiner loop are all examples of design by people that actually use this stuff.  The 3 layer AscentShell™ fabric has more stretch than most hard shell fabrics while still delivering unbeatable water protection and remaining breathable all at the same time.  Laminated with a 20D polyester lining, the against-the-skin feel is soft so you don’t get that garbage bag feel.  An athletic fit without being too tight and accent piping and zippers make it a shell you can wear on the trail and at the pub and not feel out of place in either case.

Patagonia - Stretch Rainshadow Jacket - MSRP: $229.00

This incredibly light shell now lives in what I call my Bugout Bag, all the basic essentials for any impromptu outdoor adventure that permanently resides in the back of my SUV.  At 10.4 ounces, it’s less than half the weight of many of the shells in this test, and they can all be called light.  Completely water and windproof, it’s all the protection you need.  Patagonia didn’t leave parts out to make it happen either.  Proper pockets, stowable hood, waterproof zippers all around, a drawcord hem and it all packs into the chest pocket with an integrated carabiner loop; the jacket should add up to more weight than it does.  The one drawback to the light weight is the fact that the material feel so thin I fear it may tear. I’ve put it through some pretty vigorous testing, and worn it under a pack for hours in the rain and it still shows no signs of wear at this point.  For only $229, you get protection you can count on in a package that fits in your back pocket.  

Far and away the most lifestyle friendly shell in our line-up, the Abisko Eco-Shell is fast becoming my favorite jacket.  Fjallraven takes their commitment to sustainability and the environment seriously, and their efforts are highlighted in this shell.  The partially recycled polyester Eco-Shell fabric is has a very canvas like feel to it, clearly separating itself from the rest of the jackets in our test.  Through the use of a Fluorocarbon Free Durable Water Repellant treatment, it keeps you dry while having a much more lifestyle look and feel. Two hand pockets and a chest pocket provide ample storage, in traditional locations. Many shells are designed to be worn while your pack is on, which is great when your pack is on.  If you’re at the Brewery, it’s kind of annoying. If you are looking for a shell that is built for the trail but has the looks to be downtown, this is the choice.

Helly Hansen - Odin Enroute Shell - MSRP: $375.00 - Buy It Now

Helly Hansen knows how to deliver epic rain gear.  If you want to know you’re going to stay dry in literally ANY conditions, they’ve been doing it better than anybody for nearly 140 years. Alaskan crab fishermen,arctic sailors, alpinists, and guys like you and me can all benefit from the lessons they’ve learned.  The Odin line of gear simply doesn’t mess around.  This shell feels like it was made for a monsoon.  Utilizing their Helly Tech Professional 3-layer material with their Flow membrane, the Enroute shell is rugged and robust but still breathes as well as any jacket in our test.  I wore it in some of the most foul weather of our spring, 30’s and drizzly for 3 days.  At no point did I ever wish the jacket did more than it could.  Uncompromising and relentlessly rugged, this shell will stand up to anything you throw at it without flinching.

Bergans of Norway - Storen Jacket - MSRP:$ 499.00 - Buy It Now

The Bugatti Veyron of our test, the Storen is a super shell.  Every detail of this jacket has been hyper analyzed and nothing was left out.  The 3-layer Dermizax®NX with 2-way stretch material is simply impressive.  When you’re crawling up a hill with a pack on your back in the pouring rain, you don’t think about your range of motion until something limits it.  The Storen is mind bogglingly stretchy given how protected you are inside.  It has all the bells and whistles you want; hood, waterproof zippers, yadda yadda yadda…  It’s not until you put this jacket on that you truly understand the difference between good and great.  Of all the shells in our test, the Storen is the best balance of feel and performance.  If you want ultimate you need to be ready to pay for it though.  At $499, it should be amazing, and it is.

Helly Hansen - Jr Jotun - MSRP: $100.00 - Buy It Now

Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you have to settle for junk gear.  If you want to keep your kids outside regardless of the weather, investing in a legit shell is only going to make your life better. With all the features and construction of the adult versions of their shells, Helly puts the kiddos in a jacket that most grown ups would be jealous of.  Not their most technical fabric, but the 2-ply Helly Tech material is durable even in the face of a 12-year-old boys relentless beatings.  Do yourself a favor, get your outdoorsy kid this shell.  For only $100, it’ll be some of the best gear dollars you’ve ever spent.

Check out our behind-the-scenes testing video...  Just for fun.

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