Shell Buyer's Guide

Regardless of the season having a quality shell jacket is something you're never sorry you have, and when you don't you're disappointed in yourself . Definitely our favorite piece when it comes to gear, the hard shell's main purpose of course is to keep you dry, but it does so much more.  The term "shell" is not by accident.  These coats provide a barrier between you and the elements.  Wind, sun, rain, each shell on our list battles them all, how well in each category varies, but they each have their time and place.

We are not strangers to quality shells and this years crop continues to impress. You may be thinking, yeah big deal, I can wear a 2 dollar poncho and stay dry. Yes, yes you can, but come on. No one wants to be seen in a poncho and honestly a single use product is quickly becoming taboo.  So it's time to step-up your game and spend the money on a quality piece.

Do you have kids and need to stand outside and watch some sportsball?  Are you going to go camping at all this year?  Is there wind, rain or cold where you live? If you answered yes to any of these questions continue reading and pick out one of these coats.

If you are looking for bomber rain and wind protection in an ultra-light super packable shell, this is it.  Helly has proven time and again they just get it, and in the Odin Minimalist they have compressed all that knowledge into a shell that weighs only 160 grams and packs into it's own chest pocket.  This shell resides in my "bug-out" bag in my trunk and gets more use than any other shell in my closet.  While it is more delicate than some of the shells on this list, it has seen it's fair share of abuse without any significant wear.  

We had one of our younglings test this jacket, and let's just say she is not easy on her gear.  This shell has seen more than most and it lives in the hands of an 11-year old girl.  From Dead and Company tour opener in San Francisco and hikes in the Redwoods to rainy trail days in Minnesota, your shell would be jealous of the places this one has gone.  It's passed every test it's faced, providing protection and comfort well beyond what the price tag would imply.  Available in Men's and Women's in a variety of colors.

If you're looking for that shell that you'll proudly wear around town, but want it to perform off grid with the best of them, this is it.  The Eco-Shell fabric is something you need to feel to understand.  The recyclable polyester material is a much softer and has a less "plastic-y" feel than just about any you'll find.  This jacket just looks good for everyday life, not like you're about to summit Everest, but you probably could if you wanted to. This is my first choice almost every time I look in the closet, whether it's for an afternoon hike in June or over a puffy in January. Available in Men's and Women's versions.

Cotopaxi makes quality gear which doesn't need to break the bank. The Parque jacket is the perfect blend of breath-ability and water resistance. The 12.3 oz nylon jacket with built in stretch and fully taped seams is a great piece. Two massive snap pockets on the front, pit zips and a quality zipper round out the features on this jacket. It works well when the weather gets cool and will for sure keep you dry when the clouds open up. Definitely a solid coat for the money.

Since making the switch to Terrex a few years back, Adidas has been making quality gear for the outdoors. Not just an indoor sports brand anymore they have ventured far from that realm. Durable ripstop and adjustable cuffs keep you dry and a Gore-Tex fabric is the ultimate combo for a lightweight breathable shell. Front zip pockets and a interior chest pocket makes for plenty of storage. Sleeves are on the long side but no complaints on that. Much rather have longer sleeves than too short. All in all this is a quality jacket at an attainable price, anything by Terrex is legit.

Built for the fly angler that isn't afraid of Mother Nature, this jacket laughs in the face of a rainstorm.  One of the most rugged and durable shells we have ever tested, the River Salt is ready to stomp through the brush to get to your secret fishing hole.  This jacket is not ultralight, but rather burly and hefty.  In comparison to many of the Patagonia shell options, this one comes in at more mainstream price-point, especially considering how well built it is.  When staying dry and fending off anything mother nature has in store for you, this jacket leaves nothing to be desired.

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