Hard luck finding the best women’s hardshell? We’ve got you covered. We researched the industry’s top 40+ models before testing the best 9 in a rigorous head-to-head assessment. These jackets saw a full range of use, from ice climbing to winter trail runs to just about every type of skiing out there — resort, backcountry, cross-country, and ski mountaineering. We take testing seriously, so we hiked in rain and snowstorms to assess each jacket’s weather protection. We also climbed and skied to feel which models move effortlessly with our bodies, allowing us to pull technical ice moves and cut steep kick turns. Then we picked up the pace to figure out which ones breathe the best during aerobic activity. This comprehensive review breaks down the pros and cons of each model to help you find the perfect hard shell jacket.
Best Overall Women’s Hardshell Jacket Norrona Trollveggen Gore-Tex Light Pro – Women’s
The Norrona Trollveggen is an outstanding all-around hardshell jacket. We really liked how easy it was to layer this over warmer layers, allowing us to climb in comfort even in the coldest conditions; yet the shape and fit were still slender enough to keep the jacket out of our way when making technical climbing moves. This was a surprisingly light jacket for the versatility. We could stretch this jacket into extended alpine adventures, and still, appreciate it on shorter missions in milder climates. This jacket is an excellent investment for all around alpine climbing.
Best Bang for the Buck Outdoor Research Clairvoyant
The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant is an impressively comfortable 3-layer Gore-Tex shell jacket. It is the lightest of all 3-layer jackets in this review, beat just barely by a 2-layer shell jacket. This is made of the lightest and most breathable 3-layer shell material, so it offers outstanding storm protection at a stunning low weight. We liked the soft hand of this jacket, and found it to be highly versatile: breathable enough for aerobic pursuits, but burly enough for winter storms. This jacket feels like a sweatshirt and protects like the burly hard shell that it is. Some of the features could be improved, but overall it is an excellent value for a great all-around shell jacket.
Top Pick for Versatility Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket – Women’s
The Arc’teryx Beta AR is the most versatile jacket in this review. It features variable fabric durabilities to save weight in the torso without losing durability where it counts: in the arms. There are some features that make this a great shell jacket, even if there is no precipitation. The high collar inside the hood ensures that you remain well protected from wind even if you’re not wearing the hood. This was an interesting and novel feature that worked well, though felt odd at first. We loved the articulation and climbing comfort of this jacket. As with most products from Arc’terx, it comes with a high price point. One might argue, however, that it is worth its weight in gold.
Top Pick for Ultralight Design Arc’teryx Beta SL – Women’s
Arc’teryx is known to be an industry leader in outerwear. It is also known to be priced as such. With the Beta SL, Arc’teryx offers consumers a much more affordable hard shell jacket, with the same high quality we expect. This is a hardshell that breathes better than most and moves more fluidly than some of the thicker, burlier shells. This became our go-to piece for ski tours in the Pacific Northwet (no, not a typo) as well as ice climbs in Montana. It provides stellar weather protection while allowing freedom of movement for those more technical ascents. For a jacket that weighs under 10 ounces, we could even stuff it in our pack and forget it was there—until the sky cracked open or the snow started blowing. In a gear category that’s far from inexpensive, the Beta SL is a knock-out budget option.