Hardshell - Much more than just rain protection
Hardshell garments, like hardshell jackets and waterproof trousers have become a matter of course for outdoor and sportswear. They provide excellent weather protection and a comfortable body temperature. Premium quality waterproof membranes make sure that all water vapor generated with physical exertion is transported away from the body towards the surface, while no moisture can reach the skin from the outside. That will allow you to do strenuous activities in the mountains no matter the weather.
Various manufacturers produce a variety of membranes that are processed into hardshell. The development of new hardshell materials continues on in leaps and bounds, with ongoing improvements in the breathability and resilience of the membranes.
GORE-TEX membranes - leading the way since 1978
GORE-TEX have been manufacturing waterproof and breathable materials since 1978. The majority of waterproof jackets, trousers, shoes, gloves, and more are made of GORE TEX materials and bear the quality label of this specialist manufacturer. GORE TEX is, however, only the membrane supplier. Leading manufacturers of outdoor clothing, like Mammut, The North Face, Berghaus, and Arc'teryx use the membranes in their garment manufacture.
GORE TEX products are synonymous for a very long service life, reliable weather protection, and excellent wear comfort. True to their motto "GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY", GORE-TEX focuses mainly on the manufacture of the following fabric materials:
- GORE-TEX HARDSHELL: Aka GORE-TEX PERFORMANCE SHELL; these materials are used for hardshell garments with a particularly broad range of applications. These are the all-rounders among GORE-TEX products, and are perfectly suited for a rainy day out shopping or a rigorous hike.
- GORE-TEX PRO HARDSHELL: Hardshell jackets and hardshell trousers made of GORE-TEX PRO SHELL are right at home in harsh mountain conditions. They are particularly robust and hard-wearing despite frequent contact with sheer rock or the constant friction of a backpack. Despite their hardy exterior, PRO SHELL hardshell garments are very breathable and superbly waterproof.
- GORE-TEX ACTIVE HARDSHELL: GORE-TEX ACTIVE SHELL is just what you want for fast-track sports, like trail running or speed hiking. The material is extremely light-weight and breathable. It offers superior "next to skin" wear comfort. The low weight and tiny pack dimensions of GORE-TEX ACTIVE SHELL garments make them the perfect choice for a backup change of clothes, leaving plenty of space in your backpack for other essentials.
Sympatex, Dermizax, and Polartec Neo Shell hardshells
Aside from GORE-TEX, other manufacturers have started producing high-quality membranes for hardshell garments as well. Sympatex, Dermizax, and Polartec Neo Shell hardshells are some of the most widely known. All materials offer different advantages and drawbacks. Sympatex, for example, is recyclable and is therefore the material of choice for many manufacturers focusing on resource-friendly production processes (e.g. Vaude).
Polartec Neo Shell is extremely breathable, hard-wearing, and elastic. The material is much like the "missing link" between hardshell and softshell, and is therefore used in the manufacture of both garment types.
Most of the really big names in outdoorwear have long since developed their own materials, which they use for their hardshell garment production. The North Face therefore use HyVent in lots of their products, as it is very hard-wearing and virtually noise-free. Marmot use a variety of types of their proprietary MemBrain product, while Mammut uses products developed in-house under the name DRYtech.
All of these materials offer a number of advantages and drawbacks. As these membranes are all developed in-house, the garments produced offer an excellent price-performance ratio.
Not every hardshell is the same
Choosing the right waterproof material has almost become a science, as there are so many to choose from out there. Another important aspect is of course how and in what quality the manufacturer uses them. In this case, a lamination process fuses the inner and outer material. The life expectancy of hardshell garments is furthermore directly linked to its intrinsic properties. That is why it is difficult to make general statements regarding durability, rustle behavior or breathability for each of the many membrane types.
Our customer service team is continuously staying abreast of latest hardshell developments, and will be more than happy to help you find the right product for your requirements.
Various areas of use for hardshell
The term "hardshell" is often thought of a synonymous for waterproof jackets or rain jackets. That assumption is, however, only somewhat justified. Hardshell actually describes a rigid outer material without any or only a minimum of elasticity, which is also completely water-tight and windproof. Beyond that, hardshell is also a highly functional material with excellent properties suited for outdoors, including breathability - in other words: much more than just a rain jacket.
The hardshell category also includes waterproof trousers and gloves. Anyone, who wants reliable weather protection will have to get a hardshell product.