Hardshell – Types & Choices

In hardshells, we distinguish between 2-, 2,5- and 3-layer membrane types. The three-layer material is a laminate formed by the outer layer (strong, durable, water-resistant (with DWR waterproof), the membrane (breathable wan waterproof) and a softer lining on the inside (comfort). These are very strong products that you can be used in situations where a lot is required of the gear. For example in mountaineering where you’re dealing with luggage and climbing harness and rocks. Or if you want to walk through scrub and forest paths where sharp overhanging branches can damage your jacket.

A three-layer hardshell generally will carry some weight and will feel strong and robust. There are new 3-layer products (for example by Berghaus) coming onto the market that offers extreme lightweight solutions while being durable. Those would be for activities such as mountain biking and trail running.

If you don’t need the really heavy duty stuff (which is more expensive as well) and you mainly need a waterproof jacket for everyday use or while hiking, a 2-layer jacket often suffices. These are jackets in which the outer fabric and membrane from the first layer, and there is often a net-like structure- or silky taft lining hanging loose (not laminated) in the jacket in order to protect the membrane from damage from the inside.

A 2.5-layer jacket will have a very thin extra protective layer on the inside of the membrane (in Gore-Tex Paclite this is a carbon layer), or a protection, for example, in the form of a wafer-shaped grid. These products are light, have a small pack volume, making them ideal to take with you when you go on the road.

The strength of a jacket is determined by the quality of the outer fabric layer: nylon (or polyamide) is more wear-and-tear-resistant than polyester. And then there is also ripstop construction: in this case, the substance is divided into small squares by pressing interval basis (usually 5 to 8 mm) to weave in a firmer, thicker fiber. The chance that a small damage will result in a large square is reduced. Ripstop has been developed in WWII for the manufacture of parachutes. This technique is also used for the purpose of hot-air balloons.

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