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What is a shell jacket?

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All-weather jacket, rain jacket, hiking jacket. What we call them is as varied as the jackets themselves. Here at Bergans, we call them hardshell jackets, but what are they actually? And what's the difference between 2- and 3-layer?

A hardshell jacket is a jacket whose main function is to provide a protective hardshell against the weather and the wind. It’s waterproof, but it also wicks moisture away from your body. We often say that jackets “breathe”, making your skin less clammy and sweaty when you’ve been active.

Hardshell jackets breathe because they have a membrane that is laminated onto the back of the outer fabric. There are many different membranes available on the market; at Bergans, we use various types of Dermizax and Element membranes, which are what are known as hydrophilic materials. In simple terms, these work by not letting water molecules in, but allowing air molecules out.

2- or 3-layer?

Many people are confused about the difference between a 2-layer and a 3-layer hardshell jacket, and that’s not really surprising. When we talk about 2-layer and 3-layer, we’re really talking about how many layers are laminated together and collectively make up the jacket fabric. A 3-layer hardshell jacket, or a pair of pants for that matter, consists of three layers. Outer fabric, membrane and inner fabric, which protects the membrane. These fabrics are laminated together to create what appears to be ONE fabric.

In a 2-layer hardshell jacket, the membrane and outer fabric are laminated together to form one material. The difference is that the protective mesh fabric is not laminated to the outer fabric or membrane. It hangs loose on the inside, which means that it appears to be TWO different fabrics. A 2-layer hardshell garment will therefore feel thicker than a 3-layer one, and this is the reason why many people misunderstand the difference.

Deciding between a 2- or 3-layer garment is just a matter of taste. Some people prefer 3-layer garments because they feel more pleasant and lighter on the body, while others prefer 2-layer because they feel a little more snug. Our tip is quite simply to try both and see which one you prefer.

Good luck finding the right jacket for you!

See our selection of shell jackets

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