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Jacket Reviews

No Rainshell Can Do Everything—But This One Comes Close

There are always tradeoffs when you're picking a hardshell—but the Fjällräven High Coast Hydratic Jacket masters more conditions than most.

Brand: Fjällräven Gear Review

Model: Fjällräven High Coast Hydratic Jacket

This review comes courtesy of reader and Outside+ member Jim Pierce. Members get to read all of Backpacker’s full-length reviews, profiles, survival stories, trail guides, and more—and yes, sometimes they help us test gear. Sign up for Outside+ today.

There’s no such thing as the perfect rainshell. Souped-up protection usually means increased weight and decreased breathability; high breathability begets high prices. Perfection, insofar as it’s possible, is directly related to conditions and the nature of your trip. Rather than assemble a quiver of shells for every type of weather, I sought a reasonable do-it-all shell at a relatively friendly price.

The High Coast Hydratic excels at exactly what a hardshell is supposed to do: It keeps you dry. On hikes near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I pushed through rain, sleet, and snow—sometimes in the same day—and the shell proved impermeable to the elements. Its seams are well-sealed, and neither precip nor wind ever snuck through. This shell is also tough: Its 70-denier recycled nylon fabric with a PU coating never ripped when I shouldered through bramble patches. As it weighs just over 11 ounces and packs down to the size of a cantaloupe, that’s saying something.

The High Coast Hydratic plays well in multiple seasons. It has an athletic cut, so there’s no excess material flapping around, but I was able to wear a baselayer and a vest under it on cold days. I appreciated the adjustable hood’s rear cinch, which was easy to operate with gloved hands, and the pockets, which can swallow said gloved hands when you want to get them out of the elements (the pockets sit above a hipbelt).

So, where does this shell falter? Breathability. The High Coast Hydratic has 2.5-layer construction, in which the PU covering on the exterior provides the waterproofing. This design is less breathable than a traditional membrane (which allows sweat vapor to escape via tiny pores, in addition to sealing water out), and on a steep hike near my house—I gained 1,900 feet in 2 miles—I found that my perspiration condensed on the inside of the jacket, even with temps below freezing. Sure, I was hiking hard, but I would have preferred to stay a bit more dry on the inside even as the shell kept precip out. The shell does have pit zips, but they didn’t help much.

Still, I’d rate the High Coast Hydratic as a good buy for a backpacker who’s looking for a shell that does its job in wet and chilly environments, but won’t break the bank. Its clean-lined aesthetic isn’t flashy and would fit right in on an urban adventure. And, even though no shell is perfect, this one gets a lot of things right.  

m’s XS-XXL, w’s XXS-XL

Reviewer: Jim Pierce

Home Base Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Favorite Hike Idaho Centennial Trail

Favorite Trail Snack PB & J

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