Brand: High Sierra
Model: Isle Hardshell Jacket
Pay a hundred bucks for rain shell, and usually you can expect major compromises: stuffy coatings instead of waterproof/breathable membranes, few features, sloppy fit, poor durability. And while the Isle’s bargain-basement price means a few tradeoffs, it still delivers the year’s best protection-to-price ratio, shielding us in everything from “puking rain” on an Oregon bike ride to 35-mph winds on Colorado’s Continental Divide. “It handled nasty weather as well as shells that cost twice as much—I’d trust it in the worst conditions,” says a tester.
A drop hem kept rain from sneaking in at the waist, and the three-point adjustable hood and Velcro cuffs stayed put in high winds. But the hood brim was too short to fully shield our faces from the rain, and the two hand pockets sit right under a pack’s hipbelt.
Testers called the athletic shape “flattering” (especially the women’s version, which tucks in slightly at the waist), but it’s relaxed enough to fit multiple layers underneath. Nitpick: Long-limbed testers found the sleeves too short to cover their wrists when reaching.
The 2.5-layer shell’s biggest tradeoff is mediocre breathability: “When climbing up Colorado’s Hoosier Ridge in windy, 40°F conditions, I worked up too much heat, especially under my pack,” a tester says. But pit zips—rare at this price—helped jettison some steam.
It squishes down to the size of a large grapefruit.