Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL

Hyperlite Mountain Gear boldly calls their $450 rain jacket THE SHELL, and states “this jacket is unprecedentedly breathable, waterproof, and tough as f*#k for its weight.” To see how well it stands up to the hype & price I took THE SHELL out for two weeks of guiding at 10,000 to to 14,000 feet in the High Sierras. The following Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL summarizes my findings.

(Lead picture: THE SHELL is roomy, especially in the upper torso, arms, shoulders and hood. To demonstrate this I’m wearing it over my super-puffy GoLite Bitteroot Jacket which is stuffed with over 5 oz of high fill power down—something most snug-fitting 6 oz waterproof-breathable (WP/B) rain jackets can’t do.)

Quick Spec’s

  • 5.8 oz claimed weight M’s medium (6.0 oz measured)
  • Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber)
    with highly breathable eVent WP/B liner (claimed 32,000 gm2/24hr)
  • Roomy fit – especially in the upper torso, arms, shoulders and hood
  • Fully featured with beefy, toothed zipper; velcro cuff closures; dual drawcord adjusted, helmet compatible hood, etc.
  • Full spec’s are below

Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL

Test Setup

The picture below shows my 8.8 oz, highly breathable, full rain setup:

  1. (Top) HMG THE SHELL is 6.0 oz
  2. (Bottom) a MLD Dyneema Composite Fabric (Cuben) rain kilt is 1.8
  3. (Hands) MLD eVent Rain Mitts are 1.0 oz
Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL

THE SHELL kept me dry in a torrential weather event in the Sierras. It started with snow and sleet and progressed to 35 degree rain for the next 4 hours. In just a few hours sections of trail were 4 to 6 inches under water. When it was all done, I fared much better/drier than the rest of our group. [Apologies for the “phone-quality” photo, but it was dark, pissing down rain and I wasn’t going to get my good camera out.]

Field Testing

We had the full spectrum of late season conditions in the High Sierra. Snow, sleet and sustained 35 degree rain. For 4 days, the low temperature was 13 to 19 degrees, and daytime highs barely rose above freezing. The average temperature one day was only 26 degrees. I used THE SHELL over my fleece as an active layer during this cold snap—and it was breathable enough that I didn’t sweat out. THE SHELL fit well over my super-puffy GoLite Bitteroot Jacket to increase it’s warmth on cold nights (the jacket is un-baffled). And finally the jacket kept me warm and dry in a torrential storm of snow and sleet, changing to sustained 35 degree rain.

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL did everything everything required of it and did it well. It kept me warm. It kept me dry from precipitation on the outside. It kept me from sweating out on the inside due to the eVent breathability (but note that I mostly used it in cold weather). It was small and light, so easily carried and available in the outside pocket of my pack. The roomy, non-constricting, climber’s fit was especially welcome as was the stiff hood brim and the sophisticated adjustment system.

Mid afternoon conditions for my guided group at 11,000 feet during the colder time in the Sierras

Compared To

  • Patagonia Storm Racer (6.3 oz, $249) is likely the strongest competitor – THE SHELL has more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms; is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters for hoods and sleeves. The outer fabric on the THE SHELL is likely tougher. The Storm Racer is a 3-layer fabric, so the WP/B layer might be less prone to damage from long term use due to a tricot lining. And the Storm Racer has a more useful Napoleon chest pocket vs. the hip pocket on THE SHELL.
  • Outdoor Research Helium II (6.2 oz, $160) – THE SHELL is  has a LOT more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms, has a much longer hem, is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters. It also has a beefier and smoother operating zipper vs. the Helium II’s small coil zipper. Helium II has a more useful Napoleon chest pocket vs. the hip pocket on THE SHELL.
  • Patagonia Men’s Alpine Houdini (6.5 oz, $199) is closest in roomy fit – Still THE SHELL has a bit more room in upper torso, shoulders and arms. It is more breathable, and has more sophisticated adjusters. It also has a beefier and smoother operating zipper vs. the Alpine Houdini’s small coil zipper which lacks even a metal tab. The Alpine Houdini has no pockets.

Conclusion

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s THE SHELL comes close to meeting the hype of “this jacket is unprecedentedly breathable, waterproof, and tough as f*#k for its weight.” THE SHELL did all I asked of it and I have few if any complaints. I especially like the roomy fit and its ease of use with all its well thought out adjustments, e.g. the beefy front zipper, and hood and cuff adjusters. So often these are skimpy or not included in minimal rain jackets. As HMG’s new slogan states, “LESS WEIGHT. MORE OPTIONS.” And it’s nice to see some many useful options included in THE SHELL without unduly increasing weight.

After only two weeks of field use, THE SHELL’s long-term durability or “toughness” is still undetermined. And durability for a full-sized, 6 oz garment is a shaky topic—subject to many opinions, interpretations, and expectations. That being said, THE SHELL feels solid and durable for such a large and low weight garment. It shows no obvious signs of deterioration from two weeks of use.

In addition to the outer fabric’s toughness, there is also the durability of the WP/B membrane. After almost 40 years of using WP/B rain jackets I have found that ALL of them, when worn for a long enough with a heavy backpack will eventually leak around the neck shoulders. This is true of both 2-layer and 3-layer fabrics by all manufactures! 2-layer versions leak sooner than 3 layer, but all will eventually succumb to the stresses of a heavy backpack’s shoulder straps.

Please to get me wrong! This is NOT criticism of the WP/B rain jackets or any manufacturer’s products vs. another manufacturer’s. I like them and I use them—mostly the very light ones like THE SHELL! It’s just the reality of the technology. And some of my best loved jackets have remained mostly leak free for a good amount of time. I am hoping the the SHELL joins this group.

Finally, I leave it up to the reader as to whether all this functionality, roomy fit and low weight justifies the $450 price tag…


Manufacturer’s Specifications

WEIGHT

Review of Hyperlite Mountain Gear THE SHELL

X-Small 0.32 lbs | 5.16 oz | 146g
Small 0.34 lbs | 5.46 oz | 155g
Medium 0.36 lbs | 5.80 oz | 164g
Large 0.38 lbs | 6.14 oz | 174g
X-Large 0.39 lbs | 6.20 oz | 176g

FEATURES

  • DCF-WPB fabric with Dyneema® and eVent® materials technology
  • Breathability Rating: 32,000 gm2/24hr
  • Waterproof Rating: 10,000mm
  • #5 YKK VISLON® Aquaguard® Zipper
  • Polartec® Power-Dry® chin guard
  • VELCRO® adjustable cuffs for additional weather resistance
  • High collar zipper for additional weather resistance
  • Front and rear hood shock cord adjustment
  • Bottom hem shock cord adjustment
  • Low-profile stuff pocket with waterproof zipper and clip-in point; ideal for climbers
  • Helmet compatible hood; ideal for climbers, canyoneers, skiers
  • Stiff hood brim
  • Performance fit allowing a full range-of-motion for all outdoor activities
  • Unisex sizing

Disclaimers

Hyperlite Mountain Gear provided me with loaner of this product. I was/am under no obligation to write a review or otherwise promote this product. And this post represents my own independent opinion.

This post contains affilate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

15 replies
  1. Brian
    Brian says:

    Is the fabric air permeable? With difficulty, I can force air through the fabric of my OR Ascentshell Realm jacket. Cupping your mouth on the fabric, can you bliw through it if only slowly?

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Brian. Good Q. Almost no air movement thru the HMG Jacket. Plenty through my Realm. So the Ascentshell fabric is definitely more air permeable. Best, -alan

      Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Yup, Paul unless you need super, super light with some semblance of shell toughness the price is very steep indeed. Warmest, -a

      Reply
  2. Lange Jorstad
    Lange Jorstad says:

    You have been very complementary of the roominess of THE SHELL, for being able to accommodate your puffy underneath. Do you think it is potentially too roomy/baggy for general summer Sierra use (or other warmer climates) where you might not often need a puffy or multiple layers underneath? I don’t often do cold weather backpacking (at least, not intentionally), so I usually go for trimmer fitting shells. For example, would it turn into a flapping sail in windy conditions, if you only had a thin layer on underneath?

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Lange, the SHELL should be fine and true to size. It fits over my down jacket but just. Most of the “extra” room is in the shoulders and upper torso. Warmest -alan

      Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Yup, Sawtooth pass. And yup, a day behind you. Still we had whiteout conditions much of our time up the pass, and most of our time down the other side. (Sunlight was only a 15 minute clearing while we were out the saddle.) Kooky weather for September! Warmest, -alan

      Reply
      • Justin Baker
        Justin Baker says:

        Did you run into the older guy with the green gossamer gear pack that got lost? I ran into a group while exiting sawtooth pass that lost their father in the storm. Apparently he accidentally went up soda creek trail and was found heading over sawtooth the following day when he realized his mistake. I gave them a ride out of the park and we filed a missing persons report at the ranger station.

        Reply
        • Alan Dixon
          Alan Dixon says:

          We did. Saw him at Columbine Lake about 10 minutes after the search rangers had found him. We said hi and chatted with him a bit. Then the rangers wanted to do a formal “interview/de-brief” with him and we left to do the final climb over sawtooth pass. -a

          Reply
  3. Mike Martin
    Mike Martin says:

    How does this compare against the Cuben/eVent jacket from Z-Packs? (Although, after looking at the Z-Packs site, it seems that they may have changed fabrics.)

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Good Q Mike. And yes ZPacks has gone to a new fabric; a 56,000+ g/m^2/24hr MVTR, 3-Layer “Ventum-WPB” fabric. Not sure I 100% belive the MVTR value since I know of no current technology capable of such a number, but I assume that it is very breathable. I’ve ordered both Jacket and Pants and hope to begin testing them in the next month or so (dependent on when they arrive). Warmest, -alan

      Reply
  4. Joffrey Peters
    Joffrey Peters says:

    I’ve been interested to hear some field reviews of this jacket. The waterproof rating seems somewhat underwhelming, and I really wonder how it would fare in more extended rains (Iceland/Norway?). The price is pretty difficult to swallow, so unless these things are getting rave reviews for their durability in 5 years, I can’t imagine buying one.

    I’m sad I didn’t get a Biterroot before GoLite folded!

    Reply
  5. Danny
    Danny says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m curious to see how well this stands up over time. Also, as good as the jacket might be, I think it’s very telling that the other comparison models are $160-250, and can often be found on sale. For example, the Helium II can be found for $100, so is the Shell 4.5x better? Of course that’s up to the customers, so I’m just posing the question of *how* much better is the jacket than the more affordable options.

    Also, glad to see you still using the Bitterroot. I got one in 2011 and am still using it regularly. Love it!

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Danny! Some good observations. And price is such a subjective judgement. There are some folks that buy Subarus, some are fine with paying $ for a BMW. And there are folks who find cars altogether too expensive and use a bike or bus for transportation…

      And yeah, I have been babying my Bitteroot since GoLite folded–trying to get the most use out of it! Was just online and reading your and Kristin’s review of it a few days ago. Warmest, -alan

      Reply

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