Hardshells are performance jackets which have a membrane or surface coating which makes them both waterproof and breathable at the same time. Before modern membrane or coating technologies existed, clothing was neither waterproof nor breathable. So as to be both of these, jackets are nowadays built up from several layers. On the outside is the shell layer, whilst on the inside of the jacket there’s an inner lining. Depending on the type of hardshell, there may be a coating or a membrane between the outer and inner layers of the jacket.
Exterior: Shell layer
The shell layer of a hardshell is usually made of nylon (polyamide) or polyester. Nylon and polyester are fairly non-absorbent, which means they don’t soak up water like cotton or linen. However they are not waterproof, only waterresistant. In order to make the jacket waterproof another membrane or coating has to be added. The outer material is usually given a water resistant finish too.
The shell layer material can be dyed any colour and gives the jacket its external ap-pearance. The shell layer protects the layer below from dirt, abrasion and UV rays. Depending on the quality of the material, it also makes the jacket tear-proof, durable and stretchable.
Membrane and Coating
In order to make the shell layer waterproof and breathable, an extra layer has to be added to it. This layer is either a coating or a fine plastic film (membrane).