When I first moved to North Carolina, it rained for four months straight.
That’s a big leap for someone coming from California.
Well this winter, I wasn’t about to get soaked through again, so I went on the hunt for a top-level waterproof jacket—something lightweight for adventures and plenty warm for hikes in the mountains.
After testing it out for several weeks (with plenty of rain and cold, too), I’ve made my decision on whether this brand is worth the money.
What Is Cortazu?
Cortazu is a direct-to-consumer sportswear brand that incorporates sustainability into their mission.
The brand won the 2019 ISPO Gold Award (it’s the highest award in the biggest outdoor-wear industry ceremony). While awards don’t make a better experience for the end user, it’s certainly a confirmation of the brand’s end-goal.
Cortazu’s Mountain Shell jacket is made entirely from recycled nylon, and beyond that, each purchase funds 65 square meters of “greenification” at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The brand was founded on the belief that top-quality products can be made affordably, sustainably, and with heaps of style.
Cortazu also offers free shipping in the EU (and low-cost shipping to the US), a 50-day no questions asked return policy, and a 10-year warranty.
Things to Consider Before Buying Performance Outerwear from Cortazu
Cortazu makes top-of-the-line outerwear, and as such, their jackets aren’t cheap. Depending on your needs, this can be a positive or negative.
If you just want a stylish winter jacket, I’m sure you can find something for less. But Cortazu’s jackets fit more into the category of tools and gear, rather than fashion. With a RECCO locator, lifetime waterproof fabric, and storm-sealed zippers, it’s the details that make Cortazu’s jackets stand out.
There’s also the matter of durability, and while I haven’t spent years in my Cortazu jackets, the reinforced seams give me faith that I’ll still be rocking the navy Mountain Shell decades from now.
Mountain Hard Shell Jacket
The Mountain Hard Shell Jacket is Cortazu’s flagship, and it’s what they used to launch their brand back in 2017.
The Hard Shell is super light at 620g and features three layers of DermizaxEV fabric, which is completely waterproof and offers a lot of wind resistance.
Cortazu recommends their jackets for skiers and snowboarders, though I’ve been rocking it as a rain jacket. I’ve tried snowsports and my lack of balance is a disaster waiting to happen on the mountain, so I just stick to moderate hikes and commuting.
The fabric is quite breathable, so I can see why the brand would recommend it for snow sports. I wouldn’t recommend this jacket as a standalone if you only need a heavy coat for heading out on the town. It’s plenty stylish (which I’ll dive into more later), but it’s really meant to keep moisture and wind out, and it does an incredible job at that.
The Mid-Layer Zip-In Jacket does all the heavy lifting in the warmth department (but I’ll cover that more later). So when you combine the shell with the puffer jacket underneath, you get the best of both worlds.
The Mountain Hard Shell is decked out with enough pockets to make your head spin. And while I was a bit skeptical at first, all these pockets are really helpful—especially when your hands get cold and stiff.
On the left arm, you get a pocket for your ski pass (or library card if you’re a nerd like me). There are two breast pockets that are both big enough to fit a small notebook in, which definitely surprised me.
There are two hand warmer pockets (also quite large so you can carry almost anything you need there), and an internal phone pocket with a space for your headphone cord.
All these pockets have storm-proof zippers, which is clutch for if it’s raining and you want to make sure your phone, wallet, and keys are safe and secure.
The hood of this jacket is large enough to fit a snowboarding helmet, but since I don’t have one, I just use a small internal elastic cord to keep the hood secure on my head. It’s still a bit large and blows off fairly easily in the wind, but it hasn’t been a make or break issue for me as I haven’t been cinching the cord down all the way.
I’m really enjoying the style of the jacket—for a bigger coat, it fits quite slim and modern. It’s easy to add many layers underneath (which you need to if it’s really cold), but even with three layers underneath, the Mountain Hard Shell doesn’t look bulky.
Need a wipe for your googles? It's in the sleeve. Need a place to store your ski pass? There's a pocket on the other sleeve. This Hard Shell coat is loaded down with nifty features and it's a great fit for the today's mountaineers, hikers, and anyone who can balance on a board in the snow.
Mountain Mid-Layer Zip-In Jacket
To match my Mountain Hard Shell, I picked up Cortazu’s Ibiza Blue Mountain Mid-Layer Zip-In.
I’m a big fan of this jacket for its—I don’t know how else to say it—adventurability. Weighing in at 595g, it’s super light and compacts nicely so it’s my new go-to for hikes and those odd days where you’re not really sure if you need a jacket or not.
I’ll continue to get use out of this jacket through the spring and fall because it’s so easy to stuff in my pack.
It’s also warm. With 3M featherless insulation, it does a good job keeping my body heat. And when I pair it with the Hard Shell, the combo is fantastic.
You get all the waterproofing and wind resistance of the shell and all the warmth of this mid-layer, and together they make a sporty, versatile winter coat. I can see these jackets especially well-suited to climates like Seattle and Portland, where it can get quite rainy and cold.
The Mountain Mid-Layer Jacket is less pocket-heavy than the shell, but it still has a few convenient loops to hook your keys around and sturdy zippers to carry your essentials safely.
I like the slim, contemporary style of this jacket, though since I’ve only tested Cortazu in winter, I’ve spent much more time wearing both jackets together.
The Mid-Layer zips in easily to the Hard Shell (and I love how the Ibiza Blue and Navy work together). My only gripe on the two together is that there’s no tab, button, or zipper to connect the sleeves of the two jackets together. When I take the jacket off, the Mid-Layer sleeve turns inside out.
It’s a minor detail, but since I’ve been wearing the two almost exclusively together for winter, I’d like to have a way to connect them through the chest and arms.
This light weight puffer is easy to stuff in a bag and take with you anywhere. And if the weather turns cold? Just zip it into the Hard Shell and hit the trails.
What do Other Reviewers Say About Cortazu?
At the time of writing, Cortazu has a 4.8-star average on their site with over 600 reviews. The brand’s most popular item is the Hard Shell, which has gotten plenty of positive press from professional reviewers, too.
One comment that comes up many times in the reviews is the versatility of the Mountain Hard Shell.
Yes, it’s a great shell for when you’re at the top of a mountain in a snow-storm, but it’s also a stylish jacket on the street. Many reviewers mention how well the shell keeps up in their everyday lives—you don’t need to buy a different jacket for each aspect of your life.
My Thoughts Overall On Cortazu
What I Like
The Mountain Shell jacket is completely waterproof (even the zippers) and offers excellent wind-resistance, even in 50+mph winds.
The Shell features a RECCO Rescue System reflector, which is a massive bonus if you live in very snowy regions and are ever in danger from avalanches.
The hood of the Shell is large enough to fit over a helmet for skiing and snowboarding, but a drawstring keeps it fitted when you wear it without a hood, too.
The Mid-Layer weighs just under 600g, and it easily squeezed down to a very small size, so it’s an excellent jacket to pack for hikes in the spring/fall.
Each jacket sold funds the 62 square meters of “greenification” at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
What I Don’t Like
I would love to have a tab or button that secures the Mid-Layer Zip-In jacket into the Mountain Shell at the sleeves so I could take the whole jacket off as one piece.
Who is Cortazu for?
Cortazu offers excellent jackets for folks who live an active lifestyle and want something that fits well and keeps them warm. If you’re going to subject your jacket to the rigors of the trail/mountains, reliability and construction are at the top of your list. Those qualities are at the top of Cortazu’s list, too.
Cortazu delivers on their mission to create a sustainable, feature-driven jacket that’s immediately useful for snowboarders, hikers, and commuters alike.
The Mountain Hard Shell Jacket is a beast—with its completely waterproof construction (down to storm-proof zippers), and a great deal of wind resistance, it’s your best defense against the cold. But it’s the details you don’t see that make this jacket my favorite: the taped reinforced seams, RECCO locator, and numerous handy pockets inside and out. It’s just a great jacket.
The Mountain Mid-Layer Zip-In Jacket is a solid pickup, too, especially when you combine it with the Hard Shell. But it stands on its own as a good adventure jacket. It’s super light and easy to squish into a ball and stuff into your pack. While the Hard Shell is really best suited to winter, the Mountain Mid-Layer is a go-to year round.
Beyond their products, Cortazu is just one of those companies you feel good about shopping with. They give back by using recycled fabrics and partnering with initiatives to rehabilitate the land around Mt. Kilimanjaro.
My only two issues with the brand were: 1) the sleeves of the Zip-In and Hard Shell don’t connect, so it’s a bit funky taking them both off as a single unit, and 2) US customers will need to pay an import duty if your purchase is over $800.
Otherwise, I’m really impressed with Cortazu on multiple levels. Their innovative design and adventure-ready jackets are a pleasure to wear (even in tough conditions), and their mission to give back is the cherry on top.
How long do waterproof jackets last?
If you buy a high-quality waterproof jacket, like the Cortazu Mountain Hard Shell, it should last a lifetime.
Should a ski jacket be tight or loose?
A ski jacket should have enough room to wear two or three layers underneath, but not so bulky that you can’t comfortably move at the hips and elbows. The best way to find your fit is to judge by the shoulders. Your shoulder bone should line up with the sleeve seam.
Can I wear a ski jacket every day?
If it’s sufficiently cold outside, ski jackets are perfectly fine to wear out on the street. Brands like Cortazu make ski jackets that are modern, slim, and don’t look out of place if you’re commuting to work instead of hitting the ski lift.