Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket Review: When Less Really Is MORE

The $400, ultralight, waterproof marvel with RECCO technology that's designed for runners who want the best technical running gear.


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Hey fellow trail enthusiasts, it’s Alastair from Trail & Kale here, and today I’m thrilled to share my Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket review because I have been running in this jacket for about 5 months now and have gained a ton of insights to share with you.

For those unfamiliar with this waterproof running jacket, it’s a super premium, technical and perfectly minimal piece of running gear that I’ve been using for wet weather running for quite some time now, I even ran the freezing morning part of the Kodiak by UTMB 50k ultramarathon race in Big Bear, Southern California wearing it.

Northern California, where Trail & Kale HQ is based, has had a ridiculous amount of rainfall all through winter, that has been doing its best to keep me inside, but I persisted, in part due to having appropriate clothing (thanks Arc’teryx), but also that British resilience that bags miles for breakfast and slurps atmospheric rivers for afternoon tea – tally ho, pip pip!

The $400 Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket is for runners who want the best of the best in lightweight technical running gear, and although Arcteryx market it as a trail running waterproof jacket, it’s really for any kind of running, and active lifestyle use, at least that’s how I’ve been wearing it. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s also one of the best winter running jackets you can buy.

About Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx, under the larger umbrella of AMER Sports, and alongside siblings like Salomon and Atomic, has long been the go-to brand for those of us who demand the utmost from our gear, without the unnecessary fluff – let’s call it fast & light technical running gear.

Known for their precision in crafting running gear, apparel, and shoes that stand the test of the wildest environments, Arc’teryx targets the discerning adventurer who knows that quality and durability can’t be compromised, even in the lightest package.

And speaking of light packages, let’s dive into the Norvan Shell Jacket.

Key Specifications

  • Price: $400 at
  • Weight: 6.7 oz (190g)
  • Key Technologies: GORE-TEX Fabric, C-KNIT™ Backer Technology, RECCO® Reflector
  • Fit: True to size and ‘Fitted’
  • Sustainability: Produced in a Fair Trade Certified™ facility

The Norvan Shell Jacket is incredibly minimal and lightweight

Hitting the scales at a mere 5.9oz for a men’s size small (my jacket), and 6.7 ounces for a men’s medium, the Norvan Shell Jacket is the epitome of ultralight.

This jacket cuts down to the bone in terms of its minimal features, foregoing common features like pockets, pit zips, and even a hang loop, to prioritize one thing above all else: uncompromising performance without the weight. And I’m totally fine with that, I never use pockets in running jackets for fear of the dreaded ‘bounce’ when running, and I tend to hang my jackets by their hood anyway.

But don’t mistake its minimalism in common features for a lack of performance. The Norvan boasts subtle yet significant features like a crown adjuster on the hood to adjust the fit, a RECCO Reflector for added safety, and a chin-guard to keep the elements at bay.

  • LEARN: A RECCO Reflector is a small, passive device embedded in outdoor gear that helps rescuers locate individuals in case of an avalanche or other emergencies in remote areas. It works by reflecting back a signal sent by a RECCO detector, which is commonly used by search and rescue teams. For trail runners venturing into backcountry or mountainous terrain, a RECCO Reflector can provide an additional layer of safety, facilitating quicker location by rescue personnel without the need for batteries or charging.

The jacket’s elasticized hem and cuffs, alongside the front zipper with durable teeth, elevate the minimalist design to something functional.

Every stitch and seam of the Norvan Shell reflects the quality Arc’teryx is renowned for. The jacket’s pared-down design is complemented by its choice of materials too – a 13d nylon face fabric paired with a GORE-TEX membrane and C-KNIT backer, I share more on what that is in just a moment.

This trio brings waterproofing, breathability, and a touch of stretch for more freedom of movement. The below image is of me after a 10K running with Kepler (the Trail & Kale Border Collie mascot) in the most horrendous of rain storms, which was categorized as an extreme atmospheric river, of which we have had many over the last few months.

This was some of the most extreme rainfall I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve run in all kinds of crazy weather in the UK, and European alps where mountain storms have thrown Whopper sized hail (or Malteser sized if you’re in the UK) at me through the night as I embarked on an Ultramarathon through the mountains of Italy.

So, yes some water made it in through the top of the jacket (but not the zip seams), I mean when i put the hood down mid way through my run, it filled up about an inch or water in 5 minutes, so that probably what allowed the water to get in.

The hood by the way fits great and provides excellent visibility to the sides as you can see in the image below.

Don’t expect a huge amount from the breathability however, because by the very nature of waterproof clothing, there’s not going to be a huge amount of airflow or breathability for temperature regulation.

With that said, you’re not going to be wanting to wear this in warm weather storms because you’ll likely get too hot if your doing intense running workouts. And this really is my only negative point to make about the Norvan Shell jacket, because it does everything else really well!

It’s fitted for those who embrace the fast and light approach

Arc’teryx describes the fit as ‘fitted,’ or in other words, trim or slim and it’s snug enough to allow for a layer beneath.

It’s designed with the trail runner in mind, striking a balance between protection and agility and has a true to size fit; tailored for those who move fast and light, without the bulk of unnecessary layers.

When to wear the Norvan Shell Jacket

It’s tailor-made for trail running, and excels in compactness and lightness, making it a dream for anyone looking to minimize their load without sacrificing protection. It packs down into its own hood, for easy storage in your hydration pack of choice when you’re not wearing it (see below).

The advanced breathability of the C-KNIT technology on the inside is a welcome feature, particularly for the ultralight hiker who might not need the extreme breathability required by high-intensity running but still values comfort and moisture management.

LEARN: Gore® C-KNIT™ Backer Technology is an innovative fabric technology used in the construction of outdoor apparel, notably in jackets. It’s designed to enhance the performance of GORE-TEX waterproof membranes by providing a softer, smoother, and more breathable fabric lining. This technology makes garments lighter and more comfortable to wear, without sacrificing durability or waterproofing. For runners, this means jackets that are not only protective against harsh weather but also less clammy and more comfortable during high-intensity activities, allowing for better movement and a more enjoyable running experience in wet conditions.

My final thoughts and review summary

In the pantheon of ultralight waterproof/breathable jackets, the Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket claims a top spot. It’s exceptionally lightweight, unequivocally waterproof, and designed with the trail runner’s needs in mind. It’s a standout item of gear for ultralight hiking too, proving that sometimes, less really is more.

So, if you’re all about trimming down your gear without cutting corners on quality, the Norvan Shell Jacket is worth every penny.

It’s a testament to Arc’teryx’s commitment to innovation, functionality, and the spirit of adventure. Whether you’re dodging raindrops on your morning run or setting out on a multi-day trek, the Norvan has got your back – without weighing you down.

Thanks for reading this review, if you’ve had experiences with the Norvan Shell Jacket, drop a comment below and share your thoughts. And remember, subscribing to our newsletter keeps you in the loop on all things running, from gear reviews to running tips. 🙏🏼 Your support keeps our community running strong – literally. Happy trails!

Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket Review Gallery

As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


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