In reply to UKC Gear: Nice review Toby. I like the look of this NeoShell stuff, but the question is now that the review is done, will you be going back to the Speed Ascent? Perhaps invalid question as one is very warm and one not, but assuming you layered up a bit under the Zion - which would you pick? Not that I am giving up the SA any time soon.
In reply to Nick Harvey: Interesting question Nick. When I do a jacket review like this, I tend to wear it for everything, just so I can 'get the wear in' and see if anything breaks as much as anything else. So when I finally wrote this and sent it off, it was almost a relief the next time I went out that I could wear what seemed best for the day. It happened I had agreed with Eärendel who, as you know from his camping is totally impervious to cold, to go out with him one day when it turned out to be about -22. He was of course still keen, so I had to man up and at least go and belay him! That day I was very happy to wear the Speed Ascent as it has a lot of its own warmth in it, and is more breathable than any membrane shell, soft or hard, which is good when you are hiking in with various layers on.
But the Zion is pretty impressive except the hood issue. I haven't actually worn much under it generally. Down to about -5 it has been fine with just a base layer under it as long as I just use a belay jacket when not climbing/walking. On colder days, a light base layer than this funky Marmot variant jacket (review coming very soon). The night Eärendel and I went out and it just rained was perhaps most impressive of all in some ways as were got drenched (it was +1 or 2) and I just had a merino t-shirt under it. That's the warmth of the Zions velour-like inner. A goretex shell would have felt pretty cold and clammy i reckon next to the skin on my arms.
If Marmot put a good hood on it, I really reckon the Zion would be excellent for the UK where you really do get rain sometimes when going up or coming down from winter climbs. Here, things like the Speed Ascent work so well because its so rare to get rained on as part of an ice climbing day.
Just like to back up what Toby has said about the Zion in cold temps as I have been wearing one too, similarly to Toby in sub-freezing temps with a merino wool base and merino wool mid-layer doing both high and low aerobic activities.
Tomorrow I am visiting Polartec at their HQ in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
I will be witnessing the testing of waterproofness (hydrastatic head) and the measuring of moisture vapor transmission rate as related to Neoshell used in the Marmot Zion, and also looking at other types of Neoshell.
Very objective- as ever Toby. There's no danger you could be accused of being in Marmot's pocket.
I definitely feel the Neoshell stuff hasn't been sufficiently promoted and marketed yet. I know it's fairly new, but I was in Montreal recently and went to a few outdoorsy retailers. I was met with blank looks when I enquired about Neoshell
I endured a short and patronising lecture from one shop manager telling me I was definitely mistaken- because 'Polartec only make insulating fabrics'!
Anyway, UKC please wangle a shot of the Rab jaiket in this fabric and do another write up. Now I've ruled out the Marmot I need to know if the Rab should be my next purchase.
Ta very much.
And a note to Polartec- please ensure your models have a bath before the next photo shoot.
as a neoshell user over this winter as well, id say spot on - even tho the neoshell in the zion and what ive been wearing is very different in weight and texture, your fundamental description is the same (the jacket is also quite similar in design - tho i hail the hood on mine ha ha)
i too wondered about the zions softshell genus, but have a feeling its so they can still flog their regular hardshells as well (call me cynical).
hoping not to muscle in on your review, i find the ultimate test of venting and breathability actually comes with leg wear, and after wearing a neoshell bib much of winter have found it - like you have with your zion there - to breath well and be water resistant, even tho its a ski-specific design with only small vents at the top of the legs.
glad you like the stuff too, and its not just me getting gear-dazzled with techy new stuff.
One thing that I didn't say in the review because I only noticed it after is that Marmot give on their site the Zion's weight as 510 grams and this is then reproduced on many webshops' websites. This has to be a mistake because stated weight is normally given for men's size medium and my Zion in medium weights 715 grams on my postal scales. The 680 gr weight in the review I think came from Outdoor Magic, and they obviously like me weight the jacket.
My understanding about the decision to make use of neoshell as a "softshell" is that although its hydrostatic head does qualify it as waterproof by whatever standard is used, it's not as high as Goretex and eVent. Perhaps if you want the ultimate guaranteed water resistance, then a goretex or eVent shell is still the best bet? It will be interesting to see how the more 'classic' hardshells made of NeoShell like RAB are doing fare. I wonder if under rucsack straps or similar the pressure could force water through the fabric?
Feel free! I'm sure folks thinking about new neoshell gear are happy to hear as many opinions as possible!
> i find the ultimate test of venting and breathability actually comes with leg wear, and after wearing a neoshell bib much of winter have found it - like you have with your zion there - to breath well and be water resistant, even tho its a ski-specific design with only small vents at the top of the legs.
Interestingly I've never found my legs get anywhere near as sweaty as my top half, so on cool days I can hike around in goretex troos quite happily, when I would be "boil in the bag" on my body inside a goretex jacket.
After my Pro Shell jacket was stolen earlier in the year I spent a long time researching all the new fabrics and waiting to see how they fared before forking out a big chunk of change. I initially set my sights on the Zion but I ruled out on the basis of the lack of a properly helmet compatible hood. I ended up buying a Rab Stretch Neo jacket in November.
Sadly the new jacket hasn't seen as many mountain days as I'd hoped but my initial impressions are largely in line with your own regarding breathability, it's certainly noticeably more breathable than Pro Shell. Unlike the Zion the Stretch Neo is unlined, I've been wearing it with an R1 over a baselayer in temps below freezing which has been quite effective.
I haven't experienced anything more than a drizzle in the Stretch Neo yet unfortunately, I think a long day out in a proper British downpour will be it's biggest test and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity.
So far I'm very impressed with it at least, it is surprising that more manufacturers haven't picked it up yet, especially those that already use a wide range of Polartec fabrics (e.g. Patagonia).
In reply to Styx: Interesting - keep us informed on how the Neo performs! Hopefully Marmot will increase the hood volume for next season, because as you say it's a reason why a UK winter climber might not buy the jacket (for the ice cragging I've been doing its OK - I can survive pulling my buff up over my face or using my belay jacket hood) and it would definitely increase the appeal of the jacket in damp, cold climates.
the Zion jacket is great, like Toby i've been wearing this for pretty much everything from soggy days around town to 50/60mpg spindrift on the Ben. It is waterproof, pretty much totally wind proof and very breathable.
I bought it to replace my Rab Baltoro guide (size m) which until now i've used for all my winter climbing. By comparison the zion is slightly shorter in length at the hip and baggier in the middle. I've mananged ok with the hood wearing one of the small petzl ercins hemlet, but there is no way I could get anything bigger under it. I was able to zip it up entirely and with my goggles on, I had good protection from 60mph icy gusts. The jacket is comparatively 'stiffer' than a true soft shell but this doesnt take away from the comfort.
Its not the 'perfect' jacket, but it is a good compromise. I leave my hardshell at home, take a thicker belay jacket and wear it with a thick merino base layer. For the next design:-
1) elastic gather at the middle (so you can see your feet better)
2) a proper helmet compatible hood
3) make the cut longer at the hips
My conclusion:- If you're in the market for a softshell, this is an excellent option. IF you can wait until next season when they've refined the cut and given it a proper hood, then wait.
In reply to Dan-gerMouse: I've been using the Westcomb Apoc jacket for quite a few months now and whilst the jacket itself isn't perfect (collar anyone?), the performance of the fabric itself has been very impressive indeed. Not once have I been stuffy in this jacket at all. To me, the performance genuinely does seem to offer similar levels of comfort to a non waterproof garment in a waterproof one. Add this to the very soft and flexible face fabric and it really brings something quite different into my life! I'm probably going to see if I can acquire the Switch jacket from the same company as I feel the style better suits my end purpose, but I can find no fault with the fabric. Now all we need is a lighter version of the Zion fabric, for a true year round jacket!
In reply to Dan-gerMouse: Really interesting to hear your experience and good to hear that you have been using like I thought it might work in Scotland (i.e. sans hardshell). Are you just wearing a base layer under it? Or a light midlayer too when actually climbing?
I have done the zip right up when wearing my CAMP Armour helmet, but I really thought it was going to break my nose and couldn't really move my head at all!
I find Marmot medium fits me well, I'm by no means fat, but I'm not a skinny rake either, and in that sense I don't notice much bagginess around the middle. These things are of course personal to everyone's body shape. RAB stuff doesn't always fit me so well for instance, so Marmot's fit seems to be better for the broad shouldered/chested for their height, whilst RAB fits well if you are a slimmer build.
I wear a base layer under it for the walk in to winter routes and just generally dossing about in the hills and such. I then put a mid layer on for winter climbing, I tried fleece but did find that the pile on the inside of the jacket was a bit too 'grabby', it was like wearing mild velcro! But I find it performs great with a thin primaloft faced jacket such as the north face super zephyrus which i've been trying out or rab generator etc.
> (In reply to UKC Gear)
> Great article.
> Very objective- as ever Toby. There's no danger you could be accused of being in Marmot's pocket.
> I definitely feel the Neoshell stuff hasn't been sufficiently promoted and marketed yet. I know it's fairly new, but I was in Montreal recently and went to a few outdoorsy retailers. I was met with blank looks when I enquired about Neoshell
> I endured a short and patronising lecture from one shop manager telling me I was definitely mistaken- because 'Polartec only make insulating fabrics'!
> Anyway, UKC please wangle a shot of the Rab jaiket in this fabric and do another write up. Now I've ruled out the Marmot I need to know if the Rab should be my next purchase.
> Ta very much.
> And a note to Polartec- please ensure your models have a bath before the next photo shoot.
HaHaHa, yes they could do with a bath couldn't they! [Stephanie working for Polartec in the UK]
> I then put a mid layer on for winter climbing, I tried fleece but did find that the pile on the inside of the jacket was a bit too 'grabby', it was like wearing mild velcro!
I know what you mean, although I had more of that issue with the Marmot Genesis; the Zion is a better cut for me at least over my shoulders - perhaps its a bit more stretchy than the material on the Genesis too.
> But I find it performs great with a thin primaloft faced jacket such as the north face super zephyrus which i've been trying out or rab generator etc.
Yep, I've been reviewing it with the Marmot Variant jacket (review should be on UKC soon) - they work very well together. The Variant is a mix of powerstretch (which doesn't seem to bind badly with other fleece materials being smoother) and then synthetic insulated quilting.
> So far I'm very impressed with it at least, it is surprising that more manufacturers haven't picked it up yet, especially those that already use a wide range of Polartec fabrics (e.g. Patagonia).
Hi Styx, just a quick heads up regarding what brands will be using Polartec NeoShell next autumn: 66North, Alpine Pro, Alpinus, Cloudveil, Direct Alpine, Eider, EMS, Fower Gloves, flylow, HiMountain, Karpos, Lafuma, Malachowski, Mammut, Montura, Nepa, NFM, TAD Gear, Ternua, The North Face, Under Armour and Westcomb. I know that some of these brands aren't available in the UK but if you're abroad it might be worth looking out for them. I know The North Face jacket - which was only available in the US last year - will definitely be available in the UK next autumn. And then you have Marmot and Rab who will still have ranges. [Stephanie, working for Polartec in the UK].