SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Gear Review: Mountain Hardwear Zonal Jacket

When I first slipped into Mountain Hardwear’s new Zonal jacket, I felt like I was settling into my favorite down sleeping bag. The sleeves and much of the body are constructed of a lightweight quilted fabric called Micro Thermic, providing a light cushiony feel that is warm, comfortable and soft.

Of course the question that immediately came to mind … what happens when the snowshoeing or other high-intensity activity starts? I needn’t have worried. Inset into the sides and bottom back of the Zonal jacket, where breathability is extra important, are panels made from a light and stretchy technical fabric that provides ventilation when things start to heat up. To quote Mountain Hardwear, the jacket’s construction “follows the body’s natural hot and cold spots.” The Zonal jacket very effectively wicked moisture away from my body and demonstrated good breathability. When it did get wet, it dried almost instantly. Drawcords in the bottom hem also provide a good thermostat … when cinched in, the jacket is much warmer.

The Zonal jacket has several other thoughtful features, little things that I always think set Mountain Hardwear apart from others in the outdoor apparel industry. Details like Velcro cuffs (elastic alone almost always loses its stretch over time), an inside pocket (perfect for keeping your Clif Bar from freezing), and a soft chamois-lined chin guard to prevent the zipper from chaffing your skin. Personally I’d like to see the side pockets moved a bit higher to accommodate a backpack’s hip belt, but jackets on the market that have done this are few and far between.

A final word about the Zonal … it’s one cool-looking jacket. After a day on the trails, I walked into an upscale clothing shop in Nelson, B.C. and was complimented by the staff on my great-looking jacket! Both the men’s and women’s model come in a nice selection of both adventurous and quieter colors.

For more information, please see www.mountainhardwear.com.