SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Marmot Zion Jacket: A Stalwart Polartec Shell for Snowshoeing in Alaska

This is a technical jacket. The core specifications – Polartec’s new NeoShell fabric, taped seams, storm hood – are impressive. But most importantly it performs well. As with anything new, it’s a little stiff when you first put it on, but that concern quickly fades away as the totally bomber nature of the Zion is realized. While you’re still standing in the store trying it on, you are transported to icy crags and powder days.

This is a winter jacket. The insulative nature of the soft shell is such that during any sporty activity you will want to be in the near freezing/sub-freezing temperatures. The NeoShell fabric is totally windproof. I was impressed when bombing down ski slopes, dead into the wind, and though I felt the pressure of the wind against my body, the cold never seeped through.

The hood, with the jacket zipped all the way up, stayed on my head keeping my forehead warm – something I noticed as a concern earlier in the season before I had the Zion. Even in the wind, this jacket is quiet. While taking a phone call on my iPhone ear-buds, using the iPod port, the microphone tucked inside the jacket didn’t pick up any of the wind or rustling outside. The caller was impressed to know I was on a windy mountain slope and claimed it sounded as if I was inside somewhere.

While on various adventures in Alaska, the Zion served well as a one-stop-shop jacket. These adventures included a 112-mile sub-Arctic ski tour where fierce winds would howl across the Alaskan interior hurling icy snow; snowshoeing in Talkeetna where soft, though wet, flakes fell; and speeding across frozen lakes on snowmachines along the coastal Turnagain mountains. Each adventure provided different conditions and in each instance the Zion served so well I hardly noticed I was wearing it.

My concerns with the jacket are minor, though it’s only fair to share. The whole jacket is fleece-lined and that’s great for everywhere except the hood. This will not be a concern for those who never wear any sort of winter stocking cap or skull cap. But with the hood up, as I looked down to check my boots or bindings or swiveled my head, my cap would stick to the interior of the hood and usually slowly get pulled off the back of my head. Easily fixed with a smooth interior hood fabric.

The tight waterproof zippers are perfect for the level of weather protection performance of the rest of the jacket. But I found this tight zipper on the left upper arm made it difficult to use that pocket. So I didn’t.

Maybe it was the dry nature of the high Rocky Mountain air or maybe it’s a common problem with soft shells, but for the first few weeks there was always a static charge jumping at me whenever I took the Zion off. It seems to have abated some but I don’t know if that’s part of the changing of the season or breaking the jacket in.

Again, these concerns are minor and in no way take away from this being a quality product. I highly recommend it to any serious adventurer. Besides, it comes in some totally unforgettable colors.

For more information on the Marmot Zion jacket, visit http://bit.ly/nU9Ueu.