Here it is: the next generation of softshells. The almost magical qualities of Polartec NeoShell not only make this lightweight jacket waterproof, but also highly breathable, with stretch for days. It comes with a full complement of big-mountain features, and has the added benefit of being free from the noise of a hardshell. Put it on once; keep it forever!
- Main Material – Polartec Neo Shell 79% Polyester,14% Polyurethane, 7% Elastane 8.0 oz/yd
- Polartec Neo Shell Waterproof/Breathable Stretch Softshell Fabric
- Marmot M1 Softshell – Water-Resistant, Breathable, Windproof, Durable, Warm, Stretch
- 100% Seam Taped
- Attached Storm Hood with Laminated Brim
- Water-Resistant CF Zipper
- Chest Pocket with Water-Resistant Zipper
- Pack Pockets with Water-resistant Zippers
- Sleeve Pocket with Water-Resistant Zipper
- Asymmetric Cuffs with Velcro Adjustment
- Internal Zip Pocket
- Elastic Draw Cord Hem
- Angel-Wing Movement
- Measured size medium
- Weight – 734 g (25.9 oz)
- Center Back Length -75.4 cm (29.7 in)
- Pit to Pit – 59 cm (23.2 in)
- Sleeve Length – 92.6 cm (36.5 in)
- Retail – $375
Marmot has long been one of my favorite brands. They have always made functionally great equipment with high-quality materials. For the website, I have done a review of the ROM Jacket and still use this as one of my “Go To” jackets. This jacket was one of the first to the market with Polartec’s new Neoshell membrane. The Zion Jacket, therefore, was on my list of jackets I really wanted to test. Not only is it made by Marmot but also to do a test of the Neoshell fabric. I talked to Marmot, and they set me up with a jacket to test.
I tested the Zion Jacket during the fall and winter here in Bend. I used it around town in Portland to see how it would handle heavy rain and took it snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, and alpine touring. I tried to test the breathability of the jacket by using it during higher intensity activities. Conditions ranged from Rain to Sun and temperatures from -10 to 60 degrees F.
The Zion Jacket is a M1 softshell from Marmot. Marmot classifies their jackets based on their characteristics and intended uses. M1 shells provide the highest level of warmth and thermal protection. They are best for intermittent aerobic use in cold conditions. The Zion is made of a new waterproof membrane on the market by Polartec. Polartec Neoshell is a revolutionary new membrane where they have been able to make a microporous polyurethane membrane that maintains waterproofness but allows for active air transfer even without a buildup of pressure. The Zion is a softshell jacket and maintains stretch while still being fully waterproof. If you would like to know more about Polartec Neoshell and waterproof jackets, click on the banner below.
The Zion Jacket is made to be a used for a variety of activities. I have already mentioned the Neoshell membrane. To go with that Marmot has fully seam taped the jacket for 100% waterproofness. All the zippers are also water resistant, and the front one has a storm flap behind it to prevent wind from coming through. The Zion is not 100% windproof as it has an active transfer air exchange but at 99.9% windproof you will not feel the wind coming through. For further protection from the elements, the Zion has an attached storm hood with a laminated brim. The hood has several adjustment points to optimize the fit. It is big enough for a climbing helmet but not much bigger. I would not wear it over my ski helmet as it was too tight. Around the wrists, there is a hook and loop Velcro closure system for adjustments. There is also a bungee cord adjustment at the hem to keep drafts and snow from coming up the jacket.
The Marmot Zion has five total pockets. There are two hand warmer pockets, which are located high enough to be used with a pack. A chest pocket on the outside with and audio cord out on the inside of the jacket. There is also a right chest pocket on the inside of the jacket and a left sleeve pocket on the outside. As I mentioned before, all these pockets have water resistant zippers except of course of the inner pocket. The jacket has a long torso and arms for better fit while moving around. The Zion is constructed with Marmot’s Angel-Wing Movement, which allows Full Range of Motion in the arms so the jacket doesn’t ride up. On the shoulders of the jacket Marmot has put some reinforcements that both add to the durability but also the grip when carrying a backpack. The Zion has bolder colors, which have a bit of a European feel to them. I personally like the new colors but others may disagree.
Unfortunately, the Zion Jacket is not made of any sustainable or green products to my knowledge. I do know that Marmot has some corporate initiative and practices to be as Environmentally Responsible as possible, they are also trying to make the most functional product they can and these don’t always work together. In this case, I gave the jacket a 2.5 for sustainability because the jacket itself is not sustainable but Marmot is making a conceited effort to do what they can. For more information on Marmot’s initiatives, go to the Marmot website.
Arm Length (20%)
Comfort Next to Skin (10%)
Ease of Movement (20%)
Torso Sizing (20%)
I tested a size medium in the Zion Jacket. I normally wear a medium, but if you have read the ROM Jacket review, I opted for a small on that jacket. With the Zion, I am happy I chose the medium. While the fit is a bit looser than the ROM, I like having a little extra room to layer under the jacket. While the medium is not a snug fit, I would not consider it loose either. At the bottom hem, there is a bungee drawcord with adjustments on both sides so you can snug up the hem to your preferred fit. The jacket has a long torso length and drop tail hem on top of that. This makes it so the back of the jacket covers my whole backside when standing. I really like having the longer back, especially for skiing. The jacket can be layered over an insulting piece, but I would suggest lower bulk items as insulated jackets may be too much depending on the jacket and your build.
The sleeves on the Zion are nice and longer. I can reach out in any direction, and I do not have to worry about the sleeves pulling up. Around the wrists, there is a hook and loop Velcro closure system to adjust the cuffs. This helped keep the cuffs low profile around my wrists which I appreciated. These cuffs are asymmetrically made, which means the top of the hand is longer than the front. This is a great feature that I am happy to see on more jackets recently. It makes it so the sleeves cover up the back of the hands while not getting in the way of your grip.
Polartec Neoshell fabric is available in either softshell fabrics or hardshell type fabrics. The distinction is what inner face fabric that is used. The Zion uses the softshell version of Neoshell, which gives it a thin layer of pile on the inside of the jacket. This pile is both warmer and softer than the interior of a hardshell jacket is. While it does add some weight, it makes the jacket more comfortable next to the skin and might allow you to wear a lighter layer underneath. The only part of the jacket that was not comfortable was in the chin area. For some reason, the inner fabric had a tendency to irritate my chin and neck area. This was consistent whether I was clean shaven or not. To add insult to injury, along the edges near the zipper also had some rough edges, and the hood adjustments are routed inside. Those two things added to the irritation I had on my chin and neck. Other than this, the majority of the jacket was very comfortable and this may not be the case with all people as my chin and neck tend to be a bit finicky.
Water Resistance (20%)
Wind Resistance (15%)
I was really excited to test out the Zion Jacket. I had seen for some time the ads and hype regarding Polartec Neoshell, and I wanted to get out and see if it was all worthwhile. In a word, I would say yes! It is easy to make a waterproof jacket but tough to make one that does not make you sweat like crazy when you are active. I took the Zion jacket on quite a few different adventures here in Central Oregon ranging from snowshoeing to alpine touring to cross-country skiing to hiking. Of course on all those trips it was either snowing or dry out so it was difficult to test the waterproofness. Fortunately, my wife and I had to head over to Portland for a weekend, and without fail it was a rainy one. We spent a couple of hours wandering around downtown, and I was able to finally test out the waterproofness of the Neoshell. I made sure I walked under every drip all day and never had any water get through. I know most manufacturers tout some really high numbers for waterproofness but at 10,000 mm, this jacket kept me dry for all my uses.
The real question with the Zion jacket is the breathability. While snowshoeing and cross-country skiing I was moving fast enough that I was generating some heat, but it was not enough to overwhelm the jacket. I was completely comfortable the whole time even while my wife had to discard some of her layers. Next up I used the jacket for some alpine touring. If you are not familiar with alpine touring, it is an excellent testing ground for jackets. Essentially what alpine touring is hiking for your ski turns. You hike up the mountain and then ski down. You only can get as many runs in as you have time and for me this was always before or after work. In order to get more turns in I would try to push it when climbing. I used the Zion on days that ranged from -10 to 25 degrees and found that only when going hard on the warmer days was I able to generate a sweat. I do not think it would matter what I was wearing on those days as I was working pretty hard. Even when I did get sweaty on the climb, by the time I had my skins off and my boots and bindings adjusted I was completely dry underneath. This really impressed me as my baselayer would not be damp at all.
The Zion jacket is not 100% windproof, but it is pretty close. Even in winds up to 40 miles per hour I was not able to feel the outside wind. The jacket is surprisingly warm for a shell jacket. This I think of as good and bad. Good as you do not have to wear as many layers to stay warm but bad because this makes it not as packable and heavier since the warmth is from more pile on the inside. Take note that when I speak of this warmth, I do mean when you are active. The jacket breathes better than other shells so if you are just standing around outside, you likely will be slightly colder due to this breathability.
In my measurements, the Zion came in heavier than what Marmot posted. They had the weight at 510 g (18 oz) where my measurements came in at 734 g (25.9 oz). This was a bit disappointing. At 18 oz I can see using this as my backpacking shell but at 25.9 oz it may or may not get the nod. The Zion is a softshell jacket so it is made to stretch when you need it to. While there is some stretch to the jacket it is less than I hoped for. Do not get me wrong, the jacket is very comfortable to wear but after having the ROM Jacket, maybe my expectations were too high.
I have been using this jacket with both a pack on and not and across a variety of activities. I have not had any durability issues thus far. While I have not put the jacket through anything too tough, I have no doubt it will stand up to whatever I have in mind. If anything does happen to pop up while using this jacket, I will get back on here and add an update. The Zion has plenty of pockets to store your stuff. I tend not to use them too much as I would rather put stuff in my pack. I can say that the main pack pockets are large enough for climbing skins. The chest pocket was also great with the audio port on the inside. I could easily route my cord up the inside that I appreciated. The water-resistant zippers are slightly difficult to use, especially on the sleeve pocket. My other negative with the jacket was with the hood. The pile interior of the hood had a tendency to grab onto my beanie when I would turn my head or look up and down. Over time this would cause my hat to shift on my head, which was a bit annoying. I personally like the size of the hood. I never use my hood when skiing so I have not liked ones that are that large. I do use it for climbing sometimes and more often without a helmet so the sizing of this hood has been pretty good. It is a bit tight with a climbing helmet on.
Overall, the Marmot Zion Jacket is a great softshell for a variety of uses. It is great for mountaineering, alpine touring, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and whenever you need a waterproof jacket around town. For hiking and backpacking it will depend on your goals, route, weather conditions, and closet whether you take the Zion with you. I say this to say that it is slightly bulky and warm compared to some of the ultralight shell out there on the market, by Marmot and others. If you are looking to go fast and lightweight, the Zion may not be for you. If it is going to be warmer, say 60+, it may be too much jacket for high-energy use. However, if you want a very versatile jacket and only have the money for one, this is a great option. It really can be used across a wide variety of conditions, and I am really splitting hairs above concerning its limitations. Remember, I have a wide variety of options in my closet to choose from. If you are reading this review and have tried out the Zion, let me know what you think in the comments below. I have not run into many people who have tried the Neoshell as of yet and would be curious to hear some other’s opinions. The Marmot Zion retails for $375, which is a good value for what you get. Many comparable waterproof jackets are more than that. As always, your mileage may vary.
Pros [field name=iFrame]
- Breathes well for a waterproof breathable
- Fully waterproof – even under a waterspout
- Comfortable softshell material has stretch
- Arms & Torso are nice long
- Plenty of pockets
- Cool colors
- Good Value
- Water resistant zippers are slightly stiffer to use
- Irritated neck & chin area
- Heavier – 8 oz heavier than stated
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