For years, manufacturers have been trying to deliver the superior breathability and supple, stretchy fabric of a softshell, combined with the total waterproofness of a hardshell. The Zion, made with Polartec’s new waterproof/breathable NeoShell fabric and fully seam-taped, moves the needle ever closer to the perfect union.
“I spent three days on the trail in near-constant rain with temps in the 30s and 40s in Washington’s Quinault Rainforest,” says our tester. “I stayed bone dry, and only had a bit of sweat buildup during a 4,000-foot climb in warmer weather (low 50s).” The tester, who tends to overheat easily, says the Zion is as breathable as the best shells he’s used.
Details are equally dialed: Hand pockets sit above a hipbelt and are large enough for skins, and the helmet-compatible hood has a stiff, rain-repelling brim. And while jackets with this much protection tend to be a little constraining, the soft fabric and articulated sleeves enhance mobility. “I used it fly-fishing the Yakima River,” says our tester, “and loved the freedom of movement when I needed to sidearm roll casts under brushy sections.” Downside: weight.