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Mountain Hardwear Zonal Jacket

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Mountain Hardwear Zonal Jacket synthetic insulated jacket

Great alternative to down, best one out there I feel.


  • Light
  • Compressable
  • Water resistant to a T
  • Warm


  • New version has elbow pads that make me jealous
  • No chest pocket

My wife is allergic to down, so much so that I can't even wear a jacket that has any mention of the word "down." So I had been searching for a while for a great alternative, looked at many other jackets from Marmot, Patagonia (my wife subsequently ended up with the hooded Nanopuff from Patagonia and loves it), and a few others. Some were just down right too expensive, some did not fit me as well as I'd wish, and yet some others were just down right not warm. Nothing is as great as down truly is, but this is the next best thing!

I really liked the fact that this was form fitting and not only meant to be a layering jacket, but also one that could stand alone. A lot of the others that I looked at I could tell were constructed to be just another layer, not tight at the bottom, or little bit too loose in the sleeves etc. This however form fits and has a sturdy collar that can stay up, or fold down (many others had whimpy collars).

The Primaloft in this jacket does its job too! I am a cold person, growing up in Vegas has given me bad traits, so I yearn for warmth and layering. This jacket did very well all the way down to 20°F for me. I also took it out a few times on the trail, never once did I overheat, still have no snags, and despite some puppy paws on it, no holes or frays. I am a stickler for chest pocket though, especially when you're just out for a quick jaunt with the dog.

Side note, it does layer well too though, I used it under just a Patagonia Torrentshell, under a Marmot ROM and Patagonia Torrent, and under my Marmot Leadville. Doesn't bunch up in the armpits, doesn't create any undue tightness around your arms as you add or subtract layers, and doesn't restrict movement. I also like that it is rather slim-line. The stretch panels under the arms too? Genius! And it doesn't negate the overall insulation.

Overall, if you aren't down with "the down" then come on down and try this guy out. I promise you won't be disappointed! There is even a new model with elbow pads that seems to me like a fantastic idea.

Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: $50

With the ice climbing season starting as early as December this year (2010), I found myself in dire needs of a synthetic belay jacket. One that I could use as an extra layer when skiing, walking around town and useful for spring camping. I wanted it to be more breathable than the average insulation jackets we usually find since, let’s be honest; I develop heat like an M1 Abram.

At first glance a lot of these synthetic layer look alike and feel alike, some have hoods, others don’t, each company puts in it little tweak here and there but basically they remain IMO a lot alike. Until this year, since the beginning or the season, we’ve seen the somewhat new (not really) hybrid jacket that combine fleece and synthetic insulation. Finally!!

The reasons for that are simple: comfort and breathability.

Back to the Zonal, first off the fit is great. The fleece is logically situated (both under-arms and it starts in the lower back) to be comfortable when carrying a backpack or under a harness.  For me, extra large fit perfectly over the layers I wear for ice climbing witch are a thick merino shirt, a power stretch marmot zip up, and a Marmot Leadville soft shell. I had no restriction in the arms at all even with all those layers.

The fill of the jacket is MH own copy of whatever is hot right now, (Primaloft maybe?). In any case it’s hot when wet and compresses nicely. Now you’ll have to watch out in high wind conditions were exposure can be severe since the side don’t block wind at all. They are, after all, fleece. On the other hand that’s what makes it so breathable and un-restrictive.

In the end the jacket is perfect for what I use it for.

Best for: Layering system for active sports, when you need comfort and performance. As a belay jacket for climbing in the colder seasons (I use it from 15 to the upper 40 Fahrenheit’s).    

Price Paid: 160$Can

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Price MSRP: $185.00
Historic Range: $55.49-$224.95
Reviewers Paid: $50.00
Weight 13 oz / 369 g
Center Back Length 27 in / 69 cm
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Price MSRP: $185.00
Historic Range: $56.98-$225.00
Weight 13.1 oz / 370 g
Center Back Length 25 in / 64 cm
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Product Details from Mountain Hardwear »

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