Looked for a modern replacement for my 15 y/o Goretex jacket which is bombproof, but stiff, boardy, and doesn't breathe. It served me well for years of winter "fun" in the worst weather the White Mtns can dish out. Came down to Event or Neoshell, and I decided to go with the latter as the breathability claim seduced me - all of the waterproof/breathables I've tried are sweatboxes.
The Zion really feels more like a softshell. It is a quiet fabric with just a bit of stretch. I've kept the jacket as it really does perform. I love the simplicity of its design and the breathability. I do have 2 issues: fit and hood. I own other size L Marmot jackets and they are bulbous around the torso. I am 5'10 170 with a climbers build (41" chest, 32 waist, big shoulders) and seem to be in-between sizes in a lot of jackets regardless of brand; a L with an athletic cut is best a la Arcteryx, Mtn Hardwear. Marmot claims the Zion is an athletic cut, to which I say "meh"... I bought a Med counting on some stretch. It fits well but is restrictive in the shoulders, and the most I could layer under it is a stretch fleece pullover type of thing. A L would have sleeves stupid-long and the same baggy torso so I kept the Med.
The hood is large to fit over a helmet. I bought this jacket for fall-winter hiking, period. I climb rock and ice but have no intention of using this jacket for that. I gave up wearing hardshells for ice, NOTHING will breathe enough. I go with a softshell and throw on a W/P-insulated jacket at belays. I don't ski with a helmet...It is near impossible to buy a high-end jacket these days that DOESN'T have a huge helmet-compatible hood, and it annoys me as in use without one they don't sit very well all scrunched up... and look ridiculous in town.
Aside from that, I am loving the jacket for its amazing breathability. It really works and leave it a lot rather than seizing the first opportunity (rain stops, out of the wind, etc) to take it off. The lack of pit zips is a BONUS, as they are unneeded - and not very effective in most jackets. I DO wish they had used mesh inside the pockets so they could serve as vents. Instead they doubled the fabric behind the pockets, which is heavier and probably doesn't breathe worth a dang. Hiking the Columbia Gorge, Olympics, Mt St Helens, etc, I have had ample opportunity to wear it in the rain. It keeps me dry!
If you like Marmot fit, this jacket won't disappoint. Neoshell works, and Marmot quality is there.
Solid but could be better
Since I bought the jacket in late October, I've been using it for all purpose duty in foul weather, and as a ski jacket for more than 20 days on snow. I'm 5'10" 185 lbs with a wide, athletic frame. My measurements are 16 3/4" neck, 34" sleeve, and 42" chest. I wear a Large.
It's nice to see EMS among the early adopters of NeoShell, which is also made by a New England company. Overall, the fabric breathes very well and durability hasn't been a problem. When it's really windy, but not cold enough to warrant a mid-layer, it can get a bit chilly. But I feel that's a reasonable trade off for much improved breathability.
I find that the overall shape of the jacket is an excellent match for my boxy torso. I have the perfect amount of room in the shoulders and chest, and there are no areas that exhibit an over abundance of material. The fabric stretches a little bit, so freedom of movement is great. Occasionally, when I have reach for something, I find that the sleeves may be a bit short. The design of the large waterproof pockets is good.
My only real issue with the fit has to do with the hood, which is supposedly helmet compatible. I tried using the hood with 2 different snow helmets, and in each case, I was barely able to get the hood over the helmet. The hood would then slide off as soon as I started moving my head. Also, when zipped up, the fit is pretty tight around the chin, and it gets very constricting when the hood is stretched over a helmet.
Also, as others have reported, the operation of the main zipper has been a problem. The zipper routinely gets stuck on the inner storm flap, just below the chin, even when you're paying close attention. And once it's stuck, it usually means removing your gloves and goggles (since you can't see directly below you) to free the zipper. And guess when this happens? When it's cold, windy, exposed, and you really need the zipper to work. Smooth operation of the zipper is especially difficult with gloves on, and the zipper does occasionally get stuck in other places if you're not careful.
Overall, I think the jacket represents a good value as long as the issues I brought up aren't deal breakers. I'm not so sure I'd be as patient if there were more NeoShell jackets to choose from in a similar price range.
Waterproof AND breathable...bout time!
Picked this up the other day and finally got a chance to give it a test-drive - in some unseasonably warm weather. Took it up Mount Monadnock on a 60 degree day. I purposely over-insulated myself (two wool layers) and pushed hard and fast to the top (Marlboro trail bottom to top in 35 minutes!). When I broke out of treeline I hit a gnarly hail/rain mix, 65 mph winds, and the temp had dropped to 40 degrees. And there I stood, sweating through both my base layers. However, this shell blocked out all the wind, rain and cold. I stayed at the top for about 30 minutes and guess what? The inside of the shell, fully zipped, had pushed out all the sweat and vapor. I was as comfortable as could be. This is no boring, stifling PU hard shell...this thing breathes! I laughed out loud in delight and ate a granola bar. Despite sweating profusely from my layers I remained comfortable the WHOLE trip...and now I was DRY! I have no doubt Polartec is onto something gamechanging here. Kudos to EMS for making a completely bombproof piece of equipment. One piece of advice for next season: give this jacket and hood more of an "athletic" feel. I'm a big guy and this was even a touch baggy for me. Honestly, this is the only criticism I have for this jacket. However, as a winter shell, with the extra layers, I don't see this being that much of an issue. Can't wait to try this as my full-time winter shell...psyched! Glad to see two New England-based companies collaborating and pushing out some SERIOUS stuff!
This is the jacket I've been waiting for. I have several high end Arc'Teryx Gore Tex pro shell jackets, which are certainly waterproof and very sharp looking, but are difficult to do high energy outdoor activities without overheating or getting clammy underneath. Along comes the Helix, and I've been born again. What a great price point too. A heck of a lot cheaper than other high end waterproof breathable jackets, yet performs better. In short, a great value.
I actually use this jacket to run in outside in below freezing weather with just a long sleeve polyester undershirt. Good to go. More breathable than Gore Windstopper, yet waterproof too. Blocks the wind like a champ, and amazingly doesn't leave me sweaty underneath after a hard run. Surprisingly has some stretch to it like a soft shell. I just wish it would repel my dog's hair a little better, and I'd be looking to make a private equity investment in the company. Look out Gore, I've used your products faithfully over the years, but the truth has arrived, and the truth is Neo Shell. Thank you EMS for not making me bust my bank to get a Neo Shell jacket.
Bulletproof Hardshell Jacket
I bought this jacket on the advice of an EMS salesman and I have been thrilled ever since. The jacket is truly windproof and waterproof. This was tested with snow and fog on a windy day of hunting out west. The area had no cover at all, and my wool coat didn't stop the wind. This jacket stopped the snow and draft entirely and warmed up the coat until I began perspiring. The pack I carried was wet on my back while the uncovered front was nice and dry. The breathability is no joke and this jacket is superb in it's stated role as a hard shell jacket.
The only downsides that I see are a lack of 2XL and larger jackets. I got one for my brother and the XL was just too small. The color selection could be a bit broader, but I really like the colors that are offered now. Also a relaxed or "big boy" fit would be a perfect fit option (fat guys need weather protection too). Overall, I would most definetly recommend this jacket to anyone of average build and also the associated Helix bibs in the set. Truly great product here.
Light enough to pack all the time
I use the Helix as my go-to top layer. Before this I was using two different EMS Gore-Tex Shells depending on the season, but this coat has replaced both. It breathes better, packs much smaller, weighs a lot less, and keeps me just as dry.
The coat has napoleon pockets, so if you want hand-warmer pockets look elsewhere or be prepared to use your pants. I don't use the pockets, so I can't really say much else about them.
My one gripe is the size of the hood... not all of us are climbers that need to wear a helmet whenever we go anywhere. The hood cinches down, but it doesn't feel as good as a head-sized hood like you see on some other technical midlayers and softshell coats.
I have been more than happy to overlook the hood and the pockets given how well this jacket serves its purpose as a great all-rounder.
There's no going back
I hesitated to purachase this jacket because of all the negative comments concerning the zipper, but I'm glad I looked beyond that. I actually haven't had any problems with the zipper, though it is a bit stiff. The jacket breathes so well, I don't even mind the somewhat flashy zipper color. I have never been impressed with high-end "waterproof/breatheable" hardshells (I've tried most of the fabrics out there) because they almost always end up wet on the inside after vigorous skiing or snowshoeing. The NeoShell fabric is a total breakthrough. I use the Helix cross country skiing, and it actually does breathe like a softshell and keeps out snow and wetness from the outside like a hardshell. I was skeptical at first about how well it would actually perform, but not any longer. I wish I had bought this one sooner.
nice jacket overall
I skiied in this jacket a few times and did some field work. Overall a nice jacket with enough pockets that really does seem to breathe well even without pitvents (spring skiing will really test this. most of my days out were <20F). the cinch straps worked well too. A couple caveats though: 1. zipper catches on the storm flap. very annoying. at least the zipper is big enough that it looks durable unlike earlier versions. 2. I ordered a medium which is usually fine but it seems to be cut a little slimmer than I'm used to making layering hard...afterall, it is a winter shell.
Outstanding shell, Great Upgrade
This is the first new shell I have purchased in at least 5 years. I have stayed completely dry during multiple spring ski days where slushy snow hard for hours on end. The breathability was phenomenal on a different ski day when I had a down layer on underneath and worked up some heat. I look forward to packing this into the back country in the future.
The worst part of the coat is how easily the main zipper gets caught when zipping up. Other reviewers noted the issue. I have intermittent issues with it getting caught--and have had it quite stuck once or twice.
May the last of it's kind!
I'm afraid to say this might be the last of what might be great technical gear from EMS. This one is the bomb, my #2 shell, I'll keep my Arcteryx Alpha for back country and use this one for my everyday hard shell. Since the new owners, not much like this in their stores or online. Lots of North Farce though! My only regret is I wasn't able to get the matching Helix bib pants when they had my size.