The Men's Zonal Jacket has been discontinued. Check out our Insulated Jacket Review to compare all of the jackets that were tested.If you are looking for a jacket to wear while doing aerobic activities in the cold, or a jacket to use as a warm layer under a shell without suffocating, then this is a jacket to consider. Since it has Technostretch panels on the side and rear, it is much more breathable than most of the other insulated jackets in this review. Other breathability-oriented light synthetic jackets are the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody and the Rab Strata Hoody, which uses new, designed for breathability, Polartec Alpha insulation. For a thinner and lighter jacket, the Montbell UL Thermawrap Jacket - Men's is excellent, weighing almost half as much as the Zonal. If you would rather have a thick hooded jacket, the Arc'teryx Atom SV is quite cozy and relatively breathable for its size.
Mountain Hardwear Zonal - Men's Review
Cons: Not as warm as other light insulated jackets.
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
with 60g/m2 of Thermic Micro TK, the Zonal is comparable to the other light synthetic jackets in terms of general warmth. However, the Zonal is constructed to be highly breathable, and this mean a large trade off with warmth. Overall the Zonal is significantly less warm than the more highly rated lightweight synthetics in this review like the Rab Xenon, Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood and Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
Weight / Compressability
Although light, the Zonal is not nearly as warm for it's weight as some of the competition like the Rab Xenon or Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood which are both hooded, and more weather and wind resistant. This jacket stuffs into its interior mesh pocket, but has no closure or clip loop so it's not as handy as the Nano Puff or Xenon.
The Mountain HardWear Zonal jacket has some features that none of the other jackets in this review have. The most notable feature is what Mountain Hardwear calls MicroClimate Zoning, which is the Technostretch (similar to Power Stretch) that make this a very breathable insulated jacket. Often if you wear an insulated jacket as a layer, no matter how thin it is, sweat can make things become a little stifling. This jacket is an exception. It could take the place of a fleece layer, being considerably warmer and almost as breathable since the side panels and a large swatch along the rear are essentially fleece.
There is also an easily accessed net pocket on the inside of the jacket for storing items like gloves, goggles or sunglasses. If need be you can stuff the whole jacket in this mesh pocket, although not that easily. There is no hood on the Zonal.
This is a great piece for aerobic activities in the cold, and is a good layer for alpine climbing since the breathability will keep you from overheating. This jacket works well for cross country skiing, hiking to climbing, or skinning up a peak.
The Zonal is only a good value if you are looking for a highly breathable synthetic insulated jacket. If warmth, or more important, a good warmth/weight ratio is what you're after, there are better, warmer jackets for a similar price. Check out the Rab Xenon, Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood, or Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket. If breathability is truly what you wish for, be sure to look at the Rab Strata as well.
— Chris Simrell and Chris McNamara