Marmot Nabu Neoshell Jacket Preview

One of the most searched Marmot products in the past year has been the Zion jacket, according to the local Marmot sales rep.  That doesn’t surprise me.  In a short time after posting Phil’s review of the Zion jacket, it moved up to the second most read review on the blog, and is still there.  We have been quite impressed with the Zion Jacket over the last year or so, but as was stated in the review, it isn’t perfect.  The best part of the jacket is the Neoshell in a softshell application.  It breathes very well without the cool feeling that tends to accompany Neoshell hardshells.  The downside of the jacket is that it’s on the heavy side and it is quite warm, making it a little less versatile during the warmer months.

When I saw the Marmot Nabu jacket at summer OR in July, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  It seemed to me like they took mine and Phil’s complaints about the Zion jacket , fixed them, and called it the Nabu.  I am happy to say that the Nabu jacket showed up at GEAR:30 last week, one of the few shops around that have them this early.

*I haven’t been able to use it yet, but from trying it on and checking it out in the store, I have not been disappointed.  I think this could be the ideal foul weather active piece for the whole year.

So, here are some pictures and descriptions of the jacket, as well as some specs.

Nabu Specs

  • Weight: 21.6oz (Men’s Medium).  In comparison, the Zion weighs 26oz in size Medium
  • 2 handwarmer Pockets
  • 1 external zip chest pocket
  • 1 internal zip pocket with headphone port
  • Adjustable cuffs
  • Adjustable, helmet-compatible hood (truly helmet-compatible, unlike the current Zion)
  • Drawcord hem
  • Lightly insulated
Pictures and Descriptions

The Men’s Marmot Nabu Jacket.  If you like the Zion, I’m pretty sure you’ll love the Nabu.  If you didn’t like the Zion, I’m pretty sure you’ll like the Nabu.
The women’s color.  A vibrant red with blue zippers.  It’s a really nice color combination, in my opinion.  So far we’ve had only good feedback from women on the color and fit of this jacket.

 

Not sure what happened to the color on this picture, but it is actually the same jacket as above, just a little washed out.  Anyway, there is a single zippered interior pocket on the inside.  It is big enough for a smart phone, wallet, etc.   Taped seams, Neoshell, and the light grid-mesh liner (which help to wick moisture) make this one of the most breathable, fully waterproof jackets on the market.  This used a similar application as Marmot did on the Zion jacket, but used a lighter interior liner fabric and exterior face fabric, which I can only imagine make the jacket more breathable, lighter, but probably less warm.
Detail of the interior grid mesh material.  At first I was calling it a really light grid-fleece liner, but it doesn’t really feel much like fleece.  It goes over layers better than fleece, but also isn’t quite as soft as fleece.  I think calling it a mesh is more accurate.
Polartec Neoshell in a softshell application.  Neoshell is incredible as a waterproof membrane.  It breathes far better than any other membrane I’ve used to date.  The downside is that, in a hardshell application, it moves humid air away from the body so efficiently that it can feel a little colder than other waterproof/windproof shells.  Not as ideal to wear while sitting on a cold ski lift.  For example, when I wear a Gore-tex shell, I can plan on the shell adding about 10 degrees of warmth to my layering system, at least until I get sweaty.  And unless I’m cold all day, I almost always get sweaty in Gore-tex.  With Neoshell, it doesn’t trap much heat.  When I wear a Neoshell hardshell, I don’t plan on it adding any warmth to my layering system, so I dress accordingly.  But I also expect that, if I’ve dressed correctly for the conditions, I either won’t get sweaty during the day, or I’ll dry off fairly quickly while still wearing my shell.
In softshell application, I and Phil have found that it breathes even better than in the hardshell (because the liner wicks moisture, I’d imagine), but it doesn’t feel as cool as in a hardshell.  You don’t get a slight chill when you’re resting at the bottom of a frozen waterfall after a 45 minute approach, like you do in the hardshell.  It is just comfortable.  I think that the Neoshell softshell application is the best performing waterproof material so far.
The hood has an aperture drawcord the pulls the hood tight around the face.  The rest of the cord remains on the inside of the jacket.  Though this is clean and keeps the cord from smacking you in the face in high winds, it forces you to unzip the jacket tighten the hood.

 

There is a second drawcord at the back of the hood that takes extra volume out of the hood and allows the hood to move with your head.  This hood can actually be worn with a helmet.  More on that in a minute.
I am 6’2″, 190 lbs or so, and this is a Medium.  The Medium fits trim with little extra room to layer, but it is still a comfortable fit.  The large was a little roomier and allowed room to layer, but didn’t seem too baggy.  I usually go for the trimmer fitting layers, but in this case, I liked the Large better for my size.  I think the medium would be a better fit for those that are under 175-180 lbs or so or you prefer a trimmer fit.  The face fabric on the Nabu is not as stiff as on the Zion, so the medium Nabu is a much more comfortable fit, in my opinion, than the medium Zion.

 

The hood fits nicely without a helmet.

 

The hood also fits nicely with a helmet.  The Zion jacket’s hood was not quite big enough for a helmet, in my opinion.  When you zip the Zion up with a helmet on, the fabric is super tight across the mouth.  The Nabu has a little more room and is comfortable to wear zipped up with the hood over a helmet.

 

The hem still pulls up a bit with arms up, but not enough to pull out of a harness.  The cut isn’t as good for climbing as the Rab jackets I’ve used, but it is a little more comfortable cut, especially under the armpits, than the Rab.  The only place I think the cut is a downer is when climbing.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I want this jacket for.

 

The jacket has a drop hem in the back.  The sleeves are a comfortable length on me (I have pretty average arms).  For those that have longer-than-normal arms, the sleeve length may be a little frustrating when climbing in the jacket.  For most people, the length should be fine.

 

There is great stretch in this jacket.  Because of the stretch and the softer face fabric, it is a very comfortable jacket to move in.  It feels less restricting than the Zion.  It also feels significantly lighter than the Zion.  Even though it is only 4.5oz lighter than the Zion, it feel to me like it’s much lighter.  I think that is because the face fabric is thinner and more supple and the wearer has to put in less effort to move in it than the Zion.

 

More stretch.
Final Observations

Both Phil and I have been very impressed with the Zion jacket, but mostly with the softshell Neoshell fabric.  The jacket itself, needs some work.  Marmot told me that the hood is being revamped on the Zion jacket to better accommodate a helmet.  That’s definitely a much needed update.  But there were multiple gripes that we had with the Zion jacket that we felt needed to be addressed.  To review, here they are:
  • Hood to small/jacket too trim around the mouth
  • Fabric too heavy
  • Jacket too warm for shoulder seasons and warmer winter days
  • Too many pockets (interior pockets, many exterior pockets, a shoulder pocket, etc)
  • Medium fit well in the body but pulled up out of a harness when lifting hands above the head

 


I think the Marmot Nabu remedies all of these problems, except maybe the jacket pulling up too much when lifting hands above the head.
The hood is much better than on the Zion.
The fabric is lighter and more supple, making the jacket feel much lighter than the Zion, even though there’s only a 4.5oz difference.
The grid-mesh liner fabric is much lighter than the fleece used in the Zion jacket, making the jacket less warm (which I consider a good thing, though many may disagree with me on that).  The fact that this jacket is less warm means it’s a better 4-season jacket, instead of a cold weather only jacket that I feel the Zion is.
There are less pockets on the Nabu.  Only one less, but that’s a start.  They got rid of the arm pocket that is on the Zion.  I like the pockets that are on the Nabu.  They make it a more versatile jacket.  If I was designing the perfect climbing jacket, I would have taken off even more pockets, but the pocket configuration on the Nabu are fine.  They’re out of the way of a harness/hipbelt, so I’m happy.
The jacket doesn’t come untucked out of a harness when I lift my arms.  This is true about both medium and large sizes.  It does pull up a little and then bellow out over the harness a bit, but most of my jackets do.  This cut is as good for climbing as most any I have tried, Rab and Arc’teryx not included.
Overall I am super impressed with the jacket.  I haven’t used it yet in the mountains, so my mind could very well be changed in the coming months, but so far I think it could be one of the best active jackets on the market.