Late fall and winter are perhaps the best-kept secrets in Zion National Park. Fewer crowds offer the chance to hike some of the park’s most iconic trails and visit overlooks that would be filled with tourists during the busy summer months. For much of December and January, the Zion Canyon Shuttle ceases operations, allowing visitors to drive their own cars through the canyon. But even when the shuttle is in operation, the lengthy lines that it has other times of year are mostly gone.
While the off-seasons are perfect for hiking, sightseeing, and more, they do require a few extras on your packing list that you don’t need in the summer. Some of those items include warm layers.
During the winter months, and even late fall and early spring, temperatures drop in the Canyon, and snowfall is common. Staying safe and warm means dressing in layers that you add as temperatures change throughout the day. Many visitors turn to down jackets for warmth without bulk. These versatile layers are lightweight and condense down, so they can easily be stuffed in a backpack. If you opt for a lighter layer, you’ll be able to comfortably wear your jacket through warmer fall and spring days, and layer it for warmth in the winter. They’re even cozy enough for relaxing on your vacation rental’s patio, taking in the stars on a cool late summer evening.
With cold weather fast approaching, now is a great time to invest in a down jacket of your own. But with so many options on the market today, how do you make the right choice? Keep reading to learn a bit about the history of down jackets, and how to choose the right one for your next outdoor adventure.
A History of Down
While down jackets have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, this popular cold-weather staple has actually been around since the 1930s. After almost succumbing to hypothermia during a fishing trip, adventurer Eddie Bauer, who had established his namesake outdoor sporting goods company 20 years prior, decided to develop a better jacket. His quilted, down-filled solution was revealed in 1937. But it would take several decades for the trend to catch on, and even longer for them to go mainstream.
Today’s down jackets have come a long way since the oversized Sleeping Bag coat of the 1970s. Manufacturers are now making thinner and thinner jackets that offer the same warmth as heavier alternatives. Unless you plan on trekking through sub-zero-degree weather, you can opt for a lightweight down jacket that’s perfect for layering all year long.
Is a Down Jacket the Right Choice for You?
Down is far from your only option when choosing layers for a visit to Zion or any other park. Fleece, wool, and synthetic fabrics can also keep you warm and cozy. To help you make your decision, let’s take a look at some pros and cons of down-stuffed coats.
Pros of Down Jackets
- Down jackets offer the best insulation of any jacket on the market.
- You can choose from heavier options or ultra-thin, lightweight jackets, depending on the type of weather you plan to wear it in.
- When properly cared for, a down jacket can last decades, because natural down degrades much slower than synthetic materials.
Cons of Down Jackets
- If you are allergic to down, you’ll need to choose a synthetic alternative, which may not be as warm.
- Down jackets do not perform well when wet, and they are very slow to dry. If not dried properly, the feathers may mold or smell.
- These jackets can be tough to clean. But they can be washed in a washing machine, just as long as you use soap designed to cleans down jackets.
How to Choose the Perfect Down Jacket
One big pro of down jackets is just how many varieties there are to choose from. But with a higher price tag than other materials, you’ll want to choose your jacket carefully to make the most of your investment.
Choose Synthetic or Natural Down
If you have a down allergy, the first thing you’ll want to do is narrow your options to those made with synthetic down. While it may not provide all of the same benefits as natural down, manufacturers have done a great job of recreating many of them, and you won’t have to worry about developing an itchy rash or other reactions during your next trip.
Finding the Right Weight
Another important decision that you’ll need to make is what weight you’d like your jacket to be. The amount of down packed into each pocket, the weight of the fill, and the shell of your jacket will all affect how warm it is, and how much protection you’ll have from the elements.
A heavy down jacket or coat can keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures but will be too much for much of spring, summer, and fall. If you want a layer that you can wear all year long, choose a light or medium-weight jacket instead. Look for jackets with less than 700-fill down or under 6 ounces of down.
Don’t forget to consider the shell of your jacket as well. If the shell isn’t waterproof, you’ll want to wear a rain jacket or other water-resistant outer layer over the top if the weather calls for rain.
Deciding Whether Down is the Right Material for You
If you’re looking to add warmth to your outfit without adding bulk, and want a variety of weight options to customize your outer layer, down is a great choice.
Now that you’re ready to brave the chill and experience the beauty of winter in Zion National Park, it’s time to book your next visit. No matter the time of year, Watchman Villas makes for the perfect basecamp for your Southern Utah adventure. Located just outside of Zion’s South Entrance, it’s easy to get to the park for an early morning hike. In the evenings, warm up in your vacation rental and cozy up to a movie with your family, or cook your own meal in your fully equipped kitchen. Check out our Villas today to find the perfect one for your next stay.