We had the opportunity to review a complete setup of outer clothing from Eddie Bauer First Ascent. Eddie Bauer has a long history of alpine climbing. Their down jackets were worn on the fist American ascent of Mt. Everest in 1963. The climbing tradition is alive with their First Ascent line of clothes. The attention to fabrics, insulation, cut and fit is remarkable, not to mention the innovation found throughout their lineup.
We tested the following clothing while alpine climbing, ice climbing, hiking and just wearing around town. To give some reference to sizes and fit; our tester is male, 6’3″, 190 lbs, (fairly)trim athletic build.
First up is the Accelerant Jacket. Designed as a mid-layer it is mainly comprised of a very stretchy, very breathable fleece. On the top of the arms, shoulders and chest is a 40 gram layer of Primaloft One insulation covered with a water and wind repellent nylon shell. This has become my go-to mid-layer for ice and alpine climbing. The close fit, combined with breathable fleece means my temperature stays well regulated. I’m warm, but the fleece lets me dump heat quickly if I’m gripped on an ice route and working place screws or move through junk ice. One feature that I’ve particularly grown to love is the integrated hood. One night when ice climbing I forgot a hat, thankfully I remembered that the Accelerant jacket had the attached thin hood that zips to the chin. I pulled it on put my helmet back on and completely forgot about it. It worked so well that I don’t bring a hat anymore. Not only does the hood regulate my temperature better by letting the warm air stay around my neck and head, but the thin hood keeps my head from getting too hot. Big bonus, I don’t get ice and spindrift down the back of my neck anymore! The other feature I really appreciate is the cut around the arms. When I first put the jacket on, it seemed to tight, with the sleeves going right up to my pits. It was then that I noticed that by designing the jacket this way I have a fantastic range of motion and the rest of the jacket didn’t have to move up with my arms. The waist stays put under my harness and I have all the freedom I need to hook, pull and swing ice tools. There are three pockets, a chest pocket and two waist pockets, nicely moved up and out of the way of a harness. I should also mention it has thumb holes to keep the sleeves where they need to be when stretching and reaching.
Size tested – Large – long
Colors – Dark Smoke (dark gray, yellow highlights), Sprig (bright green/navy blue- tested)
Next up is the BC Micro Therm Down Jacket. I’m trying not to keep raving and pandering here, but the BC Micro Therm is every bit as good as the Accelerent Jacket. Most climbers own a number of shells and insulated jackets. Some combination usually works well for most things, but there is almost always a trade-off in some way. Example, a common need is a light-weight down jacket and a hard shell to dispense with rain and accumulating snow. This usually requires two jackets, a thin down mid-layer and a shell of some sort. Eddie Bauer tied the two together in an amazing fashion. First, the Weatheredge Pro shell made of 100% Nylon 20k/20k waterproof breathable material. This is not a stiff hard shell, but it’s a little tougher than the nylon that you find on most synthetic insulated jackets. Under this fantastic outer layer is a really soft layer of 800 fill down. Inside the jacket you can see narrow down baffles. This is the most comfortable hard shell insulated jacket I’ve worn. The whole thing is topped off with Stormrepel, Eddie Bauer’s DWR coating that keeps the water beading up and rolling off the jacket.
My first test of the jacket was the same night I wore the Accelerant. The weather was perfect for the combination. We were lead climbing up a fairly wet route. I needed to stay warm while belaying, but not get too overheated when climbing, plus lots of water would be splashing about so I needed something that could handle the moisture. I climbed the first pitch then belayed my partner. I kept catching ice screw points and tips of ice tools on the jacket and expected to rip a big hole each time. Surprisingly the jacket never got a scratch. I was nice and warm while belaying the 2nd up and while he took the lead on the next pitch. The hood is helmet compatible and has adjustments from the back, sides and bottom to get it just the right size . It works well and does not get in the way when climbing.
The jacket is amazing comfortable and durable for climbing as well as just wearing when you’re out and about. The DWR finish is fantastic, especially great for wet snow and rain. I tested the BC Micro Therm jacket in a size XL – long. The XL is perfect to allow for a layer or two underneath, but the long is a little too long so unless you’re 6’5″ just get the regular length and you’ll be very happy. A regular size Large would probably have also fit very well, with a more traditional athletic fit.
Colors – Black, Coast (blue), Bright Lime (tested, brighter green than the picture, looks great!)
Mountain Guide Pants. Everyone needs several good pairs of softshell pants. They’re had to beat for ice and alpine climbing. They shed water pretty well, though not waterproof. They flex and articulate at the knee and hips to allow for comfort as well as technical movements. Eddie Bauer First Ascent did a great job with the Mountain Guide soft shell pants. These pants are made out of a very water resistant 4-way stretch fabric. There are two hip pockets and a pocket on the right thigh, all with waterproof zippers. There are ankle to calf zippers to increase the size of the opening to make room for larger boots if needed. The fit is a little tighter than other soft shell pants I’ve worn. With the added stretch it made for a great combination of fit and comfort. I usually paired these with a medium weight wool base layer and found the combination to be great for cold weather climbing. The Mountain Guide pants are warm enough that I would do away with the base layer if the temps got above 35F for fast alpine climbing where you’re working hard and creating a lot of heat.
The only problem for me was with the sizing. I went with an XL for length, but this made the waist a little too big. My waist is about 37″. If you’re smaller than 39″ I would recommend going with a size Large. The length was just long enough. If Eddie Bauer comes out with a Long option I would go with a large long if I could.
Colors – Black (should pants really be any other color?)
Last but certainly not least is the Stash Glove. I’ve taken to getting most of my outerwear in bright colors now in case something goes wrong and I need to be easily spotted. The Stash gloves fit right in with their bright blue color (they come in basic black too). These gloves are bomber. The gauntlet is a tough nylon material with a wrist cinch strap to keep the glove on and the snow out. The backs of the fingers are a soft-shell material and the palm and fingers are made from a super-high quality leather. Eddie Bauer even includes some Nikwax treatment to protect the leather and keep the gloves in good condition for a long time. There is padding on the knuckles to keep you from bashing your fingers when climbing or skiing in the trees.
The exterior is impeccably made, but what I noticed the most was the fit of the glove when I slid my hand in. The poly/merino wool lining is really soft, but the nicest design feature is the way the lining has been sewn into the fingers. At worst many gloves have linings that aren’t connected at all or barely attached at the finger tips. If you get your hands wet or sweaty and try to put your hand back in the glove the lining gets tangled and bunched up. At best most lining is sewn along the length of the finger but you still get a little slop in there. Sliding my hand into this glove was like sliding my hand into a glove that was tailor made for me. The lining is secured the whole length of the finger, around the palm, everywhere. I can’t really describe what a difference it makes, you’ll have to try on a pair to see for yourself. I should note that I have fairly long fingers and many gloves, even XL barely fit the length of my fingers. These fit perfectly, a little length left so my fingers aren’t crammed in, but not so much that they’re flopping around and affecting dexterity.
Colors – Ascent Blue (tested), Black