Eddie Bauer launches First Ascent

Eddie Bauer is getting back to its roots this season by launching the First Ascent line of outerwear and apparel. The new line is geared toward people making their first climb, first tracks and, of course, first ascents on high peaks. First Ascent’s motto is ”Everything you need and nothing you don’t.”

With what appears to be high-quality gear at a reasonable price, the company is trying to separate its well-known Eddie Bauer brand — which may be associated with casual, semi-performance clothing — from the new technical line. (The fresh-start approach might also be a result of Eddie Bauer recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and then being bought by Golden Gate Capital, an investment firm.)

First Ascent women\'s Serrano jacket.jpg

First Ascent women’s Serrano jacket

I recently had a chance to check out First Ascent’s new line at a media preview event in Boulder, Colo. The gear includes outer shells, insulated outer layers, mid- and base-layers, as well as gloves, backpacks and other gear oriented toward winter and mountain pursuits. Overall, I was impressed.

Designed with the help of mountaineers Ed Viesturs, Pete Whittaker, Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot, Chad Peele, Seth Waterfall and others, the First Ascent gear has been through constant abuse and testing on some of the country’s and world’s highest peaks — including Mount Everest. While most of the gear is designed for mountaineering, the company plans to make ski and snowboard apparel in the coming years.

First Ascent men\'s Frontpoint jacket.jpg

First Ascent men’s FrontPoint jacket

Among the gear I’m looking forward to testing this winter is the Serrano Jacket, a synthetic-fill piece with a rip-stop shell and Polartec Power Stretch side panels. The men’s and women’s version both have an extended cuff complete with a thumb hole to help keep hands warmer.

The FrontPoint Jacket was another interesting item at first look. The shoulders, hood, sleeves and hem are made of a durable, water-resistant hard-shell fabric while the body is primarily soft-shell. Made for all-mountain activities, the FrontPoint is touted as “incredibly breathable.”

While most of the First Ascent outer layers are touted as “incredibly wind resistant,” I’m surprised none of the shells are fully windproof. This seems a strange oversight for mountain wear.

Finally, the company has a $1,000 850-fill down suit in its expedition-oriented line. This specialized product is what the First Ascent team tested on Mount Everest last spring.

First Ascent men\'s Peak XV Down Suit.jpg

First Ascent men’s Peak XV Down Suit

Beginning next week, Eddie Bauer will launch First Ascent in 183 of its stores across North America. Or, check out the company’s line at http://www.firstascent.com.

—Ryan Dionne

Posted by Shannon - 10/09/2009 09:29 AM

Make sure you test the Schoeller Pants, too- they look beautiful!

Posted by Martin - 10/11/2009 02:45 PM

I have the pleasure of owning the Serrano jacket and the BC-100 (rain and wind shell). My wife runs an Eddie Bauer store and I snapped these up on the date of the release. These both seem like great products so far. the Serrano jacket is extremely light and warm. The Primaloft insulation performs when wet, unlike down, and the whole garment stuffs in its own bag—takes up about a half a cubic foot when stuffed. And, contrary to popular belief, the product line reorganization was in the works long before the Golden Gate Capital acquisition. The First Ascent line was rolled out in the Bellevue, WA flagship store before the chapter 11.

Posted by Michael - 10/13/2009 12:40 PM

I have a lot of this product, and my favorites are the down sweater, and the Frontpoint. Ryan – I’d re-look at the line, as there are many fully windproof outerwear pieces, including the 3-layer Rainier Storm jacket and pants, as well as the BC-100. In this line, everything had a reason, and nothing was an oversight. These guys want breath-ability, but when conditions do get rough, the above pieces create that hard wind barrier. This program has been in the works for over 18 months, so well before the economic turn, or Ch.11. Great write-up!

Posted by OrangeCrush - 10/28/2009 05:47 PM

I just loaded up on a bunch of this gear and I have to say I am mighty impressed thus far. I like how they keep things simple as a lot of gear today is just overloaded with unnecessary features. The Hangfire Hoodie and Downlight Sweater. Its an amazing one two puch that is so light you swear you weren’t wearing anything at all. I also picked up the Igniter Jacket and Pants, The BC-100 jacket, and 3 complete sets of the Merino Ultra-195 baselayer.

I love the entire concept behind First Ascent and have no doubts that it will not only succeed but also gain a lot of respect in the community. Lets face it the guides Eddie Bauer teamed up with are exactly the kind of people you would want working with you to design this type of gear. I certainly cant think of anyone else who would be more knowledgeable in such matters.

Anyways I haven’t had a chance to use much of it yet however as first impressions go, I am completely satisfied and then some. It appears to be awesome gear.

Posted by Dave Nelson - 10/30/2009 02:01 PM

I have not been able to find a good “Walk Around” 30 below down parka since Eddie Bauer made parkas for the North Slope. Most are either heavy work parkas or technical climbing jackets. Someone help!

Posted by Robert McCloskey - 01/03/2010 01:00 AM

I am really impressed with the First Ascent gear I purchased. I also took a real close look at most of their new ideas and it looks to me like they did away with trendy and flashy, and brought back the essentials using only the best new materials and designs. There clearly was a lot of thought about combining comfort with functionality, and I look forward to seeing what these guys come up with in the future.

I will be sure to add more of this line to my closet/gear.


Posted by Chris Erwin - 02/10/2010 12:23 AM

Great concept clothing. Simple light and functional. Climbing’s triad requisite recipe. The fit however is still underdeveloped re: when in climbing positions ie hands over head, there is a lot of rise in the waist and pull back in the arms and shoulders, despite the marketing claims on the labels. Perhaps if you’ve little shoulders and a small back these will fit you better. Though if that’s the case your probably not built like the average climber. Contrast this with similar garments of Patagonia’s line and you’ll appreciate the experience and expertise that goes into their fit. Good for the wide backs of most climbers and don’t rise up when hands overhead. Also the Igniter jacket seems a little skimpy on the weight of primaloft when contrasted to jackets of similar style (DAS, Micro Puff). If you have a narrow back and shoulders these clothes may fit you a bit better, however I suspect there’ll still be a fair amount of rise with overhand positions. Hopefully they can refine these elements and continue developing what looks like a very refreshing and competitive line of climbing clothing.

Posted by T-Ricky - 03/14/2010 11:07 AM

The DAS and Micro Puff use Polarguard which is more lofty than Primaloft for a given warmth/insulation value. So it’s not a good comparison.

Posted by John - 08/20/2010 07:59 AM

I bought the rainer jacket and am very impressed. Used it backpacking in the rain, at some points it was plus 30 miles per hour with rain. First rain jacket I have owned that does not feel like a rain jacket. It breathes very well. The hood is large but cinches down quite well. I also bought the igniter jacket. I am looking forward to trying it out when things cool down.

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