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.)
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.
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.
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.