There are a few pieces of gear that I act as though I cannot live without. On the occasion that one of them goes missing, a child-like panic comes over me. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. Lately, the First Ascent BC-200 waterproof shell jacket from Eddie Bauer has been one of my security items. Though I have multiple shells, this one is the lightest and least rain-jacket-feeling of them all. Best of all, it does the job of any good shell, but it only weighs a measly 10.6 ounces.
This jacket lives up to the First Ascent mantra: “Everything you need. Nothing you don’t.” It has hand pockets, a chest pocket, a hood, and little else. The seams in this garment, made of a proprietary Eddie Bauer fabric, are welded, not stitched. Cinching cords, zipper pulls and the like are lightweight and minimal. Really, it doesn’t lack anything that I would want save for maybe pit zips, a feature I’ve grown to love on other shells. Fit is slim and sporty, not billowy as some shells tend to be. Overall, the jacket has a clean, purposeful feel to it.
Sometimes “ultra lightweight” becomes a synonym for delicate or flimsy. Not so with this jacket. During a recent run in the woods, I snagged the jacket on a dead, broken branch and thought for sure I’d ripped a hole in the material. Nary a scratch. I smiled at my sleeve and continued my run. Perhaps FA’s declaration that the BC-200 is “the lightest, strongest 3-layer jacket on the market” is true? Regardless, for the $200 asking price, you get a very capable, well designed piece.
If I had a feature I would change, it would be that the hood, designed for going over helmets, is oversized and awkward if you are not wearing one. But this jacket was designed for alpine use, so that is a needed feature. As mentioned, pit zips are always welcome, but I realize that they were omitted in the name of simplicity and weight. So, while it’s not perfect for every use, it is good enough to have become my constant companion this spring for outdoor ventures — provided I can find it before I leave the house.