Eddie Bauer’s new “First Ascent” line

Just came across this today, Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent.  Interesting stuff as maybe, juuuust maybe, it means that Eddie Bauer is going back to it’s roots (though not going so far as to manufacturing in the USA…) and actually trying to put out quality outdoor gear again.

First thought: Sweet, a potential source of outdoor clothing available in tall sizes for those mongoloids like myself, and I’m always a sucker for a picture of Mt. Rainier so that got my attention.

Second thought: This stuff is pretty expensive.  $349 for the Rainier jacket with it’s ‘WeatherEdge Pro’ generic waterproof/breathable laminate (assuming just another post-Goretex patent expiration knockoff) seems a bit steep for unproven gear – though they have (or at least used to have) their lifetime warranty so you could always ‘rent’ the garment to test it out.  In fact…maybe I’ll do that for a future review.

First Ascent Rainier jacket
First Ascent Rainier jacket

The down sweater, 800 fill, quoted weight of 13.4 oz. puts it in the same weight realm of the Patagonia sweater, not sure how much of the weight of either is down fill v. the shell though.

First Ascent Downlight sweater
First Ascent Downlight sweater

Could be interesting stuff, they’ve certainly got a decent team (including PNW loc Kyle Miller) helping shape the product, assuming they are actually helping shape and not just licensing their name out.  When it goes on the inevitable supercrazywhackfunky clearance I may pick up an item or two and test it out, unless they want to send me something beforehand…

24 Replies to “Eddie Bauer’s new “First Ascent” line”

  1. Also, I would highly recommend the super cool Born Out There blog at blog.firstascent.com and the You Tube channel. The video dispatches coming back from Everest allow people to literally follow the climb step by step in a way that has never been done before. Three minutes a day and you can experience climbing the tallest mountain in the world, as well as get a fascinating look at the culture and people in the area. It’s breathtaking.

  2. Wow! I bet you’re a fan and not employed by them in any manner!

  3. mountainboy11 says: Reply

    I say let the guides do their job, let the retailers do their job, let the manufacturers do their job. Some partnership is okay, but this seems extreme. If I rope up with Peter Whittaker on Rainier is he going to be taking notes for Eddie Bauer feedback downtown or taking notes on the mountain, the snow and weather conditions, crevasses, etc?

    Guides need to worry about one thing when climbing: their clients and the mountain. The fact these guys would partner with Eddie Bauer proves one thing to me: they are guides. If they knew anything about retail or manufacturing I doubt they’d partner with a brand who has been in and out of bankruptcy several times in the last decade, nor would they launch a new technical brand in the heart of the worst economy in decades.

    Nothing against Eddie Bauer, either. They have some really great pack n play crib covers at Target.

  4. Last last sentence killed me, LOLOLOLOL!

  5. […] like the First Ascent team reached the summit of Everest today. Congrats to them, as that’s a burly achievement and […]

  6. […] mention as to what effect this will have on their newly launched (possibly newly closed) line, First Ascent, that was supposed to get EB back to their roots and start to distance them from just being another […]

  7. I will say from an insider in the outdoor industry (designer), and not employed by EB, they are using some great fabrics, and the construction actually looks really good. The one benefit they have over Patagonia, Mtn Hardwear, or even Arc Teryx, is they are direct to retail, meaning they can use the same fabric as the other people do, produce in the same factories, and don’t have to meet the wholesale costs as they go right to retail. Basically they can build more expensive product, and offer it for less then their new competitors. If they use talented designers from other tech outdoor companies, I can’t think of a reason they don’t have all the same resources, so I bought the down sweater, and wear it everywhere now. They are redeeming themselves in my book. They need to cut out licensing their name out to cheesy brands for sure, and maybe this is their first step.

    1. Hey Mike, good thoughts and comments. I think your last sentence cuts to the chase of the whole thing though – if they want to get treated seriously by the consumers they are targeting with their higher price (and performance?) gear they need to work through the perception issues that audience rightly has from years of seeing Eddie Bauer horseshoe sets and phone chargers at Target. Also, if they truly are passing on any direct to retail benefits as opposed to just clearing extra margin they should focus their marketing on that as well, as opposed to just constantly reiterating their whole RMI/we climbed Everest spiel.

      FWIW their down sweater doesn’t look bad, I like the fact it comes in talls so you can get a better fit and have to warm up less air space. Hell, I’d love to get my hands on one to check out, look/see/feel. However when I had the opportunity to vote with my dollars I voted for the substantially cheaper (was on ridiculous sale) and time proven Patagonia.

      Who do you design for?

  8. TALL SIZES…..
    At six foot five that says a lot to me. I have purchased EB casual clothing for the quality and they fit me. Now I can buy what I hope it high performance quality layers and jackets in TALL sizes.
    Patagonia makes great stuff that like the terrific R1 base layer my wife was wearing on a hike today but I will be switching all our purchases to EB since they have chosen to get back to their roots and more importantly will be making clothing that fits me.
    Will be ordering some stuff soon.

    1. That makes one of us…

      For me, yeah it’s moderately exciting there are tall sizes (same size as you), but quite frankly I don’t want to pay their prices for unproven in the market gear/return policy. Report back your experiences though as I’m definitely intrigued.

  9. I recently had the pleasure of going to an Eddie Bauer store to hear a talk about the new gear line featuring Peter, Dave, Chad and Seth and also Jim Whittaker. It was pretty cool to see Jim Whittaker speak about buying gear from Eddie Bauer – the man – back in Seattle way back when.

    One theme of the event was that Eddie Bauer no doubt lost their way over the years. I spoke with the marketing director of the First Ascent line and told her that I hadn’t been in an Eddie Bauer in FOREVER. EB has a new CEO – around 2 years I believe – and his first action was to call up Peter to design a line of gear. The team stressed that this was not simply licensing their name – they were really designing the gear. Peter put together a team of climbers – their resumes speak for themselves – and they designed it. Every aspect of it.

    While I agree that the gear is untested in the market since it has only been out for a couple of weeks – I’d say it got a pretty good field test from some of the best climbers on the planet. I don’t personally find this gear any more expensive than the other stuff out there – North Face, Patagonia, etc. I bought the Serrano down jacket and while I’ve only had it a few days, I’m a big fan.

    To the person who was worried about whether Peter Whittaker was going to be worrying more about gear than his clients…don’t go on a trip with him. Pretty simple. Something tells me his business is going to be fine.

  10. Whoa…does anybody else feel like all these comments on the Eddie Bauer stuff is just spam from their PR firm?

  11. Slim – you’re probably right. I know when I first wrote an article on the gear some of the referring URLs were from a PR firm that had EB listed on their client list…

  12. I am 5′3.5″ and 130 pounds (female). I ordered a petite medium DOWNLIGHT SWEATER and I am very happy with the fit. The sleeves rest comfortably at my wrists but could be pulled down to my knuckles. The back of the top goes just short of half way down my butt with the front sitting where a low-rise style jean would. The jacket/sweater is clearly cut with the women’s form in mind as I have enough room in the chest and a comfortably flattering waist. With the top on less than a minute I immediately felt its warming properties at work. Weighing the jacket for myself it came in at an almost not there 9 ounces! Out of curiosity I put my Marmot Precip (size s/p) jacket on over the sweater to see if this could be a complete, weatherproof system without causing the down to lose is heat-trapping loft. It worked great! I have not field tested this seemingly wonderful new piece of gear but by all accounts I am extremely pleased with my purchase.

  13. In anticipation that some on this site might dub me as working for Eddie Bauer in some fasion I wanted to make it known that I have nothing to do with Eddie Bauer or any other PR firm for that matter. I’m a long distance, recreational hiker when I’m lucky enough to be able to do so. (read, able to get blocks of time off my job) I’m kind of a gear freak who, like all others who fit into that category, appreciates fine new hiking/backpacking offerings from whatever company puts it out there for me to experience. I know a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to try the sweater for themselves so I thought I’d give my take on the downlight sweater.


    1. LOL, are you saying that people on the internet are skeptical? Appreciate the feedback though, it’s always good to have first hand accounts on gear. Report back when you’ve had it for awhile, curious how it holds up long-term – does it keep it’s loft, lose feathers, etc. Looks like a decent piece of gear to my untrained eye though.

  14. I get and appreciate what EB is trying to do. Hypothetically, let’s say that their gear lives up to the hype. What I feel is missing is the knowledge from the sales associates. No offense to all the nice soccer moms and bored college girls, but they couldn’t answer any of my technical questions. They will tell me what they have been trained to say, then smile and nod when they run out of a script. If they get some good looking “dirtbags” in their that know their stuff, then you might have something (especially if they lower their prices). For those EB stores that have staff that is well versed in the outdoors, awesome, I hope it filters out to all their stores.

  15. I purchased (online) the first ascent men’s marino baselayer (top and bottom), as well as the downlight sweater (all size M). The downlight sweater is super light, but it is obvious that the company has designed this jacket/sweater for the ‘average’ man, not an athletic one. The cut was too loose and bulky for me. Are all guides fat? Secondly, the baselayers were all off on sizes… the top was too big while the bottoms WAY too small in the waist. Another obvious design flaw is the lack of a cutout (to pee) in the crotch. Who designs something like this with no cutout? Obviously had no input from a real guide/athelete/anyone who wears these things. Sending them all back.

  16. Hey Chris, thanks for the feedback. Seems like this post has received a lot of comments (granted some are probably PR spam…), so it’s good to hear some add’l real world feedback.

    My Patagonia down sweater has the same cut, really boxy. Always figured Patagucci to do a more athletic cut. I’m going to pick up one of the Mtn Hardwear ones one of these days, will let you know how it is.

  17. I changed Eddie Bauer stores long ago, for Patagonia, REI and the similar. But when I was looking to insulate my Patagonia jacket for the Minnesota winter ski season, everything was either puffy or very expensive. In Black Friday, the Serrano cost me $119, that from the insulation, fashion and cost was perfect.

  18. I purchased the EB First Ascent Paradise 1/4 zip baselayer and pants to survive the subzero madness recently in Kansas City. Absolutely the best baselayer I have ever had and the price was good. Tried Patagonia, North Face and Land’s End and this find was a good one. Soft, durable, and most of all, helped me stay warm. -PJ

  19. I can say as a petite woman that although I love Patagonia stuff, most of it is too long for me. Their down sweater also look awful. I admit that I want the down sweater more for everyday wear and hiking with my dog, but I want something that fits. I love the new Eddie Bauer down sweater in a petite size. I will say that I had to go to the large for every day wear so that I could fit a layer under it. Right now, I am 5’3″ and 140. Losing weight though…

  20. This is a pretty old string… I have several FA pieces (my buddy used to work there.)

    So far my experience has been:

    Rainier Storm Shell Jacket:

    Busted the zipper on the first one (my fault), I bought it on clearance from the website and they wouldn’t let me exchange it because they changed the model. My buddy took care of me and sent me the new version. I have taken up a few cascade peaks, and worn it in pouring rain. I am pretty happy with it. The hood has a nice cut to it, fit well over my helmet.. not so well without one. Also the waterproofing seems legit.

    Front Point Jacket:

    This also came from my buddy. The softshell material feels kind of cheap. I have worn this in serious downpours and it seems to hold up well. The material has held up fairly well also, even after climbing the tuft out at smith rock.

    Base layers:

    I have an athletic build.. they fit great. Certainly better than the classic long john I use to wear.

    As for Down, I have no idea, I use a Marmot Ama Dablam and LOVE IT! My buddy has the Peak XV jacket and wore it up for a winter attempt of the Grand Teton. He said it was too warm 🙂 Now he wants an Ama Dablam. But the quality was good.

    As for EB.. I would like them a lot more if they manufactured in the US. The bummer is niether do any of the big out door companies. Even if they say they do, a lot of them buy materials from china and just “assemble” in the US..

    1. Josh, thanks for the feedback! From what I can garner seeing the FA stuff, the newer product seems pretty damn nice. Still don’t own any though as I’d rather spend that money on other company’s product.

      Re: US manufacturing my mind was blown earlier today when I was at a local shop. Apparently Feathered Friends now has their clothing manufactured offshore! From what I was told they still manufacture their bags in the US (currently) they’ve offloaded all their apparel. Blew my mind (well, it’ll be blown once I actually verify that, but as the guy that told me was a retailer of theirs I don’t know why he’d lie)

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