First Ascent Down light sweater

Author: [ smburt ]  Michael Shannon Burt   Contact Author: smburtSat Jan 01 08:26:09 EST 2011

I’m sure that most of you have probably walked by an Eddie Bauer store or even bought some casual clothing from this manufacturer. The mental picture I have of clothing from Eddie Bauer are well manufactured clothes made for everyday occasions (i.e. city wear). I certainly would not expect to see a “mountaineering line” of clothing in that store. However Eddie Bauer has teamed up with some of the greatest adventurers out there (Peter Whittaker, Ed Viestrus, Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot, Chad Pele and Seth Waterfall) to build the “First Ascent™” line of mountaineering clothing.

The three words that best describe the Downlight© Sweater are light, compressible and warm. I received my sweater through the mail and could not believe that a down sweater could fit in such a small package. It is so compressible and light (13.2 oz) that you will never have to decide whether or not you are taking this item with you. By the way if 13 oz doesn’t mean anything to you it takes 16oz to make one pound or 455 grams, therefore the jacket weighs a paltry 375grams. You can compress the sweater inside one of the pockets and then the sweater will be a little bit bigger than a large grapefruit.

They call it a sweater but with a full length zipper at the front as well as two exterior, zippered, side pockets, this is really a jacket. The interior of the two pockets are lined with fleece which is a god-send on days you forget your gloves. There are elastic gathers at the hem and cuffs which traps in the heat close to your body and prevents some but not all weather from coming in your sweater. A draw cord around the hem would be beneficial as it would prevent heat from escaping on windy days. As soon as you slip on this sweater, you will notice how much it retains your body heat. Simply amazing!

The insulation is made of 800 fill power premium Northern European goose down. I now understand how these birds can withstand the frigid temperatures of their breeding grounds in the Arctic. The drawback of retaining so much warmth is that you will be too warm if you are wearing the jacket with a shell and are moderately pushing yourself. What I mean here is that I had to take off the Downlight© Sweater or wear only the sweater when hiking or bushwacking in subzero temperatures. However, I don’t think you could make this sweater more breathable without losing the amazing heat retention of this sweater. Therefore you may need to start off with the sweater underneath your shell and take it off as the day progress and then put it back on when you are stopping for lunch or for the night.

From time to time, you will notice that some of the down escapes from the sweater but that is expected of any down-filed jackets. Never pull out the feathers as it can promote further leaks. Try to pull them back in from the inside when ever possible.

The zippers run smoothly, however bigger draw cords on the slider would help when you have to use the zippers with bigger mitts. Overall, the fit on the most part is cut close to the body. However, I find that they could cut about 2 inches of the fabric around the chest to prevent the little bunching I get on some occasions. The exterior of the sweater is described as windproof (20 denier ripstop nylon) and water resistant (Stormrepel™ durable water repellent finish (DWR)). This is a good finish for the misty and foggy weather we get but would not stop any moderate to heavy rainfall. For those kinds of conditions you would need a shell as well (see the Front Point jacket review!).

The price for this sweater is comparable to other products out there of the same quality, so I think the Downlight© Sweater is definitely a good deal since you are getting a slightly high end insulation (800 down) for the same price range.

Benoit Lelonde




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