First Ascent Saeba heli guide bib pants

Author: [ smburt ]  Michael Shannon Burt   Contact Author: smburtSat Jan 01 09:08:38 EST 2011

First Ascent, a division under Eddie Bauer, has been marketing technical outdoor gear since 2009. They make a variety of pants, jackets and under layer clothing to best suite varying outdoor disciplines.

The Saeba Heli Guide Bib ski pants fall under the the 3-ply, waterproof breathable hardshell catigory, (with the exception of the softshell chest fabric) and are intended for backcountry skiing in powdery as well as full on crapped out weather conditions.

I've wanted bib style pants for some time now. I own both hard shell and soft shell pants that end at the waist, and these work fine for shoulder season use, as well as some snow and climbing applications, but the bib design really helps keep the snow (powdery kind) where it belongs.

The Saeba's are taylored to layer over a variety of insulation options such as soft shells or down / synthetic insulated pants. A number of features include angled chest and hip pockets, multiple zippers (for venting) in the chest that extend down to the crotch, hip length water resistant leg zips both for easy on/off as well as venting, and internal removable powder gaitors in the cuffs. For durability, the Saebas have reinforced knee and shin zones along with scuff guard patches on the inside leg to protect agaist the ski's sharp metal edges. By their description, the fabric is a "rugged three-layer 4.43 oz 100% nylon 70-denier WeatherEdge® Pro Fabric with StormRepel™ durable water-repellent (DWR) finish on waist and back legs."

I wore these over the past Christmas holiday in Quebec's Chic Chocs, where after an evening's snow storm dumped a fresh 40cm of fresh powder, we set out to do some backcountry skiing.

We started with cutting trail through 2 feet of powder. This was a huge energy burn. Underneath the bibs, I wore the FA Mountain guide softshell pants for insulation. Throughout the morning, I never over heated in the bibs. I attribute this to both their breathability, as well as their zipper venting capibilities. Be careful though. I had my leg zips open from my thighs to the knees, and snow fell and collected along my shins. Fortunately the powder cuffs kept the snow from going into my boots, and with a quick unzip at the cuff, I was able to off load.

Later on, we skied along a XC trail first cut by a ski-do, and then eventually narrowly cut by snowshoers. The bibs felt transparent in terms of movement which is amazing because although they're described as having a slim fit, I found them very baggy in the thigh area. (maybe this is because my legs are one or two inches too short for the pant size) But the tayloring doesn't seem consistant. I own two other First Ascent pants that are also rated as slim fit, and they vary in their tayloring too. The Mountain guide softshells are a nice slim fit, while the Igniter pants are less slim fitting. The Saeba bibs are the baggiest of the slim fit description. It's understandable that they need to be big enough to fit insulation layers underneath, but why describe them as slim fit? Mine feel more like industrial work pants. I wouldn't climb in them because I fear I might snag a crampon point on account of their bagginess.

Up at the warming hut, where higher elevations offer more snow, I waded through hip deep powder to get a better photo of the hut, and found the internal gaitors worked well in keeping snow in its place.

The hip length zippers make layer changes less of an ordeal because you don't have to take your boots off. This plays a huge roll when it's cold.

So for high powder days, the Saeba Heli guide bibs are a great choice. Although they seem baggy, they function transparently for backcountry skiing, vent well, and breathe. If wet snow befalls you, the waterproof Weater-edge Pro fabric will fend it off.

Shannon Burt




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