Can FIRST ASCENT from Eddie Bauer worth the effort?

1:28 p.m. on November 28, 2013 (EST)
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I want to get a new soft shell. Eddie Bauer has a line of clothing called their FIRST ASCENT line. Its only sold in specific stores that are authorized to carry this stuff. Those stores are few and far between, the closest on is roughly 90 minutes of highway driving away.

But, my sister came into town from the UK and wanted to go shopping as prices in the US are roughly 50% lower than prices in the UK due to things like the VAT Tax.

So knowing of the closest FIRST ASCENT store, and knowing its in a mall that will make the women folk of the group happy, I suggest the Oakbrook mall. I can split off, go see what I want, meet up with the ladies later.

Good theory. First, I checked to see that the Eddie Bauer FIRST ASCENT store carries the specific item. Can't say 100% for sure based on their website, but it appears they do. So great, I'm good to go to the mall (something I hate).

90 minutes, across the state line, 4 toll booths on the Illinois Tollway later, higher gas and sales taxes later we arrive at the mall. I depart the girls, who seem to be fascinated by all things shiny in Nordstrom, and head off on my trek to check out the holy grail of soft shell jackets, winner of multiple awards for 2013 from both the climbing and the hiking media. Finding the Eddie Bauer store was easy enough, walk in and the first 1/4 of the store is all FIRST ASCENT clothing. Wow, could this get any better?

As best as I can recall, yesterday's experience went something like this (names changed to protect the hapless)

-------is it too much to expect that clerks know their products?-------

I'm just starting to look around when clueless salesboy Bevis show us with his oh-so-styled hair to ask if I need some help.

Why yes Bevis, I do. I'm looking for a FIRST ASCENT Accelerant Soft Shell Jacket.

hmmm..... is it one of those, over there?

Uh, no, its a technical soft shell for hiking and climbing.

hmmm..... what colors are you looking for?

Uh, not really sure, just want to see the construction and try it on for size. Its the ACCELERANT style, won several awards, I need it for a long distance hike.

About this time Bevis's sales buddy/supervisor Butthead(?) shows up to help resolve the quandary.

May I haalp you fiiind something (I spelled it like it sounded)

Uh, yes, I was asking your boy Bevis over there if someone could show me one of the FIRST ASCENT Accelerant Soft Shell Jackets.

hmmm..... is it one of thoooose over therrrre behind youuuuu???

Well I looked there, I don't see it.

hmmm..... I don't think we selllll that one in thiiiisssss store.

You don't think or you don't know?

---------

Can you figure out where this is going? Need I go on? WTF!?!

I'm not really a fan of Eddie Bauer, at least not for the past 30 years since they got bought out and turned into a fashion company from a real outdoors clothing company. But their FIRST ASCENT line of products seem to be well trusted, well designed, well made and worthy of consideration. Figured I'd give them another try.

I still want to see the specific item, I still will consider it. But I will not suffer fools to try it on.

2:30 p.m. on November 28, 2013 (EST)
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The First Ascent line is pretty good/decent IMO. However, finding what you want in stores is a measure of pure luck and chance. Your best bet is to order it online, and if you don't like it return it.

3:01 p.m. on November 28, 2013 (EST)
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my only First Ascent purchase was online - and when Eddie Bauer was selling the particular jacket i wanted at 40% off, which occurs once or twice a year.  the Eddie Bauer stores near me don't stock First Ascent anyway.  it was well worth it.

but I agree with you, dealing with uneducated store clerks is a waste of time.

5:00 p.m. on November 29, 2013 (EST)
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I don't care for shells with built-in insulation layers for temps above 10° F.  They have a tendency to be too warm under vigorous activity.

Ed

9:26 p.m. on November 30, 2013 (EST)
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Well if anyone is interested in anything Eddie Bauer/FIRST ASCENT, its all on sale 30% off until Dec 2, with FREE SHIPPING too. Enter promotion code ICY in the promotion box for the discounts.

8:34 a.m. on December 2, 2013 (EST)
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The First Ascent line is pretty good/decent IMO. However, finding what you want in stores is a measure of pure luck and chance. Your best bet is to order it online, and if you don't like it return it.

 

I decided to take your advice and order on-line given that their sale is ending I placed my order. Actually ordered a HANGFIRE and an ACCELERANT. Figure one will probably be returned.

On-line was a lot easier than head pounding experience that I got inside the store.

8:49 a.m. on December 2, 2013 (EST)
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I OWN SEVERAL PIECES..TWO SOFT SHELL HANGFIRE HOODIES AND A POLAR TEC PULL OVER. I love them. I had the Hangfire on my base camp trek so wore it nearly every day of the trek. I have two years on that one and it is going strong...keeps me warm, lightweight, durable...love the fit. Only reason I got the second one was because I liked the new colors. The first one has no problems. It washes well and is like new after quite a bit of use!

11:26 a.m. on December 2, 2013 (EST)
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I OWN SEVERAL PIECES..TWO SOFT SHELL HANGFIRE HOODIES AND A POLAR TEC PULL OVER. I love them. I had the Hangfire on my base camp trek so wore it nearly every day of the trek. I have two years on that one and it is going strong...keeps me warm, lightweight, durable...love the fit. Only reason I got the second one was because I liked the new colors. The first one has no problems. It washes well and is like new after quite a bit of use!

 

I saw your review of the Hangfire here and that is why I decided to try it.

8:28 a.m. on December 26, 2013 (EST)
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Just wanted to follow up and say Thank You to 'giftofgab' for the HANGFIRE review.

I've been wearing the HANGFIRE almost non-stop. OK, I do NOT sleep with it. But its becoming a constant companion. Fits over what I need it to fit over. Fits under what I need it to fit under. Looks good, breathes, but also insulates.

What more can I ask?

For whatever it is worth, I've also bought the First Ascent ACCELERANT jacket at the same time. Its also very nice, but gets used much less. Great when active in the snow on moderate temperature winter days if there is a breeze in the air as it does the added job of blocking some wind and offers some added insulation layer, it would also make a wonderful spring/fall light jacket or early morning summer jacket when the temps are a bit chilly before the sun has actually had a chance to warm anyting. But the HANGFIRE seems to get a lot more use for me right now. Perhaps because of the season? Probably will switch things up and use the ACCELERANT a lot more often when the temps are above the teens. But its been so cold here that my Lowe Alpine Triple Point Parka has been of more use to me since I've not been to active in outdoor activities other than sitting in a tractor seat pushing snow.

Just like MR. RODGERS had his cardigan sweaters to wear around his 'neighborhood,' so I have my HANGFIRE jacket.

8:20 p.m. on December 26, 2013 (EST)
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Been a while since I have been here, but I am back...

Anyways, just recently got a down jacket and vest made by First Ascent. So far I have found the build quality to be very noise and the down filling to be even and "fluffy". After some more use i hope to get some reviews up!

11:42 a.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
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my holiday gift for my brother this year was a first ascent sandstone soft shell hoody.  he's in northern california, perfect layer for their weather. he's happy.  and it was 40% off.  

4:15 p.m. on January 6, 2014 (EST)
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I bought a FA downlight jacket, on sale of course, as a "chance" purchase and was pleasantly surprised with its quality and performance. Since then, I have purchased (on sale of course!) a Stargazer2 tent, mountain guide pants, and a mid-weight baselayer. All are excellent quality and value, especially on sale (of course!).

2:19 a.m. on January 11, 2014 (EST)
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I bought a FA vest from longtime member Pillowthread. Aside from the lack of a hood, I quite like it. It seems to be well made and fits me well. I was a bit concerned it would be too long, but that was actually a plus that it is longer than some. Based solely on the vest, if the rest of their gear is the same, worth a try, especially if you can get a deal.

I understand Whomeworry's concern regarding an insulated shell. I just acquired a Marmot shell with a zipout  lining which I haven't used yet, but that seems to be one solution to that problem. Got a great deal on it, so worth giving it a try.

5:39 p.m. on January 11, 2014 (EST)
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Lol, sorry for bad experience. I actually shop at that store and have to admit the service can be pretty hit or miss.

I do agree that the sales assistants are not the most knowledgable but I usually do my homework beforehand when shopping for a new piece of gear.

I own a couple of pieces of FA gear and I'm pretty impressed with it. They have held up pretty well and the price is pretty attractive compared to the other outfitters. 

 

 

 

10:01 a.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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Lol, sorry for bad experience. I actually shop at that store and have to admit the service can be pretty hit or miss.

I do agree that the sales assistants are not the most knowledgable but I usually do my homework beforehand when shopping for a new piece of gear.

I own a couple of pieces of FA gear and I'm pretty impressed with it. They have held up pretty well and the price is pretty attractive compared to the other outfitters. 

 

 

 

 

Before going to THAT store I thought I had done my homework. I was looking for a versatile soft shell, read as many reviews as I could find, etc etc etc.

My only reason for going to THAT store was to try it on before buying. In a way I am thankful that they were out of stock or simply didn't carry the Accelerant jacket because had it been in stock I would have bought it and paid full price, plus the high sales taxes in Illinois.

Lucky for me there was a 30% off + Free Shipping sale that I was able to take advantage of and I bought it, sight unseen, that way. Sadly I missed the 40% off sale. But the cost difference is not so much between the two that I feel I over paid.

I love the HANGFIRE and wear it constantly.

I'm beginning to love the ACCELERANT as well. I wear it less often but it got some good use over the past week (snowstorm rolled through Indiana) and I used it when outside shoveling, with layers underneath, used it as a mid-layer when pushing/blowing snow with the big diesel tractor, even used it in the car as an outer while driving back and forth from Northwest Indiana down to North Carolina after the state police lifted the 'state of emergency' and reopened Interstate 65.

The ACCELERANT is a very versatile soft shell that really does fit into a nearly special category. And I will say that FIRST ASCENT has really begun to change my view of Eddie Bauer, these 2 pieces that I recently acquired are a great value compared to other brands, construction and features are top notch.

If only they would get rid of Bevis and Butthead as their sales clerks, hire at least 1 person with some outdoor knowledge who knows the First Ascent product line, then I think they could redeem themselves. As it is, with the lack of help I found at the "specialized" Eddie Bauer/First Ascent outfitter store, it seems they should give up on the pretense that THAT store is a "specialized" store. Its in a fashionable high priced mall selling rugged gear as fashion accessories, and probably, accidentally to a few outdoors people who mistakenly get lost in the Chicago suburbs and wander into THAT ill-stocked store.

August 23, 2014
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