Eddie Bauer - First Ascent - Anyone tried it?

12:35 a.m. on November 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I have been eagerly awaiting the First Ascent line since I found out all the clout they put behind it for both endorsement and design. I recently visited the local Eddie Bauer store and tried on their down 800 fill jacket, and it fit great and seemed well worth the $150.

I tried looking for reviews but since it's so new they are few and far between.

So, has anyone tried ANY First Ascent products? If so, were you satisfied? I'm in need of a down insulating layer, and the First Ascent one (link: First Ascent - Down Jacket ) seems like the best value among its competitors. My real concern is the toughness, but the website does not detail what material is use and the salesman did not know either. I have to spend wisely, so buying a product from an entirely new line sort of irks me. Thanks.

8:15 a.m. on November 1, 2009 (EST)
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I have said this here before, but, will repeat it; in backpacking gear, you really DO tend to get exactly what you pay for. There are reasons why the top makers, ID, WM, FF and a few others, have higher prices than the "average" and usually "offshore" producers do.

IMO, it is precisely those with strictly limited budgets who SHOULD be buying the BEST gear as it lasts FAR longer and thus is a much better value. Case in point, my only down jacket is an original "Richard Egge" double duvet I bought in 1974 and have used for 35 years. I have worn this, as one should over a single, light layer of merino wool at a measured-40 in perfect comfort and, after long use, it is still in perfect shape, with only one small mend and a couple smudges from an old packframe.

I paid $175.00 for it, then, that shocked some of my recreational-outdoors friends, BUT, they have had maybe TEN jackets each since and I still use this one on serious cold................it WAS a lot of money, but, it has paid off and will last the remainder of my life.

At present, I would not waste my time with EB gear, I would buy a jacket from Nunatak or FF and look after it.

8:49 a.m. on November 1, 2009 (EST)
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Was in one of the Eddie Bauer stores here in Chicago the other day and tried on a couple of the First Ascent Down Jackets as well. Have to say that they felt pretty good. Very warm, flexible and good qualty. Only problem was that I looked like the Michelin Man, very puffy look.

Not sure who EB is marketing this new line to. Hardcore outdoors people or urban hipsters who would otherwise buy North Face or Marmot which have pretty much had a stranglehold on that demographic for several years.

Eddie Bauer has been around a long time and I agree about what some people have said on these boards about EB turning into the Gap, but they still make good quality apparel at a reasonable price. Only advice I can give is to pick one up, wear it for the weekend and you don't like it take it back.

2:03 p.m. on November 1, 2009 (EST)
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To market their gear, they gave it to top guides (Ed Veistures, Dave Hahn, few others), and they went and climbed Mount Everest to test it, and as a tribute climb to the first American Ascent way back when. I'd say if the gear stood up to a season on Everest, its pretty good quality.


Just my 2 cents.

9:45 a.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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The gear used on Everest may not be the same stuff they sell at retail. If I were outfitting a high profile climb for marketing purposes I'd be certain to hand pick everything and go over all the details with a fine tooth comb. I haven't seen any of the gear and I'm sure it's fine stuff. If I were looking for something I'd take a look at the First Ascent line, but it would have to stack up against other decent brands such as marmot, patagonia, mountain hardware and the like. I'd have to be convinced I'm getting value for my money over the other brands simply because the other brands have a recent track record.

12:00 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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For what it is worth, I know several of the consultants for the Eddie Bauer First Ascent line personally and think they have enough personal integrity to want to be sure the gear is what is being advertised. Also, the motivation for Eddie Bauer is to "get back to their roots" with the recognition that they took some wrong turns with their endorsements of Yuppie SUVs. They did make excellent gear years ago (my Eddie Bauer Karakoram expedition down sleeping bag is still serviceable after almost 50 years - bought in 1960, and as you will note in the photos of my Antarctic trip, the parkas and other down gear the 4 original first ascent party members had with them were still in excellent condition)

There is an Eddie Bauer store here in the SFBay Area, so I will try to get some time to go there and examine the gear closely. I do have some skepticism, but I note that their advertising has been aimed at the serious climbing community as far as selling the gear, with the pitch to their "regular" customers being more along the lines of "this is our heritage".

12:14 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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Was in one of the Eddie Bauer stores here in Chicago the other day and tried on a couple of the First Ascent Down Jackets as well. Have to say that they felt pretty good. Very warm, flexible and good qualty. Only problem was that I looked like the Michelin Man, very puffy look. ...

buffdaddy,

Well, insulation from the cold requires dead air space. If you are going into cold weather, you will need lots of that dead air space. But I will say that modern down gear looks more like the current slimmed-down Bibendum than the original, who was put on a diet about 5 or 6 years ago.

Old Bibendum

Current Bibendum

2:27 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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I have been looking into this new line for a few months now. At the begining of the summer I was told by a store manager that they would not be carrying this line in their retail stores becaue the gear was intended for the serious climber. I was both happy and sad to find that they have changed their policy. Happy that I could now try out some of the gear. Sad because it means they are having a hard time selling the gear on-line, and need to expand their market.

The First Ascent - Down Jacket looked good. Good fit and nice material. Packed down to about the size of a basketball. The zipper was a little cheap and difficult to work with. Plus the inner pocket was too small for very much. Also, there is no pocket for a water bottle. Cost is so little, seems to good to be true.

Would like to get it out in the field and try it out this winter.

2:58 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks for all the replies. Glad to hear some others had seen the jacket and also think it seems to be of good quality.

Dewey - How much are you suggesting one spend on a Down sweater/jacket? It seems to me when you get out of the $150-250 range you're possibly getting too much jacket for your intended purpose, which is to be a versatile mid/outerlayer for me.

Eddie Bauer always seemed like they were serious about this line, so I think Bill has it right. I just can't imagine with all the people involved in endorsements that EB would half___ it.

Gear junky: If you get a chance to try it out be sure to let us know. Based on fit alone the FA jacket seems to be my best choice, so I'll probably end up with it.

Later guys and gals.

5:48 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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I am not suggesting a specific amount, I do not usually suggest down jackets for most people or most uses. I have had about a half-dozen over 40+ years, but, I live in BC where winter IS winter.

"gearjunky" posted.....the zipper was a little cheap and difficult to work with...and THAT should tell you something. I am about the same vintage as "OGBU" aka "BillS" and have spent a lot of solo time in VERY cold places, where "rescue" if in trouble was very likely not going to happen.

So, while I am cognizant of the EB gear of the early '60s, but, was not able to afford it on my paperroute money, I am VERY sceptical of ANY maker's claims today.Buy whatever you prefer, but, I would spend what it takes to get a FF or NUnatak jacket, OR, go with an ID or Wildthings Primaloft one and I do just that.

10:52 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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Iam always curious when new products come into the outdoors market.Claims are nothing more than that till the gear is given a serious test drive.I do agree with dewey about the FF and WM products but also realize not everyone out there will be doing winter alpine mountaineering or polor trekking.Match the gear with what you are planning and your wallet,remembering you get what you pay for.For early spring thru late fall i use a Montbell ul down sweater,paid $99.00 for,and it more than meets the need it is used for.Mid winter when the temps drop into the teens and lower i break out the big guns,FF and some older stuff i have that has lasted years, to stay warm.In these really poor economic times i look to stretch my dollars and really take a serious look at what my "perceived" needs are before making any big purchase.

10:54 p.m. on November 2, 2009 (EST)
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Forgot to end with the statement that i have enough gear at this point in my life to outfit a small group if need be so it is more a want than a need if iam eye balling a new gear item.

11:54 p.m. on November 4, 2009 (EST)
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I am not suggesting a specific amount, I do not usually suggest down jackets for most people or most uses. I have had about a half-dozen over 40+ years, but, I live in BC where winter IS winter.

"gearjunky" posted.....the zipper was a little cheap and difficult to work with...and THAT should tell you something. I am about the same vintage as "OGBU" aka "BillS" and have spent a lot of solo time in VERY cold places, where "rescue" if in trouble was very likely not going to happen.

So, while I am cognizant of the EB gear of the early '60s, but, was not able to afford it on my paperroute money, I am VERY sceptical of ANY maker's claims today.Buy whatever you prefer, but, I would spend what it takes to get a FF or NUnatak jacket, OR, go with an ID or Wildthings Primaloft one and I do just that.

I had already tried the jacket on and had no trouble with the zipper, but I didn't not have too much time for examination. It is certainly a lightweight zipper, but I think that is to be expected for this type of jacket. Down jackets such as these are never very tough. I wish manufacturers would just add a couple ounces and use tougher material.

I understand the trepidation involved in purchasing a new brand or line, but the way I see it the down jacket has seen a million iterations. I'm sure this is not the first one designed by those involved with FA. The price seems low, but considering it's a new line the margins might be quite low.

I forgot about OR, thanks. The other brands are not really available to me or are too expensive.

11:10 a.m. on November 5, 2009 (EST)
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I buy most of my stuff used and save tons of money. Just got a pair of primaloft pants from ID for 55$. At this price i can afford to buy a used item from every big name company for the price of a single new item. When i have too much i sell the extra and buy some more used stuff, i don't have a lot of storage space. There's so much good and used tech clothing for sale on the web I really can't justify spending top dollars on new gear.

PS: for a tougher down jacket try the MH sub-zero. Easy to find used for 100$.

8:54 p.m. on November 5, 2009 (EST)
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Just an FYI EB is having a sale on all their down jackets including the First Ascent stuff until 11/9. Tempted to pick up the Downlight vest for $109 but will probably pick up a Yukon Classic for $60.00...

3:58 a.m. on November 9, 2009 (EST)
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buffdaddy said:

Was in one of the Eddie Bauer stores here in Chicago the other day and tried on a couple of the First Ascent Down Jackets as well. Have to say that they felt pretty good. Very warm, flexible and good qualty. Only problem was that I looked like the Michelin Man, very puffy look. ...

buffdaddy,

Well, insulation from the cold requires dead air space. If you are going into cold weather, you will need lots of that dead air space. But I will say that modern down gear looks more like the current slimmed-down Bibendum than the original, who was put on a diet about 5 or 6 years ago.

Old Bibendum

Current Bibendum

Buff, Bill is exactly right (finding that to be the case in most of his replies) - not to get to far in thermodynamics and the differences in conduction, convection and radiant heat - but down itself does not perform the insulating function; down lofts up and creates dead air space which provides the insulation. That's the significance of "fill power" ratings. The higher the rating the more a given volume of down will loft (rise) therefore creating more dead air space. The less puff, the less dead air space, the lower the insulating property. That is why, as you'll often hear, wet down will not insulate; it turns to a matted clump therefore creating no dead air space. I've seen folks in bitter cold add a shell over a down jacket to retain more heat, but in many cases the shell isn't big enough to let the down loft (they're basically compressing their down coat, reducing the loft and causing the exact opposite result). Fashion and function collide once again, but ya gotta have the puff to keep the heat.

10:06 a.m. on November 9, 2009 (EST)
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I have a Taiga Mt Blanc down jacket. It's not as puffy as some of the others (maybe 1,5 inches of loft at most) , but i find it warm enough for all my ventures. I'd rather have a lighter jacket and add base-layers when the temp drops. For serious cold (below -30c) i use a lightweight primaloft jacket inside. Heck, a friend of mine just uses wool sweaters and hoodies even in -40 temps, he just has 3-4 layers of them!

2:35 a.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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Just my $.02 - I was prepared to be disappointed by the First Ascent line as just another crap brand with top names attached, but after buying and wearing the brands, and seeing how involved the guides are (I have met several of them personally as well and trust their integrity - if they say they tried it and tested it, they did), I'm very impressed. It's most definitely designed for the outdoors and not hanging out looking cool (i.e. North Face the past few years).

I'm taking the Down Light Sweater, the softshell pants, and the microfleece 1/4 zip shirt around the Annapurna Circuit later this month (Thorung La in January - whee) and I'll report back on how they held up if anyone's interested.

K

1:38 p.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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I suppose this is another one of those situations where only "time will tell."

Although I've also heard that "history repeats itself."

9:48 a.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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I purchased the down sweater and had to return it after a week's worth of wear. I realize that a new down coat, occasionally leaks feathers, but this one was really letting them fly. There was a spot in the front that had stuffing coming out that couldn't get pushed back into the coat and when you tried to pull the little piece out, just grapped more... I'm trying a new coat, but not really convinced it will work. My friend is a manager at the EB store and stated that a few of his employees had purchased the coat and had to exchange for the same reasons... Shame, because this coat layers really well, retains heat, and is very flexible.. the rainier mountain storm hardshell fits over it very well..

9:31 a.m. on December 20, 2009 (EST)
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I picked up their cloud layer fleece last weekend on sale for $20.00 (actually bought a couple as gifts too). Have to say it's one of the better fleeces I own. Well made, pretty warm and looks good as well.

Also bought the First Ascent Baseball cap for $10.00, and have been wearing it constantly...

12:28 p.m. on December 29, 2009 (EST)
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I've had a lot of experience with the First Ascent gear. I got some prototypes earlier this summer of some of the pieces, and now have a lot of the gear that's currently being sold in the stores. I've been outside a lot with the gear in summer and winter including 5 summits of Mt. Washington and a Mt. Rainier summit this fall.


Overall I'd give the gear a thumbs up. The down parka is a very good deal - - 850 fill parka for $269 and I haven't had any problem with the down. I wear this almost full time in winter camp. The fleece underlayer tops are very good and I use the Hangfire hoodie under a point success jacket - - both are very good pieces and have held up through all sorts of pack stuffing, ice climbing, and general tough abuse. The guide pants are good - - the light guide pants are not so great and I've stuck with my Patagonia guide pants. The frontpoint shell is very good for the price of $259 and I beat it up pretty good on the Rainier climb on the mountain for 6 days doing technical stuff.

There are some other items in the mix that are not that great. I used the Big Tahoma pack a lot this summer, fall and winter. It's a very nice design and priced very well. Couple of flaws include the straps slip under load (more than 40 lbs) for both the waist and the shoulder straps, and there's no shoulder strap adjustment for strap width (I have broad shoulders) - - just for size. The primaloft belay jackets and primaloft pants are not great - - the materials are OK but the sizing and design are just not that great - - the primaloft pants are huge and don't look that great, so I just bring them for safety. The gloves are OK - - I have all the models - - but the light stretch gloves are not windproof, and the guide gloves are a little expensive - - so I've been sticking with the Black Diamond gloves I've been using all along.

Bottom line is there are some very good pieces in the line - - the shells are good and the fleece is good. The softshell and hardshell pants are good if they fit properly and worth a look because they are really priced well.

I plan to post some detailed reviews over the next couple of weeks.


-g

12:31 p.m. on December 29, 2009 (EST)
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Some of the guides told me that they liked some of the stuff and didn't like some of it - - they're not sure EB listened to all their input, or alternatively might have made some cost oriented decisions. Even the guys on the guide list at EB First Ascent are seen wearing other brands - - especially champ pants from Mammut.

3:06 p.m. on December 30, 2009 (EST)
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I purchased the pirmaloft jacket and tried it out. Returned it last week... No interior pocket, and not enough fill. The warmth to weight ratio is off. Might be a good three season jacket or work well as a layer in conditions where you know you will get wet. Not a good choice for the winter. There are many other, lighter options available.

Still, the down jacket sounds like a good deal. Just wish it had a interior water bottle pocket.

6:39 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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Here's a video review of the First Ascent Big Tahoma backpack.

http://www.garyambrosino.com/Gary_Ambrosino/Big_Tahoma.html

-g

11:43 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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I live in Central Oregon and the daily weather hear is roughly what a lot of folks experience on their winter camping trips. I prefer Montbell Drion long underwear but since I wear the stuff every day I now actually wear $14 cotton wool blend stuff that you can wear three days in a row and not smell bad. LL bean, cabellas, EB and others make gear for folks who actually "live in it" and it has to be tough and inexpensive and survive daily use. This stuff is not "expedition" grade, but it is worth noting that you can buy rugged warm clothes for 1/8th of what the top end stuff costs. Sure I wear all marmot downhill skiing, but just because I bought it twenty years ago and its still like new. and ok I have an $800 backpack, but I often carry an old Kelty super Tioga pack or a cheapo day pack skiing. Its not the gear, its what you do with it. My new boots were $24, most people here wear cotton sweats and hoodies, even in the snow.

Jim S

1:43 p.m. on January 4, 2010 (EST)
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Gary,

I tried your link, but doesn't show a video..can you repost?

2:02 p.m. on January 4, 2010 (EST)
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Hmm...the link worked for me. Thanks for sharing, Gary.

11:50 a.m. on January 6, 2010 (EST)
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I tried again and was able to view. Good review Gary. I'm more of a warmer weather hiker, would you recommend this pack over say an Osprey Atmos 65?

3:56 p.m. on January 6, 2010 (EST)
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Interesting you should ask about the Atmos pack. My summer ultralight pack is an Atmos 50, which I really like using provided I don't have a lot of gear. The thing that's deceptive about the Atmos pack is the the suspension creates an arc in the back panel that goes into the pack (if you've tried out an Atmos you know what I mean). My experience is it tends to be a little annoying because it creates a bottleneck when you put things into the pack. I have a 50 liter version and the 65 would probably give you more room.

On the other hand, the reason I use it so much is that I really like the size zippers on the back of the pack and I really like the stretchy pocket which is a very good place to put wet gear (swimsuit, etc.). The two side pockets on the bottom are also made of stretchy material, which is better than the regular fabric on the Big Tahoma for carrying things like water bottles.

Osprey talks also about how these packs provide air circulation to keep you cool. I think that is correct, but to be honest, I sweat so much anyway I really can't tell. So that's a consideration for that Atmos vs some of the other Osprey models that have flat panel suspensions (and don't have the bottleneck problem in the main compartment).

I took my Big Tahoma out quite a bit last summer during training hikes, but I liked the Atmos better and would have taken it instead if it weren't for having to do equipment specific/load specific training.

-g

4:00 p.m. on January 6, 2010 (EST)
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Here's an alternate link to the video review of the FA Big Tahoma. It goes to the video feed site rather than my personal web site. Make sure you have pop-up surpression turned OFF.

http://vimeo.com/8477298

-g

7:47 a.m. on January 7, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks again. Very helpful. Most of my trailmates use the atmos 50. I'm a larger hiker, so I hear you on the sweat factor..

5:58 p.m. on January 7, 2010 (EST)
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Hey i am looking into buying the Rainier Storm Shell Pants is there anyone that has the pants or has even talked to an owner of them, just want to know their durability, waterproofing (are the seems taped), sizing, breathability, and overall impression.

9:17 p.m. on January 7, 2010 (EST)
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I had a First Ascent catalog sent to my home. My biggest concern was with their shell layers. They are just synthetics with a coating (DWT?). I am sure this worked fine for one excursion, but I would question its intergrity down the road. Their insulation layers seemed to be a good bargain, but then again I was looking at a catalog.

9:36 p.m. on January 7, 2010 (EST)
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Hey i am looking into buying the Rainier Storm Shell Pants is there anyone that has the pants or has even talked to an owner of them, just want to know their durability, waterproofing (are the seems taped), sizing, breathability, and overall impression.


I tried a pair on a trip over the summer. They fit into the category of lightweight outer shells. The current trend on shells is to use light weight fabrics - - everyone I know, including guides, are moving away from the goretex proshell, heavy fabrics. The logic is the outer layer is for water and wind resistance and since it really doesn't insulate, just go with a lightweight layer. This is the approach FA has taken with these shells.

I used a pair for a day on a glacier walk and thought they were pretty good. Usually I use a Marmot Precip shell pant over my softshell pants - - the precip shell pants are really sold as a rain pant, but they are fine for general mountaineering with the caveat that you probably want a pair of gaiters over them if you're wearing crampons, otherwise they will just get shredded.

The FA shells are a little heavier than the precip material, but designed along the same lines. The women's version has a zipper design where the zippers open up the leg and across the rear end, which I was told was a "great" idea.

I thought the performance on them was fine and they seemed pretty well made. The only comment I had - - which I have with all the FA pants - - is that the sizing is just not very good and if you need a 34 to 36 inch waist fit, it's in a "tweener" zone on their sizing. They also cut the legs very long and don't have a "short" option like some other brands have.

My suggestion is that if you can get them to fit right, and you like the idea of a lightweight outershell in your layer system, they are probably a pretty good investment to make.

4:25 p.m. on January 8, 2010 (EST)
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Nice pants, but if you are looking for a shell to go over your other layers in the winter, wouldn't you want a full zip-off pair? I do not understand why they do not make more shell pants with full zip. Getting a pair of lightweight shell pants over my boots and crampons without punching a hole through something is hard.

I found the Patagonia Guid pants are the best outer layer. Then a pair of full zip shells for when things get wet and nasty.

7:52 p.m. on January 19, 2010 (EST)
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i have the EB 900 fill down sweater (limited edition). im very happy. 1st of all, i really like the fit, not too puffy, i am short, anything too puffy really shows on me. i am a bush pilot & live in coastal alaska. we experience wet winters, high winds & temps as low as -15F to the +40's. i have worn all the other brands for years and love them but, the EB 900 fill down sweater so far is one of my favs. this winter my wife and i drove 6000 miles from the lower 48 through canada back to alaska. this sweater is so comfy & light that i wore it (without a shell) the entire time (even while sleeping in my truck with minus 30F temps outside). in montana it breathed well at 35 deg & kept me warm while walking around town in whitehorse (canada) when it was minus 30F, windchill near minus 50F, again without a shell. that day my brake lines and power steering lines froze. back at work in alaska i fly people, mail, frieght and anything else you can think of into several villages. the work is fast paced and i am constantly in and out of the plane loading, unloading etc. the more layers i wear the more dificult to move about and i dont have time to remove layers. this sweater is perfect! versatile, compressability is great, its very light, breathes well, warm and its incredibly comfy, feeling like youre wearing only a t-shirt, no restriction of movement! i love it!!!

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