Eddie Bauer First Ascent Mountain Guide Lite Pants
Price Paid: $44 (end of season clearance)
As a part of a gear refresh, I've been looking for the right softshell pant. I tried pants from Rab, First Ascent, Mammut, Patagonia, and Arc'teryx. Ended up selecting the Mountain Guide Lite for a mid-weight pant and the Arc'teryx Gamma LT pant for a lightweight pant. I recently acquired a pair of the First Ascent Mountain Guide Lite pant and have been pleased so far. I've used them hiking, curling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Fit is very good- snug, but definitely not too tight. No difficulties in adding a base layer or two under them. True to size and true to length- I'm 5'10", 30" inseam and the regular length fit fine- shouldn't be a problem for folks who usually wear a 32" inseam.
They've held up to snow well, haven't been in the rain with them. They wouldn't be my first choice in the rain, but nor would any other softshell pant.
The good parts:
- Build quality and fit
- Pocket zippers zip/unzip effortlessly
What I'd change:
- Chamois fleece lining waist band seems like it'll pill soon
- Attach belt like Arc'teryx Gamma LT -or- add optional belt loops for a regular belt
- Bring ankle snaps in a bit so that a tighter fit can be achieved
Price Paid: $149
These are the lighter of the two softshell pants that First Ascent has in their line. They are fashioned after the Mammut Champ Pants in terms of design, materials and weight. I also use the Mountain Guide Pants, which are the heavier version of these pants (see my other review) which have some light insulation.
Basically the game with guide pants is owned by Patagonia, Mammut, and Outdoor Research who in my opinion are the standard setters for this type of pant. As the years have gone by, I've found I wear my guide pants 100% of the time between late fall and early spring in the mountains.
The general layering approach that seems to work well is choose a lightweight guide pant, then layer under and over it to adjust to the conditions. In my case I like to put one or two pair of long underwear under the pant for cold dry conditions. If it gets a little windy or wet, I'll add a Marmot precip pair of pants over the top of the guide pants.
In short, these types of pants are in my opinion the single most useful piece of gear you can get. And that's why they should be the best possible quality and fit.
The First Ascent Lite Guide Pants are definitely disappointing, especially compared to the other brands sold at about the same price point. They use a lightweight Scholler fabric. Where they seem to fall short is on the fit and the quality of the workmanship, which in my view is poor.
The fit is off - - the legs are on the long side, which is odd for pants that are meant to be used over heavier hiking or mountaineering boots where it's annoying to have a lot of fabric around the ankles.
Also, the waist band has no elastic on it and turns into a problem if you're between sizes - - I'm a FA large which is a 36 to 38 inch waist, but my actual waist size is 35. The FA medium is too small. In either case, without the elastic, the pants don't fit snug and bunch up under my belt - - it's very frustrating to not be able to snug the fit with a side snap or with some elastic. It's turned out to be very uncomfortable under my harness.
Aside from the fit, the construction of the pant is lacking around the zippers on the leg and the side pockets. The pant fabric really has a minimum of wind or moisture resistance. This IS a quality of lighter breathable pants, but I'd prefer a little tighter weave on the fabric like my Patagonia guide pants have to give some resistance to light wind.
The fabric also soaks through pretty easily, even if you kneel in wet snow the moisture seeps through pretty quickly. Again, maybe a personal preference, but I'd like to have a little more resistance to moisture (the heavier version of these pants to a better job at that).
I would recommend the Mammut Champ Pants or the Patagonia Guide Pants instead. They are about the same price and made much better. In fact, I noticed Whittaker Mountaineering, co-designer of these pants with First Ascent, selling Mammut pants in their shop alongside the First Ascent pants. The counter guy said the Mammut pants were selling better.
Garment Weight 15.87 oz