Eddie Bauer launches mountaineering line with applications for Nordic Walking
I was attended a local preview of a new Eddie Bauer line of super-rugged mountaineering clothing distributed under the First Ascent/Eddie Bauer/Whittaker Mountaineering label. This collection is promoted as “guide-built gear,” and so it is, having been field tested on Everest, Acondagua and Rainier. In fact, the line was used during a spring 2009 Everest ascent by some of mountaineering’s luminaries: Ed Viesturs, Peter Whittaker, Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot, Chad Peele and Seth Waterfall.
The First Ascent outer-layer garments are for such expeditions, but I was drawn to the base- and mid-layer pieces that seem well suited to Nordic Walking in fall and winter in northern climes. The breathable hooded jackets with varying degrees of water resistance/waterproofing appear particularly appealing for Nordic Walking. Lightly insulated (sufficiently insulated for most conditions when worn over a base layer), lightweight, surprisingly soft to the hand and quiet without the annoying fabric-on-fabric noise that was once associated with synthetic fabrics.
Award-winning Polartec fleece pieces, hooded and not, are warm and lightweight. Mountaineers would likely wear them between the base and outer layers. The rest of us, perhaps Nordic Walking in town when it’s cool but not wet, could wear them over a light base layer and be perfectly comfortable. The line’s base layers are ultra-soft, highly breathable and comfortable. There are synthetics and a fine Merino wool model.
In scuba diving, early women’s gear was designed on the “SAP Principle” — small and pink. In mountaineering, a similar design attitude once prevailed. The Eddie Bauer team calls it “Shrink It & Pink It” — but that’s not what they have done with their women’s models. First Ascent’s women’s items are designed to fit women, but use the same materials as the men’s models. After all, Melissa Arnot needed the same level of clothing as the guys with who she was climbing.
The clothing is priced reasonably for the quality and most of all, the “guide-tested” ruggedness. For women, base layer items are $49.50 for a tank top to $69 for Merino top or pants. Fleece pieces range from $49.50 to $129, and jackets are $149 to $229, the higher priced items for full-on waterproof storm jackets. Men’s garments are comparably priced, but with the addition of a top-of-the-line men’s storm jacket retailing for $349.
First Ascent has been introduced in a handful of retail stores and will be available nationwide by October 2. For more information, call 800-426-8020.