The zipper on the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Expedition Weight Hoodie extends to the side of the hood, and the hood covers your head like a balaclava. The top and pants make excellent cabin wear.
The Eddie Bauer First Ascent line of performance clothing is attracting a lot of attention. The garments are well designed, utilize cutting edge materials, perform well, and are a great value. I previously reviewed the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Sweater, which is an excellent balance of quality materials, lightweight, warmth, and value. I was attracted to the Eddie Bauer Expedition Baselayers for the same reasons.
Although these warmer baselayers are primarily intended for winter conditions, they are also appropriate for summer backpacking in the mountains, where nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. So, how do they shape up in terms of versatility?
Specifications and Features
|Manufacturer||Eddie Bauer (www.eddiebauer.com)|
|Year/Model||2010 Expedition Weight Baselayers|
|Style||¼-Zip Top, Hoodie, Pant|
|Weight||Size men’s Large tested. |
Measured Weights: ¼-Zip Top 9.1 oz (258 g), Hoodie 10.6 oz (301 g), Pant 8.4 oz (238 g) Manufacturer Specification: ¼-Zip Top 9.8 oz (278 g), Hoodie Top 11.5 oz (326 g), and Pant 8.2 oz (232 g), for size Medium
|Sizes||Men’s S-XXL plus tall|
Women’s XS-XL plus tall
|Fabrics||Polartec Power Dry|
|Features||Grid pattern on inside, ¼-Zip Top has 12-in (30-cm) zipper; Hoodie has 16-in (40-cm) zipper to side of hood plus a chest pocket with 6-in (15-cm) zipper; Pant has elastic waistband|
|MSRP||¼-Zip Top: US$79|
There are a lot of performance baselayers around, and most of them are quite good, but how do you choose one that provides the most warmth for its weight? One thing to watch for is the amount of Lycra or Spandex in the fabric composition; these materials add stretch, but they also add weight. Some stretch is good, but fabrics with a lot of Spandex are quite heavy. The things I look for are: 1) polyester, which is lighter and dries quickly; 2) a waffle pattern on the inside that traps more air; 3) a smooth exterior so other garments slide over it easily; and 4) a minimum of Lycra or Spandex, elastic cuffs, or zippered pockets which add weight. The Eddie Bauer Expedition Weight Baselayers meet these criteria fairly well; albeit they are 7% Spandex, and the hoodie version does have one zippered chest pocket.
This review covers the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Expedition Weight ¼-Zip Top (left), Expedition Weight Hoodie (center), and Expedition Weight Pant (right). All are available in men’s and women’s versions and tall sizes.
The fabric is Polartec Power Dry, which is 93% polyester and 7% Spandex. The inside has a waffle pattern (left), and the outside surface is smooth (right).
Expedition Weight Hoodie and Pant worn at a ski-in mountain cabin in February.
I tested the Expedition Baselayers while winter camping, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, fall and winter day hiking, fall and spring backpacking, fall car camping, ice fishing, a multi-day ski trip to a mountain cabin, and even a fall houseboat trip on Lake Powell. I wore the tops over another baselayer or next to skin, and I wore them as a single layer or part of a layering system in really cold weather. Needless to say, the baselayers got a lot of testing in a variety of conditions!
Each of the garments has a trim fit. I am 6 feet (183 cm) tall and 170 pounds (77 kg), with a 34-inch (86-cm) waist and 31-inch (79-cm) inseam and size men’s Large fits me perfectly. The sleeves and pant legs are plenty long in size Regular, and a tall version is available for both men and women.
The garments feel remarkably warm the minute I put them on. They provide a lot of warmth for their weight. The most efficient garments weight-wise are the simple ¼-Zip Top and Pant, which together weigh about a pound (454 g). Lightweight down garments, like the MontBell Down Inner Jacket and Pant, provide more warmth for their weight, but they are much more expensive and are not intended to be worn next to skin.
I tested the ¼-Zip Top while hiking uphill carrying a backpack up a local mountain, where I gained 1,500 feet (457 m) over 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in 45 minutes; and repeated the hike at different temperatures ranging from 5 to 50 °F (-15 to 10 °C). I found that the top is comfortable to hike in only at cooler temperatures, up to about 35 °F (2 °C). The front zipper helps to regulate my temperature, and the top dries out quickly. In colder temperatures the top performed very well under a shell or under a light down jacket and shell. I mainly wore the pants in camp and in my sleeping bag. The top and bottom are also excellent cabin wear in mixed company.
These baselayers are well designed, fit very well, and are remarkably warm for their weight. They are also very versatile; I wore them by themselves and in a number of layering systems with excellent results.
I found them too warm to hike in, except for below freezing temperatures. While backpacking or other outdoor activities, the top is very useful for hiking in cooler overcast or windy conditions, and both the top and bottom for wearing in camp.
While I don’t usually prefer to wear a hoodie, I note that the hoodie version is very well designed. The zipper curves to the side of the hood rather than the center, and the hood covers all but my face. For people who like a hooded top, this is a good one.
Overall, the Eddie Bauer Expedition Weight Baselayers are an excellent balance of warmth, light weight, comfort, and value.
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.