So the brand name was a household word growing up in Washington and Idaho for me.
In 1977 there were better down garments available in Europe. Moncler and Egge were two that were easily available in the US at the time. I took my Monclear Teray jacket to Nepal the spring of '77. It was so obviously a better climbing jacket than the Eddie Bauer Karakorum we were supplied with.
The Terray, after a open bivy, high on Mt. Deborah, Alaska, May of'76
Eddie Bauer sponsored and supported John Roskelley and I in the spring of 1977 for a two man attempt on Makalu's West Pillar. (the first two man 8KM permit given in Nepal) John got ill on the walk in thankfully, as the project even today would be serious challenge for the best two man team. Although it does perk one's imagination doesn't it!
My friends John, Chris Kopcynski, Jim States and Kim Momb went back to Makalu in 1980 and after a concerted effort with fixed camps were able to put John, alone, on the summit.
JR (back), Kop (center), Kim(right) and myself on top of Takkakaw '82.
Lots of down in the picture, none of it from Eddie Bauer
So while we all knew about Eddie Bauer and they did supply a lot of expedition support back in the day by the time I was doing much all the EB gear was well dated.
In fact past the down sweaters I really wasn't interested in much of what Eddie Bauer was selling, until recently.
Funny story really. Someone started complaining on an Internet forun (imagine that!) about the newest First Ascent Peak XV jacket. And how they had washed it in a machine and the baffles had ripped apart. (imagine that!) Even though the jacket had been given to him, shall we say "very well used" after an Everest trip and more. Eddie Bauer's retail store honored the lifetime warrenty and gave him instore credit or a new jacket. His choice.
Whittaker Mountaineering Gear Review: First Ascent Peak XV Down Parka from Whittaker Mountaineering on Vimeo.
I was impressed by the warrenty. So next time I was in town I made a point of stopping by the local Eddie Bauer store. And didn't expect much. What I found shocked me. The Peak VX was the best heavy weight, technical, down jacket I had ever seen. With a price point no one could match. I ended up buying 2 that season...one as a spare as I figured the price would never be equaled for what I was buying.
A couple of years later and my mind hasn't changed. The original Peak XV is still the best, heavy weight, technical down jacket I have seen or used. The second version isn't bad either. Lucky for us both versions are available. The Peak XV is a good start. Eddie Bauer now has all sorts of different clothing pieces that are exceptional values. Mind you not all of the First Ascent gear is...but some are simply amazing, no matter the price point compared to value and design. As I get the time I'll write up the gear from Eddie Bauer that has truly become "go to" climbing and skiing garments for me and my extended family.
If I were to go back to Makalu tomorrow this is the jacket I would take. But it is not a jacket most will have a use for. It is simply too warm.
But it would work just fine in fall/winter on the north side of Rainer as well. Ptarmigan in Oct. '75.
More here on my thoughts about some of the most popular belay jackets: