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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eddie Bauer BC MicroTherm Down Jacket

BC Micro Therm Down Jacket with a Patagonia Knifeblade soft shell and R1 under it @ -18C, Canada Rockies.

If you look at Eddie Bauer's advertising the First Ascent Hyalite Jacket gets some serious play as THE technical "climbing jacket" in their speciality line. On the other hand I couldn't wait to get rid of mine and exchange it for something I might actually use skiing and as a second thought climbing.   No stretch that I could discern in the FA Hyalite compared to a Gamma MX for example and no warmer.   I have any number of state of the art garments with synthetic and down insulation to chose from.   Getting me into an unproven garment to ice climb in is difficult.  Getting me into one made of down is even more difficult.

Adding a water proof and breathable shell to a  light weight down insulated piece makes a lot of sense.  Even more so if you value light weight warmth over the ability to get it dried out and usable again if you are going to be working hard in the same jacket.

I climbed some in Hyalite Canyon using a Patagonia Down full zip Hooded Sweater last winter and loved it right up till it really started snowing hard and I was breaking trail in 4 feet of snow.  I stayed warm but the jacket got wet and lost a lot of its insulation.  Lesson relearned for the umpteenth time.

I am not a sweat hog.  I don't sweat any more or any less than the rest of my climbing partners generally.   My adventures are best equipped with very breathable and really light weight upper body clothing for walking into winter climbs.  Being able to change out to at least a dry top and then layer up for the climbing in generally mandatory if I want to be comfortable.  The last layer will seldom get worn  but is generally some sort of "belay jacket".  It's warmth will depend on the temps and moisture involved.

Our last trip to Canada I reverted from my tried and true climbing garment combos and went backwards in some sense to the more durable "soft shell" uppers as an action suit top over and R1 or a Merino wool version of the same hoody and the required "belay jacket"  over all of it to keep me warm once I stopped.

The combo is really a little heavier than it needs to be.  But it is a well proven combo and is only three layers.

This trip one of the jackets I use exclusively for belay duty and climbing while cold was the BC Micro Therm.  I even used it on a couple of short approaches just to see how wet I could get it and still dry it out why climbing.  Much to my surprise I even liked climbing technical ground in the Micro Therm when I was pretty chilled.

The hood was one reason.  Its pattern is intentionally cut pretty big and easily fits over my helmet choices.  The other is the sleeve size/length and being able to pull the Velcro cuff tabs and pull the jacket sleeves up past my elbows. 

Not something that I could ever do previous to the chemo diet.  But the sleeves fit a lot better (bigger)  now and allow one to vent some serious heat if you can pull up the sleeves in your size.  The other feature I really like is both side pockets are vertical vents straight to the body's core.  Unzip the pockets...from the top or the bottom and you can work pretty hard in this jacket and still not over heat.  I really like the simple design features and how well they work.  Make sure you aren't going to dump your pocket contents though!

As far as I can tell the shell material, which is  water proof and breathable 2-LAYER SHELL called
WeatherEdge® Pro, 1.7 oz 12-denier fabric with StormRepel® DWR finish; rated to 20K/20K" really is water proof.  And no question it breathes very well from my testing as I could always get the down dried out on the belays from my own body heat.  The long sleeves, the hood and the pocket vents are easy to notice in use.  It is a very good mid weigh piece of insulation and physically lwt weight belay jacket.  My XL weighs in at 1# 5 oz.   May be even a better cold weather ski jacket on the lifts or side country compared to many others jackets available and easily the best of the EB ski specific jackets imo.

It also comes in a women's specific version which I hear gets high ranks on fit and warmth as well.
No question the women's colors options are better!

Here is more of the EB spiel:


WeatherEdge® Pro, 1.7 oz 12-denier fabric with StormRepel® DWR finish; rated to 20K/20K

Down-packed micro-baffles keep you warm with minimal weight and bulk

Provide storage and double as heat-dumping core vents

Fits easily over a ski or climbing helmet

Eliminate need for flaps; more durable, slide more smoothly and make it easier to grab with gloves on

Harness and pack compatible; facilitate easy movement

Adjust for snug fit; provides more coverage to keep you warmer

Looser fit provides more room for layering; works for a wider range of body types

Machine wash
100% nylon waterproof/breathable 20K/20K shell; 800-fill down insulation
Center back length: Reg. 29 1/2", Tall 31 1/2"
Weight: 1 lb., 3.54 oz.  (1 lb., 5oz. or 595g  and 2.5" of loft for my XL)

Louise Falls photo courtesy of

After all I have a closet full of "real" mid weight climbing specific jackets.  This one is a good fine to add to that list.  A decent price (on sale) for a water proof and lightly insulated down jacket.  One that I have used a good bit now and will again.

EB sez:

"Combining the microchannel construction of the MicroTherm™ Down Shirt into the lining of this fully waterproof and breathable shell rated to 20K/20K, we’ve built a warm, insulated jacket that is lighter than many non-insulated shells on the market. This jacket is built to be the minimalist, lightweight piece that our First Ascent guide team requires in the most challenging environments where every ounce counts. Highly packable. Two large cross-body vents double as pockets. Harness friendly design. Now one inch longer and sized a bit larger through the torso to provide more room for layering and fit more body types. Across the board, this piece was the alpine guides’ personal favorite, hands down."

The video covers it all again:


Dersu said...

Is the soft shell test still in the works (because of the Patagucci Knifeblade you're wearing in the first photo)?

Charlie said...

Off topic but do you have any thoughts on the Patagonia Knifeblade? I've been debating about getting either the Patagonia Knifeblade or Rab Fusion.

Dane said...

Still working on a soft shell review guys. Likely have it done next month. The Polartec Patagonia Knifeblade is a great shell if you like pull overs, which i do.

Ian said...

Speaking of softshells, I wore an OR Ferossi Hoody in Canmore and it rocked!. Bonus for being less than $100. Perfect under an Atom LT.