Eddie Bauer First Ascent 18k Jacket ReviewJuly 22, 2012
- Very warm.
- Excellent abrasion resistance.
- Smooth pit-zips.
- Category-leading finish.
- Available in Tall sizes.
- Heavy and bulky.
- Hood is huge and unwieldy without a helmet underneath.
A big jacket for big mountains, the 18k is a solid, albeit heavy, jacket that is great for hard work in cold, abusive conditions.
Named for the total vertical travel required for an ascent of Mt Rainier, the 18k is a workhorse piece for the cold-weather mountaineer. It boasts 5 voluminous pockets, a huge range of adjustability in its hood, hem and cuffs, and even features long, dual-pull pit-zips. But all these bells and whistles, combined with generous cuts of dense, insulating fabric, did make the 18k feel a bit clunky when compared to most other softshells in this test.
The 18k’s fleece-backed stretch-woven nylon shell was an effective shield against all sorts of alpine abuse. Its high Spandex content made it flexible enough to absorb and deflect assaults that would penetrate most textiles, including aggressive attacks from toothy granite and sharp ice screws; the layered construction kept my micro-climate humidity levels comfortably low while I hiked through light rain; and the doubled shell fabric at the front of the high collar provided added protection for my face.
Closures and adjustments
Quiet, smooth, and fobbed for ease of use with bulky winter gloves, the 18k’s zippers and adjusters did just what they ought to without complaint. The simple cordlocks at the chin may take a moment to understand, but they proved effective and bombproof.
Helmet required! I have a tall head—helmets perch high above my ears, and I get plenty of grief for my un-fixable gaper gap. Even so, the cavernous hood on the 18k absolutely swallowed the tallest helmet I own, and draped over my face like a monk’s cowl when the helmet came off. When snugged over the helmet, the 18k’s was the most protective and stable hood I’ve ever worn. Sans helmet, the hood felt huge and baggy, though it could be adjusted well enough to keep it in place.
Finish and Initial Quality
Beautifully overbuilt, the 18k elevates the form of the insulated softshell—if not necessarily the function—to a new level of polish and refinement. Aside from precise bar tacks at critical points, not a single stitch shows on the exterior of the jacket; interior seams are welded flat and barely show at all. Adjustment hardware is simple, lightweight and designed to resist freezing. The 18k’s initial quality is among the best in the category.