Whenever I hit the ski slopes, I’m used to being nondescript. My skis and boots are pretty much bargain basement. I grabbed my Marker pants off the clearance rack. And my skills will never earn me any acclaim, unless there’s a “Best Faceplant” contest.
But during a recent visit to Breckenridge, Colo., I had all sorts of people stopping me to ask about my new jacket – the First Ascent Downlight Sweater. First Ascent is apparently Eddie Bauer’s new effort to produce guide-built gear for some extreme conditions.
Back to the Downlight and why people were stopping to ask about it: The thing is positively scrawny – barely any bulk at all to it. Must be that fancy 900 Fill Power Premium European Goose Down filling (because North American goose down is second-rate, don’t you know?). The curious folks wanted to know if something so thin and light could actually be warm.
The answer? Heck, yes! Ounce-for-ounce, I’ve never seen anything warmer. I wore it throughout the night at the Kona 24 Hours of Old Pueblo mountain bike race, and during four fun-filled days skiing in Colorado. Sometimes, the temperatures dropped to 12 degrees F. Under it, I only wore an UnderArmour HeatGear t-shirt and a long-sleeved cycling jersey. The Downlight sweater did the rest. I did add a fleece layer at night for a little extra.
How non-bulky is it? It folds into one of its own pockets, allowing you to stuff it into a carry-on back. Or you can use it for a pillow on the airplane.
Not only does it ward of the chill, but it repels moisture. Most of my ski days included copious amounts of snowfall. And not once did the Downlight get soaked.
Any concerns? Yes. I’ve noticed that it seems to be losing “feathers” pretty rapidly. Whenever I wear it, especially over a layer of fleece, I see a pretty good number of feathers on the fleece. I shot a message to Eddie Bauer to ask about this. Within hours, an employee responded. It sounded like my sweater was defective, and that I should return it or exchange it (Eddie Bauer requires a receipt for a refund. But I just wanted a non-shedding jacket). I took it back to the store where I bought it. The employee told me several other Downlight products had the same problem.
To lessen the chances of another feather-shedding episode, I decided to exchange it for an Eddie Bauer Serrano jacket made with Primaloft. The salesperson assured me that Primaloft products are not having the same problem.
So, in short: The Downlight worked great, but has some longevity concerns. Eddie Bauer and its employees wanted to make things right, so I was able to exchange my Downlight without any fuss.
I’ll have to review the Serrano after some good, vigorous use. If you decide to try a Downlight, know that it works well, but watch for those loose feathers. And know that Eddie Bauer is doing a nice job of correcting any problems.