First Ascent Frontpoint Jacket Review
Eddie Bauer has a long and impressive heritage of equipping some famous expeditions but has lost a lot of its prestige over the last decade. With the 2009 introduction of the First Ascent line, I believe they have made a phenomenal return to high-quality expedition-ready apparel. They have worked with mountain guides and professionals to ensure that all the gear they release is tested in real world tough conditions and this shows in the features of the products.
This review is of the Frontpoint Jacket, which attempts to combine the benefits of two different fabrics into one technical shell. The hood, shoulders and lower part of the torso are made of a waterproof/breathable hard shell fabric while the mid-section of the jacket is made of a water resistant soft-shell fabric. The theory is that the hard shell keeps out the wet in a continuous downpour while the soft shell gives extra breathability and flexibility that the fabric is known for. I will discuss how well this works out in practice later in the review.
I tested the red version of the jacket and I have to say it is good looking top layer. You can tell from looking at it that it is a technical piece of outer wear and that it was intended for serious use. The combination of a hard shell and a soft shell adds a nice little style element to the jacket. It’s definitely not a fashion statement but it gets the job done.
I was testing the large sized jacket and found the fit to be mostly great with the exception of torso length. I am 6’1″ with most of that length being in my torso so most people won’t have the same issues as I do. Personally, I would have liked the waist to be a few inches lower. I found while skiing that the jacket would occasionally come up over my pants. Cinching down the waist helped a bit but not enough for me. As far as the rest of the fit, the jacket was clearly designed with dexterous activities in mind. The arms are articulated and allow freedom of movement in all directions. The hood is pretty well designed but not perfect. I like how the front of the jacket comes up nice and high to keep out drafts and protect your face in cold, windy, or wet weather and I also like how there is a bit of extra structure in the bill of the hood to keep rain from falling in. My only complaint is that it can be hard to adjust the hood to keep that extended bill from dropping over your eyes. There is an adjustment that pulls the hood back from the sides but I would have preferred one that pulls it back from the top.
As I have already stated, this jacket was thoughtfully designed for use. It has just enough essential features to make a great technical jacket things like climbing and mountaineering. There is an inside pocket with a music cord pass through to stash an MP3 player/ phone. The smartest feature of this jacket is the placement of the waist pockets. One of the biggest annoyances of most jackets is that when you wear a climbing harness or a backpack with a waist belt, jacket pockets become inaccessible. The Frontpoint jacket smartly moves the pockets up about 6 inches from their usual location. I tested this out with a climbing pack and also with a harness and I loved being able to still access the pockets. I wish this was commonplace in most jackets. My only other complaint about this jacket is the lack of a powder skirt for skiing. It is my belief that any jacket that might be used for skiing should have a detachable powder skirt.
Breathability/ Weather proofing:
I wore the jacket in a light rain and found it perfectly dry on the inside. I don’t doubt the waterproofing of the fabric. Despite the best intentions of it’s designers, I did not find the jacket quite as breathable as I had hoped. Then again, my expectations might have been overly high because I was hoping the soft-shell mid section was going to make the jacket as breathable as my other soft shells. On a balmy fall hike, I found myself needing to remove the jacket because I was feeling a bit sweaty. This leads me to believe that the shell is intended to be worn in cooler conditions. To test this out, I used the jacket skiing and found it to be great for the colder weather. I only had to unzip the front a little bit after a really challenging run in order to let out some steam.
Overall, I can see this jacket being really popular with mountaineers and climbers. It is really lightweight for the protection it provides and will find it’s way into many peoples outerwear collections.