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Eddie Bauer recently released a new line of First Ascent outdoor gear, including two shells and a summit pack—the BC Sandstone Stretch, the BC Uplift, and the Butter Pack, respectively. I put all three items to the test climbing in the Colorado alpine, where long days on long routes with dodgy/ever-changing weather meant I needed the lightest, most versatile, and most durable gear possible. The First Ascent apparel did not disappoint.
BC Sandstone Stretch Jacket
The BC Sandstone Stretch is without question my favorite shell that I’ve climbed in, for its unmatched mobility and breathability. While doing weird contortionist moves, iron crosses, crossovers, mantels, and tips-of-your-toes-to-tips-of-your-fingers reaches, the Sandstone Stretch is no more constricting than the T-shirt that you’re wearing beneath, which, for a water-resistant jacket, is super impressive.
Weighing in at 11.6 ounces (men’s medium), the BC Sandstone Stretch is made of Eddie Bauer’s WeatherEdge Plus stretch knit laminated fabric with a StormRepel Super DWR moisture-shedding finish. This stretch knit fabric is what makes this jacket so remarkably comfortable, providing peerless mobility and breathability compared to other water-resistant jackets I’ve owned. It has YKK Aquaguard zips, with one interior and two exterior zippered pockets. The Sandstone Stretch has a waterproof rating of 10K, which means it will keep you dry in light rain or airy snow. I can vouch for this: I had a number of post-climb hikes back to the car in drizzly conditions while wearing this jacket and stayed perfectly dry. Full disclosure: I have not worn the BC Sandstone Stretch in a downpour, so I can’t say for sure how it would perform, but if the manufacturer says that it won’t keep you dry in heavy rain, I would trust that.
The BC Sandstone Stretch has also been a great piece for cross training—running and biking on gloomy or drizzly days. I often feel suffocated if I’m jogging in a non-breathable rain jacket, but with the stretch knit fabric of the Sandstone Stretch I stay dry and cool. The jacket has adjustable cuffs and hem, and a single-point adjustable hood that fits great over a helmet.
BC Uplift Jacket
The BC Uplift is a truly sweet piece and has become essential for fast-and-light alpine days. It doesn’t have the same mobility or breathability as the BC Sandstone Stretch, so it isn’t quite as adapted for climbing, but the jacket weighs almost nothing at 6.7 ounces (men’s medium), and packs into the chest pocket to the size of a fist. Even on days when the forecast called for a 0 percent chance of rain, I still brought the BC Uplift because it’s so packable it would be illogical not to have it.
The fact that the BC Uplift isn’t as breathable as the BC Sandstone Stretch has actually been an advantage at times. When we’re at the trailhead at 3:30 a.m. and the temperatures hover in the low 40s, embarking on the approach in nothing but a T-shirt and the Uplift keeps me plenty warm, despite a total lack of insulation. Once my body starts kicking out heat, it stays within the impenetrable nylon shell of the Uplift. I wouldn’t want to go for a jog in this thing because it can trap heat a little too well, but if I’m going to be doing physical activity in cooler temps and looking for minimal layers (i.e., alpine days), this is the shell I’m taking. It is also bulletproof in windstorms. Belaying my partner up to the summit of Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, the winds driven by an incoming thunderstorm felt like they might blow me off my belay ledge, but I stayed warm inside the Uplift. It also has an adjustable hood that fits well over a helmet.
Made of WeatherEdge Pro nylon and sealed with the SuperRepel DWR, the BC Uplift has a waterproof rating of 20K, which means it’s waterproof. Like, torrential-downpour waterproof. Like, monsoon-season waterproof. And this I can fully attest to. I was on the last pitch of Spearhead in Rocky Mountain National Park in August when a thunderstorm blew in and freezing rain came pummeling down. Wearing the BC Uplift, I was sheltered from the rain, but sadly not from the unprotectable, soaking-wet exit slab. My right foot blew off a smear and I took a ledge fall, badly spraining my ankle. The next nine hours consisted of eight rappels, seven miles of crawling/hopping back to the car, and six hours of rain. A small sweet relief that harrowing day: My upper body stayed dry inside the BC Uplift.
I don’t like climbing with a backpack—I find them to be annoying and inhibit motion. I also don’t like to hang approach shoes off my harness, but they’re often necessary if you plan on walking off a route. And too many times I’ve been bamboozled by not bringing enough water on multi-pitch routes because I didn’t want to climb with a pack, and so ended up dehydrated by the final pitches. The Butter Pack changed all that for me, and has become a favorite not just for alpine days, but for any multi-pitch mission.
The Butter Pack is a 16-liter bag at a lightweight 11.5 ounces, with adjustable compression side-straps that tighten the bag to the size of its contents so it never feels loose nor bulky. The bag’s width is much narrower than my shoulders, which made it barely noticeable while climbing. There is a thin back pad for comfort, but no stiff frame. It is hydration compatible and has two small zippered pockets for phone, keys, and snacks. The Butter Pack is the perfect size for two pairs of approach shoes, two liters of water, two rain jackets, and half a day’s worth of snacks, meaning we needed only one bag between me and my partner—whoever was following would climb with the pack. The side straps are also nice for shedding layers and then cinching them down to the outside of the pack, for quick storage on the go. However, much to my dismay, the side straps are also removable, and on one fateful day on the Black Wall on Mount Evans, I forgot to buckle the straps together and unfortunately lost one end of the straps.
The Butter Pack features an easy-access drawstring and snap-button closure for the main compartment— a nice design that allows the mouth to open wide for easy packing. I do, however, wish there was a better, more reliable closure system; my solution, as backup to ensure the pack’s contents didn’t spill, was to clip a carabiner from the drawstring loop to the hand strap, keeping the drawstring tight and the contents secure. Another awesome aspect of the Butter Pack is its packability: It’s so light that it can be easily rolled up and stuffed inside a multi-day pack, to make its debut on summit day. Compared to other daypacks that I’ve tested as multi-pitch packs, the Butter Pack is lighter, more flexible, more packable, and more comfortable to climb with.