First Ascent (Eddie Bauer) Mistral Wind Shell Jacket Review
First ascent is the branch of Eddie Bauer that’s built for maximum performance. The line up has outerwear for every need, whether it’s undertaking your first Badwater marathon, or scaling the highest peak in North America. Granted, I put the Mistral through neither of these activities, but I did take it up the side of a volcano located in the Ecuadorian Andes. And guess what? This isn’t your grandmother’s Eddie Bauer.
After a bit of a slow down in the recession, Eddie is back to making superior outdoor product at affordable prices. I honestly didn’t have high hopes for this jacket when I first received it. I admit it was my own bias as a consumer that put me in this frame of mind. Boy, was I wrong. The jacket exceeded all of my expectations, or you can bet it wouldn’t have accompanied me (and protected me) on a climb/hike up the side of Chimborazo.
To begin with, the exterior of the jacket is smooth, lightweight, and easily packable. I was able to fold it into a pocket in my pack that was no larger than your average subway sandwich. There were numerous times when I easily stuffed it into a water bottle pocket as well – this was great for days when I would need to take off the jacket and put it back on numerous times in one hike. The fit is slightly tapered in towards the body as well; this eliminates extra bulk, and creates a warmer feel due to the lack of space on the interior of the jacket. Eddie Bauer says that it’s primarily for days when a fleece was too warm, but a short sleeve shirt wouldn’t do. I disagree – it does all of that, and then some; I was comfortable in colder temperatures due to the close fit and inner liner.
The inner liner (shown above) is made of an ultra soft moisture wicking material. It’s mesh in order to provide maximum breathability. This moisture wicking system is two fold: one, it does just that, wicking excess moisture away from the skin and out of the jacket; two, in doing so, it regulates your body temperature by keeping you dry during exertion. I thought this layer worked great as well, and due to how packable the jacket is, I found myself reaching for it on those days when I knew my trail run would start really cold and end really warm. Even on drizzly days, I took this jacket out for a spin. In a mist or light rain, the ripstop nylon shed water with the best of them. However, don’t expect a rain jacket out of this material. While running in a heavy rain, I quickly became drenched. The plus side of this experience was that I found that once out of the rain, it dried quickly.
There are also a number of smaller details included on this jacket that makes it a very nice choice for all manner of outdoor activities. Eddie Bauer is great at thinking of this type of add on, and it really helps to complete the overall design. There are gussets in the armpits to allow for maximum mobility and function; you can comfortably run, bike, or hike without restriction of movement. There are two lined hand-warmer pockets on the front that double as storage. To top it all off, the neck of the jacket is also line with a plush material to keep in heat on the cooler outings.
Just about the only thing I would have desired out of this jacket is a lightweight hood, but I can live without it for all of the other features. Its become a go to jacket for me when I have no idea what the conditions might be, and have just a small amount of extra storage space. I honestly rarely make a trip or outing without it. The MSRP on this jacket, even with all of these features, is even more shocking – less than seventy big ones. At this weight, this price, and this functionality, you might not be able to afford NOT having it. Check out this jacket (and the whole first ascent lineup) at www.eddiebauer.com.