First Ascent BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 Review
Breathable, waterproof, and down are three words/features that don’t always go together. Many times you utilize a shell to provide the water and wind protection and a second jacket to provide the down or insulation. Fortunately, the folks at Eddie Bauer First Ascent have found a way to incorporate these features and have eliminated the need for wearing two separate jackets with the BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0. The BC MicroTherm is available for both men and women, I will be focusing on the women’s model in which I tested in temperatures ranging from 40F and down to -10F.
Breathability, Warmth, and Protection
The BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 features a 2 layer shell design that features Eddie Bauer’s own WeatherEdge Pro fabric. The fabric carries a 20,000/20,000 rating, which means that it can withstand 20,000 mm of water suspended on its’ surface before seeping occurs AND allows 20,000 grams of water vapor to dissipate per square meter. What this translates to in plain language is that the BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 is highly waterproof and breathable in the most extreme conditions. I tested out the jacket for 8 straight hours of heavy/wet snow fall a few weekends ago while touring in the backcountry; the jacket remained dry inside and out despite heavy moisture build up on the inner and outer layers. The outer layer also has an added DWR finish to aid in its’ water repellant properties.
The BC Microtherm Down Jacket 2.0 is quite versatile not only in the protection and warmth it provides, but also in its ability to be used in an out of bounds. At the resort, I donned the BC Microtherm Down Jacket 2.0 with a medium weight baselayer and 1/2 zip fleece; this combination kept me plenty toasty on the windy lifts at Breckenridge, when temps dipped to the 10-15F. With this layering system, I was plenty warm and did not feel the wind at all, yet had additional room for an extra layer if I needed it. When used in the side country, I was plenty warm with the same medium weight baselayer and only the jacket over-top in temperatures down to as low as the single digits, when worn while on the move.
The BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 is unlike other insulated jackets that I have tested in that it provides warmth without the bulk. The entire jacket weights in at 17.9 ounces moves with you and is highly packable when not in use. The photo above and below gives you an idea of the fill pattern of the 800 fill European goose down; the “micro channels” or small horizontal fill pockets help to minimize bulk and keep the down evenly distributed over time.
The outer layer of the jacket is not overly rugged. After about 2 months of regular wear and tear, skiing, snowshoeing, and XC skiing, I have noticed a few small abrasions on the jacket or spots where feathers are popping out. These areas are quite small and I believe I can simply patch them up, but for those that are looking to use this more for climbing, the outer fabric may not be tough enough for scrapes/scratches from the rock.
BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 Features and Extras
The jacket was designed for climbers and ski mountaineers. While I may not be a professional at either of these pursuits, I still appreciate the placement of the pockets, higher up on the jacket, which allows you to take full advantage of the pocket storage, even when wearing a pack and/or harness. The large pockets have two-way zippers and are large enough with a mesh backing to allow you “dump” heat per the folks at Eddie Bauer. The placement of these pockets is relatively close to the arm pits and do a good job of doing double duty, storage and moisture management. There is a also a smaller zippered pocket on the left chest for smaller key items. The zipper pulls are on the small side and I found them difficult to operate with mittens on; you can swap out for longer pulls on your own, which is not a huge deal.
The BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 features low profile adjustable velcro cuffs. The cuffs are much easier to place your glove gasket over top vs jacket over-top as the opening at the cuff is not overly generous. The cuffs are relatively no frills as there is no extra cuff, thumb loops, etc, yet they do the job of sealing out the elements just fine.
The jacket also features a helmet friendly hood. I found that the hood could accommodate a climbing helmet, however it was a very very tight fit with my ski helmets. I tested the hood with a variety of helmet shapes and found that it could slide over all of them, yet it was such a tight fit that I could not turn my head and could not ski with the hood in the up position. If wearing with only a hat, the hood can easily be cinched down even smaller thanks to quick pulls at the neck, on each side, and a pull at the rear. The hood features the goose down fill and is very toasty and helps to trap body head. When not in use, you can easily adjust the collar of the jacket with the side pulls to prevent heat escape around the neck. The front zipper features a large layer of soft fleece at the chin area, which is super soft and cozy, preventing any chaffing or rubbing along the chin.
Size and Fit of the BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0
The BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 features a longer center back length than the original jacket/models and can easily be customized to get a perfect fit based on your overall and torso size. The center back length is 27″ for a regular, however the BC Microtherm is also available in petite and long: 26″ center back length for a petite and 28.5″ for a long. The center back length is adequate for skiing/climbing and keeps your lower back covered. I have an average length torso and found the regular to suit me just fine, as most of my height comes from my legs.
It is a nice touch to be able to customize in addition to the standard XS to XL sizing that is available. I found that the jacket ran about a 1/2 size larger than based on the size guide, especially in the waist and hips. I tested out a size medium and went to my local Eddie Bauer store and tried on the size small, which was a much better fit for me. The ability to customize torso length, which also adjust sleeve length a tough (per the Eddie Bauer website), should allow most wearers to find the right size.
The BC MicroTherm Down Jacket 2.0 is available from EddieBauer.comand some local stores. Currently, the jacket retails for $299, but I anticipate winter sales soon and this jacket would be an excellent pick up.