Eddie Bauer First Ascent Hyalite Soft Shell Jacket

Manufacturer Description

An insulated soft shell for cold, clear days that start and end in the dark. Stay cool when you’re working hard under the midday sun, but warm when the sun sets and you’re heading home. Designed specifically for high aerobic, cold-air activities such as ice climbing and ski touring that take place in incredibly frozen landscapes.

Features

  • Weather-repellent soft shell body – 5.54 oz 75-denier fabric with a StormRepel DWR finish
  • Breathable soft shell underarm panels – 8.9 oz 50-denier stretch fabric with a StormRepel DWR finish
  • 60g Primaloft ONE insulation
  • Pit zips
  • Integrated hood
  • Smooth-slider Vislon zippers
  • Deep chest pockets
  • 100% Polyester shell
  • 100% nylon lining
  • Designed by Chad Peele
  • Tested size Medium
    • Weight – 805 g (28.4 oz)
    • Center back – 75.0 cm (29.5 in)
    • Sleeve length – 89.5 cm (35.2 in)
    • Pit to pit – 59.5 cm (23.4 in)
  • Retail – $279 in regular, $299 in tall

YMMV Review

Going back to their roots. Eddie Bauer was founded as an outdoor outfitter and the First Ascent Collection goes back to that heritage. Eddie Bauer put together a team of very experienced mountaineers to design and test the original pieces. They are still the driving force behind the objective of building the most technically innovative line of mountaineering gear. Perfection through minimalism was the design philosophy starting from day one. Starting from that alpinist mantra, they shaved weight, bulk and overkill to create a line that is equipped with every essential but not one ounce of excess.

Front View - Click to See Larger

Front View – Click to See Larger

This is the second item I have tested from Eddie Bauer First Ascent. The faces behind the brand are truly legendary, and you can feel their presence in the design. I want to thank First Ascent for providing this jacket for testing.

Testing

The Hyalite has been designed initially for ice climbing but fortunately can be used for much more. I have not done any ice climbing in the jacket as that is not my thing. Rather I have been testing it mainly as an alpine touring jacket. I have also used it for some classic cross-country skiing and just around town. Temperatures have ranged from 0 to 50 degrees with some snow and even a little rain.

Back View - Click to See Larger

Back View – Click to See Larger

Design ★★★☆☆

Appearance (20%) ★★★☆☆

Construction (35%) ★★★½☆

Materials (15%) ★★★★☆

Sustainability (10%) ★☆☆☆☆

Weight (20%) ★★½☆☆

The Hyalite Jacket was initially designed for ice climbing. Where you need warmth, breathability, protection from the elements, and a non-restrictive fit. These are many of the same attributes that are ideal for a ski touring jacket. Designed no doubt with the help of several people but the main person on this jacket is Chad Peele. He is a full IFMGA alpine and rock guide who favor ice routes in Ouray. The Hyalite has been body mapped to provide strategic insulation while maintaining breathability. If you have not read my reviews before, I am a big fan of the body mapped pieces. They are able to combine several properties into a single jacket. The Hyalite has insulation where you need it, and nowhere you don’t.

Drop Tail Hem - Click to See Larger

Drop Tail Hem – Click to See Larger

At the heart of the Hyalite, it is a soft shell jacket. Right there it means that the jacket will have an increased breathability and abrasion resistance as compared to a basic shell. The main fabric is a 100% polyester soft shell fabric that is tough and protects the inner insulation. The jacket is insulated with Primaloft One 60g synthetic insulation. Most of the jacket uses a quilted insulation with a 100% nylon inner lining. It not only is soft but comfortable to the skin. The insulation on the back is structured very differently. It features a diamond-shaped insulation pattern on the back that allows air to be circulated better and escape through the back. Take a look at the picture to see what I mean. Under the arms, the Hyalite uses a different softshell fabric. It is thicker with a grid fleece backer but no insulation. This allows this area to breathe better and maintain flexibility for movement. The entire jacket has been treated with StormRepel DWR finish. This finish allows water to bead up and roll off or evaporate rather than soaking into the fabric. While the Hyalite is not 100% waterproof, it is very water resistant.

Back Insulation - Click to See Larger

Back Insulation – Click to See Larger

Being a soft shell, the Hyalite has a stretch woven construction that allows both stretch and breathability. The Primaloft One insulation is a premier synthetic insulation. Compared to other synthetic insulations, it absorbs 3x less water, is 14% warmer when dry, and 24% warmer when wet. It also still insulates when wet, which makes it a better insulator in wet climates as compared to down insulation. For increased performance, the jacket has long underarm pit zips to give more adjustability. All the zippers on the Hyalite, except for the underarm zips, are Vislon zips. These zippers are very easy to use, even in cold temperatures. The underarm zips are not Vislon as they use a much smaller and therefore, a less noticeable zipper.

The jacket has a total of four pockets. There are two deep chest pockets on the outside, an outside chest pocket, and an inside chest pocket. The inside pocket has an audio port to allow you to route your cables through rather than out the zip. Other features on the jacket include an integrated and adjustable hood. It is large enough to fit over a helmet, but still can be adjusted to fit snuggly when you do not have one on. For some fit adjustability, there is an adjustable bungee located at the bottom hem. These can tighten up the bottom of the jacket and avoid drafts or snow from sneaking up from below. At the wrists, the jacket has a hook and loop closure system that you can adjust to your preferred tightness. The only other things worth noting is a full-length storm flap behind the front zipper to prevent a cold spot.

Underarm Panel - Click to See Larger

Underarm Panel – Click to See Larger

Looking at the actual materials used to build the Hyalite, none of them were sustainable to my knowledge. I have also combed the Eddie Bauer website to see what they have done corporately in regard to sustainability, and I have not found much. They do have a separate project called the Eddie Bauer Global ReLeaf tree project where they raise money to help plant trees in locations that have been devastated by natural disasters and plant trees in and around urban areas. Thus far they have raised near five million dollars and impacted locations all over North America.

Fit ★★★½☆

Adjustability (10%) ★★★☆☆

Arm Length (15%) ★★★½☆

Comfort (25%) ★★★★½

Cuff (10%) ★★★½☆

Ease of Movement (15%) ★★★½☆

Hood (10%) ★★★☆☆

Torso Sizing (15%) ★★★½☆

According to First Ascent, the Hyalite has a regular fit. Fortunately, this fit is not the same as the regular Eddie Bauer brand as it can be characterized as more of an alpine fit. It has been designed to fit over midlayers if needed but also to not be bulky. I am typically a size medium in my outdoor wear and looking at the sizing chart I would be right on the bottom of a medium size in First Ascent. I tested the medium and have been happy with the overall fit. I have found it is nice to have a jacket that may be slightly too large rather than one that is too small. With the medium, the chest had a little extra room, which was just fine because the rest of the jacket fit really well. The length of the torso was nice and long and the sleeve easily covered my hands, even if I reached out. I also liked being able to adjust the bottom hem, and the sleeve cuffs when needed. This definitely helped the jacket fit the way I wanted it to. Even the Velcro wrist cuffs integrated well with my gloves. They never felt overly bulky.

Adjustable Hem - Click to See Larger

Adjustable Hem – Click to See Larger

Since the Hyalite is a softshell jacket, it has a nice feel to it. The jacket is fairly supple even with the insulation. The softshell has a bit of stretch all over with even more under the arms. This makes it really good for movement. When using ski poles I never felt restricted like can happen with a typical thick ski jacket. Even the pit zips were low profile enough to go un noticeable. What I really like about this jacket and insulated jacket in general is how soft and comfortable they are on the inside. I liken it to being in a warm puffy sleeping bag. It has a very soft touch to the skin. There is not much on the inside to cause discomfort on the Hyalite. It was great with both short and long sleeves alike. The hood was also comfortable and can be adjusted well.  It was able to fit over my ski helmet with a little room to spare. You can see it in the picture.

Pit Zips - Click to See Larger

Pit Zips – Click to See Larger

Performance ★★★★☆

Breathability (20%) ★★★½☆

Durability (20%) ★★★½☆

Pockets (10%) ★★★★☆

Versatility (15%) ★★★½☆

Warmth (20%) ★★★★☆

Weather Resistance (15%) ★★★★½

Using the Hyalite as a ski touring jacket has been ideal for me. I tend to go up when we have good snow and that normally means a storm cycle, low temperatures and wind. The coldest day I have tested the jacket on was about 10 degrees with 20 miles per hour winds, and I was plenty warm and even needed to vent. I typically wear a light baselayer underneath and that has been plenty. Most of my ski touring is just dong laps up and around Mt. Bachelor here in Central Oregon. I do ten d to run warm when I am working hard so having the large pit zips is a great thing. I have noticed, however, that if you are wearing a pack, it will get in the way a bit. I really like how the jacket will breathe while still protecting you from most of the weather. It blocks wind and snow, but if you get in a long downpour, rain can eventually soak in. Here in Bend we do not get enough rain to have this happen. A nice thing about the jacket is the insulation will still keep you warm if it does happen to get wet. Whether this is from a heavy rain or just getting too sweaty, you can count on the jacket to keep you warm. I did find that the StormRepel DWR finish helped light rain and snow bead up and fall right off. As with all DWRs, they can eventually need to be renewed but over all my testing, I have not needed to do so yet.

Inside Pocket - Click to See Larger

Inside Pocket – Click to See Larger

I have read other things on the Hyalite that suggest layering under it for really cold conditions. Based on the fit it is totally possible, but I never found the need to do so. Maybe if I was doing some regular downhill skiing I may have wanted to layer more. For me, the Hyalite was warm enough for anytime I was active. Using it around town in temperatures down to the single digits, there were times I could have had something warmer but that may have also been due to my pant choice.

I really like the pocket set up on the jacket. I feel like the four pockets are a perfect set up. Three useable pockets on the outside and a protected inner pocket for a Smartphone or GPS. I liked to have the audio port as well as I listen to music on most of my ski laps. The two large pockets on the front are great for storing things like gloves or skins. They are plenty large and located high enough on the torso that they are above the waist belt if you are wearing a pack. The Vislon zippers are also very good as they open and close so easily. This makes it much easier to use them if you have gloves on or your hands are super cold. No excess tugging to get them to work.

Wrist Cuff - Click to See Larger

Wrist Cuff – Click to See Larger

I have been testing the Hyalite for months now and have not had any issues with the jacket in regard to durability. I will say that I have not been overly hard on it either but nothing thus far has lead me to believe anything would be different if I had. I have had several softshell that I have beat on for over a decade, and they are still going strong. I love these jackets as they are so durable and work well for a variety of conditions. Even when I wore the jacket for cross-country skiing it fell like it was at home. I think the Hyalite would be good for any stop and go activity in cold weather. Whether it is ice climbing, ski touring, snowshoeing, or less aerobic XC skiing. I have also liked wearing it around town as a regular jacket but do sometimes feel like I am about to go out and direct traffic.

Vislon Zippers - Click to See Larger

Vislon Zippers – Click to See Larger

Overall ★★★★☆

Overall, the Hyalite Jacket has been one of my favorite jackets to test. You can tell that the jacket had some intelligent thought go into the design. Like many of the First Ascent pieces, the jacket is not just another jacket with a different logo on the front. It has some distinguishable characteristics that set it apart from other jackets I have tested. I have said it before, that I am a big fan of the body mapped products. The Hyalite fits well, has a host of features, and best of all performs when it matters. If you are looking for a jacket for a stop and go activity in cold weather, take a look at the Hyalite. I do not think you will be disappointed. I was not. The Eddie Bauer First Ascent Hyalite Soft Shell Jacket retails for $279 in regular and $299 in the tall. I find that it is fairly priced for what you get; a quality jacket. As always, your mileage may vary.

Out in the Snow - Click to See Larger

Out in the Snow – Click to See Larger

Pros

  • Softshell fabric
  • Body mapped construction
  • Good breathability with long pit zips
  • Zippers slide very well
  • Soft comfortable feel
  • Warm, just the right amount of insulation

Cons

  • Yellow color is a bit bright for my tastes

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About the author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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