In the real world a jacket like First Ascent's BC-200 Hard Shell would likely be used for light use conditions such as walking the dog, short trail hikes and day hikes. Let's be honest, the average Joe doesn't get out much more than that. Since this is a backcountry skiing site we have been a little more rigorous in our adventures with the BC-200. Over the last few months we have had the chance to see how the BC-200 jacket performs on the windy mountain ridges of Kokanee Glacier, multi-day ski traverses such as the Wapta Traverse, summer hikes and just getting around during one of the wettest springs on record in interior British Columbia, Canada.
If you aren't yet familiar with the name First Ascent now's the time. An expedition and ski-wear oriented sub-brand of Eddie Bauer, First Ascent has a 'guide-built' philosophy where they work with a core team of world-class guides (such as Ed Vistors) on every stage of the product development. This results in some fairly innovative, technical and practical designs. The BC-200 is endorsed by guides Chad Peele and Melissa Arnot who must have played a hand in some of the following features:
Highly waterproof and breathable 3-layer fabric that utilizes First Ascent's proprietary 20K/25K WeatherEdge® Pro technology. The 20K rating represents waterproofness: The fabric can hold 20,000 mm of water suspended over its surface before moisture seeps through. The second value represents breathability: 25,000 grams of water vapour can escape per square meter of fabric over 24 hours. The WeatherEdge® Pro technology is sealed with First Ascent's StormRepel™ durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. Fully welded seams (First Acsent's proprietary Thermaweld™ construction) reduce weight and optimize weatherproofness.
Fully adjustable helmut compatible hood that can be cinched securely when no helmut is used.
Water resistant zippers with zipper garages are used so there is no need for flaps.
Articulated elbows fit the arms natural angles to enhance freedom of movement. Pocket positioning is compatible with both a harness and backpack.
Adjustable low-profile cuffs.
A slim active fit that avoids bunching.
The BC-200 Hard Shell Jacket is some serious bang for your buck. It's weighs in at around 300grams and yet it is a 3-ply (3-layer) waterproof/breathable hard shell. It's ideal for light and fast ski-touring and is light enough that it can be used all year round. Noticeably more breathable than an average quality hardshell jacket, it breaths fairly well on the up-track if you have to keep it on and if you have to stash it in your pack, it compresses down to the size of a mug. The helmut compatible hood design fits a ski or climbing helmut easily and the front and back adjustability is great if you need to have the hood hug your head on a windy ridge top. In the rain it sheds water like a duck, I have been in some decent rain showers and the water is still beading. As with any hardshell, over time you would need to maintain the DWR finish especially on high wear areas.*
I wore the BC-200 Hard Shell Jacket on the Wapta Traverse this spring. We were out for five days and climbed a few peaks along the way. I found it ideal for the traverse itself since it is so light and packable. Once on the windy ridge tops, however, I could feel a draft coming through so it didn't cut a moderate cold wind completely, which may be the flip side of it's breathability. If I was going to be somewhere cold and windy I would consider a slightly beefier hardshell. That said, I can still see myself using this jacket for at least 10 months of the year around here (BC, Canada) for light and fast trips. The fit is made for me (slim, long and active) and it's light enough to take it anywhere.
*Be sure to wash your jacket in a mild detergent that does not contain any wetting agents or you could ruin the jackets waterproofness for life.
Price: $199US ($219US for men's tall)
Weight: 8.64 oz / 245g (Women) 10oz / 284g (Men)
Colours: Women: Black, Cyan, Dark Pym, Lava; Men: Ascent Blue, Black,Bright Lime, Ink Red
Sizes: XS-XL (XXL available in Mens)
High quality at a low price. Flattering, feminine cut. Highly breathable and waterproof. Well constructed, light and packable. Great adjustability in hood.
Didn't feel 100% windproof in cold ridge-top winds. Because the fabric is so lightweight, ski the trees with care, it's not made for bushwhacking.
Fit / Mobility 2/2
Waterproof / Breathable 1/2
Quality / Price 2/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.
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