I like to think of jackets such as the First Ascent Downlight® Hooded Jacket as insurance when you're out skiing in the backcountry. I will always carry it in a compression sack in case of an emergency. In an effort to get my layering system dialled I have tried a number of down jackets and have concluded that in our locale where the mercury generally doesn't dip lower than -20º C, a lighter weight down jacket will keep me warm enough without taking up valuable space in my pack. Oh yeah, hood or no hood? I am definitely sold on a down jacket with a hood I have been grateful for it many times on top of a ridge and it keeps my neck extra warm when not in use.
Eddie Bauer's First Ascent range is designed and tested by guides active in the field, a process which promises finely-tuned technical pieces. Swiss born alpinist Caroline George (certified IFMGA) was behind the Downlight® Hooded Jacket so the jacket is specifically tailored and tested for active women. It is a part of First Ascent's precision layering system where each individual clothing piece is cut to compliment the layer that lies beneath, so sleeves and body run longer than the layer beneath with the aim of maximizing articulation and minimizing rising and bunching. Worth noting in First Ascent's efforts to achieve a great fit is that they offer three extended sizes - regular, petite and tall. Not bad.
Super light and compressible 800 Fill Premium European Goose Down. The '800' here—a measure of loft and insulating efficiency—is on the high end of the scale. This means there are more fine clusters of down and more loft to trap more heat optimizing the heat to weight ratio. It also means the jacket is highly compressible. The premium quality of the down used ensures the down will be resistant to long-term compression.
Lightweight 1.06 oz 20-denier ripstop nylon with Stormrepel™ DWR finish. The fabric has a soft and silky feel. The high denier fabric helps the jacket be windproof and the DWR finish increases water repellency.
Hood with elasticized rim designed to fit over a ski or climbing helmet. Fleece lined zipper garage at neck.
Fleece-lined hand and interior pockets. Zippered exterior pockets.
Drop tail hem to keep your lower back warm.
The First Ascent Downlight® Hooded Jacket has not only become an essential part of my backcountry skiing collateral but also something I wear around town to keep the chill out in winter. It's a technical piece with a silky soft feel that is articulated for a female fit so it is comfortable as well as highly flattering. At just under one pound the weight is spot on and it compresses to the size of your goggles making it an easy fit in your pack. I wore this jacket throughout the 2011/12 winter and found it was super warm on frigid days. If I was resort skiing on a really cold day I would wear it under my hardshell. If I was getting too warm wearing it this way I would open up the hardshell pit zips and the Downlight would breath really well underneath. I found it ideal for multi-day trips due to it's packability, feather weight and high warmth.
The last down hoodie I owned had nylon fabric at the cuffs and waist which wore through after a one or two seasons, the elasticized cuffs and waist design on the Downlight hoodie will prevent this from happening which is reassuring. The zipping and fleece-lined pockets on the outside are essential features I use a lot. There are interior pockets but unfortunately they don't have zippers so I didn't find them too useful.
The aqua 'ice' colour is a winning colour—feminine and flattering. You have to be more mindful to keep it clean but it's worth it. If you're one to sit around campfires you may want to go for the black.
Price: US$199 (Tall - US$219)
Weight: 11.2oz / 318g
Colours: Black or Ice
Sizes: XS – XL
Silky feel and comfortable fit. Highly optimized warmth and ultra light weight. Flattering. Great colours.
No interior pocket with a zipper for keeping valuables. Light coloured elastic on cuffs shows dirt and wear and tear.
Quality / Price 1.5/2
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.