This Spring I was shocked when I walked into Eddie Bauer and saw backpacking gear. Not just a few day packs, but rain gear, boots, shirts, and the Spot Tracker. What? Then I saw the saw the website “>First Ascent and that Eddie Bauer was sponsoring and designing gear for an Everest Climb.
The First Ascent line includes base layers and outer wear as well as gear like tents and backpacks. Prices range from $16.50 for a pocket knife to $999 for a goose-down suit. Eddie Bauer plans to spend about $1 million to $5 million of its planned $15 million in 2009 capital spending to set up the First Ascent shopping areas in many of its stores. Peter Whittaker talks to Backpacker Magazine and previews some of the 2009 First Ascent Gear
“We’ve assembled the dream team to design and build the most significant new line of mountaineering gear in a generation,” says Neil Fiske, President and CEO of Eddie Bauer. “It doesn’t get any better than Whittaker, Viesturs, Hahn and team.”
Founded in 1920, Eddie Bauer was known from the 1950s to the 1980s for its down jackets, mountaineering parkas and expedition gear, which were developed with insights from climbers and worn on many major expeditions and first ascents of famous peaks. Then, in 1988, Spiegel Inc. bought the company and transformed it from an outdoor-wear and gear store into a retailer focusing on women’s casual clothes. In 2003, Spiegel filed for bankruptcy protection, and two years later Eddie Bauer was spun off on its own.
The First Ascent line was conceived when Mr. Fiske and Peter Whittaker, co-owner of the guide service Rainier Mountaineering Inc. and Jim Whittaker‘s nephew, climbed Washington’s Mount Rainier together in September 2007. During the ascent, Mr. Fiske shared his idea about taking Eddie Bauer back to its roots.
The two put together a product development team that includes other well-known mountain guides and climbers, including Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb all of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, and Dave Hahn, who has made it to the summit of Mount Everest 10 times. The climbers spent about 30 days testing fabrics and prototypes on Mount Rainier, Aconcagua in Argentina and Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Their ultimate goal was to keep the product simple, cutting costs and eliminating bells and whistles like extra pockets that lacked function and added weight.
Among their recommendations: a waterproof outer layer that didn’t feel “like a potato chip bag” and staggered zippers on different clothing layers so they wouldn’t be stacked on top of each other.
This looks pretty exciting and I’m curious as hell to see how this line, and Eddie Bauer does with it’s return to the Backcountry.
You can read the Press Release Here