First Look: Eddie Bauer's New EverTherm Down Jacket Review
The key innovation is the use of Thindown insulation, which is essentially down that's been bonded and compressed between sheer fabric which retains its shape and allows airflow. The sheeting allows the jacket to forego quilted baffles and gives it a slim profile. Eddie Bauer is introducing Thindown to the U.S. market and has an exclusivity deal through 2018, so don’t expect to see it used by any other brand for a while.
Sheets of synthetic insulation have been used in jackets for years, but down's irregular shape and ability to rebound help it trap body heat more efficiently than synthetic alternatives, making it the preferred fill for puffy jackets since Eddie Bauer first started using it more than 80 years ago. In a traditional puffy however, some of the down's warmth is undermined when heat leaks through the stitching of a jacket's baffles or quilts. This season, as several new synthetic insulations that mimic down are hitting the market, Thindown is enabling Eddie Bauer to use down as if it were a synthetic.
The EverTherm Down Jacket takes the loft and quilted seams out of the feather-filled midlayer.
The EverTherm Down Jacket definitely takes the bloat out of the puffy, as well as any added costs or weight from the assembly and thread used in baffles. By our own scales, the men's medium without a hood (pictured) weighed just over 11 ounces, and Eddie Bauer puts the women's version closer to 9 ounces. The jacket is temperature rated to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit while moving, and 40 degrees when stationary. Since this is just a First Look, so we haven't had the chance to test the jacket in those conditions yet. However, as part of Eddie Bauer's First Ascent line, the jacket has already gone to the top of Everest on the back of mountaineer Adrian Ballinger, and through a variety of alpine tests with the brand's guide and athletes. Guide Caroline George, gives a quick overview in this video.
Putting the jacket on, the immediate impression is its minimal feel; both in size and weight. Wide shoulder panels extend under the arm, leaving a flat seamless shoulder for easier fit and mobility. The main seams form a trapezoid side panel that extends from the front pockets to the back of the hip, leaving plenty of room for another layer beneath it. The medium fit my 5'10" frame and came down midway to my back pocket. Reaching overhead pulled the jacket over my belt buckle.
Adrian Ballinger tested the EverTherm Down Jacket on Mt. Everest.
Even without ripping open the jacket to inspect the insulation, you can tell the Thindown sheet is compact. The jacket's specs list it as less than a centimeter thick. The sheet sits loose and independently between the outer and inner nylon layers; you can gather up a handful of slack fabric on the sleeves, and especially on the back. That separation prevents the insulation from being pulled when the face fabric rubs against a pack or other layer. Less seams really do mean less snags. It will take some winter testing to see how well the insulation sheet and face fabrics work together to release vapor however.
Beyond its unique insulation, the EverTherm includes some simple, utilitarian features. The nylon outer is treated with Stormrepel Super DWR. Drawcords inside the waist adjust the hem and elastic cuffs on the sleeves keep the cold out. The chest and angled hand pockets use taped zip-up closures. The hooded version is insulated and has a binding adjustment. Its streamlined construction should better withstand a washing machine than a traditional down jacket's fragile seams and clumped down.
A closer look at the zip-up chest pocket and beading from the DWR.
The EverTherm compresses well, but not quite like a traditional quilted puffy. It rebounded quickly from a few trial compressions.
This winter will give us a better idea of how the EverTherm jacket performs in colder conditions and how well it holds up after a season of compression and a couple washes.
The EverTherm Down Jacket is available online and in stores. It is comes in both men's and women's versions, with a hood ($279) and without ($249).