Designed for climbing and other backcountry pursuits, the First Ascent MicroTherm Down Hoody has a great athletic fit and many of the features climbers and similar folk might want on a lightweight down jacket. It packs into its own chest pocket and clips to a harness, and has a tight fitting hood. First Ascent is the new technical clothing line of the well know Eddie Bauer brand.
First Ascent MicroTherm Hooded Review
Cons: Warmth-to-weight ratio not as good as similar jackets.
Manufacturer: First Ascent
Our Analysis and Test Results
This jacket is almost identical in style, fit, features, and down fill weight to the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer but has a total weight of 12oz to the Ghost Whisperer's 7.5oz, mainly due to the MicroTherm's heavier shell fabric. If price is a concern, the MicroTherm is significantly cheaper than the Ghost Whisperer. The MircroTherm is similar in total weight to the 12.6oz MontBell Frost Smoke which is warmer and more durable, but lacks the ability to pack into its own pocket and has a puffier/less athletic fit.
The First Ascent MicroTherm Hoody has a good athletic cut and two features that no other jacket tested has — stretch panels behind the armpits, and a headphone hole in the chest pocket (chest pockets themselves were a rare thing in our batch of jackets). In addition the MircroTherm packs into the chest pocket and has a clipping point for your harness.
First and foremost, it weighs 12oz, which is as almost as much as the MontBell Frost Smoke (12.6oz) which is substantially warmer, and more durable. Despite having a couple of nice features, like the ability to stash into its own chest pocket, the MicroTherm lacks a waist cinch, something that all the other jackets tested here have with the exception of the uber-light MontBell EX Light. Finally, overall the construction of the jacket seems slightly less quality than other similar jackets. The hand pockets, for example, aren't sewn into the inner of the jacket as fluidly as other jackets, leaving the inside of the MicroTherm with a not-quite-finished look.
The key feature of this jacket is that you can pack it into the chest pocket and slip it to your harness, which is extremely handy if you're alpine or multi-pitch climbing. Behind the armpits, there are "stretch panels" which (as far as we can tell) don't actually allow for better unencumbered movement. Their existence means that there is no insulation there, making the jacket a bit cooler than it could be perhaps, but it also allows for a bit of ventilation if you're moving quick.
In a side by side spec comparison to similar jackets like the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody, and the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer, it is easy to see that what separates the First Ascent from the group is its weight. The shell fabric is a bit heftier, and theoretically slightly more durable. This jacket is designed as a lightweight down layer for active backcountry pursuits, and it performs adequately, but not as well as the other similarly designed jackets tested here, like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. If you're searching for a down jacket designed and featured for climbing, the MicroTherm is a cheap option.
With many of the same features as the Ghost Whisperer, this is a good light down layer designed for climbing. At around $200 it is cheaper than the Ghost Whisperer but also significantly heavier and less packable. If you're simply looking for a cheaper down jacket to keep you warm, consider our Best Buy winner, MontBell Frost Smoke Parka or the MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka, both of which are in the same price range and are significantly warmer.
— Chris Simrell