Mt. Baker has long been the proving grounds for outerwear. Temperatures often hover between 29 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and locals have even learned to appreciate the rare-but-infamous 35-degree pow day. It’s a place where all-time, neck-deep conditions can turn to torrential rain within the hour, and the term “waterproof” is pushed to its extreme limits. As far as outerwear goes, there is no faking it at Mt. Baker. Alternatively, the gear that proves worthy is held in the highest regard.
Such was the case with the Eddie Bauer BC Fineline kit.
The crux moment for my new Fineline kit came on day four of a huge storm cycle that blasted the Pacific Northwest in mid-January, a classic Northwest rollercoaster of foot-plus dumps punctuated by short bursts of torrential rain. Being from the Midwest, this was a new experience for me, as was the gear required to survive it relatively dry. While I am familiar with Gore-Tex, the Fineline uses eVent DValpine—a material I’d never heard of, but reputed to be equally waterproof and even more breathable.
Before those soggy, all-time days, however, I’d had a few months to test out the kit’s design-oriented features. The most basic—and, for women, often the most frustrating—was fit. Often women’s gear is too baggy or slim, for someone with athletic thighs and hips the Fineline nailed it. While I’m admittedly lacking in the hip category, even I—at 5’6 and 130 pounds—found “small” in both the bibs and jacket to be both flattering, yet spacious enough in the thighs and butt to provide plenty of agility. If you prefer a cinched waist, the bibs have built-in belt loops; a belt, however, does complicate peeing in the bibs. This “pit-stop” system isn’t perfect (it doesn’t quite work with a beacon), but it does work well enough to go on the fly without taking off your jacket …and without having to miss any powder turns while visiting the lodge.
The bibs also boast abrasion-resistant reinforcements on the knees and backside, as well as a full-height upper. Made from a stretchy, water-resistant material, it reaches completely over the chest and has a small chest pocket that’s perfect for a phone, trail map, Chapstick tube or credit cards and ID.
As for features on the jacket, the Fineline keeps it fairly standard—the usual array of pockets, a cinchable hood, pit zips, a fleece-lined collar, a zipper cover at the neck, and waterproof zippers—which isn’t a bad thing. The cinchable, extra-long “bomber fit” waistband, however, is unique. Considering the jacket also has a removable powder skirt, I wasn’t sold at first, but it didn’t take many days before I began appreciating the extra protection, especially on wet chairlifts or when not wearing the bibs.
But during soggy PNW storm cycles, “waterproof” is the only specification that matters. A bit of December touring and bootpacking had already attested to the eVent’s breathability; the January monster dump was the test of it’s wet-weather tenacity, and after only a day it’d proven its mettle. It kept me dry during the temperature swings, and warm and shielded when the chairlifts shut down due to high winds. It remained breathable enough that I rarely had to bother with pit zips or leg vents, but the extensive vent system gave me plenty of options whenever I did. And on mid-day lunch breaks in the lodge, it dried out after only a beer or two, significantly faster than many of my friends’ setups.
In the two months I’ve been riding with the Fineline kit, I’ve not only gotten countless compliments on its fit and features, but I’ve found it to be dependable whether it’s an epic pow day, sunny touring weather, or pissing rain. And since you never know what you’re going to get when Baker is in the midst of a low-pressure system, that reliability and versatility makes for fewer breaks to dry out—which means more time for powder turns, and there’s nothing more valuable than that.
To purchase the women’s BC Fineline jacket and bibs or get more information, visit Eddie Bauer’s website at www.eddiebauer.com.