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Eider Shield Jacket Editorial Review

Submitted by vegastradguy on 2008-06-08

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by John Wilder

By vegastradguy

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Eider's Shield Jacket
Eider's Shield Jacket. Photo: Eider.

If youíre a climber, chances are youíve considered a softshell jacket at some point in your career. You probably even own one, or, in my case, three. They are an excellent generalist jacket- they do most everything you need them to pretty well, but generally arenít the best at any one thing. However, for the climber, if you are in a situation where you need total weatherproofing youíll either 1) be prepared for it or 2) be in camp waiting for the weather to go away. Most climbing weather conditions, though, can be covered by a good softshell.

The market has exploded recently, everyone has their softshell offering, some better than others, and what used to be a high-end only product has become a full spectrum variety. That said, the best jackets are still the high-end jackets and there are very few to choose from in the American market. For the most part, two or three companies rule the roost in the states if you want a really good softshell.

At the last Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, I was spending some time with one of my reps and she took me around to this little booth in the back of the outdoor wear section to show me some new alpine apparel from a little company called Eider. Eider (named for the type of down they used to use), is a very high end mountaineering clothing company based in France and is more well known in America for its snowboarding apparel than its mountaineering gear. So, when Eider asked if I would review their Shield softshell, I readily agreed, always happy to check out new and shiny gear.

The Shield softshell is impressive from the moment you pick it up. Most softshells are pretty thin, the softshell material providing all of the insulation. Those that arenít include an insulation layer on the inside of the jacket. Eider, though, uses its Powershield material to the fullest and the fabric is thicker than my other softshells and as soon as I slip it on, I realize that its going to be warmer as well. The real test, though, is during actual use, and, as I didnít get the jacket until springtime, I put it to use for a couple of weeks and then had to put it away until I found my way up to Squamish later that summer to put it to more use. Once the cold weather hit again last winter, the jacket came out and it has now had over a year of general use as my primary softshell.

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The plush lining and tight weave of the polartec translate to warmth and abrasion resistance!
The plush lining and tight weave of the polartec translate to warmth and abrasion resistance! Photo: John Wilder.

So, for a softshell, there are a few key areas that it needs to provide performance in. First and foremost is fit- the thing needs to fit well and not ride up when you reach for a high hold. Second is weather resistance- how well does it shed water and resist wind. Third is abrasion resistance- can it stand up to the abuse of climbing? Fourth is function- are the pockets accessible, does it have adequate ventilation, are the wrist cuffs solid, things like that.

The Eider Shield is a solid jacket that will definitely give the boys in the States a run for their money. An athletic cut allows for high reaches without the jacket sneaking out of your harness, an especially important feature in any jacket. Weather wise, the jacket is warmer than my other softshells, and has a closer fit as well, making the thicker jacket feel less bulky than my thinner ones. It provides enough warmth that when I used to reach for my puffy as the temps dropped, Iíll now reach for this jacket (or keep it on). After probably a few weeks in the spring and summer and four months of cooler temps of solid use and about a week or so spent tooling around in the wind and rain, the jacket is still performing well. It sheds water nicely and resists the wind as well as any other softshell on the market and the DWR is still going strong. Given the extremely tight weave and the feel of the jacket compared to many of the other softshells Iíve seen and used, I'm not surprised and I would expect the DWR to last through another season before needing a refresher.

Abrasion resistance- the Powershield material on this jacket is burly. Itís thicker than normal, giving you the feeling that there is very little that will get through this jacket any time in the first decade of its life. As usual, Iíve climbed chimneys, waded through Manzanita and scrub oak, climbed trees (its mandatory at the Chief!), and generally beat it up the same as I beat up all my other clothing, and the jacket still looks relatively new- in fact, there are no holes or any other obvious abrasions on the jacket as of yet.

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One year later and still going strong.
J. Wilder
One year later and still going strong. Photo: John Wilder.

Function- many softshells are great in a lot of the other areas, but sometimes itís the details that make the jacket take the next step up in function. Eider definitely works the details. The wrist cuffs are both elastic and Velcro- giving you extra security at the wrist cuff. Iíve found that Velcro is a bit of a liability on wrist cuffs- it tends to wear out over time. Since this jacket also has the elastic element, it should provide some backup when the Velcro needs replacement. The only downside to this setup, though, is that putting this jacket on with gloves on might be a bit annoying because even with the Velcro undone, the wrist openings are still somewhat tight. Also, because the jacket is made by an alpine company for alpinists, it comes with pit zips- a first for me on a softshell. This is a great feature, though, because the jacket is much warmer than my other softshells, causing me to warm up very quickly when moving about in it. I used the pit zips liberally as the weather started to warm up during the day. The jacket also comes with Napolean pockets and waist and neck cinch cords. The only negative on the function is that the damn zipper connects on the wrong side, making zipping the jacket up the first few times a bit annoying. The zippers are also a nice weather resistant style with generous pulls making them easy to work, even with gloved hands.

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Notice the hood on the top of the zipper and the generous pulls for easy handling even with gloves.
J. Wilder
Notice the hood on the top of the zipper and the generous pulls for easy handling even with gloves. Photo: John Wilder.

The jacket is a softshell though, so it has the same liability as any softshell. If you get caught in a downpour, the jacket is going to start to seep on you- although it takes quite a bit of water to do this. Perhaps the biggest negative, is the price- its expensive- around $300 or so. Folks who demand excellence from their softshell, though, will not be disappointed. This jacket holds up to my other ones easily, and they are top of the line as well. Finally- the jacket may be hard to find here in the U.S.- I looked around on the internet and only found one place ( that carried it.

Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this item provided it free of charge to who in turn provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his review.


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3 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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Decent review VTG, although I don't know if I like it as much as your usual reviews. (That's a testament to your reviewing ability.)

The one major thing I take issue with, and others may as well, is this sentence: "The Eider Shield is a solid jacket that will definitely give the boys in the States a run for their money."

Patagonia and Cloudveil both also use Powershield, and I've found their fit and finish, especially Patagonia's to be equal to Eider. Powershield isn't a proprietary fabric and it's certainly not anything new these days. I got my first Powershield pullover in the winter of 01-02. Patagonia has moved away from Powershield in a lot of their line, having already tried and used it. It's a warm, durable, but only somewhat breathable fabric, which is (presumably) why companies are trying other stuff (both Schoeller, and proprietary stuff). If I'm out ski touring and I'm wearing a Powershield top, for the amount it breathes on the uphill I almost might as well be wearing a hardshell. There are tons of other options out there that breathe significantly better.

Also, although not made in the States, our Canuckistani neighbors Arcteryx might have issue with that statement I quoted above as well. Arcteryx's jackets have similar fit and finish to Eider (I won't say better, but...). Arcteryx has certainly been THE industry leader (I'll throw Patagonia in here too) in terms of driving trends and production of new materials.

Again, it wasn't a *bad* review, but it seemed a bit narrow to me. Many folks over here haven't heard of Eider, so it's certainly useful in that regard. So, while the Shield is a great jacket, but it's not really any different than Arc's Gamma series (which I believe has been on the market significantly longer, correct me if I'm wrong), or the equivalent Patagonia offering.
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i think you misunderstood my comment. the "run for their money" was my way of saying "here's another high-end softshell that can compete on an even playing field with folks like Arc'teryx".
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Ahh, gotcha. Fair enough then. I misread it. Yes, I'd put them at roughly equal levels. Cheers.

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