It seems like down jackets have been around about as long as geese. But in fact, the first commerical down jackets were made by Eddie Bauer back in 1936. By 1963, the company was keeping mountaineers such as Jim Whittaker and his expedition team warm as they made the first American ascent on Everest.
Roll 50 years a head and down jackets are better than ever. Case in point, the First Ascent BC MicroTherm sold out in three weeks this year. The jacket takes the joy of an 800-fill, cozy-but-not-hot down shirt and adds a waterproof breathable two-layer softshell. It's super light (just one pound), but very warm, even in Himalaya and Antarctic conditions. “A lightweight, high-performance piece that keeps me warm and dry on cold, windy and wet days. You don’t generally want to be out in those conditions, but sometimes the mountains have other ideas. This jacket was made for those days,” says mountain guide Melissa Arnot. For those of us who conquer our own mountains a little closer to home, it's one jacket that goes everywhere. And its slim fit is figure flattering without limiting mobility. —Mary Anne Potts