They might sound German, but actually they're French, they're one of the first companies Gore ever worked with in Europe and they took us to Chamonix - kit's not bad either...
Getting an invitation for two days free climbing in Chamonix - and
by 'free climbing' I mean gratis, not suicidal soloing by the way -
is a bit of a no brainer. Hit reply, say, 'yes please'.
But Eider? Who the hell are Eider? Okay, first despite the vaguely
teutonic-sounding name, Eider are a French outdoors clothing company
based in Annecy in the foothills of the French Alps. They may not be
particularly well known in the UK - though the brand is stocked by
Snow and Rock and Ellis Brigham - but they're a top-end, well
established brand in their home market and elsewhere on the
They were also one of the first European brands to work closely
with WL Gore, the makers of Gore-Tex, a relationship that started in
1981 and continues to this day. In fact around 50 per-cent of Eider's
products use either Gore-Tex waterproof fabrics or Gore Windstopper
and the whole point of the Chamonix launch was to allow journalists
to try the fabrics and garments in real alpine conditions in the
Eider had chosen Chamonix as the ideal venue for their event. It's
one of those places that anyone who's into mountains should see at
least once. The small alpine town basks in the jagged shadow of some
of the most beautiful mountains in the Alps - Mont Blanc is a short
cable car ride and a few hours snow slog from the centre of town, but
that's just the start. The place is ringed by the great peaks of
alpine mountaineering: the Grandes Jorasses, the Dru, the Chamonix
Aiguilles, Mont Blanc de Tacul, the Grepon etc, etc.
Not only that but there's perfect alpine walking in high, green
meadows, plus easy scrambling on lower peaks all complemented by the
pleasing elements of French living, like Fench food, French wine,
bars, croissants, pain au chocolat, cheap hotels, pleasingly
aesthetic glaciers and...
... what really marks Chamonix out, near instant access to the
high mountains via the telepherique lift system and in particular,
the 'phrique' that whisks you rapidly the the top of the Aiguille du
Midi at around three and a half thousand metres and a legendary step
off point for adventures like Mont Blanc and the ski ascent of the
legendary Vallé Blanche.
On The Aiguille
is where we found ourselves for a 'day in the office' on Monday
morning. We'd been issued with Eider clothing the night before and
given a guide for the day, or more accurately, we'd been given
to the guide for the day. Interestingly, while older French
guides tend to sport short, neat hair and leathery, sun-washed
complexions, the younger generation are all comedy bleached blocks
and eccentric facial hair.
Together with Frédéric from Gore - a man who'd
confessed the night before that he'd not only never climbed in the
Alps, he'd never climbed at all, anywhere - we set out for the Arete
des Cosmiques, which conveniently finishes back at the telepherique
station, literally as you clamber over the railing into a viewing
gallery packed with toursists at the end of the route.
More about the specific climbing tomorrow with loads of nice pics,
but the prime aim of course was to check out some of the gear. This
is what we used:
The Commodore - see Eider web site page
- is part of Eider's super technical 'Xenium'
range. It's a waterproof alpine shell jacket using Gore's Stretch XCR
fabric. The cut is short with articulated sleeves, plus the use of
stretch fabric allows for a closer, more efficient fit which will
help both breathability and thermal efficiency by removing air
You also get a nice, roomy hood, which you can roll down for
neatness, water-resistant zips on both twin Napoleon pockets and core
vents. It's clearly a very, very nice jacket, as it should be for
around £270 and looks great in black.
We liked the close cut, though bear in mind that Eider's sizing
seems on the small side and our medium was shorter in the sleeves
that we'd have expected, so you may need to go up a size. Even at
around freezing point, it was still a little warm for the Commodore,
but the weight claimed under 700 grammes and pack size are both good
so carrying it wasn't a major chore.
It also meant we appreciated the vents fully. All in all though a
very nice technical climbing shell.
web page - the Cerces is a technical pant made using Gore's
Windstopper Next To Skin membrane and it's great. The fabric is
stretchy and comfortable using reinforcement on the knees and seat
and with Kevlar patches to minimise crampon scuffs. There's a
Velcro-adjustable ankle fastening, but you also get an internal
gaiter for excellent sealing over a boot.
Finally there are three zipped pockets and adjustable braces. We
were really interested in seeing how these performed in the cold, dry
conditions of the Alps, because we've found similar fabrics have
borderline breathability in warmer, damper UK mountain
In short, the answer is 'excellent'. High up on day one, there was
no problem with mobility or wicking, yet the pant was totally
windproof, snug-fitting and extremely comfortable. It reminded us of
Mountain Equipment's G2 pant, but the added braces stopped waist
slippage and the shorter internal gaiters seemed a lot more
breathable than ME's version. It's hard to say whether that was due
to the cold, dry conditions of the Alps or simply a different, more
Lower down the mountain, trekking to the Montenvers hut after
lunch, the hot conditions were more demanding, but while a lighter
trekking pant would undoubtedly have been better, the Cerces coped
okay, though we'd have liked ME's zipped thigh vents for added air
Overall, despite rubbing a small hold in the fabric over a pocket
- probably because of a key in the pocket - we were extremely
impressed with the performance of the N2S Windstopper in dry, cold
alpine conditions which help breathability and with the well thought
out technical features of the Eider pants. We woudn't suggest them
for most UK conditions, but for alpine environments, they seem ideal.
More of these separately, but Eider makes a flip-top mitt from
windproof fleece that flips back to reveal a fingerless glove.
Brilliant for mixed alpine scrambling where you need dexterity on
rock and with ropes and gear, but also need warmth on demand. A nice
idea that worked well on the Cosmiques.
bring you more pics and descriptions later in the week, but what we
can tell you is that Eider clearly make very neat clothing, most of
which, incidentally, is manufactured in Europe rather than the Far
The Gore breathables performed extremely well in true alpine
conditions and the cut and technical features of the kit we tried
were both impressive. You may have to seek out Eider in the UK, but
if you're looking for top-end technical kit, they're a credible
alternative to brands which are better known in the UK. See the OM
shopping section for links to Ellis Brigham and Snow and Rock.
Oh, and thanks to Eider for a brilliant couple of days in the
alpine theme park which is Chamonix. Eurodisney? You betcha....
For more details about Eider see their web