Comfortable, stretchy fit
Long leg vents keep you cool
Cold in lower temperatures
Avalanche beacon pocket is small
Heading out to the mountains for skiing requires the right kind of gear. You not only need a good jacket, but you also need the right type of pants. Pick the wrong pant for your backcountry adventure and you may find yourself soaking wet or freezing cold. Seattle-based Outdoor Research is a popular ski clothing brand that also specializes in gear for rock and ice climbing, backpacking, paddling, and more outdoor recreation. We carved some turns with the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant to see how it performs both as a resort ski pant and in the backcountry. Read on to find out how it fared in terms of comfort, durability, and more.
Design: Thoughtful features make it a winner
The Trailbreaker pant from Outdoor Research takes a different approach than most other brands’ ski pants. Instead of one material throughout the ski pant, the Trailbreaker has two very different fabrics. The upper half of the pant is a stretchy softshell material that is lightweight and breathable, while the bottom half of the pant is waterproof thanks to the three-layer Pertex Shield+ fabric. It’s an innovative way to match the breathability of a softshell pant with an extra layer of waterproofing in the legs where you need it the most.
The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant is designed to keep you cool while you are skinning up mountains or skiing in spring-like conditions.
Like most ski pants, the Trailbreaker is slightly wider at the bottom with a small amount of flair to accommodate a ski boot. There’s also a zipper at the bottom that’ll give you another inch of fabric at the bottom if needed. You can still wear the ski pant comfortably with regular shoes or boots—just use the included cinch to narrow the opening so it fits comfortably around your ankle. The bottom of the pant has a reinforced panel for added durability and a removable internal gaiter for times when you don’t need that extra layer.
Outdoor Research added four pockets to the Trailbreaker pant: two on the front, one on the thigh, and one on the back of the thigh. The front pockets are roomy and have a zipper closure to secure the items stored inside. The right front pocket has an extra pouch with a retaining clip that is meant for an avalanche beacon, but the pouch is a tad too small for most beacons. The location also is awkward as anything sizeable in the pocket gets in the way when you are skinning or hiking uphill. We hardly used the front pockets when skiing but found them helpful for stashing keys and credit cards after our trip was over. The back of the thigh pocket was our favorite one when backcountry skiing because it was accessible and didn’t get in the way when we were hiking.
Comfort: Stretchy, yet snug
The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant has a standard cut that is not too tight and not too loose. The pant is made with a stretchy material that provides almost unlimited flexibility. It bends when you bend, twists when you twist, and doesn’t restrict your movement in the least. The ski pant has an adjustable Velcro waist and belt loops so you can dial in the correct fit around the waist. As an added bonus, the waistband has a mid-rise that prevents snow from falling down your back and a brushed lining that is super soft. From the moment you put it on until the time you take it off, the Trailbreaker Ski Pant fits like a good pair of gloves.
Performance: Water-resistant, well-ventilated, but not warm
When you are active outdoors, you want a pair of ski pants that will vent heat as well as it traps it. This is where the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant shines. It’s not insulated, so you need to stay active to stay warm or stick to wearing the pants on a warm day. We wore these ski pants while resort skiing when the outside temperature was in the 20s, and we were cold even with an underlayer. Fast forward to an unusually warm day that topped out at 50 degrees, and our experience was completely opposite. The Trailbreaker pant was just about perfect for spring-like temperatures.
From the moment you put it on until the time you take it off, the Trailbreaker Ski Pant fits like a good pair of gloves.
We also took the Trailbreaker Ski Pant on a few backcountry excursions that required us to skin up the mountain before we could ski down. The killer feature on the Trailbreaker is the leg vents, which performed flawlessly. The leg vents are long, running from the hip to the knee. There is no mesh on the vents so they open fully for air to circulate around your legs. Cool air flows in, hot air flows out, and you cool down almost immediately when you unzip the leg vents. Be careful, though. The long zippers are fantastic for venting heat, but a full unzip will expose both your legs and undergarments—a potentially embarrassing situation when you are in mixed company.
The Pertex waterproofing kept our lower legs dry when pushing away the powder, but the top part of the pant was not as water-resistant. We wish that Outdoor Research included some of the Pertex waterproofing on the backside of the pant. Repeatedly sitting on a wet chairlift caused some wetness to leak through the top part of the pants.
Extra Features: No detail is overlooked
From top to bottom, the Trailbreaker pant from Outdoor Research is filled with features. Starting at the top, you have wide belt loops that’ll fit a variety of belts and suspenders to help keep the pants from falling down. Unfortunately, the suspenders are available only on the men’s version of the ski pant. The middle of the pants are dominated by well-placed pockets and leg vents with beefy zippers and zipper pulls that are easy to grab. At the bottom of the pants are removable gaiters with a convenient power strap slot that lets you adjust the bootstrap without lifting up the gaiter.
Price: Expensive but worth the extra features
With a ticker price of over $200, the Trailbreaker Ski Pant is an investment, but it is a worthwhile one. The ski pant is packed full of features that enhance your ski experience as long as you are aware of the pant’s low-temperature limit.
Competition: A top pick when it comes to ventilation
The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant is designed to keep you cool while you are skinning up mountains or skiing in spring-like conditions. Skiers who need something warmer should look at the comparably priced Helly Hansen Legendary Ski Pant, which offers 60 grams of Primaloft Black insulation. Another option that is equally warm, but half the price, is the Columbia Bugaboo II Pant. The Columbia pant is not as stylish as the Helly Hansen pant, but its lower price tag may be attractive to those who don’t want to spend a lot on ski gear.
Interested in reading more reviews? Check out our round-up of the best women’s ski pants.
With long leg vents and no insulation, the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Ski Pant is an ideal choice for two types of skiers: backcountry fans who climb mountains to find the best line and spring skiers who hit the resort when the temperatures start to climb.
- Product Name Trailbreaker Ski Pant
- Product Brand Outdoor Research
- MPN 243884
- Price $215.00
- Color black, pewter
- Material Pertex® Shield+ 3L, 87% nylon, 13% spandex 20D stretch woven face with 100% polyester brushed tricot backer lower pant; 50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex 90D stretch double weave upper pant; 100% nylon 420D oxford scuff guards Dimensions: Vary based on size
- Warranty Infinite Guarantee for the lifetime of the product