#ORInsightLab Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Pants

Out playing in the snow in Vermont.
(L. Bender)
When I consider a new pair of pants for winter outdoor adventures, my list of requirements is pretty significant. They have to keep me warm, but not too warm. They have to move with me. They have to be comfortable, fit well, and look decent. They have to serve multiple purposes, including giving me space to store small things I need quick access to. And they have to be able to take a beating. Not too bad, right?

As part of this winter's #ORInsightLab, I got to test the Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Pants, a pair of knickers designed to give you freedom of movement while ski touring, and more. I took them out in the snow in Pennslvania and Vermont to see if they could meet my not-too-bad list of criteria for winter lower body apparel.

The Trailbreaker Pants aren't new to the market; they've evolved since their initial release. What does this mean for those of us who like to play in the snow? It means, for one thing, we can trust that every seam, every piece of fabric, every pocket, and every zipper has a purpose. (I love the concept of working to improve an existing design rather than creating  a new one; kudos to the OR team.) Up until recently, the company didn't have a ski touring-specific collection, and as skiing is one of their core sports, creating one made sense.

Unlike traditional breathable softshell pants, and more like snowpants, the Trailbreaker Pants have vents to allow you to better manage your body temperature. For me, that's key when I'm outside in the cold and working hard. I try to wear upper body layers with zippers to prevent me from sweating, and it was great to have softshell pants that allowed me to do the same. The vents are on the outside of my thighs; I found I much preferred this placement to vents on the inside. They're easier to access, and let's be honest - having zippers between your legs isn't all that much fun

Yep, they're just a bit too short on me.
(L. Bender)
The other unique set of features the Trailbreaker Pants have involves coupling breathability with waterproofing materials, which OR calls Hybrid-Mapped Construction. Rather than making the entire pant out of a breathable material like traditional softshell pants, OR designed in waterproof material in a few key places. When you're tromping around in snow, the waterproof material below the knee coupled with removable gaiters helps keep you dry. I was thankful for both during testing. The breathable fabric that makes up the rest of the pant stretches well and allows for freedom of movement.

And then, the pockets. OR designed in four zippered pockets; two reasonably sized front pockets and two back pockets. The front pockets zip straight across the pants, and that made them tougher to access with my gloves on. In general, I find front pockets aren't ideal for storage if I've got a backpack and a longer jacket on, especially if they're not angled. Plus, having things pressed against my quads isn't particularly comfortable. But I absolutely loved using the back pockets for snacks and maps. It was easy to access what I needed when I needed it.

Regarding overall fit, the waist and leg width fit me perfectly. I'm a solid medium across the board, (5'9", 150 pounds), and the widths were great. However, as per usual, they were shorter than I'd like. If you're a woman of average height, the 31" inseam should work, but for me, they were an inch or two shorter than I'd prefer for winter activities. The gaiters didn't quite fit properly as a result of the length. I tried sizing up to the large, and despite the velcro waist and belt loop, they were much too big on me.

Bottom line? If they were a bit longer and the front pockets were designed a bit differently, I'd absolutely love the Trailbreaker Pants. Though they're designed specifically for ski touring, I found them great for general winter activities given the Hybrid-Mapped Construction. Freedom of movement coupled with breathable fabric is something you'll need whether you're hiking, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing.

As part of the #ORInsightLab team this winter, Outdoor Research provided me with a complimentary pair of pants to test. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own. What do you think of the Trailbreaker Pants? I'd love to hear from you!


Susan DeBruin said…
That is about how I felt about them (only I'm average height so the length was fine for me). My review is at http://rockriverrun.blogspot.com/2015/01/gear-review-or-trailbreaker-pant.html
Katie L said…
Awesome, Susan, thanks for reading and linking yours! It does look like we had similar opinions about the pockets, but your description is more fun :) And they were definitely too small for me to fit my hands in. I'm glad the length was good for you! They've gotta start making long sizes for us tall girls :)
Paulina Dao said…
As a short with long legs and a short torso person, I've found that the length of OR pants have fit perfectly for me. I was wondering how that would translate to taller people. Bummer they're just a bit too short!