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Outdoor Research Skyward II AscentShell - Women's Review

A comfortable, protective, high-performing shell pant at a surprisingly reasonable price point
outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review
Credit: Outdoor Research
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $329 List | $298.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Roomy pockets, great weather resistance, comfortable, good value
Cons:  Zipper construction, limited style and color options
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Sarah Sherman ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2021
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 8.0
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 8.0
  • Ventilation - 15% 9.0
  • Warmth - 15% 5.0
  • Features - 10% 9.0
  • Style - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant combines incredible comfort and stretch with weather resistance and all-around performance for backcountry use. Featuring four roomy thigh pockets — all large enough to fit a phone and one that's specifically designed to carry a beacon — and large outer thigh vents, this pant is great for someone looking to explore the backcountry. It comes in limited color options and we did notice some warping on the vent zippers, but those drawbacks are minor. In all other aspects, this pant hits the sweet spot for ski touring. The best part? It is reasonably priced when compared to other high-performing models, meaning it's an incredible value option.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award   
Price $298.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$349.95 at Evo
Compare at 2 sellers
$199 List
$199.00 at REI
$169 List
$169.00 at REI
$120 List
$89.99 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Roomy pockets, great weather resistance, comfortable, good valueComfortable, flexible fabric, affordable, lots of featuresVery warm, good ventilation, affordable priceAffordable, warm, stylishPrice, warmth
Cons Zipper construction, limited style and color optionsNot completely weatherproof, gets dirty easilyLimited style and color options, few extra featuresLimited use, hard to size rightNo vents, limited features
Bottom Line A comfortable, protective, high-performing shell pant at a surprisingly reasonable price pointTechnical yet comfortable and affordable, we recommend these pants for backcountry use with occasional resort days in betweenSimple yet functional, this bib is an affordable option for those looking for a basic design with solid performanceA warm, stylish, and functional pant that comes at a great priceThis is a basic pant that is a solid option for a first timer who isn't sure if they want to invest in the sport
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Sk... Black Diamond Recon... REI Co-op Powderbou... The North Face Free... Columbia Bugaboo Om...
Weather Resistance (25%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
Fit and Comfort (25%)
8.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Ventilation (15%)
9.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
1
Warmth (15%)
5.0
4.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Features (10%)
9.0
9.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
Style (10%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Outdoor Research Sk... Black Diamond Recon... REI Co-op Powderbou... The North Face Free... Columbia Bugaboo Om...
Measured Weight 1.3 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.7 lbs 1.6 lbs 1.4 lbs
Waterproofing 3-layer AscentShell 3-layer BD.dry 2-layer Peak 2-layer DryVent Omni-Tech
Vents Outer thigh External thigh Inner thigh, outer thigh Inner thigh None
Insulation/Lining None None 40g polyester 60g Heatseeker Eco, 90% recycled polyester 60g Microtemp XF II polyester
Main fabric 88% nylon, 12% spandex 84% nylon / 16% elastane, 4-way stretch Nylon 160D nylon 100% nylon twill
Waistline construction Button and zip fly Button and zip fly with removable belt Bib Button and zip fly Button & zip fly
Pockets 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered thigh 2 zippered thigh 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 velcro cargo 2 zippered hand

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant quickly caught our attention during testing as a standout product for those looking to venture into the backcountry. It comes fully loaded with features such as a beacon pocket and booster strap compatibility while providing incredible stretch and weather resistance thanks to its 3L AscentShell membrane. Generous outer thigh vents allow you to dump heat when ascending the skin track and its adjustable waistband means you can find a secure fit for the ride down. For all that the pant offers, it is reasonably priced compared to others on the market.

Performance Comparison


outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - our lead tester slashing a turn in the skyward ii pant from outdoor...
Our lead tester slashing a turn in the Skyward II Pant from Outdoor Research.
Credit: Eric Sales

Weather Resistance


To test the weather resistance of the Skyward II Pant, we stood in the shower for two minutes, putting water over every seam, zipper, and inch of fabric. And, this model passed with flying colors. While under the constant flow of the shower we didn't find any water seeping through the pant or into any pockets thanks to its fully sealed seams.


At the end of the two-minute test, we were able to shake the majority of the water droplets from the pant. However, we did notice that the fabric seemed to absorb a little bit of water on its surface. While it was not an issue during testing, these pants might benefit from continued waterproofing care as they age. Overall we remained dry and comfortable throughout the testing process.

outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - this model performed about average in our two-minute shower test.
This model performed about average in our two-minute shower test.
Credit: Russell Brouillard

Fit and Comfort


Similar to the stretch and comfort Outdoor Research achieves in their Hemispheres Bib, the Skyward II Pant seems to flow with every move your body makes. The pant has stretch panels in key areas of its construction and utilizes spandex as well for an incredibly comfortable fit.


The adjustable waistband allows for a customizable fit that helps you worry less about keeping your pants up and more focused on the mission ahead. We also appreciated the articulated knees, creating extra space should one be wearing a knee brace or just prefer more room. The stretch of these pants is truly a notable feature, especially when looking for a pair of touring pants. Finally, it has a brushed tricot-lined waistband that lies comfortably on the skin and prevents scratching.

outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - the skyward ii's adjustable waistband makes for a more customized fit.
The Skyward II's adjustable waistband makes for a more customized fit.
Credit: Eric Sales

Ventilation


Ventilation is an important metric when considering outerwear for touring missions and the Skyward II Pant doesn't disappoint. When boot packing or skinning uphill one needs to be able to get rid of excess heat and then quickly transition back to ski downhill. The Skyward II Pant meets these criteria by featuring two outer thigh vents that span from just below the hip to the knee, allowing you to regulate your temperature easily and quickly.


The large vents allow for customization when things heat up, zipping from both the top and bottom of the vent. This allows you to change the size of the vent or even have the vent split in the middle, depending on your preference. These vents, paired with the breathable fabric, make it easy to regulate temperatures while skinning uphill.

outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - utilizing the outer thigh vents on the skyward ii pant.
Utilizing the outer thigh vents on the Skyward II Pant.
Credit: Eric Sales

Warmth


Designed to be a touring shell, the Skyward II Pant is constructed of thin material and is not meant to be warm. With no insulation, it is best for someone who is looking for a light and protective outer layer, not a warm insulating layer.


These pants could be adapted for colder temperatures by pairing them with a warm base layer for added warmth, but would not be ideal for a chilly day on a chairlift. However, we found them to keep us comfortable temperature-wise while skinning uphill and skiing downhill.

outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - touring uphill in the skyward ii pants.
Touring uphill in the Skyward II pants.
Credit: Eric Sales

Features


Featuring booster strap compatibility, four roomy pockets, a beacon-specific pocket, and an adjustable waistband, these lightweight pants pack a punch. Each leg features a slightly overlapping pair of pockets, each of which is large enough to fit a cell phone, wallet, or keys, all while remaining comfortable to wear. The beacon-specific pocket features a clip and small sleeve to keep your beacon secure and in place should you choose to wear it there.


The booster strap compatibility means you can adjust and tighten your strap without having to roll up your boot gaiters. Not everyone may need each of those features, but those who do will certainly appreciate the versatility provided while remaining in a middle-price tier.

The beacon-specific pocket features a clip and a small inner pocket...
The beacon-specific pocket features a clip and a small inner pocket for security.
Both the upper and lower thigh pockets comfortably could carry a...
Both the upper and lower thigh pockets comfortably could carry a cell phone.

Style


If style is a factor when picking your outerwear, then there are a few things to consider about the overall style of the Skyward II Pant. While its style is appealing and classic, it is also very limited in its options. The pants are only offered in three colors and with no choice for short or long inseams. That means that if you aren't impressed by the few options given you may be disappointed.


We also noticed a slight error with the outer vent zippers which cause the pants to warp slightly along the outer edge. While we are unsure if it's in every pair made, we did purchase a second pair of the pants and notice it on them as well. It seemed to have no effect on the performance and took some testers a minute to notice, but cosmetically it might bother some people.

outdoor research skyward ii ascentshell for women ski pants review - the outer thigh vent zipper was oddly warped in both pairs we tested.
The outer thigh vent zipper was oddly warped in both pairs we tested.
Credit: Russell Brouillard

Value


Considering all of the bells and whistles this model offers, as well as its technical performance, weather resistance, and incredible comfort, we think the Skyward II is at the top of its class for value. While there are certainly less expensive options to choose from, this model provides features that are worth it for some skiers and riders to pay a little bit more.

Conclusion


If you're looking for a pair of touring pants the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant offers comfort, weather resistance, and is fully loaded with features to get you out there, all without completely breaking the bank. Those looking to get into the backcountry who prefer pants to bibs would be wise to consider this model.

Sarah Sherman
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