At OutdoorGearLab we bestow three different awards in each product category. The Editors' Choice goes to a high performing, all around product. In the Ski Pant category, the Arc'teryx Sabre won. The Best Buy goes to a product that strikes a good balance between performance and price. For that, we chose The North Face Freedom Pant. We grant the Top Pick award to a product that excels in some particular niche in the market. The Spyder Dare pants won the Top Pick award for their insulated design. If we awarded a "Best Buy Top Pick", it would go to the Columbia Bugaboo II. In short, this garment strikes a great balance between insulating ski pant performance and price.
Columbia Bugaboo Pant II Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, insulated
Cons: Less versatile, some unsealed seams
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Columbia Bugaboo II pant is an inexpensive, insulated garment for the occasional skier or snowboarder in cold climates.
Fit and Comfort
These pants fit well. The shell fabric is supple, the lining works equally well against bare skin or over long underwear, and the cut is generous. The waist band comes with velcro and elastic tabs for minor adjustments, as well as belt loops for really cinching down. The Mammut Bormio, with brushed interior and exterior, is the most comfortable pant in our test. The Bugaboo II isn't as sophisticated in fit as something like the Arc'teryx Sabre, but it compares favorably to the stiff and beefy FlyLow Gear Baker Bib.
Columbia's Omni Tech waterproof/breathable laminate works as advertised. The construction is sound and simple and the pant cuffs seal in the traditional two-part fashion with an inner gaiter. Both the outer pant and the inner gaiter can be opened or snapped tighter. On the inner gaiter, this leaves a little vulnerability. Our testing showed that this inner snap can come undone and leave the boot/pant seal compromised.
There are few pockets and seams with the ability to leak. This latter point is an important one, because some of the seams do leak. In our shower testing, the crucial seam near the top of the skiers quad let water through. Columbia indicates on their website that the pants are "critically seam sealed". It is our opinion that this vulnerable position on the top of the thigh should be considered critical and receive more effective sealing.
Basically all the other pants we tested are more weather resistant than the Bugaboo. However, they are also much more expensive. For example, our Top Pick for weather protection Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Pant is more than six times the cost of the Bugaboo II. The Patagonia Powder Bowl protects better, as does the Best Buy The North Face Freedom Pants. In hunting down a bargain, steer your research to The North Face Freedom. They have all around function, with careful design, at a price that is not that much higher than the Bugaboo II.
These are the most insulating pants in our test. If you absolutely know that you need a great deal of protection from the cold, all the time, aim for pants like this. Otherwise you will do better to equip yourself with a versatile combination of shell pants and long underwear base layers. It could be said that the warming insulation of the Bugaboo II at a bargain price makes it a good candidate as a back-up, complementary pair of pants. For the coldest of days, having these Columbia pants to use when it's too cold to wear the Arc'teryx Sabre or Norrona Lofoten Pants is a good idea. For all-around warmth, and more frequent use, check out the insulated Spyder Dare. The Dare isn't quite as warm as the Bugaboo II, but it excels in all other categories.
The only option for ventilating the Bugaboo II Pants is to open the fly zipper. Now, that can prove to be a very effective way to deliver fresh air, but it isn't the best solution, socially speaking. In such insulated pants, this lack of ventilation becomes stifling in warm conditions. All the other pants in our review vent better than the Bugaboo II. The non-meshed vents of the Flylow Baker Bibs, Arc'teryx Sabre Pants, and Norrona Lofoten Pants are the most effective. The carefully positioned zips on the Mammut Bormio are more effective than many of the other apparently similar vents.
The Bugaboo II pants are decidedly middle ground in terms of style. Our tested colorful pair requires a little thought when matching to jackets, but the fit and cut is neutral. The look is similar to the Patagonia SnowShot Pants or the The North Face Freedom. The smooth lines of the Arc'teryx Sabre and the blocky pockets of the Norrona Lofoten Pants make bolder impressions, while the all-black color choice of the Spyder Dare is a bold move in this age of aggressive color options.
The two pockets and adjustable waist belt begin and end the feature set. Ski pants should be simple, and this model delivers on that. The Spyder Dare and Arc'teryx Sabre have considerably more features, while The North Face Freedom pants only have a slight edge over the Bugaboo II.
These are excellent pants for the very occasional skier in cold and dry climates. It would also be an excellent garment for someone looking for a second set of leg protection to complement lighter shell pants.
If the fit and insulation value works for you, you won't do better than the Columbia Bugaboo II.
Again, the best praise we can give these pants is that if we could grant an award for the Best Buy in the insulated sub-category, the Bugaboo II would get that award.
— Jediah Porter