Outdoor Research Carbide Bib Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Good weather resistance, fits great, plenty of ventilation
Cons: Shell pants provide little warmth, short on features, muted style
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Outdoor Research Carbide Bib
|Price||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
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|Pros||Good weather resistance, fits great, plenty of ventilation||Fashionable, carefully tailored, excellent weather protection||Stretchy, soft, comfortable, many pockets, breathable||Great value, warm, comfortable||Affordable, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Shell pants provide little warmth, short on features, muted style||Mesh-backed vents, doesn’t have all the bells and whistles||Not waterproof, thin material, climbing style||Limited seam and pocket sealing, less effective vent design||Light on the features, fit is a bit loose, unremarkable style|
|Bottom Line||These are a great pair of bibs that keep the weather out and fit well||Excellent, all-around ski pants suitable for almost all users||Durable softshell pants for most days on the backcountry skin track||A solid performing model for budget-minded resort skiers||An affordable and warm pair of ski pants with a bland style|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research Ca...||Patagonia Powder Bo...||Outdoor Research Tr...||The North Face Free...||REI Co-op Powderbou...|
|Weather Resistance (25%)|
|Fit And Comfort (25%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research Ca...||Patagonia Powder Bo...||Outdoor Research Tr...||The North Face Free...||REI Co-op Powderbou...|
|Main fabric||100% nylon 40D||4.6-oz 150-denier 100% recycled polyester 2L||87% nylon, 13% spandex||100% Nylon||Nylon|
|Insulation||None||Hanging mesh lining||None||60 g Heatseeker Eco Polyester (50% Recycled)||Recycled polyester|
|Waterproofing||Pertex Shield 3L||Gore-Tex w/ DWR finish (2-layer)||Pertex Shield+ (partial)||DryVent (2-layer)||2-layer waterproof breathable laminate|
|Waistline construction (elastic? snaps?)||Bibs||Snap/zipper fly with adjustable tabs||Snaps. Velcro tabs for adjustment, belt loops||Snap and zipper, Velcro tabs for adjustment, belt loops||Button zip fly with hook/loop adjustment|
|Weight (in pounds)||1.64 lbs||1.67 lbs||1.69 lbs||1.32 lbs||1.64 lbs|
|Weight (in grams)||744 g||756 g||767 g||599 g||744 g|
|# of Pockets||3||4||5||3||3|
|Vents?||Exterior thigh||Exterior thigh zips, with mesh||Exterior thigh zips, with mesh||Inner thigh zips, with mesh||Interior thigh zips|
|Ski-specific features||Bibs, power strap-compatible cuffs, beacon pocket, scuff guards||Scuff guards, elastic powder cuffs, attach to matching jacket's powder cuff||beacon clip and sleeve, scuff guards, touring cuffs, cuff zipper||Scuff guards, elastic powder cuffs||Scuff guards, elastic powder cuffs, elastic waist|
Our Analysis and Test Results
These bibs perform well in the weather resistance and ventilation departments, but they separate themselves from other bibs in the Fit and Comfort metric. Where other bibs come up short, the Carbide pulls off a feat of garment engineering in terms of comfort and tailoring.
Weather resistance is the most important metric in ski pants generally, and it is also the primary reason why bibs were developed in the first place. On the deepest powder days and through the gnarliest storms, ski patrollers, guides, and highway workers needed something that would absolutely keep them warm, dry, and protected. Modern ski bibs use hardshell fabrics pulled up high over the torso to enable full-body protection. The Carbide performs well in this category compared to most other ski pants on the market.
These bibs use Pertex Shield as the hardshell material. In our experience, this fabric is almost as waterproof and breathable as the more commonly-known Gore-Tex, while enabling a garment to be sold at a much more reasonable price. In our testing, water never penetrated the pants through the shell fabric. The pocket zippers are not waterproof, which is disappointing, but they are covered by effective storm flaps. In our 5-minute shower test, water eventually started to seep into the pockets through these zippers, but since the pockets are made of Pertex Shield as well, water never made it into the leg compartments.
Fit and Comfort
We are blown away by the comfortable and sharp fit the Carbide brings to the table. Usually, bibs are baggy, encumbering, and have lots of extra material that can get in the way of normal motion. These bibs fit through the leg like nicely tailored pants do, and only open up above the waist, making the legs feel sleek and contoured, while the torso feels comfortably loose, to the point where we forget that we are even wearing bibs. We have never worn a pair of bibs that feel this comfortable. The Carbide eliminates a long-standing issue many folks have held against bibs.
The shell fabric is not as crinkly and stiff as Gore-Tex or other heavy-duty proprietary hard shells, feeling soft on the skin of the user's' legs or through lower body base layers. And since the shell fabric feels so light and pliable, it is easy to compare the comfort of these bibs to the comfort of regular ski pants, which we have never really considered doing before. If you are in the market for hardshell ski pants and haven't considered bibs, put these on your list. You will barely notice that they are more than just ski pants regarding comfort.
Ski pants, and especially bibs, need adequate ventilation to help us ditch hot air around our skin on warm afternoons and during aerobic skiing activities like skating on long, flat cattracks, skiing bumps, and bootpacking towards hike-to terrain. Most ventilation is accomplished with zippered vents that open the pant to the outside environment and through breathable shell materials that allow airflow through the fabric itself. Both attributes are found in the Carbide.
The Carbide Bib features long external thigh zippered leg vents. These vents are very effective at promoting airflow and venting out warm air from the interior of the pants. Since bibs cover the user's torso, which is one of the warmest areas of the body, it is extra important that bibs have good ventilation to provide comfort on warm days and during high-output activities. The Pertex Shield fabric feels relatively breathable compared to other technical hardshell materials that we've tested.
Ski pants don't need to be that warm, partially because our legs have a lot less blood flow near the skin compared to our upper bodies. In general, if we feel warm or cold, our upper body layers are the first things to be adjusted. Still, ski pants are often packed with insulation, which we don't necessarily love. Instead, we prefer shell pants that allow us to adjust our insulation underneath by wearing different thicknesses of base layers. Most shell pants provide very little warmth, and these pants are no exception.
The Pertex Shield fabric is soft and thin, especially when compared to Gore-Tex and proprietary membranes found in other bibs. It makes these pants feel less warm because there is less of a physical barrier preventing the conduction of heat away from the skin on, say, cold chairlift seats. The phenomenon also makes the fabric feel more breathable, although the cooler temperatures could very well be due to more heat being conducted away from the body and less due to the fabric being ultra-breathable. Either way, these pants don't retain much warmth, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you layer underneath.
Bibs have a lot of fabric by nature and are often covered with pockets from head to toe. They generally include hand pockets, thigh pockets, and a chest pocket in the torso panel. They also usually come with long side zips that allow for easy entry into the pants and releasable shoulder straps to drop the pants. The Carbide includes most of these features but is on the minimalist side. This helps keep the weight down for backcountry versatility, but it also means that these bibs come up short compared to the competition for inbounds bibs.
The Carbide features two large hand pockets that are very deep, and one has an internal mesh sleeve and clip for an avalanche transceiver. There is also a chest pocket on the torso panel, which is less useful because this pocket is often buried beneath upper body layers. The pants have belt loops and one side zip that extends from the top of the bib near the armpit down to near the knee for easy entry. The suspenders release with a click, and the bibs also have a front crotch zipper for making bathroom breaks more convenient. The cuffs have large scuff patches to aid in longevity, and the elastic powder cuffs have small slots so that power straps can be adjusted without pulling up and down on the powder cuffs. This also adds to the durability of the pants, as the powder cuffs are often the first thing to be destroyed through normal wear and tear.
Bibs are often worn by ski town locals and experts, and as such, they generally have a more "core" look. This means muted, earthy color schemes and baggy fits. While we get this appeal, we prefer more refined and athletic styles with less excess material and articulated cuts that produce sleek looks. We don't like extra material bunching up at joints. The Carbide is less baggy and loose than other bibs that we have tested in the past, which is a good thing. Still, they don't quite look as "cool" as we wish they did.
The fit of the Carbide is the most notable attribute to their style, which is relatively slim and athletic in appearance. The legs are gently tapered from the hips to the knees without producing too much of a curvy appearance. There isn't too much extra material throughout the thighs, knees, and boot cuffs, preventing a baggy and loose look. We wish the color schemes were more intriguing, as the pants are only offered in navy/purplish-blue, burnt red, and black.
For the performance, these bibs are a great value. They combine excellent weather resistance, a comfortable and athletic fit, and decent style and features into an affordable package that swings well above its weight in terms of price. After testing these bibs, we expected the price tag to be significantly higher. If you are looking for a more stylish pant, you'll have to spend more money. Outdoor Research has an excellent warranty policy to protect your investment if anything should go wrong or not meet your expectations.
The OR Carbide Bib is weather-resistant and a comfortable option for both resort and backcountry skiers. It also scores highly for ventilation and has enough features and style to get by on the hill. And despite this high performance, it also comes at an affordable price. If you are looking for protective pair of ski pants for regular use on the hill, even if you don't think you want a bib, consider the Carbide.
— Jeff Dobronyi