The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Review

Purpose built backcountry skiing pants with a host of features and clever augmentations. The result is relatively heavy but not super protective in poor weather.
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Price:  $235 List | $105.71 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Stretchy, soft, comfortable, many pockets, fleece-lined
Cons:  Pockets in strange locations, waterproofing is placed (debatably) in the wrong places, heavy overall
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 9, 2019
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 12
  • Weather Resistance - 30% 5
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 10
  • Ventilation - 15% 8
  • Style - 15% 4
  • Warmth - 10% 6
  • Features - 5% 7

Our Verdict

It is best to compare the Outdoor Retailer Trailbreaker to other backcountry specific pants. We tested three pairs of backcountry-specific ski pants. The Arc'Teryx Rush LT was an experiment for all involved, and is an outlier product that doesn't stack up for actual backcountry skiing use. The Trailbreaker and Patagonia Descensionist are close competitors. The Trailbreaker is a little more comfortable, vents better, and has more features. The Patagonia is lighter, less insulating, and more weather resistant. Overall, mainly due to the weight difference, Patagonia edges ahead and takes our Top Pick Award.

Nonetheless, the OR Trailbreaker has a well deserved wide following and is something you should consider carefully. Before you get any further, realize that the OR Trailbreaker is purpose-built for human powered skiing. It won't protect well enough for most resort skiing and riding.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $105.71 at Amazon
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$348.93 at REI
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$149.00 at Patagonia
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$134.99 at Backcountry
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$164.97 at Backcountry
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Stretchy, soft, comfortable, many pockets, fleece-linedImmaculate weather protection, excellent fit, fleecy liningFashionable, carefully tailored, excellent weather protectionWarm, comfy, solid overallBib design, fully waterproofed construction, many pockets
Cons Pockets in strange locations, waterproofing is placed (debatably) in the wrong places, heavy overallExpensive, no bright color optionsMesh-backed vents, doesn’t have all the bells and whistlesLimited sealing of pockets, less effective ventsNot everyone likes bibs
Bottom Line Purpose built backcountry skiing pants with a host of features and clever augmentations. The result is relatively heavy but not super protective in poor weather.These are top of the line pants. The protection, fit, and comfort are unmatched. They are versatile, durable, and have a lasting style.Excellent, all-around ski pants suitable for almost all users.The top insulated ski pants for those who need them.This model does the difficult; they combine comfort with full-blown bib protection. In this subcategory of ski pants, these are our favorite.
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Arc'teryx Sabre Pants Patagonia Powder Bowl Pants Spyder Dare Regular GTX Marmot Discovery Bib
Weather Resistance (30%)
10
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5
10
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10
10
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10
10
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8
10
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9
Fit And Comfort (25%)
10
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10
10
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9
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
Ventilation (15%)
10
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8
10
0
7
10
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5
10
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3
10
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5
Style (15%)
10
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4
10
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8
10
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9
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8
10
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5
Warmth (10%)
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6
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6
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6
Features (5%)
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6
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8
Specs Outdoor Research... Arc'teryx Sabre... Patagonia Powder... Spyder Dare... Marmot Discovery Bib
Main fabric Pertex® Shield+, 87% nylon 13% spandex 20D stretch woven face w/ 100% polyester 3L Cordura Nylon 3L 4.6-oz 150-denier 100% recycled polyester 2L Polyester plain weave 2L 100% Nylon 2L
Insulation Fleecy softshell Laminated fleecy lining Hanging mesh lining 3M Thinsulate Hanging mesh lining
Waterproofing Pertex Shield (3-layer) N80p-X Gore-Tex (3-layer) Gore-Tex w/ DWR finish (2-layer) Gore-Tex laminate and PFCecFree DWR (2-layer) Membrain 2-Layer
Waistline construction (elastic? snaps?) Snap/zipper fly with adjustable belt Snaps. Built-in elastic belt Snap/zipper fly with adjustable tabs Snap/zipper fly with internal adjustment and removable suspenders Bibs
Weight (in pounds) 1.67 lbs 1.32 lbs 1.67 lbs 1.79 lbs 1.97 lbs
Weight (in grams) 759 g 600 g 756 g 811 g 894 g
# of Pockets 5 3 4 5 6
Vents? Exterior thigh zips, no mesh Exterior thigh zips, no mesh Exterior thigh zips, with mesh Inner thigh zips, with mesh Exterior thigh zips, with mesh
Ski-specific features Beacon pocket with clip, reinforced scuff guards, removable suspenders, gaiters Recco, fleecy handwarmer pockets, key/pass clip inside pocket Scuff guards, gaiters Scuff guards, gaiters, articulated knee, insulation on back for cold chairlifts Bibs, gaiters, reinforced ankles
Recco? no yes ? ? yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker pants are purpose-built lower leg garments for human powered skiing and snowboarding. The features, cut, and materials are all tailored to exactly this sort of mountain travel. The pants are super comfortable. It is almost like wearing your pajamas, especially as compared to bulky and stiff resort ski pants. The weather protection system is a little interesting, as is the pocket selection and distribution. These pants weigh quite a bit more than other backcountry specific ski pants.

Performance Comparison


It is difficult to directly compare overall performance of touring pants like these to the overall performance of resort-specific ski pants. Nonetheless, they fall into the same overall category. Touring pants are inherently more comfortable (mainly due to lower weight and more flexible fabrics) and more breathable. Venting scores and comfort scores increase for touring pants. Weather protection and style are generally compromised for the touring pants. These are practical pieces for uphill travel. You don't need the same warmth, and you don't prioritize as much how they look. The result, for the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker, is below average overall scores, but excellent backcountry performance.

The OR Trailbreaker pants  doing just that.
The OR Trailbreaker pants, doing just that.

Weather Resistance


Backcountry pants emphasize breathability and comfort over weather resistance. To strike the compromises necessary, Outdoor Research equips the Trailbreaker Pants with waterproof fabric on the lower front of the leg while everywhere else is more breathable soft shell fabric. This is somewhat logical, in that the front of your shins encounter the snow first, on the way up and the way down. Anecdotally, though, in the decades of experience of our test team, it is the butt and front of the thighs that soak through first. We wish the waterproof layers were actually located in these spots rather than the front of the lower legs.

Deep snow and "downhill trailbreaking" in the Outdoor Research backcountry specific pants. Its a dirty job but someone has to do it.
Deep snow and "downhill trailbreaking" in the Outdoor Research backcountry specific pants. Its a dirty job but someone has to do it.

The backcountry Top Pick Patagonia Descensionist is constructed entirely of very breathable and mostly waterproof laminated fabric. The Patagonia model is way more protective than the Trailbreaker. Neither of these is at all comparable, in weather protection, to the resort-specific pants we assessed.

Fit and Comfort


The OR Trailbreaker excels here. It isn't an exaggeration to say that, as compared to resort ski pants, these feel like sweat pants. They are light, soft, flexible, and stretchy. The fit is slim, built for endurance athletes. Size accordingly.

In terms of both fashion and fit  the Trailbreaker is slim and close.
In terms of both fashion and fit, the Trailbreaker is slim and close.

Ventilation


Ventilation zippers are what set the OR Trailbreaker apart from your general purpose alpine climbing soft shell pants. The long, externally aligned, meshless vents are great. While touring in even the warmest of ski conditions you can open these and dump piles of excess heat. The dual vents, per leg, of the FlyLow Chemical Snow Pants vent even better, but the dual zippers impede range of motion more. The Outdoor Research vents are just right, all things considered. The vents of the Patagonia Descensionist are about three inches shorter than those on the Trailbreaker and this is noticeable in the warmest of conditions.

The side zip vents of the OR Trailbreaker let in a ton of air when you want it.
The side zip vents of the OR Trailbreaker let in a ton of air when you want it.

Style


These look more like climbing or hiking pants than like ski pants. You will stand out at a ski resort but look right at home high on Mount Rainier or deep in the San Juan backcountry.

Warmth


Backcountry pants need to have just the right amount of insulation. There is a delicate balance to walk. For a year-round, all-conditions skier, the OR Trailbreaker is just barely on the warm side of perfect. For a powder-only backcountry skier, they are a little cold if not just right. They are a little warmer than the Patagonia Descensionist.

Late day ski laps on Wyoming's Teton Pass in the OR Trailbreaker pants.
Late day ski laps on Wyoming's Teton Pass in the OR Trailbreaker pants.

Features


The Trailbreaker pants have many features. There are five pockets, for instance. All the pockets are zippered. The two handwarmers are located where you'd expect. The one on your right contains a stretchy inner sleeve and a stout clip for storing your avalanche transceiver. The two thigh pockets are interestingly located on the rear of the pants. One opens from the side, and one opens from the top. Our test team was almost perfectly divided on these rear thigh pockets. Half loved them while half found it weird to feel stuff in that location on their legs.

The dedicated transceiver pocket of the OR Trailbreaker helps those that carry their transceiver in their pocket.
The dedicated transceiver pocket of the OR Trailbreaker helps those that carry their transceiver in their pocket.

The pants can be held up in three different ways. The Trailbreaker comes with removable suspenders, velcro tabs at the waist, and belt loops. The result of all these features is pretty heavy overall weight. Even when you remove the suspenders for a closest comparison, the Patagonia Descensionist is many ounces lighter. This difference alone tips the balance for our Top Pick backcountry award to the Descensionist. The additional features of the Trailbreaker don't justify the extra weight in a human-powered endeavor.

Best Applications


Usage of these is clear. Get them for any and all human powered skiing. As compared to the Patagonia Descensionist, the Trailbreaker edges ahead in a couple of instances. First, they fit and feel different. Next, all the pockets may better suit your style. The Patagonia Top Pick is more stripped down in this regard.

Value


Most backcountry gear is more expensive than its inbounds version. Thankfully, pants do not fit this generalization. The OR Trailbreaker are quite a bit less expensive than inbounds pants and less expensive than the Patagonia Descensionist. If you are on the fence about getting dedicated touring pants to complement your resort wear, don't pass by the OR Trailbreaker. They are not super expensive, will last a long time, and are way better than resort pants for backcountry skiing.

The full inner cuffs are one of the things that set the OR Trailbreaker apart from your typical alpine climbing soft shell pants.
The full inner cuffs are one of the things that set the OR Trailbreaker apart from your typical alpine climbing soft shell pants.

Conclusion


The three pairs of backcountry specific pants we tested are all at least a little different. First, the Arc'Teryx Rush LT is an outlier that serves just a tiny little niche of human powered skiers. Both the Patagonia Descensionist and the OR Trailbreaker have wider general appeal. It is fair to say that the Trailbreaker is an alpine climbing pant that has been modified and augmented for skiing, while the Patagonia Descensionist is a ski resort pant that has been slimmed and stripped down for backcountry use. Our test team includes skiers of all types and backgrounds. Generally, we prefer ski gear and clothing that is ski-tilted, even for backcountry use. It isn't surprising, then, that the Descensionist edges ahead of the Trailbreaker. Nonetheless, the Outdoor Trailbreaker has many loyal fans and certainly deserves your consideration.


Jediah Porter