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Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour Review

The best softshell pants on the market for ski touring and fair-weather resort days
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Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour Review
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi
Price:  $249 List
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Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 17, 2024
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 19
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 5.0
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 9.0
  • Ventilation - 20% 9.0
  • Warmth - 10% 4.0
  • Features - 10% 10.0
  • Style - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour delivers exceptional comfort, features, versatility, and style, and is our favorite pant for backcountry skiing. This softshell pant is soft and stretchy, allowing for a wide range of motion while climbing the skin track, bootpack, or exposed summit ridgeline. The shell itself is thicker than some softshell pants, which makes it warm enough to tour without long underwear most of the time. This adds durability and weather resistance, without sacrificing breathability, making them a go-to pant for most days of winter. Any softshell will meet its match on the stormiest days of the season, but 90% of the time, these pants are protective enough. They also come at a good price. If you are looking for a solid pair of ski pants for the backcountry, look no further. See how this pair stacks up against the rest in our article on the top-rated ski pants.
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Breathable
Good looks
Great features
REASONS TO AVOID
Not warm or weather resistant

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line Comfortable, flexible pants for ski touring and sunny days at the resortPlenty of performance for a low priceSolid insulated ski pants for a low priceDecent ski bibs for an excellent priceThese pants are warm and moderately weather resistant, but not very stylish
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Tr... Helly Hansen Legend... The North Face Free... The North Face Free... REI Co-op Powderbou...
Weather Resistance (25%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Fit and Comfort (25%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Ventilation (20%)
9.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Warmth (10%)
4.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
8.0
Features (10%)
10.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Style (10%)
8.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Outdoor Research Tr... Helly Hansen Legend... The North Face Free... The North Face Free... REI Co-op Powderbou...
Main fabric Nylon/Polyester/Spandex Polyester Recycled Nylon Recycled Nylon Nylon
Insulation None Polyester Recycled polyester Recycled polyester Recycled polyester
Waterproofing Ventia 3L Lower Legs Helly Tech DryVent 2L DryVent 2L 2-layer waterproof breathable laminate
Waistline construction Snap/zipper fly with adjustable tabs Snap/zipper fly with adjustable tabs Snap/zipper fly with adjustable tabs Bibs Button zip fly with hook/loop adjustment
Weight (in pounds) 1.64 lbs 1.30 lbs 1.28 lbs 1.52 lbs 1.64 lbs
Weight (in grams) 744 g 590 g 581 g 689 g 744 g
# of Pockets 5 3 3 5 3
Vents Outer thigh zips Inner thigh zips Inner thigh zips Inner thigh zips Interior thigh zips
Ski-specific features Elastic cuffs, scuff guard, transceiver pocket, gussetted ankle zipper Elastic Cuffs, Scuff Guards Elastic cuffs, scuff guards Elastic cuffs, scuff guards Scuff guards, elastic powder cuffs, elastic waist
Recco No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Softshell pants don't perform as well as most other options when it comes to warmth or weather resistance, but they make up for it with comfort and ventilation.

Performance Comparison


If you're headed into the backcountry, the Trailbreaker Tours are a great option as long as it isn't too cold out.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Weather Resistance


The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour uses a 90-denier weave to produce a thick and protective softshell fabric over the upper legs. This fabric isn't waterproof, but it is thick enough to cut through the wind and withstand most dry snowfall. These pants are weather-resistant enough for trudging through deep snow and withstanding cold, windy chairlift rides, but when the precipitation really starts coming down, they won't protect you like a hard hardshell will.


Of note, the lower legs are protected with a three-layer hardshell fabric, which repels all snow and water. This is a nice touch since other softshells suffer when the snow gets deep. In the Trailbreaker, we never worry about deep snow, but if heavy precipitation is expected, we'll reach for a different pant. None of the zippers are waterproof. The main fabric is treated with a moderately durable DWR finish to help repel liquid water, which works for a week or two of heavy use.

outdoor research trailbreaker tour - the outdoor research trailbreaker tour's fabric and zippers aren't...
The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour's fabric and zippers aren't waterproof, but they do repel some liquid water and most light snow.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Fit and Comfort


These pants have a great fit. The stretchy softshell material is comfortable against the skin, and doesn't restrict motion on the uptrack. The fit is great for our tall, lean testers, but there are some reports of the fit being a bit baggy for shorter users. The pants have a 32-inch inseam and are medium-sized, which is about average across the market.


We know a pair of pants fits well when we can't feel them during our testing. With the Trailbreaker Tour, we often forgot we were wearing pants, which is a good thing. They are unrestrictive in every way and yet don't have much extra material. We loved previous versions of this pant, and the most recent iteration builds off the success of the past.

We can lung, stretch, and skin in the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker...
We can lung, stretch, and skin in the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour without feeling uncomfortable.
These pants fit well on our relatively skinny (but not super thin)...
These pants fit well on our relatively skinny (but not super thin) lead tester.
We love the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour for their stretchy comfort and excellent fit in the crotch and thighs.

Ventilation


The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour uses a soft, stretchy softshell material that is very breathable. It is thicker than other softshells on the market, but we found that it breathes just as well as any other softshell, which is to say quite a bit. It is marginally less breathable than the thinnest softshells, but the long outer thigh vents disptach any excess water vapor with ease.


The long thigh vents are perfectly placed for ease of use, and their two-way zippers allow customization of where exactly you want the vent hole to be. We find that snow often gets into the side vents on steep, side-hilling, switchbacking skin tracks, so we like to vent with a small hole as high on the hip as possible when we need a little air.

outdoor research trailbreaker tour - long thigh vents on the outside of each leg offer tons of airflow...
Long thigh vents on the outside of each leg offer tons of airflow, and the stretchy softshell fabric breathes perfectly.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Warmth


Without a technical membrane or any insulation, the Trailbreaker Tour pants are not warm on their own. Compared to other, thinner softshells, these pants are a bit warmer, thanks to their moderately thick softshell fabric, but these pants won't keep you warm if you stand around in low temperatures with nothing underneath. If you wear these to the ski resort, you'll want to layer underneath to keep your legs warm. However, they are the perfect warmth on their own for most days in the backcountry.


Generally, backcountry skiers and riders don't use insulated pants because skinning uphill generates a lot of heat. Depending on the user, some will wear only these pants during average winter temperatures, while others will prefer a light layer of long underwear, but on the coldest days, nearly everyone will want to wear long underwear in these pants, even while skinning. For resort days, we pretty much always layer warm long underwear beneath these softshells. They aren't warm on their own.

outdoor research trailbreaker tour - the outdoor research trailbreaker tour's softshell material is...
The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour's softshell material is relatively thin, but not as thin as other minimalist options.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Features


These pants have an excellent set of features. There are two waist pockets for holding small items, and they are placed in a way that doesn't interfere with the hip flexors when skinning. The right waist pocket has a sleeve and clip for an avalanche transceiver. The two thigh pockets are also placed wisely, with diagonal zippers that are easy to access from above. There's even a rear pocket on the right buttock, but we don't use this pocket often.


The cuffs feature strong, durable elastic powder sleeves that fit easily over a ski boot. The insides of the ankles are protected with a durable scuff guard that protects against tears and snags from crampons or ski edges. The cuff itself has an adjustable width, thanks to a zipper that can cinch down the cuff tightly against a mountaineering boot and some ski boots, but otherwise, it can be opened to allow for an easy fit over a ski boot in walk mode.

The rear, thigh, and waist pockets on the Outdoor Research...
The rear, thigh, and waist pockets on the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour.
The Trailbreaker's thigh pockets are well-placed and useful for a...
The Trailbreaker's thigh pockets are well-placed and useful for a Buff or lip balm.
The right waist pocket has a transceiver clip and sleeve that keeps...
The right waist pocket has a transceiver clip and sleeve that keeps a beacon securely attached to the skier, and also prevents the unit from rotating into an uncomfortable position.
Pockets, pockets, and more pockets on the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour.

Style


Softshell pants are usually more stylish than their hardshell relatives because they have a more ergonomic and articulated fit, thanks to their stretchy material. These pants look great, aren't too baggy, and have a well-tailored appearance that exudes refinement.


From the ski slopes to the apr├Ęs bar and from the local skin track to the far summits of the world, these pants look good in any context. They are even suitable for the occasional indoor restaurant dinner if touring from town to town without a change of clothing. We like the look of the Trailbreaker Tour a lot.

outdoor research trailbreaker tour - the trailbreaker tours feel good and offer a stylish look.
The Trailbreaker Tours feel good and offer a stylish look.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Should You Buy the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Tour?


We think this is the best pant on the market for everyday ski touring, so if you are looking for a reliable daily driver for the backcountry, look no further. It comes at a great price and is durable. Plus, the Outdoor Research warranty has proven to be one of the best on the market, which helps safeguard your investment. These pants have decent versatility for resort skiing and even snowy mountaineering and ice climbing, so they could be an even better value if you use them for another sport as well. However, if you are looking for a daily driver for the ski resort, we'd recommend something a little more protective.

outdoor research trailbreaker tour - specifically designed with skinning in mind, the trailbreaker tours...
Specifically designed with skinning in mind, the TrailBreaker Tours are our go-to for fairweather backcountry excursions.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

What Other Ski Pants Should You Consider?


Although we love these pants for most days in the backcountry, the Trailbreaker Tour isn't the best choice when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and some users in wet climates prefer hardshell pants for daily touring, on principle. If you find yourself in that camp, check out the Patagonia Stormstride. For a thinner, lighter softshell alternative, the Norrona Lyngen Flex1 is great for high-output ski touring and spring ski mountaineering, but we still prefer the Outdoor Research for mid-winter tours. Our overall favorite, the Arc'teryx Sabre Pant, is a good hardshell option that is best for resort skiing but is also versatile enough for the backcountry on stormy days where the Trailbreaker Tour is overpowered by the weather.

Jeff Dobronyi