When it comes to top performance from an insulated ski pant, the Spyder Dare Athletic Fit takes the cake. If warmth is the key aspect you look for in ski pants, get this model. We tested a total of three insulated ski pants in 2016. The Mammut Bormio is less insulating and weather protective than the Dare, but more comfortable. The Columbia Bugaboo II Pant is warmer and cheaper, but less comfortable, poorer at venting, and less weather protection than the Dare. With the pros and cons weighed out, as explained below, the Dare came out on top of this subcategory. For that reason, we granted it our Top Pick award as the best-insulated ski pants in the review.
Spyder Dare Athletic Fit Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Insulated, comfortable, weather protective
Cons: Insulation narrows appeal and functionality
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Spyder Dare is the best-insulated ski pant of all contenders in our fleet.
Fit and Comfort
The Spyder Dare excels in this metric. First, the pants are made of soft, quiet exterior fabric and a smooth silky lining. This alone gives it nearly top marks. Only the Mammut Bormio has softer fabrics inside and out. As compared to the stiff FlyLow Gear Baker Bibs, the Spyder fabrics are warm and cozy. Next, the rear bib panel combined with broad, soft suspenders pleases everyone. Most of our test team digs bibs of some sort for weather protection. Some of the team, however, doesn't like the confining nature of full bibs like the Flylow Baker. The rear-only bib panel of the Spyder pleases 'most everyone, with the protection of bibs and the comfort of pants. The fit of the Dare is moderate. The Arc'teryx Sabre Pants fit a little baggier, while the Columbia Bugaboo II Pants fit closer.
Of the insulated pants we reviewed, this award winner is at the top for offering the most weather protective. First, as compared to the Mammut Bormio, the external fabric of the Dare sheds snow and water far better. The fleecy external fabric of the Bormio is steezy and comfortable, but it catches and holds snow and water. The construction of the Bormio keeps this moisture outside the membrane and sealed seams, but the captured moisture lends a feeling of cold and damp. The Dare has smooth face fabric that sheds the water.
The Columbia Bugaboo II pants have smooth face fabric, but the seams are not sealed. In true poor weather, water gets through the unsealed seams. For these reasons, the Spyder Dare gets top honors among the insulated pants we tested. Even as compared to the shell pants like the Patagonia Powder Bowl and The North Face Freedom Pants, the Dare holds up fairly well, shedding the warm and wet conditions just fine.
Right away, we can divide our test roster into two major warmth categories. The difference in warmth between the insulated pants like the Dare and the uninsulated ones like the Patagonia SnowShot Pants or Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants is profound. These two categories do not compare much at all to one another. When looking at the insulated pants, however, we note important but subtle differences.
Basically, these differences have to do with amount and thickness of insulation. The Mammut Bormio has the least insulation, while the Columbia Bugaboo II has the most. The Dare falls in between with what our team feels is the ideal amount of puff in insulated ski pants. For truly cold conditions, the Dare does the job. The Columbia Bugaboo II would be warmer, but likely unnecessarily so. The Bormio is insulated just a little more than standard shell pants. In fact, one OGL reviewer, testing "blind" as it were, did not even realize the Bormio Pants were insulated at all. In short, if you want the warmth of insulation, and want all the other attributes of high-end ski pants, the Spyder Dare hits the sweet spot.
In insulated ski pants, ventilation is both more important and harder to build in. A skier in insulated ski pants is more likely to overheat and therefore more likely to need ventilation. Constructing vents into insulated ski pants is more difficult because of the drafty nature of zipper placement and the construction issues of additional layers of insulation. The best insulated ski pants would have vents inside and outside of legs. Alas, no pants we tested had this combination of attributes.
The external leg vents of the Spyder Dare are effective enough, but you can't count on them to truly change the climate control of your pants too much. If you want true modularity and extensive venting options, check out the Top Pick for shell gear Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants. The Lofoten Pants have very long zippers outside of both legs. Additionally, constructing your ski outfit for the lower body in a layering system allows greater adjustment for changing conditions through the day or season.
There is little to note about the style of the tested black Spyder Dare pants. Black goes with everything and is largely pleasing to the eye. The cut falls in the "middle of the road" and is not too tight nor too baggy. As insulated ski pants, the Dare doesn't appear any bulkier than the shell options we tested.
Our one complaint is that the Dare only comes in black. In a review in which the other products come in at least two and up to nine color options, the lack of choice for this contender is a little limiting. The color choice winners in our test are The North Face Freedom Pants with nine options, and the Norrona Lofoten Pants in six colors. Even the boutique FlyLow Baker Bibs come in two color choices.
The Spyder Dare is our features category winner. Of the five things we look for in ski pants, the Spyder has four. Only the Arc'teryx Sabre comes close.
Both the Dare and the Sabre have warm fuzzy hand warmer pockets and a key clip in one pocket. The Spyder Dare has five total pockets, while the Arc'teryx Sabre only has three. The Dare pants can be attached to a matching jacket, but the Sabre cannot, while the Sabre has a Recco reflector built in and the Dare does not. Overall, we'd say these two roughly close to tied for the top spot. With Recco reflector functionality somewhat limited, especially in day-to-day use, we give a slight edge in terms of features score to the Dare.
For the coldest skiers or those riding the chilliest climates (think Lake Louise and Jay Peak), insulated ski pants have their place. For the rest of the population, uninsulated pants with long underwear should be the default. If you fall into the segment of the population who can truly use insulated pants, we do not hesitate to recommend the Spyder Dare. For a more budget-minded alternative, perhaps as a second pair of pants for the coldest conditions, check out the Columbia Bugaboo II Pants. For a compromise between the versatility of shell pants with a little insulation, many will dig the Mammut Bormio.
Among the non-Best Buy award winners, the Spyder Dare is the least expensive. For this niche, it is is an excellent value. If you need insulated ski pants, and need them to last and function well, the Dare is a great choice.
We dig these ski pants. Not all users need insulated ski pants, but for those that do, we recommend these award winners. There are cheaper alternatives, and there are more lightly insulated alternatives, but the Dare hits the sweet spot of protection, warmth, comfort, and value. When paired with a Spyder jacket, the combination is stylish and can be snapped together for even greater weather protection. The rear bib of the Spyder Dare enhances weather protection without compromising comfort for the non-bib fans.
— Jediah Porter