The North Face Freedom Insulated pants easily take home a Best Buy Award. They perform well in all categories, are very comfortable to wear, and do it all for a low price. These pants are among the warmest we have tested, due to synthetic insulation, where most other pants just have a hanging liner. The DryVent fabric is waterproof, although the pants are not fully seam-sealed, nor are the zippers waterproof. The Freedom has enough features to get the job done but doesn't go overboard. Overall, this is a great ski pant that will perform well in a variety of conditions, for a price that is lower than its performance merits.
The North Face Freedom Insulated Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great value, warm, comfortable
Cons: Limited seam and pocket sealing, less effective vent design
Manufacturer: The North Face
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
These pants perform well across the board. And taking price into account, we are amazed by their performance. They are warm, weather-resistant, and durably constructed. There are better ski pants, but to raise the bar, other pants use materials and construction that come at a price. Overall, the Freedom hits the sweet spot.
The North Face can usually be trusted to provide great weather protection, and the Freedom Insulated pants are no exception. In all but the gnarliest of weather, they provide adequate protection. The fabric is waterproof, windproof, and beads water well. The pocket construction is also adequate, but we'd prefer waterproof zippers. These, of course, would raise the cost of the pants.
The main seams are all sealed, but the seams around the zippers are not. These pants don't have waterproof zippers, either. The thigh pocket closes with velcro instead of a zipper, offering easy access, but less weather resistance. The North Face uses an excellent DWR coating that beads water and performed well in an extended dousing in the shower. This coating will prevent water from seeping through those unprotected zippers and seams, at least for a while.
If you ski more than three weeks a year in the wetter climates of North America, like the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast, we would recommend you invest in a more weather resistant Gore-Tex pant. However, for most users, these pants provide adequate weather protection.
Fit and Comfort
We found the Freedom Insulated to fit true to size. The range of motion is reasonable, and the external fabric is soft and comfortable. The puffy synthetic insulation also adds comfort, compared to other shell-only pants in the review. Overall, these are some of the more comfortable and well-fitting pants that we tested.
The cut of these pants is just barely on the baggy side of neutral. This allows for a good range of motion and great comfort, but we found the crotch seam to hang just a little too low, preventing most acrobatic leg movements. There are velcro straps on each side of the waist to adjust the waist fit, eliminating the need to wear a belt.
Because of all the synthetic insulation, it is clear that the Freedom Insulated is more concerned with keeping heat inside than keeping the user cool. Still, since most people own just a single pair of ski pants, it is important that they can be used on warmer days or during more aerobic activities, like hiking for turns or spring skiing.
The main ventilation feature of these pants is the inner thigh leg vents. In general, inner thigh vents allow less airflow than outer leg vents. Furthermore, the vents are only about eight inches long, which is shorter than other pants in the competition. Lastly, the vents are backed with mesh, which prevents most snow and water from getting in when the vents are open but also prevents some air motion. For what it's worth, the mesh has bigger holes than other pants we've reviewed, but in general, ventilation in these pants is limited.
These pants are among the warmest in our review. This is due to synthetic insulation, the same insulation used in many "puffy" jackets. They don't look "puffy," but the insulation is there. Most other ski pants provide warmth inside the shell fabric with a hanging liner, usually made of mesh or fleece. The result is that the Freedom Insulated pants are very warm comparatively.
These pants might be too much for all-season use in warmer ski destinations like Lake Tahoe or Mammoth. That said, if you go skiing a lot, you are bound to end up skiing in cold weather, where this model is right at home. Still, the insulation makes them less versatile, and if you are the type of skier who likes to have exact control over your warmth through a layering system, the Freedom Insulated might not agree with you.
The Freedom Insulated pants are light on pockets. That said, the pants still come with all of the big features we expect from ski pants, like boot cuffs and handwarmer pockets. Other than that, they have one big thigh cargo pocket, and that's it.
The hip pockets are fleece-lined, making them very comfortable, and the velcro closure of the cargo pocket is burly and secure, though none of the pockets are waterproof. The elastic powder cuffs at the leg openings are big enough to fit over ski boots while keeping snow out.
Though a bit light on features, we don't really miss them when we're out skiing. Our mind is on other things, and a good ski jacket will have tons of pockets to make up for any shortcomings of the pants.
Most ski pants are largely neutral in styling, which means not too baggy and not too tight. The cut of the Freedom pants is generally neutral, a little on the looser side, but still unremarkable in comparison with the general trend. We wish the style were a bit more tailored.
The Freedom comes in many colors, so anyone can probably find something to their liking. The zipper flaps of the two handwarmer pockets and the cargo pocket flap stand out a little bit, and ski fashion aficionados might note that the high-end pants are moving away from these features towards zippers that are flush with the pant material. However, for the price, they have a great style with tons of size and color options.
These pants provide the best value of all the pants we reviewed. They are almost the cheapest and yet perform near the top of the crop. The Freedom Insulated sits in a sweet spot where you'll get the most performance per dollar. They are a great investment and will provide seasons of excellent performance for the average skier.
The North Face Freedom Insulated performs very well for how affordable they are. There are better pants out there, but none provide such good performance across the spectrum at such a low price. If you are on a budget but need pants that will keep you warm and dry, these are the ticket.
— Jeff Dobronyi