The North Face Freedom Pant ReviewPrice: $140 List | $83.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, comfortable
Cons: Crotch zippers, neutral styling
Bottom line: Excellent pants at a reasonable price.
Manufacturer: The North Face
The North Face Freedom pants were an easy choice for our Best Buy award. They offer a solid combination of function, durability, and style at a reasonable price. No matter how expensive your pants are, they will get torn by ski edges and brush and get stained faster than your jacket. If you are looking to purchase any category of ski clothing on a budget, pants are the best place to save some money. The Freedom Pants are a great way for almost anyone to score a high performing product and save some dollars.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face Freedom pant is an excellent, all-around garment at a reasonable price.
Fit and Comfort
All of our testers found the Freedom Pants to be quite comfortable. The lightly "brushed" liner is soft against the skin without binding against long underwear or even light fleece pants. The fit is generous and somewhat adjustable. Velcro tabs on the lightly elasticized waist provide for a range of waist sizes. Additionally, there are belt loops for cinching down further and more securely. The front of the pants closes with two secure snaps backed up by velcro. This may seem like overkill, but our testers found that other pants with less redundancy would occasionally come undone.
These award winning ski pants have effective, but short ventilation zippers on the inner legs. The top of these zippers are essentially in the user's crotch. When these vents are closed the zipper pulls are low, near the user's knees. However, with both vents all the way open, the pulls are noticeably "up in your business". Without long underwear, this was a minor inconvenience. With even a thin layer beneath, the congestion was noticeable but not a problem.
The Mammut Bormio pants have a similarly brushed interior, and add fuzziness to the outer fabric for greater comfort. The Spyder Dare accomplishes a similar amount of comfort, but with a silky smooth lining instead of any sort of brushing. All of the "three layer" constructed pants, the Arc'teryx Sabre, FlyLow Gear Baker Bib, and Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Pants, are stiffer and slightly less comfortable than the Freedom Pants.
The North Face started out making clothing for hardcore mountaineering. This pedigree shows in their ski clothing as well. The shell fabric is beefy, the waterproof laminate does its job, and all the zippers are effectively and completely covered. The inner, elasticized cuffs offer a wide range of adjustment to slide easily over boots, yet lock down. The cuffs of the much more expensive Arc'teryx Sabre are not as effective at sealing this crucial interface. All the other pants in our test created an adequate seal at the boots.
Reviews elsewhere on the web indicate that the vent zippers, even when closed, allow wind to penetrate. In our testing on notoriously breezy Mammoth Mountain, none of our team noticed anything like this.
In order to hit this price point, The North Face uses their proprietary waterproof breathable laminate. The more expensive Gore Tex used in the Arc'teryx Sabre, the Patagonia Powder Bowl pants, and the Norrona Lofoten Pro Pants is more weather proof. The gold standard for weather protection is the Top Pick Norrona's bomber construction, combined with a zipper interface that turns a matching jacket, the Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Shell into a one piece suit. At this price, however, the Freedom Pants are as protective as most will need them to be.
It is pretty easy to compare the insulation value of ski pants. As noted in our buying advice article, there are three major types of ski pant construction. With ever increasing warmth, there are single layer pants like the Arc'teryx Sabre, two layer pants like these Freedom Pants, and insulated models like our Top Pick Spyder Dare. All the products in our test with separate hanging liners provide essentially the same amount of warmth, and it seems to be just the right amount of protection. The Freedom Pants and former Editors' Choice Patagonia Powder Bowl are comfortable enough to be worn on their own in moderate temperatures and can be layered effectively when it is cold.
TheFreedom pants have short ventilation zippers high on the inside of the legs which are easily opened and closed as temperature and exertion changes. Elsewhere in our test, the only garment similarly equipped is the Mammut Bormio. There are subtle, but important differences in the actual placement of these ventilation openings that result in significant differences in the air-flow available to the user. The North Face positions the vents right up in the crotch, and along the actual inner seam of the pants. This is a hot zone, but also a congested one.
The user's legs are very close together here, even with motion and action,and the result is somewhat obstructed airflow. The Mammut Bormio pants position the vents down just a little lower and slightly turned towards the front. This subtle change makes a big difference. While the Bormio pants score near the top of our chart for ventilation, the Freedom pants vent better than only the bottom ranked Columbia Bugaboo II Pants. The best venting pants in our test are from Norrona. The Lofoten Pants have long zippers, with no mesh backing up the outside of the user's leg. Next in line is the double vents of the FlyLow Baker. The Baker Bibs have two pairs of zippers that provide for cross ventilation on each leg.
The North Face Freedom Pants, especially in the tested "Graphite" color, offer a very neutral style. The fit and cut is moderate, the solid color goes with multiple jackets, and the seams and lines are unoffensive to all. If you are looking to make more of a statement, the Freedom pants are available in seven other colors. Across the board, our tested pants were pretty neutral in styling. The Norrona Lofoten is the boldest, with three dimensional pockets and many many color choices. The Spyder Dare is the least stylish, coming in only plain Black, and fitting much like the Freedom Pants.
The three simple pockets on the Freedom Pants are the beginning and end of their feature set. The "hand-warmer" pockets are deep and lined with the same lightly fleeced fabric that lines the entire pants. On the right thigh is a velcro-closed patch style pocket. The three tabs of velcro fairly effectively secure larger items, but small things like car keys and coins should be placed somewhere else. In deep, snowy conditions this non-zippered pocket can fill with snow, in theory. However, in our testing, we never had a problem with this.
At the other end of the features spectrum is the Spyder Dare and Arc'teryx Sabre. These two award winning products have more, but different than one another, features. The Dare has five pockets, while the Sabre has a Recco reflector built in.
We don't hesitate to recommend these pants, in any of the color schemes, to any all-around skier. The fabric and seams will hold up to a moderate amount of use and the style will last. The price is right, and the weather protection is adequate. More expensive offerings will bring slightly more durability and weather protection, and other models will have bolder styling. But the Freedom pants are excellent basic ski pants.
These Best Buy winners are the second least expensive in our test, yet they score consistently near the top of the rankings. This is the definition of a good value. Our testing was not the longest, but our endorsement of the durability of these pants is founded on a fair amount of use.
In few other categories was the assignment of OutdoorGearLab's Best Buy award so easy. These are comfortable, functional pants, that are widely available at an excellent price.
— Jediah Porter
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