Every few years whoever makes my favorite softshell pant quits making my favorite softshell pant. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps our WildSnwow.com review and recommend is the kiss of the reaper or something like that. More likely, the wispy ways of the backcountry skiing clothing business require that a brand’s model of anything, but it a car or sock, has to change. Sigh, I accept that.
Forewith, I reserve the right to change my mind, but the softshell pant I’m probably picking as my winter go-to is the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker. This to replace the previous crowd favorite OR Tremor model.
Trailbreaker pants are made with breathable softshell fabric (Cordura Thermolite) above the knees, waterproof/breathable Ventia below the knees. To me that’s an odd configuration; in wet weather what seems to get wetest the fastest for me is the cloth over my thighs. On the other hand, I’ve found pants made completely with waterproof/breathable (e.g., OR Tremor) to frequently be too hot and sweaty, especially for spring skiing. Thus, I’ll trust the OR designers and give this configuration a shot.
The fully featured Trailbreaker pant is almost too technical. For example, you can hold them on your body with a belt through the belt loops, or a hook/loop/elastic waist size adjustment, or suspenders. If you have trouble keeping your pants up, use all three! The plethora of pockets is interesting; two regular hip pockets, as well as longer pockets located rearward of the conventional hip pocket location. I can see these holding a GPS, map or radio, but wonder at the added weight and bulk. All pockets are zippered, and you’ll find a key clip and avy beacon compartment in the right one. Here at Wildsnow.com we frequently carry our beacons in places other than the provided harness — nice to see a clothing manufacturer help with this sort of backcountry skiing detail.
Also note these pants do have built-in mesh/elastic gaiters. No provision is made in the cuff for cutting boot buckle slots, but such would be trivial to add by anyone with a sewing machine.
(Disclosure: We picked up Outdoor Research as a sponsor a few days ago. They’d advertised with us years ago, so nice to have them back! This review was in process long before we negotiated the advertising deal. We like most OR gear, review it as frequently as possible, and any relationship between their advertising and our reviews is purely coincidental. We’ll long-term test the Trailbreaker Pants and file another review later this coming winter.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.