To make the most of any backcountry skiing adventure, you need to be prepared. Safety should always be your first priority, but you also need to have the right gear so that you’re ready for whatever mother nature throws your way.
I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life. Over the years, I’ve tried almost every style of the sport and have been on many fantastic backcountry experiences. I’ve learned how to pick the best ski pants to help fuel these pursuits.
The Arc’teryx Beta SV is my pick for the best backcountry ski pants. This bib-style model gives you a ton of protection from the elements while allowing you to move easily and effortlessly up and down the mountain.
There are several other models out there that all make for great backcountry companions. I’ll give you a list of all the best options in this post, so you can make the most of every opportunity you have to backcountry ski.
Let’s get after it.
Who Should Get This
If you are even considering backcountry skiing, you need pants that can handle the task. If you ski in the backcountry often, you will want to get models designed with the rigors and demands of this skiing style in mind.
Resort skiers will also do well with this type of ski pant, especially those that really like to tackle a wide variety of terrain. All of the models here are super durable and offer outstanding protection against the elements.
If you are a casual skier or just starting out, you probably won’t need backcountry-specific ski pants. While it won’t affect your skiing experience at all, you might find different types of ski pants to more suit your everyday needs.
Best Ski Pants for Backcountry Skiing: Top Picks
Here are all of my top picks for the best pants for backcountry skiing. Every model here is recommended if you want to head deep into the wilderness.
1. Arc’teryx Beta SV
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: Durable, strong construction, excellent waterproofing, comfortable, breathable, drop seat design
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex/DWR Treatment
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$$
The Arc’Teryx Beta SV comes in at the top of the list for the best backcountry ski pants. This option will give you everything you want and need to venture deep into the wilderness.
Gore-Tex material gives you outstanding waterproofing and is further enhanced by a DWR treatment. No matter how long you tour or how deep the snow is, these pants will keep you dry.
They also have a nice bib-style fit that gives you plenty of comfort and the freedom to move around. You won’t be held back uphill or down with these on.
The only real flaw they have is the price. These are some of the most expensive ski pants out there.
2. North Face Freedom
- Best for: Budget Option
- Key features: Durable, affordable, breathable, Chimney venting system, StretchVent gaiters
- Waterproofing: DryVent
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$
They have a very durable construction thanks to 2-layers of DryVent material that will help you stay warm and dry as well.
A ChimneyVenting system lets excess heat and moisture wick away, so you stay dry even when working up a sweat on long tours.
The Freedom has a somewhat baggy fit, so you might want to size down if you are looking for a slim-fitting option.
3. Outdoor Research Skyward II Women’s
- Best for: Women’s Option
- Key features: Great design, performance fit, articulated knees, avalanche beacon pocket
- Waterproofing: AscentShell Membrane
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$
The Outdoor Research Skyward II is the best women’s specific backcountry option out there. This is an awesome bib-style model that excels in backcountry situations.
The pants have a performance fit that helps you move easily without compromising performance. These are comfortable and effective at the same time.
Durability is enhanced by the articulated knees, they won’t wear out even under heavy use, and you can count on reliable performance.
They also have plenty of pockets to keep your extra gear within arm’s reach. This can come in really handy in the backcountry. An avalanche beacon pocket is another nice touch that’s built with safety in mind.
The Skyward II is somewhat expensive, and the performance fit can be a little loose.
4. Flylow Baker Bibs
- Best for: Powder
- Key features: Comfortable, flexible, durable, excellent wind and water protection, chest pouch
- Waterproofing: OmniBloq DWR
- Insulation: Shell
- Cost: $$$
If you are looking for the most comfort possible, look no further than the Flylow Baker Bibs (review). This is one of the coziest and free-flowing options you can find.
These are made out of a 3-layer Intuitive Oxford face fabric that is exceptionally durable without being stiff. This is treated with an OmniBloq DWR layer that gives you outstanding protection from the elements.
A kangaroo chest pouch is a feature I love because it gives you access to any needed items without taking your gloves off. The bibs also have two hands and one thigh pocket to provide you with plenty of additional storage.
They also come with inner and outer thigh vents to keep you comfortable when working up a heavy sweat.
The Baker is another costly option, and even though they are worth it, this price will detract some skiers.
5. Helly Hansen Legendary
- Best for: Durability
- Key features: Super strong construction, insulated, flexible, excellent water and wind protection
- Waterproofing: Helly Tech Performance
- Insulation: Primaloft
- Cost: $$
The Helly Hansen Legendary (review) is the best option to go with if you want reliable performance that will hold up well under constant abuse. These are highly durable and come backed by Helly Hansen’s legendary reputation.
The pants are made with a 2-way mechanical stretch fabric that is very strong and allows your body to move naturally without restriction.
Waterproofing and windproofing are made possible by a Helly Tech Performance membrane that is super breathable for those long ascents.
These do have a somewhat tight fit, and even though they are flexible, this might not be ideal for some backcountry skiers.
How to Choose Best Backcountry Ski Pants
Here are some essential things to keep in mind when shopping around for the best backcountry ski pants. Remember, you always want the best gear when you head off away from the resort.
Backcountry skiing comes with entirely different demands than any other type of skiing. You need pants that are going to perform well but also want ones that will be able to handle a lot of abuse and extreme weather.
Backcountry-specific ski pants are often constructed with extra materials in the knees, as well as other sturdy features that make them more durable in the long run. I like to look for reinforced knees, ankles, and seats for added durability.
While you might think ski pants only have one design, there are various design elements made to assist with backcountry skiing.
Bib-type ski pants are one design that excels off the beaten path, thanks to their added length and shoulder straps. Pockets, zippers, and flexibility are other design features to look for in backcountry options.
If you intend to ski in the backcountry, you need to be prepared for extreme conditions. That means your gear, including your pants, must be warm. There isn’t a lodge or car to warm up in when you’re in the wilderness.
Ample insulation is needed for warmth, and you need to make sure the pants you buy will keep out the cold when the snowflakes start flying. Most backcountry-specific pants have great insulation, but be sure to double-check before buying.
Useful Tips & Resources
A good set of ski pants should last at least a few seasons of regular use if you know how to take care of them. Even under backcountry use, following these easy steps will help your clothes last longer.
Backcountry ski pants are built to last. However, as they cost a lot, it’s always a good idea to protect your investment, so they don’t wear out prematurely.
If you do happen to tear or rip your ski pants, don’t panic. There are some good materials available to help you repair water-proof materials. The video below has some good tips from Arc’teryx on repairing snow pants.
The Arc’teryx Beta SV is my pick for the best overall backcountry ski pants. This model is built to handle anything that comes your way and features a super durable construction alongside exceptional comfort and flexibility.
Every time you head into the backcountry, you need to be well-prepared, and all of the ski pants listed here will prove to be valuable and reliable in the wilderness. There’s no room for error when you’re a long way from the resort. So get a good pair of pants and get skiing!