Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II Pants Review

Outdoor Research makes quality ski gear at a budget-friendly price. The Trailbreaker II pants follow that standard with two different styles. The pants cater towards backcountry and tour skiing but are more than capable at the resort as well.

Quick Summary

  • Where to buy: Amazon, EVO, REI
  • Best for: Both men and women skiers can appreciate what the Trailbreaker II provides in the backcountry. They are great for touring as well.
  • Pros: An affordable option that’s built fairly well and fully catered towards backcountry pursuits. Extremely breathable with good ventilation that allows heat to escape on long uphill ascents.
  • Cons: Not all that warm and won’t hold up on severe weather days when the snow is really falling down. The double colored look on the saddle/storm colorway is a little weird.
  • Alternatives: Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Softshell Pants, Outdoor Research Skyward II Pants, Obermeyer Glyph Tech Soft Shell Pants

Why Trust Me

I’ve been skiing almost as long as I’ve been able to walk. I have skied all over the world and have decades of experience skiing on, testing, and reviewing different skis and skiing equipment. I conducted thorough research on the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II pants and spoke with a few sales reps who are familiar with their performance.

Detailed Review

The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II pants are a comfortable and breathable ski pant specifically built to meet the needs of any skier who likes to venture into the backcountry. They are flexible and breathable, two traits you need for touring. However, the soft shell build makes them a little more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.

On-Snow Performance

These pants are designed for a snowy life on the move. They especially stand out in situations outside the resort. If you’ve spent any time in the backcountry, you know that you often spend more time heading uphill than down. That typically works up a sweat. For uphill performance, these pants do a good job of keeping you cool and comfortable when you’re really pushing.

With a touring ski pant, you should look for something that won’t restrict your movement in any way. You do need to march up the mountain after all. The Trailbreaker II goes above and beyond in that regard and really lives up to its name. Whether you’re trail-breaking the skin track for the rest of your group or following in line, these pants are not going to hold you back in the slightest.

While that freedom of movement and serious comfort goes a long way when you’re working hard for your turns, it also comes into play when you’re cutting and carving your way back downhill. In deep snow situations, the pants aren’t quite heavy-duty enough to keep you warm and dry. You’ll want to layer up on a big powder day to make sure you can make the most of the conditions.

Warmth and Weather-Resistance

Softshell pants are designed more for function, ease of movement, and comfort rather than warmth. The Trailbreaker II is definitely not the warmest ski pant out there. However, it doesn’t need to be when you’re trudging up valleys and ridgelines to reach your drop-in point. If you run cold, you’ll want to wear a good base layer underneath these pants. If you run hot, they may be just right.

The Trailbreaker II’s soft shell is made out of a 90D nylon, polyester, and spandex upper material. That combination makes them flexible and free, but still leaves something to be desired when it comes to warmth. They feature a two-layer build, but don’t have any additional insulation of any kind. That’s obviously ideal in some touring situations, but can result in some chilly descents after you’ve worked up a sweat.

The lower portions are built to be more waterproof. By limiting weather-resistant properties and construction in the upper part of the pants, the Trailbreaker II increases breathability. The lower half is fully waterproof nylon to help keep your legs dry up to around the mid-thigh. That does a solid job in modest powder, but they will get wet in the deep stuff.

Fit and Function

The Trailbreaker II pants feature a regular fit that will work for all types of skiers. They also come in cuts for both men and women, so you can find an option that matches your body pretty precisely. Their flexible nature also makes them comfortable and able to stretch and move no matter how hard you ski or how long you trek. Get the proper size and you’ll barely notice you have ski pants on.

They are also packed with all sorts of features that help assist you in the backcountry. The articulated knees allow for additional ease of movement and the blend of a breathable upper half with extra cold weather protection in the lower half gives you the best of both worlds. The zippered outer thigh vents are also a feature worth mentioning because they really let the air in when you need it.

Other backcountry considerations built into these pants include an avalanche beacon pocket that has a clip to keep your device safe in case of emergency and ankle zippers to get the perfect fit over your boots. Reinforced scuff guards add durability, and a mesh internal gaiter adds extra comfort. They also have adjustable tabs at the waist and are compatible with suspenders. Both help you get the perfect fit.

Price and Value

If you’re looking for a fairly affordable pair of touring ski pants, the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II offers good value. They have a lot of functional design qualities that can aid and assist in backcountry situations. They are also comfortable and flexible. If you want a warm ski pant and don’t often venture into the backcountry, then you might want to get something that better suits your needs.

What I Like

What I like most about these pants is their comfort and flexibility. The stretch fabric upper is nice and gives you freedom of movement in a way that’s hard to find in a lot of other ski pants. Comfort is king for a lot of skiers. If you’re like me, it’s hard to trade function for form sometimes. These pants hit a sweet spot, especially for touring skiers, by offering tremendous amounts of comfort and quality performance.

I also like that Outdoor Research made the pant’s upper and lower portions out of different materials. I don’t necessarily like how it looks (more on that below), but in terms of performance and thoughtful construction it serves a purpose. The zippered outer thigh vents are awesome as well. They allow you to let in wind when you’re charging full blast towards the top.

The price is also right here. They aren’t the cheapest ski pants out there, but for a quality piece of backcountry gear that’s going to give you everything it claims to, they live up to the task. Some backcountry options come with a ridiculous price tag that can approach what your skis or boots cost. Not these. They are affordable for most skiers.

What I Don’t Like

If you’re looking for the warmest ski pants out there, the Trailbreaker II Pants will not satisfy your needs. They are exceptionally breathable and do a good job of letting air in when you need it. On the upper half of these pants, you’ll notice the wind and cold creep in. That’s going to be an especially big issue if you already run cold. The issue is easy to remedy with a good base layer, but it’s important to know they won’t be that warm.

My other major complaint about these pants is how they look. This doesn’t apply to the all black colorway, but the other options highlight the difference in materials between the upper and lower halves. That makes them stand out in a negative way to me, and they really just don’t look that cool. If you don’t care about style or appearance, that won’t be an issue. If you do, I’d look somewhere else.

The stretch mesh internal gaiter can also get bunched up, especially if you choose a size that’s pretty slim. It won’t restrict your movement or affect performance, but it can get slightly uncomfortable. That’s even more noticeable without a base layer on.

The Alternatives

If you’re looking for alternative options to the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II Pants, you’ll want to explore these other quality recommendations:

  • Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Softshell Pants – These are another great option for those who want a softshell touring ski pant. You get Helly Hansen’s legendary reputation and the pants more than live up to those implied expectations. They feature a 4-way softshell fabric that’s both comfortable and flexible, as well as a hybrid construction that helps them stay breathable without compromising too much weather-resistance.
  • Outdoor Research Skyward II Pants – The Skyward II is an option to explore if you want something with more cold weather protection but a similar fit and feel to the Trailbreaker II. They feature an AscentShell design that provides all of the freedom of movement and flexibility you want for touring. That same material also does a great job of keeping you warm and dry. They are not insulated, however.
  • Obermeyer Glyph Tech Soft Shell Pants – These make for a great women’s specific option and are more affordable than the Trailbreaker II as well. They have a bit of a generic look, but offer decent performance and are plenty comfortable to take into the backcountry.

FAQs

Are the Trailbreaker II Pants only for backcountry use?

While they are designed as a touring ski pant, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them inside the resort lines. They will function totally fine outside of the backcountry and are versatile enough for other winter activities as well.

Are these pants insulated?

No. If you want to make sure that you stay warm, you will want to add a good base layer before you head out into the snow.

Do the Trailbreaker II Pants come in a women’s specific version?

Yes. These pants come in both a women’s and men’s version. The price is the same for both.

Final Verdict

If you’re on the lookout for a quality touring ski pant that comes in at a relatively affordable price, the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II is a great option. They have some unique design features that fully cater to backcountry pursuits and are comfortable and flexible as well. These aren’t designed to be warm. They lack insulation. Take note and make a decision that will keep you comfortable in the conditions you like to ski in the most.

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