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Apr 24 2012

Review: OR’s Trailbreaker Pants

OR's Trailbreaker Pant. $195

When the zipper on the right hand pocket of my Mammut Champ pants went south (after something like 700 days of use) it was time to look for a new pair of ski pants. They had to be breathable softshell with an ability to shed snow, not cling to it, with cargo pockets but not the usual floppy box on the side. Ideally the cargo pocket would be like OR’s now retired Exos pants with a diagonal zip closure, but another pair of Champs would be just fine if they hadn’t discontinued them like they promised they wouldn’t. Harumph.

When OR’s PR firm asked if I’d be up for reviewing a pair of Trailbreakers I was intrigued. Most of the ingredients sounded right and OR seemed to know where to put pockets so what the heck, send those Trailbreakers along, even if they do come with stupid gaitors.

Harumph indeed. These dang Trailbreaker’s are purty nice, even if they do come with those silly gaitors. It took awhile to realize I could zip ‘em out. As soon as I knew that I did. Ahhhh, much better. But I did get in a few tours before noticing that so here’s my take on the gaitors. For those who like gaitors, if I were a gaitor luv’n kinda guy, I could go for these. My beef with gaitors is they usually just add a lot of bulk and unnecessary fiddling. These gaitors were made with a lightweight but tough mesh that adds little bulk and easily stretches over the top of your boot. If you like gaitors, I think you’ll love these. I still haven’t zipped mine back in, but you never know.

Pull the lower leg upside down and...ta daaa, pull the cinch cord tight to keep snow from creeping up your leg.

If you’re like me and don’t like gaitors, you can still keep the snow at bay easily thanks to excellent design and construction of the lower leg. It is bell shaped enough to easily drop over ski boots, with some ballistic material on the inside of the cuff for protection from ski edges.

If you want a snug fit over your boots without the internal gaitors you can tighten the lower seam up two ways. First, you can zip tight the triangular flare at the bottom to reduce the circumference. Secondly, there is an elastic cord sewn into the bottom hem that can be cinched up to seal the lower seam tight around your boots. With this level of outer adjustment I have zero need for the gaitors, but again, if you like gaitors, you’ll probably like the internal ones that come already zipped in out of the box.

The core fabric of the Trailbreaker pant is OR’s proprietary Venti™, a softshell fabric that can be optimized toward either end of the waterproof/breathable spectrum. To those who don’t understand or believe the softshell perspective, let me put it this way. You can either be 100% waterproof, which is sometimes what you want, or you can be breathable, but you can’t be both simlutaneously. If you’re going to be breathable, know that your body can generate enough heat, especially when moving, to force moisture out. And if it’s coming down so hard and wet that it can’t, it’s probably past time to think about getting out of the weather. Backcountry skiers tend to need more breathability than waterproofness, but not always.

With the Trailbreaker the upper half of the pant is a more breathable nylon/polyester double-weave softshell that also has thigh zips for when you’re working hard trenching a trail or sprinting for a ridge. This zipper is essential for putting knee-pads on under the pants, and there is even a protective knee patch to protect the outer shell from internal abrasion.

Below the knees, where your pants are being continually immersed in deep snow (hopefully) the material is highly water-resistant Ventia™.

It was delightful to see the Exos pocket design carried on with the Trailbreaker. Cargo zippers adorn both sides, with pull ties located right where my hand naturally hangs by my side. They’re large enough to hold a camera, ipod, e-widget, or, more likely, a beacon. You can tether the beacon to the suspenders loop. (Sorry, suspenders are available, but extra).

Overall there is a lot attention to detail with these pants that is simply lacking with most brands or models. Have the Trailbreakers managed to dethrone Mammut’s Champ pants? Most definitely.

Is there anything to not like about the Trailbreakers? Only if they just don’t fit your physique.

Outdoor Research
Trailbreaker Pants
MSRP: $ 195
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL

© 2012