OR Trailbreaker Pant 2.0 – Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 15, 2014      
Outdoor Research Traibreaker ski touring pants.

Outdoor Research Traibreaker ski touring pants.

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker ski touring pants have been a go-to of mine for years now. They keep tweaking the design and materials. Hit or miss.

Case in point, prior version of Trailbreaker had a fairly lean fit that compromised between European slim and park bag flop. New version I’m reviewing here has a disappointing addition of leg circumference (east and west, luckily they stayed north as plumber’s crack gets cold when the alpine wind blows).

Trailbreaker (formerly Tremor) backcountry skiing pants are conceptualized by well known guide and author Martin Volken — his contributions are solid. Problem is, it seems someone else got hold of Martin’s designs and the fuller cut got added to the plan.

No way Martin is designing clothing for gangsta’ park-and-pipe couture — that has to happen after he’s out of the design picture. In any case, now we get to haul more fabric weight up the mountain and flap when the wind blows.

Perhaps I exaggerate (perception of “bagginess” has to due with the size of your quads — I’m skinny). The new Trailbreaker cut is not _that_ baggy, so for many of you the fit might be quite nice. Also, these pants still have a number of excellent features.

I skied with Martin for a few days in South America this “summer.” Yes, I was outfitted in a brand new pair of pretty blue Trailbreaker pants. Big thing, Martin pointed out that they’d had to change fabrics for some business reason, and ended up with a generic softshell fabric that’s actually some of the best material he’s ever seen. I’d 100% agree with that. With nothing but bare legs under those flapping stovepipes I slogged into 70 mph winds on Nevados Chillan for the sake of testing Marker Kingpin bindings. I’ll testify; this really is good fabric.

Standard features of the Traibreaker remain intact. Knee pad pockets are my favorite — they’ve changed my life. Belt loops for your latest order from spikesandstuds.com, or something more basic. Suspenders and side vents. The pockets have been simplified by eliminating the extra right-hand pocket on prior Trailbreaker. I actually liked that pocket but have to admit I’d tend to grab that zipper by mistake when going for my side vents. Probably good to simplify. You still get a right-hand butt pocket for your ‘merican wallet, as well as a beacon pouch in the right hip pocket.

Trail Breaker pant boasts power strap slots in gaiter.

Trail Breaker pant boasts power strap slots in gaiter. Smart feature, but the inside of the pant fabric tends to get caught on the velcro when you’re trying to work the system so it’s not as slick as it looks. Click image to enlarge.

The Trailbreaker gaiters still zip out and are improved with a power strap slot. I had mixed success with the slot. It seems necessary to perhaps remount the power strap on some boots so it interacts correctly with the slot. More, the interior of the pant fabric tends to get stuck on the velcro, resulting in extra fiddling. Whatever, it’s way better than cutting slits with a hot knife — though you can still do that.

That’s it. A little heavy and a little too loose fitting for us lean guys, but still one of the best featured ski touring pant around.

Review of original Tremor Pant.

Shop for Outdoor Research Trailbreaker ski touring pants.


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24 Responses to “OR Trailbreaker Pant 2.0 – Review”

  1. Travis October 15th, 2014 12:53 pm

    how do you think they compare to the Arc’teryx lithic comp pants?

  2. Tom Gos October 15th, 2014 12:55 pm

    Hey Lou, I’m curious, how have knee pad pockets changed your life? As an alpine skier I have always thought that knee pads were for knee dipping hippie telemark skiers. Being an alpine skier yourself, why do you find them to be beneficial?

    Also, the description on the OR website says there are two thigh pockets? Is that true? I would love to have two – one for a digicam and one for a field book/map.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. Charlie Hagedorn October 15th, 2014 1:20 pm

    Well, the picture shows a pocket on each thigh :)…

  4. Maciej October 15th, 2014 6:58 pm

    I have ex-bike racer thighs and also really dislike the “baggy backcountry” trend. Baggy stuff
    1)weights more
    2) catches wind (flaps)
    3) snags on tree branches
    4) doesn’t work well with crampons.
    5) Provides NO advantage in terms of protection, range of motion, or any other performance metric.

    For those reaosns, I prefer (and use) OR Mentor pants. They could be sturdier (if you climb and scramble over rock to get to a line. However, they’re light, they breathe well, and they have a nice, trim athletic fit. They are a bit tight over the boots, so I don[‘t pull them down over the buckles, but that makes for a faster transition. They might be right up your alley Lou.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 October 15th, 2014 7:14 pm

    Tom, the knee pad pockets are the main reason I use Trailbreakers. They did change my life. I do use the kind of knee pads that strap or otherwise fit tight around the knee, but the tension behind my knee causes tendonitis. Having the pads free floating in front is just perfect. I’m thinking that if I find other pants I like, I’m going to have to have the pad pockets sewn in. Lou

  6. Lou Dawson 2 October 15th, 2014 7:15 pm

    Maciej, I’m looking at a lot of other options, thanks for suggesting Mentor. ‘best, Lou

  7. Richard October 16th, 2014 7:54 am

    I have last year’s version of these pants and couldn’t be happier. I ordered them along with two Arcteryx pants and did the try on, compare and contrast. The fancier, pricier Atrcteryx pants didn’t do it for me in the fit and feature department. The OR fit for me (skinny legs) is spot on, not too Euro but a far cry from saggy baggy land. Love the fabric, venting, pockets. Sounds like the 14/5 version has succumbed to market fashion trends over functionality.

  8. Tyler October 16th, 2014 11:48 am

    To Lou’s point, I have bigger quads and these fit nicely. A little floppy when the vents are open, but what are you gonna do?

    Also, the extra circumference works better than previous year’s versions around my older Scarpa Spirit 3’s.

    Finally, a shameless recommendation for belts for anyone troubled by the baggy trend. Arcade makes the best belts for ski pants period.


  9. John S October 16th, 2014 12:06 pm

    I have the original Trailbreaker pant, and LOVE them. Use them skiing all winter and alpine climbing in the summer. I can break trail in any season and the lower material keeps me from getting all soggy and the upper material breathes so well while I’m going up, up, and more up.

    Even though I have quads that are just a little smaller (each) than my waist measurement, I’ve never felt the need for more room in them. WHAT THE HELL? OR – please don’t succumb to some stupid fashion crap – keep making stuff for athletes, not park rats. They’re not going to buy this stuff anyway.

    I have a LOT of OR clothing and gear. The main reason I started buying their clothing was the great value and most of all the great fit. MEC started making all their clothing small in the shoulders, big in the gut, and massive in the butt for the “urban” market – and I was so happy to find OR kept it trim for us actual outdoor enthusiasts.

  10. Danpeck October 18th, 2014 2:27 pm

    The OR cirque pants are awesome, keep the athletic fit. Are super breathable. I use them all year long for skiing and climbing.

  11. Dave October 20th, 2014 3:44 pm

    I also have the original Trailbreakers. They fit around my thighs, barely. I definitely look Euro when I wear them. I’ll be on the lookout for the new ones, if for no other reason than to try them on.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 October 20th, 2014 4:34 pm

    Dave, if the old ones fit that way definitely try ver 2.0. Lou

  13. pete h October 22nd, 2014 9:44 am

    Definitely unfortunate about the baggy fit in the Trailbreaker pant. I’ve been stoked on the OR Cirque pant for b.c. use. Not as techy but simple, trimmer fit, and a nice weight.

  14. Scott Nelson October 22nd, 2014 5:21 pm

    Thanks for the review. OR’s Cirque pants are great, but definitely a more euro, show your quads and hammies off fit, especially if your 5’7″ and 160 lbs like me. Trailbreaker sounds more my style and fit.

  15. pete h October 22nd, 2014 7:24 pm

    Ha. I’m 6′ 4″ 180 lbs so I guess that makes sense.

  16. Peter October 23rd, 2014 11:03 am

    I just got this years Trailbreakers, they don’t seem too baggy to me, and I’m a pencil-neck nerd on stilts. They’re less baggy than OR Valhalla pants for sure. I recently sold a pair Arcteryx ski touring pants because they were so slim there was barely room for “the gibblets” during a kick turn 😉

  17. Lou Dawson 2 October 23rd, 2014 11:06 am

    Peter, I compared to my earlier Trailbreakers and definitely had more leg circumference. But it’s all a matter of personal preference, in the end. Thanks for your take! Lou

  18. Zachary Winters February 20th, 2015 9:48 am

    To add a bit of variety here, I am pretty excited about finding a pant of this type that runs a bit baggier. I like a typical alpine ski pant fit and it is critical that the gaiters fit over my bulky splitboard boot shells (Deeluxe Spark Boot, bulkier than most).

    I’m interested in these Trailbreakers, the OR Valhalla, and the Arc’ Sawatch.

    Anyone have experience with these pants over bulky shells, or have other recommendations?

  19. Coop February 20th, 2015 9:53 am


    I just got a pair of Arcteryx Stinger Bibs (goretex pro hardshell) and they have a great fit. Big enough to fit over splitboard boot shells but definitely not overly baggy, while still allowing plenty of room and articulation. They are SWEET bibs! I’m not sure if you are looking more for a softshell bib though.

  20. Zach February 20th, 2015 11:07 am

    Thanks Coop!
    I have a pair of Arcteryx Sidewinder pants (discontinued I think). They’re awful, ha. They are a slimmer fit (“athletic” I think) and they are a struggle to get over my boots. The ProShell feels really stiff in that cut. Like 3 pairs of jeans stiff.

    Those Stingers appear to have an “Expedition” fit, so good to know that that cut seems to do better for our species…

    I might have to take a gander at those Lithic Comp pants.
    Gore / softshell hybrid with the same fit description as your Stingers…

  21. Zach February 20th, 2015 11:31 am

    Wow, ten points for Arcteryx customer service. I just made a quick call and they were able to tell me that both the Stinger and Lithic Comp had 56cm cuff circumference in M (58cm in L). The Sawatch was 1 cm smaller. That’s good stuff!

    My previous Arc pants are 50cm… maybe they were made to fit over TC Pros? I wonder how these Trailbreakers measure up?

  22. Zach February 20th, 2015 11:40 am

    OR was on it too. Trailbreakers are 50cm and 55cm with the gusset expanded. Looks like the Arcs for my moon boots.

  23. justin August 21st, 2015 2:39 pm

    Hey Lou, did you continue to use these pants throughout the winter? Your initial review made it sound like they are more wind resistant than other soft shell pants, do you still feel that way?

  24. Lou Dawson 2 August 21st, 2015 9:22 pm

    Yes I used them all winter. Love the fabric and the knee pad pockets. Lou

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