Touring in the Pacific Northwest sure has its elements: we all long for deep bottomless powder days but in reality we ski in the rain a lot more than we care to. Finding outerwear that will not only keep you dry but also provide proper breathability to avoid overheating can be tricky. For the months of November and December, I have had the opportunity to test out the OR Carbide jacket and bibs to see how it could handle the PNW elements.
Below, I will talk more about features of both, focusing on things I love and what can be improved.
I have used both the jacket and bibs for the past 2 months of early winter ski touring around the Cascades. We had a fairly early start to the winter, with a big snowfall coming in early November, followed by a few sunny days and next, our personal favorite, an almost atmospheric river event (basically lots of hot pow). I have been able to get out on short skin laps in the resort, longer tours around Alpental and Crystal area, as well as a few more involved adventures on Mt. Rainier and Baker. I have spent a total of 20 days wearing the kit. It has helped me through all kinds of weather conditions, ranging from wet and cold, to wet and warm, dry and cold, windy, you name it!
I personally opt for a baggier fit in my gear. Something to keep in mind as you read this review. When it comes to bibs, my main fitting point is my ability to be able to make a high step up without my hip/leg feeling restricted. If the fabric stretches around my leg and becomes too tight, I size up. Sometimes that means the fit may be larger around my waist, but I don’t mind that too much. For a jacket, my main fit focus is length. I have a fairly long torso, so in the past I have struggled to find a jacket that is long enough; I like it when most of my butt is covered.
I tend to go for size Large in women’s gear, which I did for both the jacket and the bibs. If I were to go back, I would get the jacket in a Medium. I go back and forth between baggy and more fitted jackets a lot. But more recently, I have opted for a smaller size for my backcountry specific jackets. This helps save weight, amount of space it takes in my pack and helps with warmth. Also with this jacket, the M size is still a good length which is important to me.
Overall, I was very happy with the fit. Also, kudos to OR for the colors!
My measurements, to help with sizing:
Shoulder to shoulder: 44cm
Quad leg circumference: 58
Arm (shoulder to wrist): 65 cm
Leg (from hip to bottom of foot): 100cm
The Carbide jacket and bib use the 3-layer waterproof protection from Pertex. The 3-layer PertexShield is a waterproof and breathable fabric and a competitor to the well-known waterproof Gore-Tex brand. PertexShield is a fully waterproof fabric, which is also water repellant due to the DWR finish. It is more breathable than Gore-Tex pro, and also less stiff and lighter which makes it more packable.
I am very impressed with how thin and light the material is. This December has been especially wet in the PNW, and I have stayed dry. I did notice that the material doesn’t seem to repel water as some jackets I have had before, so it starts looking wet on the outside pretty quickly, but manages to keep the inside dry.
Both pieces have no insulation, just simple shell material to keep you dry and protect you from the wind and elements. For colder climates, you would want to wear a puffy under the jacket and a thicker baselayer under the bibs.
The jacket includes all the desired features a jacket should: helmet compatible hood, pit zips, powder skirt and lots of pocket options. The one feature that stood out to me was the mesh in the side pockets. I am the kind of person who doesn’t generally use jacket pockets that often, so most of the time mine remain unzipped. What I loved about the mesh is that this provides extra ventilation. This is really nice on the warmer and wetter days, which there are plenty of in the Pacific North Wet.
The bibs have very cool looking Arcade durable stretch webbing suspender straps. According to OR, the straps feature artwork that has been leased from the Warli Tribe, a rural community in India that otherwise wouldn’t have access to selling art. By purchasing, you’re enabling these rural artists to participate in a global economy, and celebrating a unique craft community. It’s awesome to see this kind of collaboration on an outdoor product!
I personally like the chest pouch for my beacon carry, which worked great in these bibs. There isn’t a clip to attach the beacon so that could be a good addition.
A few caveats
As I have used the bibs more, I have noticed a few things that can be improved:
— The back portion of the bib that covers my lower/mid back is made of the same material as the rest of the pant which causes a lot of sweat when wearing a backpack.
— I love the strap idea and design, however they cause discomfort when wearing a backpack since they are thick and bulky metal adjusters. The connector of the straps in the back is a bit higher volume and the straps rubbed against my neck a bit, which I think was caused by the backpack pushing them closer into my body.
— The side zip doesn’t work as well for backcountry bathroom use – maybe if the zipper would go down past the knee, it would allow for more squat room.
— The pockets and their zippers are positioned right next to the pant vent zippers and I found myself continually opening the vents instead of the pocket or vice versa. Sometimes I thought I zipped my pocket when really I closed the vent instead — almost lost my car keys but noticed quickly enough. I don’t use the beacon pocket pouch since my quads are too large (I feel the beacon on each stride and the pants get too tight in that zone), but for people who may use that pocket for their beacon, beware the potential to accidentally leave the pocket open. This would be easy to solve by shifting the pocket zipper 90 degrees (which is the way it is on many other bibs, including OR’s).
Its worth noting out that the points outlined above are possibly choices made by OR that allow the bibs to be more affordable. The jacket and bibs are each priced at $299 before tax, which is about 50% cheaper than the higher OR Hemisphere line.
If you are just getting into skiing/snowboarding/touring and looking for a “budget” option the OR Carbide kit (together or jacket/pants separately) could be a great fit. I would recommend the jacket for backcountry touring, but the bib specifically is a good option for a crossover between skiing/snowboarding in the resort and starting to explore the touring scene by occasionally adventuring into sidecountry or shorter tours. If one is not carrying a heavier pack, the discomforts outlined above might not be an issue.
Here’s to hoping for more snow this season!