As a full time backcountry ski guide in the winter, I spend countless hours breaking trail and skiing in a plethora of snow and weather conditions. It is critical to have inner and outerwear that both fits and functions at a high standard. I have been a long time fan of Outdoor Research products and was excited to get the opportunity to test and review the OR Skyward Bib Pant.
FIT: This pant is a hybrid bib/pant combo, meaning that you can zip off the bib and suspender portion of the pant, allowing personal customization. I’m 5’11, 160lbs and have a 30” waist and generally wear a small or medium ski pant depending on manufacturer. The M fit me well; not too tight, not too baggy. Some have suggested upsizing in this model depending on personal fit preferences.
I generally like the fit of the pant with one caveat: the 2 upper thigh pockets create extra bunched up fabric and a boxy look around the waist. I find the bunching to be annoying, but not a deal breaker. My other complaint is that the cuff of the pant leg is very tight when fitting around Dynafit boots with the upper buckle open in walk mode (TLT6, Mercury, Vulcan, One).
FUNCTION: The pant is made with OR’s proprietary AscentShell fabric, which OR touts as being their most breathable hardshell fabric. In theory, this fabric should allow increased permeability and thus the ability to move moisture from the inside to the outside of the garment.
In my experience, this pant functions best in temperatures below 20°F during high output aerobic activity. It does not breathe as well as a softshell fabric, but then again, it is waterproof. The pant fabric is somewhat stretchy and seems to move fluidly while skinning, not bunching up or feeling stiff like other hardshell fabrics I’ve used- a major plus when backcountry skiing.
I’ve had the opportunity to tour and ski in these pants on a number of deep days this winter, and the fabric hasn’t wetted out yet, even during high output activity during heavy snowfall. Unlike other hardshell fabrics, AscentShell is not totally windproof, and I can feel the wind on some days, but this also attributes to the pants better-than-most breathability.
FEATURES: The first thing that struck me about these pants is the number of pockets. They Skyward Bibs 6 in total pockets on the pant plus one on the bib. I’ve been a huge fan of a dedicated beacon pocket for a number of years, which this pant has. I’d like to see the pockets slimmed down, as I find that my beacon and smartphone shift and begin to turn sideways in their respective pockets. There is a back leg pocket on one side, which I’ve seen some guides put their notebook in, but it isn’t for me. There is also a classic wallet pocket on the butt, which I am sure is useful for some, but I personally don’t need 4 thigh pockets for a day in the backcountry. I’d like to see fewer pockets which means fewer zippers, less weight, and less opportunity for water to leak in.
As for the vents, there are outer thigh zippers for increased ventilation. I am a big fan of extra vents during tough trailbreaking sessions and in warmer temperatures.
An interesting feature is a slot in the elastic gaiter to put your ski boot’s power strap through. I like this idea in concept, but so much in practice. When I was on the side of the road trying to swiftly put on my boots, often with cold hands, the slot becomes more of a hassle than a advantage. I have to taken to skipping the feature. Other’s mileage with this one may vary.
OVERALL: I generally like this pant and have worn it every day at worked and during some of my personal touring days this winter. As stated above, there are some refinements that OR should consider to make this pant that much better. I’ll continue to use this pant during colder temperatures, but it will be too warm come spring for me. It would be nice to see OR offer this pant in other color options as well.