Outdoor Research Women’s Skyward II Hardshell Pants – Truly Waterproof
When looking for a pair of ski pants I’m hunting for something that is breathable, non-restrictive, waterproof, fits well and has a beacon pocket. Outdoor Research has checked all of these boxes with the Women’s Skyward II hardshell pants. I was immediately impressed when they came out of the box.
The Ochre color I chose matches the photos exactly and I was really pleased that it looks good with a wide range of colors. The next thing I noticed was the weight. The lightweight material adds up to 1.3 lbs making them a non-bulky option for winter enthusiasts. I especially appreciate this as a backcountry skier. Although these are also great resort pants, those who ski off-piste will really appreciate not having to carry a heavy wardrobe uphill.
The AscentShell™ 3L material is 88% nylon and 12% spandex making them thin and stretchy. As a telemark skier I need pants that can accommodate a low lunge and move with me as I travel through the mountains. I found that the Skyward II pants could do just that. They didn’t limit me and allowed me to have dynamic movements. Because of their ability to move with the wearer, I’d recommend them for all winter activities. They would handle ice climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, winter camping and much more with grace.
I ordered a small, which is almost always what fits me, and I love the fit. Many people on the OR website say the pants run small but I completely disagree. They fit true to size and even have velcro tabs to adjust the waist. They’re not too baggy, not too tight, but a comfortable, relaxed fit. The double snap and fly closure keeps the waistband secure and I have had no issues with this aspect of the pant, it is a tried and true closure system.
I spent most of my days testing these in the backcountry going on day tours. I skinned, dug snow pits, taught lessons, sat in the snow for hours and skied— all in the same day— and the pants held up wonderfully. Most pants will eventually get wet if you sit in the snow long enough. I was happily surprised that these did not!
I spent quite a lot of time sitting and kneeling in the snow and was really happy when I stood up totally dry. As you may know, the key to staying warm in the outdoors is not getting wet. With that being said, I went home a happy camper with dry base layers after each day of wearing these pants. These are truly waterproof.
Another great aspect of these pants is the breathability. The material lets out excess heat as you work up a sweat. In addition, there are two vents, one on the outside of each leg. These oversized ventilation zippers ensure a cool ascent during warm spring missions. The pants also feature four pockets, two standard hip pockets, and two front-of-the-thigh pockets. One of the pockets is beacon compatible and has a place to attach your beacon leash. The bottom of the pants sports a built-in gaiter and scuff guards.
The one potential issue I have with these pants is durability. I got an (extremely) small hole on one of the knees. I’m not sure how it happened. This makes me question the durability of the pants. I don’t want to say the material is weak yet since I have fallen, skied through trees and leaned up against the car and there haven’t been any other issues. The hole is so small I’m surprised I even noticed, but I will be keeping the longevity of the shells in mind in the future.
The breathable, waterproof material, unrestricted movement, and deep pockets make these pants a top choice for all-season backcountry use. Mid-season powder days to booting up steep spring lines, I’d feel comfortable bringing these pants anywhere.
Growing up snowboarding and hiking in the bitter cold winters and humid summers of northern Vermont, Eliza learned how to beat up gear and quickly became infatuated with new technologies. After moving to Colorado in 2015 to pursue a degree in recreation and outdoor education at Western Colorado University, her passion for the outdoors grew exponentially. Soon after, she picked up rock climbing, telemark skiing, backpacking, canyoneering, and is slowly learning to love rafting. Through these learning processes, Eliza began to understand the importance of the right gear and hopes to share her experiences and knowledge with others through Engearment.
Now working for Beacon Guidebooks as the ‘Wearer of Many Hats’ (yes, that is her official title), Eliza has learned the ins and outs of the outdoor industry. She has also worked on marketing teams, as a photographer, media coordinator, outdoor instructor and as a wrangler. She is especially excited to encourage other women in the outdoors and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion.