An Expert Guide to North Face PantsPublished on 07/30/2023 · 13 min readDiscover the ultimate North Face ski pants through our expert guide. From groomers to powder, find the best fit for your winter adventures!
Photo by Christopher Moswitzer
TL;DR: When buying ski or snowboard pants from The North Face (or any brand), consider the type of pants suitable for the climate you’ll be in and your activity level. Ensure they fit well using size charts and look for unique features like Futurelight waterproofing, PrimaLoft insulation, Chimney Venting, and Recco reflectors. All of these factors will help you decide on the perfect balance of performance, comfort, and price to fit your ski pant needs.
I’m Elizabeth, a lifelong skier, outdoor enthusiast, and a multi-category expert here at Curated (Skiing, Camping & Hiking, Floor Care, and Kitchen). I am also one of the Apparel specialists, and I’ve owned and tested a lot of different snow pants and bibs over my 23 (and counting) years of outdoor adventures. I’m a firm believer in the “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices” mindset, and having the right pair of ski pants is crucial to that. I’ve personally skied (and made a few attempts at snowboarding) in pants and bibs from The North Face for many years.
At Curated, I’ve helped over 650 winter sports customers find their perfect winter sports gear and apparel—I’m passionate about getting everyone into the outdoors with the right products for them. I hope that this guide helps you narrow down what to look for when on the hunt for the perfect pair of ski pants. If you get to the end of this article and have questions, feel free to send me a message!
Why The North Face?
The North Face was established in San Francisco in 1966. They’re an American outdoor company known for high-performance climbing, mountaineering, backpacking equipment, and multi-sport apparel. With a rich history in fostering exploration, they specialize in durable, high-quality gear, including renowned ski and snowboard pants. The North Face blends style, comfort, and exceptional weather resistance, offering superior protection in harsh winter conditions. The brand is a trusted choice for adventurers globally, symbolizing commitment to pushing boundaries, facilitating outdoor pursuits, and recreating sustainably to protect the earth for generations to come.
What to Consider When Buying The North Face Ski Pants
1. What Type of Weather Conditions Will You Encounter?
Some ski pants from The North Face are better suited for certain climates than others are. Determining what the climate patterns and common weather are in the areas you’ll be wearing the pants is crucial to having a pair that will perform how you need them to. Some styles are insulated and ideal for use in bounds at resorts and in cold weather conditions. Others have no insulation and are optimized to vent warm air away from your body, making these pants ideal for use in touring situations or warm spring days.
2. What Size The North Face Ski Pants Should You Choose?
Properly fitting ski pants are essential for comfort, mobility, and warmth. Check out these comprehensive size charts for men and women to help you find the right size based on your measurements. The North Face carries extended sizes in some of their pants and bibs, as well as several inseam lengths. Some pants also have adjustable waistbands so that you can personalize the fit. Having room to layer is another factor to consider when choosing what size pants to buy.
3. What Features Are You Interested In?
There are many features to look for in a pair of ski or snowboard pants. Some, like built-in ankle gaiters or reinforced cuffs, are quite common and easy to find in just about any pair from The North Face. Other features, such as ventilation zippers or specialized pockets, are only found in select models. You’ll need to decide which features are a “need” and which are a “want.”
4. What's Your Desired Comfort and Mobility Level?
The North Face offers pants and bibs in several different fit styles: Slim, Standard, and Relaxed are the most common. Choosing fit style depends on your body shape and desired mobility level. Remember, comfort shouldn't sacrifice your mobility, or the other way around.
5. How Much Should The North Face Ski Pants Cost?
The North Face pants vary in price depending on the design, materials, and features. Entry level models start around $100, offering adequate weather resistance and often minimal insulation. Mid-range options start around $200, providing improved weather resistance and additional features. High-end options go up to $550, made with the highest quality materials, and are ideal for extreme conditions and adventure athletes. Ultimately, all price points will provide you with a solid level of protection and durability. In my experience, budget friendly options from The North Face are of a higher quality than other brands at a similar price.
What Are the Types of Ski Pants?
The North Face offers several types of ski and snowboard pants, each designed with different features to cater to a range of climates and personal preferences. Here are the major categories:
1. Insulated Pants
These pants are designed with an insulated layer that provides extra warmth, making them ideal for colder conditions, those who get cold easily, or resort skiers. They also feature a shell layer made from water-resistant and windproof materials that keep the elements out while keeping you warm.
- Ideal for cold weather conditions
- Provide their own insulation, creating less need for additional layers
- Good for those who get cold easily
Keep in Mind
- Bulkier than shell pants, making them harder to pack and potentially mobility limiting
- Easier to overheat in warmer conditions or during intense exercise, like skinning uphill
- Less ventilation
Recommended: The North Face Women's Freedom Insulated Pants
2. Shell Pants
These are lightweight, waterproof, and breathable pants that provide weather protection but no insulation. Ideal for use in warmer climates, backcountry touring, or for those who like to have more control over their level of insulation. Many ski pants are made in both a shell and an insulated version.
- More versatile levels of insulation
- Lighter weight, less bulky, and easier to pack
- Ideal for warm spring days or ski touring
Keep in Mind
- Not warm enough for cold weather conditions without extra layers
- Extra effort required to plan/adjust other clothing based for changing weather conditions or ski trips
3. Bib Pants
Bibs have extra fabric that extends up the torso, as well as shoulder straps. They provide more coverage than pants and are ideal for keeping snow out. Good for deep powder, backcountry tours, or if you have issues with pants not staying where you want them to. Bibs are available in both shell and insulated models.
- Better snow protection as the waist extends higher
- Less adjusting throughout the day as the shoulder straps keep things in place
Keep in Mind
- Less convenient for bathroom breaks, especially for women
- Higher waist can restrict movement
4. Softshell Pants
These pants provide less weather protection than shell pants, but are more breathable, less bulky, and better for optimal weather conditions. Softshell pants are usually water resistant (not waterproof) and windproof. They’re great for cross country skiing or backcountry touring in sunny weather.
- More flexible and comfortable to wear than (hard) shell pants
- More breathable than other options
Keep in Mind
- Only water-resistant, so not ideal for wet or snowy conditions
- Not insulated, so not ideal for cold temperatures or low-energy activities
5. Cargo Pants
This style of pants has extra pockets, usually on the side of the thighs, so you can carry more items with you without needing a backpack. They’re often made from waterproof fabrics similar to shell pants, and come with or without insulation.
- Increased storage capacity
- Versatile as they combine features from other styles of pants
Keep in Mind
- Easy to overload the pockets and affect mobility
- Bulky look that isn’t the most fashionable
Recommended: The North Face Men’s Slashback Cargo Pants
Remember, each type of ski pants are designed to cater to different performance needs and personal preferences. Within each category, there are different model options that have unique feature sets, fit styles, color options, and price points. Consider your desired level of warmth, weather protection, and style when choosing the perfect The North Face ski pants for your snowy adventures!
Features to Look for in The North Face Ski Pants
When choosing ski pants, it's crucial to consider which features and technologies you need for having a fun day on the mountain. Some features like belt loops, reinforced kickpatches, and multiple inseam options are found across the vast majority of pants from The North Face.
Let's dive into some unique features and The North Face-exclusive technologies:
- Futurelight Technology: This is a proprietary waterproof material developed by The North Face. It’s similar to GORE-TEX as it has incredible breathability and is lightweight, while still offering superior waterproof and windproof protection. Futurelight is flexible and provides great mobility, while still keeping you dry and comfortable.
- PrimaLoft Insulation: Used in some of The North Face's insulated pants, PrimaLoft is a high-performance synthetic insulation that delivers warmth without bulk. It retains heat effectively even when wet, and it’s lightweight and breathable. PrimaLoft is available in several weights—Black, Silver, and Gold—with Gold being the warmest and most insulating.
- Chimney Venting System: This unique venting system helps draw cool air into vents in the lower leg, and pushes hot air out of the upper thigh vents. This provides great temperature regulation and is perfect for ski touring or those who get overheated easily.
- Recco Reflectors: Integrated into some of The North Face's ski and snowboard pants, Recco reflectors bounce back a directional signal that can be detected by Recco receivers. This technology is commonly used in in-bounds avalanche rescue. It’s by no means a substitute for an avalanche beacon, but it does provide an extra level of safety during resort use.
- Integrated Gaiters: These are elasticized cuffs built into the inside of the pant leg that provide a tight seal around your boots and prevent snow from entering. This is an important feature to keep your feet and lower legs warm and dry while on the slopes.
- Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Finish: Many of The North Face's pants come with a DWR finish that helps water bead and repel from the surface. This enhances the water resistance/waterproofing of your pants.
Remember, the best pants for you will depend on your specific needs. Your activity level, the common weather conditions you ski in, and personal preferences will determine what features you should prioritize in your next pair of pants.
How to Choose the Right The North Face Ski Pants for You
Let’s walk through a few real examples of customers I’ve worked with in the past to help you narrow down which The North Face pants or bibs are right for you!
Tom: Experienced but Infrequent Skier
Needs: Tom is an experienced skier who’s been skiing for over 40 years. He lived in Vermont for many years and skied frequently there, but he’s moved to Tennessee for work and now skis only one or two weeks a year with his kids in Utah. He’s looking for something that will perform well in variable weather conditions but won’t break the bank.
Features to look for: Tom should look for a pair of pants that has a good waterproof and windproof rating. He might be interested in insulated pants or a shell, depending on his personal temperature preferences. He could also consider sizing up to have more room for layering or to accommodate changes to his body in the time between his ski trips.
Products to consider:
- The North Face Men’s Chakal Pant: These pants are a great option that prioritizes versatility. They feature moderate insulation, two-layer waterproof, and a breathable shell fabric. The reinforced waist and ankle fabric will hold up for many years of use, and the Chimney Venting system provides great airflow that will help Tom cool down on sunny days.
- The North Face Men’s Freedom Pant: These pants are a great shell option. Ideal for a range of weather conditions and resort use, they feature two-layer waterproofing, breathable nylon fabric, several zippered pockets, Chimney Venting, and reinforced areas in places likely to be worn, like the hem and waistline.
Rebecka: Off-Piste Adventurer
Needs: Rebecka loves to go ski touring where she lives in the Pacific Northwest, so she’s looking for bibs to keep her dry during her alpine adventures. Her budget is unlimited as she simply wants the best gear, from her skis to her socks.
Features to look for: Rebecka should look for an uninsulated bib with a high waterproof rating. She also might want to look for bibs with a drop seat, to be able to go to the bathroom easier on the mountain—a feature more common in higher-end models. Vents will be another important feature for her to look for.
Products to consider:
- The North Face Women’s Summit Verbier FUTURELIGHT Bibs: These are a top-of-the-line bib, ideal for extreme weather conditions and peak performance. Made from 3L FutureLight fabric, they are extremely waterproof and breathable. Packed full of features like inner thigh vents, ankle vents, self-equalizing suspenders, and an easy-to-use drop seat for quick bathroom breaks.
- The North Face Women’s Ceptor Bib Pants: Another high performance bib option that has 3L seam-sealed DryVent fabric, self-equalizing suspenders, and four zippered pockets. They also have a powder skirt connection point, so you can connect them to a compatible jacket from The North Face for complete snow protection.
Jessica: Frigid and Fashionable
Needs: Jessica lives in Minnesota and plans to ski a lot in very cold temperatures. As a beginner, though, she doesn’t want to invest too much in her gear. She’s looking for something that will help her stay warm in cold conditions without also looking bulky or unflattering.
Features to look for: Jessica should look for a pair of insulated pants or bibs. Venting systems are less important for her, but sizing up to have room for extra base layers will be important.
Products to consider:
- The North Face Women’s Lenado Insulated Pant: The Lenado pant is a great choice for Jessica as they feature 60g of insulation, a slim fit, and several color options. The 2L DryVent fabric keeps the weather out while letting sweat escape, and the PrimaLoft insulation keeps working even if the pants get a bit wet.
- The North Face Women’s Freedom Insulated Bib: This bib is a great option for staying warm. They feature 60g of Heatseeker Eco insulation, which is made from at least 50% recycled materials. Rounding out the features of these bibs are 2L DryVent fabric, several zippered pockets, and a side-entry zipper.
Next Steps for Choosing Your The North Face Ski Pants
I hope that this guide has helped you learn more about what pants and bibs The North Face offers, as well as helped you determine your needs and priorities for selecting technologies/features in your next pair of pants. Still unsure about which pair of pants is right for you? Please reach out to me, and I’ll help you find the perfect option to hit the slopes this winter—and beyond!