Every winter in the Pacific Northwest is different. Forecasters in November give us their take on what the snow year will be like, if it will be an El Niño or La Niña year, etc. It was supposed to be a big winter here in the Pacific Northwest, but right now we’re sitting close to average snowpack in the Idaho Panhandle and perhaps a bit above average in the North Cascades. What I’m going for here is this: with PNW winters, you’ve got to be prepared for anything. So we look for versatile gear to use, like the Arc’teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants.

Arc’teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants Features:

  • Keprotec™ insteps guard against edge abrasion
  • 100D Cordura® Quick adjust TouringCuff™ allows for easy buckle management
  • Supple, windproof and waterproof N80p 3L GORE-TEX with C-KNIT™ backer technology is quiet and soft with excellent breathability
  • Wee Burly™ Double Weave four-way stretch softshell fabric creates a comfortable low bib
  • One zip pocket on the left thigh
  • Flapped secured zip pocket on the right thigh
  • One zippered pocket on bib
  • Micro-seam allowance (1.6 mm) reduces bulk and weight
  • Adjustable suspenders
  • Weight: 620g
  • MSRP: $525
Arc'teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants Review

A little winter sunlight makes a big difference

Lightweight bibs with full coverage

I always like to start off reviews for high-tech waterproof/breathable garments with a discussion about the base fabric. Arc’teryx chose to use GORE-TEX with GORE C-KNIT backer as the foundation for the Sabre LT bibs. This is an 80D, three-layer waterproof/breathable fabric that’s designed to be a bit more quiet and supple than traditional GORE-TEX fabrics. ’80D’ basically refers to the density of the fabric’s weave, and 80D is really quite a robust fabric. It should resist tears and punctures fairly well, and the only real step up from this is the 100D fabric that’s often seen in gear marketed towards professionals.

At the same time, the C-KNIT backer does help the fabric feel a bit less ‘plastic-y.’ This manifests with a softer overall feel, and it is quieter than other fabrics. You’ll notice a bit less rustling, especially on those long days on the skin track. The fabric also has a small degree of give to it, and while it’s not ‘stretchy’ it’s not as restricting as more traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics.

Arc'teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants Review

Handy key pocket at the top of the bib pant

The top of the bib is rounded out with what Arc’teryx has labeled their ‘Wee Burly Double Weave’ soft-shell fabric, which is basically just a soft, stretchy extension of the bib up onto your abdomen. It’s not waterproof (just resistant), which makes it a bit more breathable and comfortable for an area that usually doesn’t get wet. The bottoms feature a very durable instep pad made of Keprotec, which was originally designed as a protective fabric in motorcycle racing. It is crazy strong. Just below that is a 100D Cordura adjustable touring cuff to keep the snow out.

Moving on from the basics, let’s talk about how these perform in the field. Personally, I like the fit but would say they run a touch small. I find them comfortable, but with a product this expensive I recommend trying them on first. I did find them a bit tight around the thighs at points and agreed with a consumer on the Arc’teryx product reviews page that had trouble with them riding up during skinning. I agree, they do tend to ride up, at least on my frame. Personally though, I almost never go uphill with the vents zipped up, and unzipping the ventilation provided all of the give and space that I needed. This is helped somewhat by the fabric’s built-in give, too. For reference I am 5’11”, 200lb, and am wearing a Large.

The bibs are marketed as being a ‘lightweight’ option (thus the LT), and this comes with a few design features that consumers should take note of. The most obvious one is the asymmetrical leg zips, and only the right side has a 3/4-length zip (the left just has a foot-long vent zipper). This means a couple things: 1) you can’t pull these on/off over your boots; 2) you have to get a bit creative when nature calls; 3) you save weight over options with two full-length zipper.

Arc'teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants Review

Showing off the 2/3 zip on the right side

Basically, if you have to make a triple-chocolate-fudge-brownie sunday in the snow, you can zip off the right side of the bibs, ditch the suspenders, and squat to do your business. It’s not perfect, but it works. It’s definitely a bit easier with bibs that have true twin zippers to create a peel-away pant seat, but it works. Overall, I would rather take a backcountry poop in a design like the Patagonia Snowdrifter.

I mentioned the customer reviews on the Arc’teryx product page, and I think we need to talk about those. These bibs have an average of just two stars, largely due to negative reviews about the durability of these bibs. I have to say, I am a bit baffled by some of the reviews. One user said that, after just a single resort day, the knee area looked ‘worn down’ and he’d put a hole in the leg from just casual resort skiing. Another use said something similar after two days of use.
I am genuinely confused by these reviews. At this point, I have put at least a dozen backcountry days, plus a few resort days, into these bibs – they still look like new. Plus, I know from experience that the fabrics that Arc’teryx uses are as good as any: their 80D and 100D options are as tough as anyone else’s 80D or 100D options. Overall, I can’t help but think that these consumers are mis-using this product. This is meant to be a lightweight, full-protection bib for alpine touring. If you ski with poor technique and slam sharp, resort-tuned edges into this fabric, it will rip. That is not what it is built for, and you should buy a heavier resort option.
Arc'teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants Review

Heading home after a long day

Rounding out this review, I’ll say that I was satisfied with the other aspects of the design. The pockets are nice and big and the two knee pockets are placed so that your phone doesn’t bounce off your knee all day. There’s a pocket with key strap up high. The bib straps adjust easily and remove quickly for washing the bibs. The snow cuffs did their job and kept snow out when I get out of the ski and flounder around digging a snow pit.
The Good:
  • Excellent fabric, with a good mix of durability and comfort
  • Incredibly burly reinforcement on the instep for protect against ski edges or crampons
  • Thoughtful implementation of pockets, detachable bib straps, etc
  • Overall, these are comfortable for long days of touring

The Bad:

  • The weight-saving single main zipper is not as easy to use when nature calls
  • Tended to ride up while skinning unless I had the vents open (which I always do)

The Bottom Line: Arc’teryx Sabre LT Bib Pants

I think that Arc’teryx’s phenomenal advertising gets the better of them some times. They are such a desirable brand that, at times, customers might not make informed purchasing decisions since they expect Arc’teryx products to be a be-all, end-all solution. That’s probably why these bibs have 2/5 stars on their product page: people need to realize that they’re buying a lightweight bib that’s optimized for alpine touring. Users who want to use these as a daily driver in the resort should buy a heavier, more feature-rich option. I will happily hold up my bibs, which have survived half a season of tough Idaho Panhandle early- and middle-season touring conditions, as proof that these are durable when used properly and with the right expectations.

Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

Leave A Reply