Best Durable Backcountry Bibs for Women: ORTOVOX Deep Shell Bib Pants

ORTOVOX, a maker of top-tier technical backcountry ski pants for women, just launched its first-ever women’s bibs — and the design is paramount.

ORTOVOX’s new women’s 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants immediately topped our favorite bibs for backcountry missions and days at the resort, especially in wet or blizzard conditions and on powder days. Frankly, we’re not surprised. Since 1988, the Germany-based brand (which launched in the U.S. in 2015), has crafted high-end wool-based apparel for alpinists.

In short: The robust yet malleable women’s ORTOVOX 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants ($600) deliver freedom of movement, excellent waterproofness and breathability, and deep, wide pockets that serve backcountry travel days. The bibs also received a 2021 ISPO Award Gold Winner award and a 2022 She is Outdoors Women’s Gear Award for the top-notch, female-tailored design. (Of course, the bib is also available for men.)

ORTOVOX 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants Review

Before testing these bibs, I’ve worn an ORTOVOX merino-lined hardshell kit for four backcountry seasons in Crested Butte, Colorado, which is known for extreme cold and huge winter storms. (This season, we’ve seen -20 degrees Fahrenheit lows and a 100-inch storm cycle the last two weeks of December.)

In all conditions, my women’s Guardian Jacket ($750) and hardshell pants (a discontinued model similar to the Ortler Pant and 3L Deep Shell Pants) have withstood splitboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, trailer maintenance, tons of shoveling, and even wood-hauling for bonfires. The kit still looks and performs in mint condition, which is a nice indication of how these bibs should fare over time.

In recent years, though, I’ve become more of a bib convert (because, more pockets!). So I was really excited when ORTOVOX announced its debut women’s bibs.

These freeride and touring bibs for skiers and riders standout thanks to:

  • Wind and waterproof fabric
  • Four deep, functional pockets
  • A drop-seat bib with a very wide opening and range
  • Integrated wool for breathable warmth and odor control
  • Broad side ventilation
  • A lightweight design (602 grams)
  • and more

Nearly every time I wear these bibs, guys and gals alike tell me the look is rad and ask how they fare in the snow. Folks are generally attracted to ORTOVOX’s aesthetic but often haven’t heard of the brand. Or if they have, are curious if the performance delivers to ORTOVOX’s higher price point.

A Unique Drop Seat

After Flylow Gear dedicated three years of R&D to the original 2016 Foxy Bib — which has been one of our top overall picks for the best women’s ski bibs for multiple seasons — many other brands thankfully followed close behind with well-constructed bibs for ladies. Why such the wait? Broadly, women’s bodies are more complex in various ways compared to men’s bodies, plus women need a drop seat to efficiently, easily do their business.

What makes ORTOVOX’s drop seat unique is the double-sided, spacious zipper access. The long, two-way zippers on each side are set slightly back for ease of opening the drop seat from the left or right. These waterproof zippers are burly but easy to pull. The zipper stretches from the upper half of my back all the way to above my knee, making a huge section of fabric easy to grab and pull to the side, out of liquid’s way.

Also, my shoulders and chest muscles tend to get tight, especially after a shoulder injury, while touring and wearing a heavy pack, making drop seats with shorter zippers harder to grab when I reach behind my back. This design is…a relief.

ORTOVOX Deep Shell Bib: Fabric & Features

ORTOVOX uses wool fibers in all of its garments. Specifically, it uses SwissWool from the Swiss Alps for insulation and odor-neutralizing properties as well as Tasmanian merino wool. These bibs are cut high and integrate softshell merino wool fabric across the back and kidney area, providing warmth in frigid conditions without making me feel hot on warmer days or efforts.

And though the fabric is breathable (I typically sweat on uphills), it’s 100% windproof and provides 20,000mm of waterproofness to block heavy rain or wet snow. (It also has fully sealed seams.)

During December’s two-week storm, when we received a foot of snow every day, I wore these bibs for clearing off my buried truck and snowmobile trailer, Crested Butte Mountain Resort powder runs, long lift lines, and shoveling for two hours. Then did it all again the next day. And the next. The bibs never got soppy, and any visible moisture (like while sitting on the ski lift) dried fast.

Ortovox 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants

I also love the Dyneema-CORDURA fabric reinforcement around each ankle, which reaches 11 inches above the hem on the interior side. This keeps the pants from getting ripped during kick turns on the skin track. Though, I wish that these bibs had an adjustable ankle cuff, which would make sliding the pant leg over my backcountry snowboard boots (which have a double BOA system) more seamless. As is, if I need to tighten up on a descent, I have to remove my gloves to pull the snug leg up.

My other big boast about these bibs is the pockets. They are wide and deep with strong, waterproof zippers. I can fit my huge phone, which I use for navigation and photos on tours, or a backcountry field book in the thigh pockets. There’s also a hip pocket on the left side and a left-entry chest pocket, which reaches all the way across the chest. I think it would be optimal if they added a second zipper entry for the chest pocket on the right side.

A small critique: I don’t like the extra effort of tucking the zippers into their tiny garages on the thigh pockets, which requires glove removal if I want the zipper totally flush.

Testing the ORTOVOX 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants (and Jacket)

Ortovox 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants - review
(photo/Eric Phillips)

While testing the 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants in a range of scenarios these past few months, whether I was strapping into my snowboard at the resort, wrestling my snowmobile in the backcountry, or bootpacking for steep couloirs on a hut trip, the design was steadfast. The Toray Dermizax EV fabric was extremely protective against the elements yet didn’t capture and hold my sweat and body heat on big tours, sunup to sundown.

The design is also comfortable — they feel a tad roomier than other bibs — including the soft, wide suspender straps that stay put and are easy to adjust. The new matching women’s ORTOVOX 3L Deep Shell Jacket ($680) paired seamlessly with the bibs and delivered equally well.

Not to mention, these bibs are pretty environmentally-conscious as well. They are:

  • PFC-free (they contain no per- or poly-fluorinated chemicals)
  • Climate-neutral with certified carbon offsetting projects
  • Fair Wear certified
  • Certified, third-party audited ORTOVOX Wool Promise (OWP), which according to ORTOVOX is more extensive than the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)

Ultimately, these bibs are what I now reach for before a backcountry tour. Though on the pricier side, ORTOVOX built them to last and with sustainability as a priority. These bibs are a supreme choice for any female that needs technical outerwear for demanding conditions and action.

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at ORTOVOX

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